Last week, when NEXT Model Management asked me to shoot the young up-and-coming model Kiana Carroll, I couldn't help but smile as I thought about how small this big world is. As one of my brother's closest friends, I can't even count the number of times Kiana and I had kicked it on rogue nights out in BC (Before COVID) New York City. When I called her, we both had a laugh, and then she said, "I'm excited to finally get a good test done..."
But that is the world of production and it's something that I not only welcome but actually encourage. I've always found that the higher the stakes, the more my limits are pushed, and the more pressure there is to perform, the better my work becomes. In this case, I wanted to make sure that this was one of the best test shoots that both Kiana and her agency have ever seen while still staying true to my style.
To prep for the shoot, I stopped by (of course) my styling partners at the Julianne Boutique in Long Island, one of the best high-end women's boutiques in the world. The garments they carry are more than clothing, they're collector's items. And for this shoot, we went with three of the world's most innovative brands: Dries van Noten, Rick Owens, and Stouls.
Look #1: The Rick Owens Suit
Oftentimes photographers use the garments as a starting point, but this time we used this striking Kenneth Cobonpue Red Yoda Chair and built the clothing and character around its innovative design. Paired with a black backdrop, this shot focused on creating something that was high in contrast and even higher in character. I think we achieved just that.
Look #2: Sparkling with Dries
For the second look, we had a shimmering silver and gold Dries van Noten button-down shirt. It reminded me of something out of the ephemeral old Hollywood portraits from the 1940s that we would see of people like Lauren Bacall. For this, I also wanted to focus on her expression and the clothing so I continued with the black backdrop. It took a little tinkering around with the lights and Kiana's poses to finally find the perfect position, and it was really only then that the work started. The best way I can describe what I was looking for is something like a soft spring waterfront breeze gently sweeping a woman off her feet and floating her over to the love of her life who she is beyond enchanted with and fixated on. Once we locked the position and the lighting, I explained this to Kiana and gave her a few cues. Then, she immediately fell into the character and it only took five or six shots to get what we wanted. Since I couldn't decide between the color image and the black and white counterpart, I decided to share both.
We also decided to try something from a different vantage point. I laid the backdrop down on the ground and shot down from the top of the staircase. The photo ended up in the same vein as its predecessors:
Look #3: Dries in the Concrete Jungle
For the third look, we brought the shoot outside. We had this wonderful Dries jungly jacket and instead of complimenting it with flowers or something sweet, we decided to try the concrete jungle concept. Here's what we ended up with:
Look #4: Hang On!
For our last and final look, we had this suede Stouls jumpsuit and we tried to do something a bit more playful. I had Kiana go up onto the staircase and find a way to sort of hang off of it. I wanted to make sure she felt comfortable so we tried to shoot this one quite quickly so we didn't run into any stuntwoman issues. Here's what we captured:
All in all, I think the photos came out great, especially from the first two looks. The red chair photo with the Rick Owens suit has about as much character as a fashion-esque photo can have, and the portraits and high vantage point shots in the sparkling Dries top really captured that old Hollywood feeling that we were going for. The whole shoot was more or less seamless and the fact that we already knew each other made it all the better. The final sign off from the agency was, and I quote, "I LOVE THESE - they're fantastic!" And that's exactly the response we like to hear.
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