Photography Blog by Duncan Holmes
Well, after the success of last week's Zombie Wedding, I had a busy week of just going along to things and shooting photographs for the fun of it.
The big event on Tuesday night was Nightwalk SS2013. Glasgow's biggest and best catwalk show did not disappoint, showing some old and new names and their latest collections. I like Nightwalk, it provides a window into the more established designers, whilst also giving a chance for some of the newer ones to show what they can do. This means that it can veer between classic couture and offbeat student whackiness from one collection to the next. Wannabe princesses seem to be coming into vogue this summer with the collections from NLM Design and Obscure Couture, but there were plenty of other options there (though not for the male of the species).
Wednesday night was a much more modest affair. A local charity show for the town twinning assosciation in Largs. I attended because my wife had been invited to walk in the show. So I was there as regular audience and just took a snap or two with a point and click camera, just like any other audience member. It felt quite strange not being stuck behind the wheel of an SLR camera.
Thursday was a night at home, working on the photos from Nightwalk and generally vegetating.
Friday I dived up to Hampden and the Clydebank college makeup show. Another catalogue of the beauty, the bizarre and the downright macabre. Some very talented makeup artists showing their stage/movie makeup skills to the wider world.
So that's May started then. A wee ceremony only wedding this morning, leaving me an afternoon free to catch up on Iron Man at the cinema
So, on a day when I got the news that this blog is number 46 on the top 100 photography blogs to follow in 2013 (by what criteria, I don’t know), I thought it only right that I should post something suitably epic.
A while back, a friend had posted a picture of a zombie themed wedding cake, with bride and groom at the top fighting off the climbing zombies. My thoughts immediately turned to the hills behind my hometown of Largs and the potential for bringing the images to life. Fired by this inspiration a shoot was born.
The first step was to secure a location for hair and makeup, no mean feat when you’re planning for a zombie horde. Thanks to the kind help of the folk at Kelburn Country Estate, we were able to rent the Henhouse and spend the day terrorising their usual guests.
Next up was the all important task of locating people to work in front and behind the camera. Early on, makeup artists Hannah Strickland and MissTaarna had signed upfor the event. There was a third originally going to help out, but she got sucked into a world of college work. A previous collaborator, Lesley Docherty of Head Strong Solutions also stepped forward to help out with hair for our cast.
A few weeks before the shoot, Kaspars Grisulis showed an interest and was immediately recruited as the groom for the day. He turned out to be the most laid back "groom" I've ever met, taking all the chaos in his stride and managing to run downhill with a chainsaw in one hand and his bride in the other!
The struggle became finding the right bride. Just a week and a half before the shoot, I bumped into Florence Sutherland on my way out of a networking meeting with the Scottish Creative Network. She’s a relative newcomer to modelling, butwhat a natural, totally professional, easy going and able to decapitate a zombie if required to do so.
All throughout this time there was a trickle of interest from zombies far and wide. I’d recruited a friend, Benita as a mother of the bride Zombie, and following a chance meeting with her husband in the supermarket on the day of the shoot, he too got roped in, with their daughter, Cara, stepping in as the bride’s sister! Other zombie roles were also assigned before and during the shoot, though some ofthese were really quite arbitrary and only in our heads.
Anyway, I’m jumping ahead. A lot of effort went into sourcing clothes for a number of our zombies. Heroic efforts by Sharon from Cancer Research andSusan from The Salvation Army in Largs helped me to outfit quite a number of our 18 zombies, with a suitable donation to their respective causes of course. I can’t thank them enough for their kindness and enthusiasm in supporting my mad idea. A couple of items were also acquired from other charity shops and my wife did her part in trawling for specific items.
I watched the weather reports all through the week and when 7 am dawned bright and clear, I gave the go ahead for the shoot. It was a brave thing to do in the Scottish weather, where things can change from hour to hour, or minute to minute.
A few last minute errands and I was up at Kelburn unpacking my car and barely taping up my red Z’s to direct folk before MissTaarna arrived with her family. Shortly after she unpacked, the first two zombies arrived, Amanda and Karin. The trickle of folk became a torrent, especially once the second makeup artist, Hannah, arrived and Lesley turned up with the folk from the train. With Kaspars there, Florence arrived moments later and I could breathe again, as at least the bride and groom were there!
Bringing up the rear was George Monaghan of monapics.com who would be shooting video. Also with him was Kate Sam, who with Hamish Archibald were also along to take photos and cameo as zombies for the shoot.
Once Kaspars and Florence were suitably made up,with a bruise or two, a scratch and some blood, we whisked them around Kelburn for some shots to establish them as being chased by zombies and then some shotsof them recovering and relaxing after the battle.
By the time we got back to the flurry of activity at the Henhouse, we entered a madhouse full of zombies, folk chopping up their clothes, smearing themselves with fake blood and rolling down grass banks to give themselves the lived in zombie look.
In only 4 short, mad hours, the two makeup artist had performed the herculean task of creating 17 unique zombies as well as preparing the bride and groom.
We left Kelburn in a convoy of cars, to adjourn tothe viewpoint above Largs. A brief gathering and then we set up the different scenes I’d had in my head, using the landscape to provide a cinematic scope to the images. It all culminated in the final battle at the top of the hill, with bride and groom fending off their wedding guests with a cricket bat and a chainsaw.
With the shoot done, we adjourned to Nardini’s in Largs for ice creams, where most of the cast and crew gathered for a cone, before heading their separate ways.
An amazing day and everybody seems to have had great fun. I was left a little gobsmacked and overwhelmed by everybody's enthusiasm for the project as well as their perseverance in the cold winds on top of a hill.
A video will follow shortly from George, featuring musicby the amazing Scottish singer, LouHickey.
And a big thanks to our cast of zombies: Benita, Marco,Cara, Maisie, Nikki, Fiona, Fi, Keira, Vicki, Victoria, Stuart, Karin, Amanda, Farah,Shannen, Haydn, Hamish and Kate. An extra big thank you to Florence and Kaspars and possibly the largest thankyou known to mankind to the makeup artists and hair stylist, Taarna, Hannah and Lesley.
(Duncan:-every now and then I will include a guest appearance on the blog, this time it's for a film maker seeking to produce a short film on mental illness, combining art and serious issues. A project I think is worthy of being supported, so please, if you can, help out with the crowd funding!)
The Eyes and Ears of Van Gogh.
What is this film about?
The film is a short experimental art piece based on the artist Van Gogh. Purely fiction, the film explores the early life of Van Gogh in a contemporary style. After the tragic death of his fiancee, the artist struggles to cope with mental illness. When he hits rock bottom and decides to end it all, he is visited by the ghost of his fiancee, his “muse”, but can she really save him?
Why do we want to make this film?
This film explores mental illness in a way that has never been done. By combining illness and art and proving that there is beauty in everything. The film looks at depression, grief, loss, suicide, manic depression, bi-polar and so much more. Van Gogh’s last words were “The sadness will never end” - we want to prove that the sadness will end in an inspiring uplift that will show people that there are always silver linings.
Who’s in it?
We have some very established Scottish actors interested and until the funding is confirmed we cannot mention anything because nothing is secure.
Who is Erica Von Stein?
Erica Von Stein is a published poet and author from Glasgow, she graduated from University of West Scotland with a degree in Filmmaking and has since then worked on a number of exciting projects. She holds creative writing workshops around Glasgow and has won awards for her writing. Her last film Resurrectio was screened at the Berwick film festival and her latest project dysfunctional family received over 70,000 youtube hits in one week. She will be filming with a team of highly talented film school graduates and guarantees this film will be her best work yet.
Why do you need crowd funding?
I have invested a lot of personal money and time into the project, spending over £3000 on a new camera and equipment to make the film the best it possibly can be. If I could do it all myself then I wouldn’t reach out for help but unfortunately it is not possible to do alone. This is where I ask for the help of the public. To anyone who has suffered mental illness or knows anyone who have, help us by donating as little as £10 to the cause. We have just one month left to raise the funding and time is quickly running out. In return for your promises we will credit you on the film, invite you to our screening, wrap party, offer you signed photos/props and so much more. Please help us bring this project to life by visiting the link and making a promise.
Next Sunday, my work with Psychomoda Ladies Clothing finally sees the light of day at an event in Edinburgh. https://www.facebook.com/events/143970109112080/?ref=ts&fref=ts
. It will be held at Cruz bar (on the shore in Leith, Edinburgh) from 3-5 pm and will feature some of the dresses that featured in our Cluedo themed photoshoot from back in February. The video that was shot that day, a slide show of my pictures and all sorts will be on hand to entertain folk. It's an open event, so anyone who dips into this blog and has an afternoon free would be more than welcome to come along and see, rub shoulders with the fashionistas of Edinburgh and even schmooze a little, if the moment requires it.
As if Dundee, designers and DOJ-CON weren't enough, I was up bright and early again for a trip to Lanark. This time to help out a trio of makeup artists with some photographs for their graded units. Makeup artists have to show their skills both at college and in coursework, so this was a chance for them to play.
They'd borrowed a house with all mode cons and a huge lounge that was perfectly appointed for the styles of the shoots involved. This picture is of Lauren, one of the models, in makeup, but before she was dressed in her outfit and had her hair done. It's quite worrying when a simple lighting test works out this well, the pressure's always on for the final piece. The makeup artist in this case was Deirdre Flannigan.
So after a few dashing errands around Largs, Saturday saw me dragging my wife up to sunny Dundee. We started off with a portrait of the designer, Samantha McEwan, designer of the wonderfully wild Isolated Heroes (who I found out has a big following in Australia!). This designer portrait project is an ongoing one, so the results will be under wraps until I have a few more designers under my belt. The idea is to create a directory of portraits of Scottish designers with little insights into their work or their minds, which ever is easier to access!
But it takes more than a quick portrait designer to drag me up to Dundee. I was tempted into the journey by the lure of DOJ-CON, a convention of all things Anime run by the DOJ college's animation department. It was a real feast for the eyes, with a large number of the attendees dressed as their favourite characters. It was also a chance to bump into a few of the models I kind of new from Facebook contacts, but had never yet had the chance to meet. Due to the long journey home and the overwhelming kick to the visual senses, we left before the final masquerade parade, but I managed to sneak a few shots along the way.
Overall it was quite a smoothly run event, and my wife was chuffed to get a chance to talk to Virginia Hey of Bond, Mad Max and Farscape fame.
Following cancellation of another shoot, I had a Tuesday going spare. With a few more grey hairs I managed to throw together a replacement photoshoot, which due to some last minute shuffling resulted in the makeup artist and one of the models only being confirmed the night before.
So, the weekend before the shoot, I'd popped into the Lounge in Largs and had received permission to shoot there from the owner, Stephen. It's a nice restaurant venue with boutique styling and being a local I'd been there to eat, as well as covering a wedding there. I was given the grand tour and was introduced to the two floors above, derelict but providing a wonderful backdrop for some additional shots.
The day dawned brightly and following the arrival of Helen, our makeup artist and Maxine, our hair stylist, Lauren and Mariel, the two models and finally Ailsa, of AJR Designs we were ready to shoot.
We started off in and around the restaurant, making the most of the quiet time before the venue opened to the public. We then spent a last hour upstairs playing in the attic. I had some technological hiccoughs and had to improvise with a backup flash, but the results have been turning out fabulously so far.
Both models were perfectly suited to the great looks that Helen and Maxine had come up with and were well suited to Ailsa's dresses. A great morning's shooting!
And I'll end this piece by wishing Ailsa the best of luck, beauty and good fortune for her own wedding this Saturday!
Well, it was a nice surprise a couple of weeks ago to come across this article in the Best Scottish Weddings Magazine
. The article did cover some other wonderful designers and photographers, but these two pictures of mine at the top of the page have a bit of a special place in my heart. The reason?
In 2011 I organised a networking day at Mugdock park. I was accompanied by fellow photographers, Lauren Stirling and Neil MacMillan, three models also came along for the day (which began with torrential rain, so we were pretty glad anyone turned up). One of our models, Punk Morvs, was also a qualified makeup artist and did a quick makeover of Lauren and Nisha. We did some shots with some vintage clothes and odds and ends that we'd brought with us and then had the chance to play with some spectacular dresses from AJR Designs
. Ailsa is a lovely woman, soon to be married herself, and she helped, with the aid of our stylist, Jackie Clark, to create some wonderful looks for the 3 models. The results being these two pictures that appeared in the BSW.
I like these images for 2 reasons. Nisha's is a mysterious, beautiful, princess like setting and pose. A nod towards the more arty, posed images that traditionally appear in wedding magazines. Lauren's is a compliment and contrast to this. In a Marie Antoinette style dress she is obviously just having fun, trying not to get blown away in the breeze! This time, a disney princess half way through her song and dance number!
Morvs also had a fabulous dress from Ailsa, but it was a bridesmaid's dress and doesn't seem to have grabbed the magazine's attention.
I should mention the images below as well. I've shot with dresses from Lady Jojo's, though not from her bridal collection and have been loosely acquainted with the photographer, Lorraine Ross, for some time.
So, I don't normally refer you, the occasional wayward reader, to other sites, but I've come across a couple of interesting articles lately.
The first (admittedly written by a photographer) is an article that advocates the purchase of a wedding album rather than relying solely on a disk of images. My basic package does include a disk only (with a preview book) and then couples can decide if they also want an album. There's no hard sell, but the option is there.
This second article, from the same online site follows up on a survey of brides in America and what they might have done differently.
It's interesting to note that 12% of brides felt that they spent too much on photography. This is a poor reflection on us photographers. Either we have failed to meet their expectations in terms of the results or some element of the service offered has been left wanting. A bit more reassuring, from my perspective, is that another 21 per cent of brides wishes they'd paid more for the photographs. Now this doesn't necessarily mean they wished they'd had the money for that top photographer who only does 2 weddings a year, it means that brides wished they hadn't economised by using friends, relatives or real budget photographers. Though I am curious about what was included in the 45% of everything else.
On a related note, number two on the following list is brides regretting not getting a great photographer. Have fun, enjoy your day, if you're more comfortable with a relative taking pictures than a relative stranger then you will get some pictures for your album. But if the budget can stretch to a professional photographer, one who can be as arty or as light hearted or as cutting edge as you're looking for, you shouldn't end up regretting it. Alway providing we do our job right of course!
And finally, photographer Anne Almasy, evokes my own ethos on weddings. I love the romance, the beauty, the happiness and the joy of weddings and that's what we, as photographers, should try and capture.
(shh don’t pass it on)
I’ve had comments from fellow photographers who have admired my ability to beg, borrow and steal the talents of the creative world for my photoshoots, so I thought I’d share some of my experiences in this regard.
My first ever shoot was a bridal themed shoot to get some photos to help promote the wedding side of my business. As part of this I cast my net wide for models and approached a number of different bridal suppliers. The model casting sites, Purestorm and Model Mayhem provided a flood of potential candidates, from which I selected 6 and 5 turned up in the end for the shoot. The begging e-mails found traction with one dress shop and the owner was kind enough to loan some of her dresses, accessories and even to come along and help style the shoot. So the photographs turned out well, I shared them with all concerned, as had been agreed and all was well.
During the process of searching for models, I’d found out about an event held at Dreghorn Photography Studio in Glasgow for Red Nose Day. They’d roped in some models, a designer, MUA etc. and organised a shoot that photographers could donate and join. Once again, being presentable, sociable and sharing the results lead to some general goodwill. One model from the event was involved in setting up an events company, now sadly defunct, and was seeking photographers for her upcoming fashion show.
Once again, I turned up, took pictures, shared with those involved. This lead to some more contacts with those involved in the show. In particular sharing the resulting images with some of the designers built up some further goodwill and thus began my fall into fashion.
A few more fashion shows under my belt and my network of designer contacts is quite wide. A few more shoots and the makeup artists and models involved in shoots have also blossomed into a wide range of acquaintances in the field.
I even talk to other photographers sometimes.
Did all this networking cost me money? Well, yes, the time to pop in and chat with folk as you’re passing, the back and forth to arrange collection and return of garments and then the shoots themselves are all in the negative column as far as expenses are concerned. I’m not a regular attendee at the fashionable clubs and gatherings, so I try to target who I contact and when. Catch them early and the goodwill is there for the future.
Did all this networking make money? No. But then, this aspect of my photography was not entered into so much for it’s return as for the love of being able to do creative things and broaden my skills, which feeds through into those shoots, weddings and events where I do get paid.
So my tips for networking.
If you help someone don’t assume that that gives you a right to get help. It does no harm to ask (politely) and move on if the answer’s no.
Don’t ignore folk. Just because you may not want to talk to person A, you don’t know who they talk to and the world of fashion in Scotland is a narrow one, with several cliques that keep in close contact with each other, with some designers crossing the divide between cliques.
Don’t burn bridges. If you take pictures at a show and someone would like them for their portfolio, work out a way to share the images, with appropriate credits. After the newspapers, magazines or other press have had their fill (usually from their own representatives), it’s unlikely that you would make money from these shots and better to share and make folk aware of you (in a good way) than not.
Don’t diss the competition. Once again, it is a smaller world than you might think, don’t name names or gossip (beyond the usual exchanges of news).
Be respectful. If some designer does decide that you are worthy of borrowing their wares, then be grateful, treat the clothes with respect, don’t damage them and make sure they are safely returned. If there’s likely to be any delays in sharing images, returning clothes or suchlike, then make sure everybody knows it before the shoot, not 2 months later. If the designer requests a deposit or security for the loan, then this is perfectly understandable, given their own investments in their products.
Be respectful. Makeup artists and hair stylists, working TF or paid, have usually trained for some time in their art. You need to give a clear brief if it’s your shoot and make sure they know what is expected of them. Once again, sharing the results for their portfolios (paid or tf, I still think there is room for portfolio sharing as long as it is clear what usages are allowed) is important. If you don’t like the look they’ve created, don’t be afraid to speak up, just do it gently, with grace and humour and make sure that you don’t critique the model’s makeup in a way that will make the model uncomfortable.
Be respectful. Models are skilled workers too, some more than others admittedly, but treating them with respect before, during and after shooting is an essential part of being respected in turn. Some models may surpass you and drop off your radar or some may drop below your own, but this does not mean you should ever treat them without respect.
Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t reply or just says no. People have busy lives and are often approached from several directions at once, whether they be designers, models, makeupartists or other creatives. They may have actively decided not to reply to you, but this does not make them evil people, even if it can be frustrating sometimes.
Plan and inform. Providing your creative team with a clear plan, good information about the shoot, the aim of the shoot, the post shoot timelines and the usages for the images are all good practices. But all plans must be flexible, don’t throw too much of a hissy fit if something does go awry. I myself do tend to overplan sometimes, but at least it ensures that everybody involved in my shoots knows what’s going on.
Networking. Make the most of networking events and social gatherings. Stay for the after parties if you’re invited and if you can. Mix and mingle, don’t be afraid to talk to folk and don’t stand in a corner with the three people you know and ignore the rest of the room. Once again, be nice, be pleasant, be approachable. While you need to promote you as the centre of attention, try not to be boastful, at least amidst a British crowd, different cultures have different norms.
I am rubbish with names, but have a good memory for faces, so a nod and a smile of acknowledgement can at least place you in people’s memories when you knock on their door and ask to borrow their 2,000 GBP dress.
Talk to people. As a photographer you sometimes miss out on the gossip and chat of the makeup room but this does not mean that you can’t chat and joke with folk in between shots. Act the fool if required and be open to ideas from the other people involved. Bear in mind that your humour may not suit all occasions though, tone it down when shooting or dealing with people for the first time.
Remember. If you’ve spoken to people before or worked with them before. Reference your connections. If you have mutual acquaintances or have worked with fellow professionals you can use them as a point of reference for chatting. Avoid referencing random personal posts on FB, unless you know the person from before, as it can give an impression of cyber stalking!
Support. If you’ve had someone help you in your projects, don’t be shy in supporting them in theirs. I’m not advocating that you switch your belief system or work for free, but it does no harm to promote a fashion show on your facebook or share calls for help. Once again it’s all about the goodwill you sow that you might be able to reap in future.
Some of it is just luck. Being the right person in the right place who has the pictures and managed to find a gap in everybody’s schedule.
Be assertive. And no this doesn’t contradict the cry to be humble. Assertiveness is not about making demands of others. It is about a general positivity in your approach to your work and the people you deal with.
Don’t nag. Ask once or twice or every now and then, but try not to pepper people with mail/calls or posts.
Don’t bad mouth the folk who let you down. I have done a lot of my creative shoots on a TF basis, where those involved are seeking to generate some pictures that will improve or enhance their portfolios (or enhance their network of contacts in some cases). Part of this TF agreement is the understanding that sometimes the models, makeup artists and others might not be able to make it on the day of the shoot, due to other commitments. Take it on the chin and move on, don’t use it as an angry step to stamp on and berate the person who let you down. Yes it’s inconvenient, but this person was going to be giving up their time for your project, yes they would have got some images at the end of it, but just because it was important to you, doesn’t mean that they had the same emotional investment in the task. You can choose whether to work with someone again or not, if you have been let down, but you should not go out of your way to make that person’s life difficult or broadcast their unreliability.
Having said that, if a fellow photographer asks me about a recommendation or referral for a specific person, then I will unemotionally discuss the cancellation. I will mention the degree of notice given and reason that was given for cancelling, without editorialising with my own observations, imaginations or comments.
So my rambling essay on networking basically boils down to be trustworthy, to be nice to folk, talk to folk, don’t be nasty to folk and trust folk.