There’s a portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron named Pomona that I’ve always loved: a woman with long dark hair and a white dress stands surrounded by foliage, staring almost defiantly at the camera. One hand is on her hip, while the other is crossed over her body with palm facing upward. It’s at the same time strong and vulnerable, complex and simple.
Cameron has been my most recent artist fascination; I’ve been pouring over her work, reading about her life and artistic methods. Some of that found its way into the inspiration for this photoshoot: namely, I wanted to make some portraits of women that felt classic but also fresh, and I wanted to nod to Julia’s Pomona across the centuries and make my own foliage background to use.
My work isn’t always the most multi-color-full (neither was Cameron’s since she only had black and white to work with); I tend to migrate more towards the monotone look. But it was winter and my eyes wanted color color color. I came across some beautiful Vuillard paintings of gardens, and the colors in that artwork sealed the deal: this would be a full on garden-themed project complete with streaks of sunlight and all sorts of blooming plants.
I was so delighted to have Lindsey and Rachel from the band Spectator Bird sit for this project. I’m a fan of their beautiful music, and when I decided I wanted a couple of sitters for these photos they were the first people that came to mind.
Behind the Scenes
I used four lights for this photoshoot. The main light is modified with a large double-diffused Photek soft lighter that I feathered for a really soft natural look that still has directionality. The hair/rim light has barn doors that I gelled orangey-pink – that’s what’s giving those pretty streaks of sunlight in the upper left corner, a side fill light that I bounced off the wall to emphasize the directionality of light while keeping any shadows from getting too dark, and finally a snoot with a custom-made gobo to create those little speckles of sunlight on our models
For the foliage background, I used gaf tape to attach branches to two old light stands. I wanted it to look a little wild so I chose a variety of plants. Then I picked up some fresh blooms from Trader Joes, whichever ones they had that day that were the most colorful and interesting shape-wise to me, and set them up in a way that created some depth in the image.
Finally, I sometimes held a little branch right in front of the camera for some extreme up-close pops of hazy color.
If you’re interested in talking about your own custom photoshoot, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org x