WHAT IT'S LIKE CREATING IMAGES FOR NICK KNIGHT OR HOW SLOWING DOWN MY CREATIVE PROCESS MADE ME A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER

A couple of months ago I was accepted and given a place on the Nick Knight Mastered course. For any of you who don't know what that is; It's an online course with Nick as the main tutor. You learn through a mixture of written work and video lectures. Every month there is a large brief that we are set and at the end we are given expert feedback by either Nick or other industry leaders. With the briefs we are asked to show our complete creative process on a page, much like a blog. So I figured I would put all of that process into here so people can see how I work and how I think. 

Today I'm going to be showing you my work for the first brief. The first brief was to look at all the SS/16 Collections, find a recurring theme within one collection, build a shoot create 10 images on the theme. The theme could be anything from colour, an emotion, a mood, the cut of the fabric, the garments themselves or the patterns used. We were told to stay away from Catwalk reports and Journalists interpretations of the collection, which was great as it meant our views weren't tainted by others thoughts of the collection. It's important to note that we did not require the clothes from the collection or a professional model as this was an exercise about examining how we interpret imagery and a way to examine our creative process from start to finish. 

Some notes: 99% off this material is taken directly from my research with little no updating. The only thing that has been added post shoot is the lighting diagram. So if there are any spelling mistakes or something doesn't make sense please ignore it and keep going as I was working very instinctively with this and letting my thoughts carry me where ever they wanted to.

SS/16 COLLECTION RESEARCH

Alexander McQueen SS/16 Ready To Wear. When I look at this collection, I see an almost underwater aquarian feel to the images with the frills on the pieces almost like fins on an angel fish. The complicated structures akin to a coral reef, bustling with complexity and life this is especially prevalent in the 2nd rows third and fourth images pieces. What also resonates with me on a personal level is the strong structured panels in the the first and second images in row one and the final image in row three. These speak to me of a strong modern warrior. An intellect of this time, acutely aware of the past but very much of the moment. Image one of row three reminds me of a Mongolian horse warrior. The armour on top and the long wisps of hair below the horse. A perfect fusion of the two. The panelled piece in the final image of row three also reminds me of the Mongolian warriors. The fishnet pieces in the first two images of row two, merge all three ideas to me, the fishnet reminiscent of fish scales, but also a nod to the rebellious punk mentality and chain mail, with the sleek form fitting dress, to me it says that this is a strong woman modern woman, ready for anything. A warrior

I chose the Louis Vuitton SS16 Ready To Wear collection again because it resonated with me. It spoke to me of a modern warrior, respectfully aware of their past but but also looking to the future. With nods to the 80's goth styles with the use of fishnet in the first 3 images of row 1. The cuts of the skirts in these images reminds me of grecian warriors with the panels. The sandals/shoes in a number of images is also reminscent of grecian warriors. The heavy use of leather also speaks to me, reminding me of armour. I also like the sparse use of colour in these garments, with the most colourful pieces being the trousers or spray painted leather jacket. The theme to me is a modern punk warrior, which is an apt reflection of our current political climate. We are on the verge of of wars, destroying the planet, the goverments and the powers that be are telling us that everything is okay and that the planet will be fine. But these are educated women, women who are rebelling against the status quo and forging their own path on the basis of their own intellect.

Givenchy SS/16 Ready To Wear. Again to me the Givenchy theme to me felt almost aquatic in places with the cut of the sleeves, this is particularly clear in row four, images 1 through 4. The aquatic theme again to me was clear in row three images one, three, four and five. In image one it's as if her skirt is made of seaweed, image 3 as if she is encased in a jellyfish skin. Maybe this is a nod to us overfishing the oceans. Again a to me there was a grecian feel to certain pieces row two images one and two. Image one especially is as if she is wearing a fine toga. Some of the pieces are also very reminiscent negligee with fine lace being used and silks. The theme to me is of a politically aware night time woman, who by in certain pieces has her face covered by an intricate face mask is a complex woman, incredibly complex and articulate, who is aware of her womanhood but does not require her sexuality to make a statement but is also aware of the power of her sexuality. She is a strong, intellectual, complex and political woman who feels comfortable at night.

I'm choosing the modern warrior theme that I feel the Louis Vuitton designer Nicolas Ghesquière, collection showcases through his work. I waited until I had examined the collection closely to then read about Nicolas, as I didn't want my interpretation to be tainted by any information I had learned about him. Reading about Ghesquière, I know that he had a keen love sports growing up, especially horse riding and fencing. This now is very apparent in this collection. With his use of fishnet, panelled pieces he brings the spirit of fencing into his work. Images below. The biker jackets used in his collection also to act as a nod to his sporting background, as what is a motorbike other than a mechanical horse. Where once we had bandits of thieves and nomads roaming the country on their steeds these have now been replaced by bikers, gangs of people shirking of the shackles of society to live independently, not governed by social conventions, societal rules or laws. These are independent people, often living in their own communities, with their own set of principles, ideals and way of life. This is also reflected in their dress sense, or uniforms, often setting them apart from society with emblems acting almost as sigils of their beliefs and life choices. There style comes with a hugely influential implied sense of power. This is reflected and mirrored back to them by the fear that their presence invokes in the members of society that they have turned their back against.

Looking at Ghesquière's hair, makeup and jewellery choices. He has opted for small individual braids, reminiscent of a Norse vikings or African Afar braids. His makeup minimal apart from clumped eyelashes.The Jewellery again similar to african traditional jewellery.

HAIR AND JEWELLERY REFRENCES

Colour palette references.

 The colours in the collection are mainly blacks, whites and greys with some blocked out blues and accents of colours. The most colourful piece in the entire collection is the multicoloured spray painted leather jacket. This colour palette reminds me of characters who would live in a dystopian future in films like Mad Max, the Matrix, Equilibrium, Children of Men, A Clockwork Orange and Demolition Man.

Wesley Snipes in Demolition man, wearing blocked out blue with a fishnet top used to accent and compliment the outfit. Reminscent of Ghesquière's denim blue jump suit and fishnet pieces.

Wesley Snipes in Demolition man, with a jacket/protective outerwear made of rubber tires, reminiscent of a American Football style shoulder pads, again a nod to sportswear.

Another still from demolition man. This time the lapels of the Sandra Bullocks jacket although military in style are similar to that of a biker jacket. Their batons, almost sword like.

Whites and simple blacks are used to create the simple yet effective clothing in Mad Max Fury Road.

A small examination of Ghesquière's athletic influence.

Looking at Ghesquière's pieces it's clear to see the athletic influence in the cuts of his clothes. For instance bot of these pieces are very reminiscent of a fencers jacket, with clear cuts up the left hand side of each garment.

To summarise. The theme that I pulled from Ghesquière's latest collection is that of a strong modern warrior on the fringes of society, living by their own rules, there will be nods to traditional Norse and Afar warriors whilst maintaining a modern edge, combining sportswear and fishnet.

MODEL CHOICE

Model Choice - As Nick Said we should go with a person who intrigues us, that we feel we can connect us. Fletch I have met a handful of times. He's an interesting guy, with a great personality and is already involved in one of the last true counter cultures - skating. He's a kid who I find interesting. Although all of my research has been on Women's collections I want to make images with Fletch, for a number of reasons. Firstly being part of a fringe group of people, he will already be acutely aware of the ideas and messages I'm conveying in the images, of an outsider, a modern warrior who lives by their own rules, and is not governed by that of society or social conventions. I also am aware that as a culture our ideas of gender are changing especially with how people identify with gender, so I want to use Fletch to create a sense of androgyny within the image. Not necessarily feminine or masculine, completely in between.

FURTHER RESEARCH

As I look more and more at the collection, I see more of an outsider to culture. Someone on the fringes of society. I have looked into counter culture icons, such as 80's bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat as I believe they embody the reactive nature of these clothes. The war these warriors fight is not a physical war, but an emotional and spiritual war.

Posing references. Looking at motion, counter culture figures. Expressive, angry, the in between moments.

FINAL MOODBOARD FOR THE SHOOT

A take on the modern warrior of Nicolas Ghesquiere's Louis Vuitonn SS16 Collection. A modern individual who lives by their own rules. Outfits will be sports inspired, ready for war, fishnets, kneepads, facemasks, armour from leather jackets, fishnets to mirror chain mail. Hair to be inspired by traditional norse warrior pleats. Jewellery to be of African origin. They will be ready for action, bit their was is an emotional and political war not a physical war. Images will be shot dark, with gelled lights to create a dystopian feel to the images. Shots will have movement and motion to show how displaced they in a modern world. Skin dewy to show their fight.

MORE THOUGHTS ON THE THEME

The more I look at and think about the modern warrior, I think about technology. Warriors, typically operate in a group because of a shared ideology or belief. They have deep rooted friendships and comradeship that are typically formed out of shared hardships and events which bring them closer together, hardships that they have only endured because of their beliefs, their beliefs which bring them closer together. Technology has sprung to mind, because that's the age we are living in, the technological age. We are more connected than ever before. We can have a shared conversation which spans the entire globe, the internet and technology allows us to have a conversation where usually cultural and language barriers may have been a hinderance. Once where we would have met in a physical space to discuss such shared beliefs we are now meeting in a digital space. The actual physical act of going out and meeting people to discuss a shared idea or belief is fast becoming a thing of the past, the comradeship which would have often forged in these places is now being forged online . In this respect we are more alone. Before these congregations and social gatherings wouldoften be part of the armour that protected warriors. Although there is a shared style in how people of subcultures dress, this is now expanding. Strength in numbers is fast disappearing, it is often down to the strength of the individual, which is reflected in their style.

 

As I am playing with a dystopian vibe with my shoot. I decided that to add to the styling I would buy some military style props that can be worked into the styling. I opted for knee pads, gloves and a mesh facemask. The subtlety of these strong pieces I feel will help bring the dystopian element through but not over power the images. I also chose a fetish gag, which will force the models mouth to stay open. I chose this because to me violence and sex are linked ( I know obvious right?) but I like the idea that this person has something to say but they are isolated from the world due to technology. The idea is I know is not fully realised as of yet but I would like to explore the idea in the shoot and have included it as I want to be open and receptive to these ideas and willing to explore avenues as I move along with the project.

PASSION AND VIOLENCE

I Initially created this to look at riot police uniforms but realised when making it the links between passion and violence and repression.

SET DESIGN

I decided to build a large foil cube in my studio for the shoot to take place in. It acted as a representation between the physical and digital world that we inhabit and the displacement that it can cause. Because the set was so large I had to order 225 meters of tin foil just to cover the walls. 

Today I finished 99% of the set design for the shoot. The floor stills need completed but I am going to tackle that with emergency silver foil blankets as they wont be crushed under foot.

LIGHTING DIAGRAM

1) Key Light - Small beauty dish with grid and Red Rosco Red Gel hand held by assistant

2) Fill 1 -  Large beauty dish with grid and Blue Rosco Gel.

3) Fill 2 - Standard parabolic dish with grid and Purple Rosco Gel.* 

4) Rim light - Standard parabolic dish with grid and Green Rosco Gel.

5) Large reflector mounted above at a 30° for fill 2 to shoot directly into and create an even spread.

6) Polly board with tin foil attached for set.

7) Polly board with tin foil attached for set.

8) Polly board with tin foil attached for set.

9) Polly board with tin foil attached for set.

10) Fuji XT1 with 16-55mm 2.8 lens tethered to lightroom.

Notes

*Pictured there is a strip softbox however this was changed on the day of shooting as it didn't give the desired light.

The studio was also blacked out entirely to prevent any spill of natural light onto the scene. 

 

STYLING MOODBOARDS

For the shoot I asked Ewan Smart to style as I knew he would understand the look I was going for. Below are some of the moodboards for styling he sent me. 

3 Initial looks proposed to me by the stylist. He has stuck to the brief and moodboard that I sent to him well. Playing on the modern, panelled looks with good use of leather and subtle details. The Slogan T-Shirt I am not huge on so have asked him to omit this from the shoot as I feel it will bring the over all tone of the shoot down. I am being open and receptive though so if it works on the day I will go with it, at the moment my gut says no.

FINAL IMAGES

Some notes on the shoot. 

The lighting took around an hour to get exactly where I wanted it to be. Initially the key light was too red so we opted to cut a small circle in the centre of the gel to allow a natural colour of light through. The images required little to no retouching as I wanted to get it right in camera on the day. All of the blurred images were shot with around a 1/30th of a second.

TEAM

Model - Fletch.

Stylist - Ewan Smart.

Hari + MUA - Donna Gunn.

Assistants - Stuart D Simpson and Kristofer Muir.

Studio - Broadscope Studios

WHAT I LEARNED FROM THIS PROCESS.

Working in a really in depth process like this was beneficial for a number of reasons. Firstly it helped me to identify with designers who I really liked. This is important as the fashion world is so nebulous and at times abstract that it can be hard to choose just one thing to focus on. Shooting fashion is like giving a child the keys to a sweetshop and telling them they can have anything...you don't know where to start. This exercise gave me a point of focus and a starting block to create something that only I could have created.

The exercise also allowed me time; as a working photographer I am often given a short period of time to explore an idea and create a concept for a client, this is just the nature of the business. However working solely on this one personal project allowed me to slow down my process and examine all avenues in regards to one theme, the modern warrior. What this enabled me to do was to go into completely different directions and explore things that I would not of usually had the time or inclination to do. For instance would you look at Louis Vuitton SS16 collection and put my images beside them? Probably not, but they are linked. 

I would urge anyone who makes pictures to try this approach, it will take you in some crazy directions and you'll be surprised at what you can create. 

Any questions, or enquiries leave them in the comments and i'll get back to you ASAP.

Thanks for reading.