Recently, it had been quite an adventurous breather from the works I have been creating and developing of my recent projects after an unexpected request late overnight two weeks ago that my presence was requested to a special event as a VIP. I agreed and only three nights later, I was down in London to visit a fashion show as a VIP guest.
Fashion is certianly one that I am not a complete newbie with as I have once photographed a fashion show back around a decade ago in Hull for a friend of mine who promoted and ran the show and I also photographed specialist commissions for fashion designers which ended up with my work displayed at Burghley Horse trials and featured in Tatler and other high-end magazines but this show is certainly different. In this post I tell my story from my perspective of the show and an insight into my process of the challenge.
The Fashion Show - SMGlobal
Arriving at the venue, the Clayton Hotel at Cricklewood, London, I was first struck with awe at the neatness and welcoming feel of the hotel of which I had also reserved a room for the night. As I arrived early, I went into London to sort some business out and also went to see the Don McCullin Exhibiton at Tate Britain which was fantastic and will talk a bit more detail about this in my next blog. I then went and checked into my room and got ready for the evening of the show. Feeling like like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his action movies getting ready for action, I was going through everything ready for the show taking only what I really did need and set everything up for back ups just in case. Once I have set everything up and took a couple of breaths to compose the output shots and thinking, I went out to head below to the venue. I couldn't find how I got down the stairs to the venue, so in true sheep format, I followed another visitor to the show and took the elevator down. When the elevator doors opened, my eyes were suddenly opened wide at the first sight and so my true adventure begun.
Upon opening of the doors, I was straight into the preparation room. Busy and very frantic with flying models, make up artists and wardrobe management as well as photographers, I truly knew that apart from one person, I knew no-one. I was totally alone. The only one of all at the show I knew was a model and friend of mine, Lilly. How we met was very random and unusual! More about this later. Lilly spotted me on my absorption phase of getting into the groove of the show and she was the one who had requested my presence to the show as a VIP guest. After out short quick catch up and explanation of the brief, I got straight into it and started my photographic adventure. Looking around the getting ready area, I was absorbed into the working back scenes of other photographers getting set up with some models and management liaising away with models and designers, I suddenly put my detective hat on and started to piece the story together for my output I had envisioned in my mind. As I was doing this the connections started to come. I suddenly got asked if I can take pictures here and there, left and right. The variety of styles and personalities was a joy to meet and explore for the photographs that were created.
Singers and presenters were also present and provided unique challenges to getting the style of shots needed with one on a mini-shoot as such. The fluidity of the work with the subjects were better than expected. It is always important to have a good chat and get to know the subjects as you go along to keep things smooth and comfortable for both the person to be photographed and myself feeling at ease too and a good experienced model will express either or both verbally or physically some posture ideas to help you create the image you envisage. The models at the show certainly showed experience. One of the biggest challenges of the show was the lighting. With only my own flashgun, I had to be inventive with the lighting so my experience with weddings, events and my own creative photography came into play. I needed to make sure that the lighting gave a simple but complimentary power to the subject. The general lighting was a warm low key type lighting which makes it harder to illuminate the large room adequately without pushing image quality (ISO) out of the window. Other ways of getting round on the evening was using other incidental lighting from stage lights to TV lights, although as I go around, I had to guesstimate the average temperatures of the lights.
The catwalk runway was long and with space around I was able to think ahead in shoot planning. As I was going around photographing, the lead singer Shaneen Angeles wanted a quick photograph. We wondered where and she said of a staircase outside. Curious, I said let's do it and I was not disappointed. The staircase itself spiralled and broad, sloped up with a gentle curve with landing points added glamour to the scene.
Taking real care in this case to make sure the gentle warm cast of the ambient lighting worked to explore further of the singer. The gentle warm glow does help lift the singer and it really made other tones work to help create and paint the subject well. The only other light I needed was my flashgun light to pack more light into the area to give me a decent exposure. The red dress also were very complimentary to the scene and lifted Shaneen forward from the background as well as creating a main focus point.
Returning back into the main venue, the atmosphere really lit up with the different varieties of male and female based fashions being paraded and shown, over the evening I really began to explore further of the model's stances, walks and their style of execution of the clothing they were showing. From the funky to the fascinating of designs, the characters of the designer came out over the evening.
Below are some of the images I had taken of the evening.
The evening was phenomenal with the atmosphere so charged that it was like being in an action movie! Every second was precious and I had to make sure I got the view, the scene and the story right. The photographers all set and pinned in their desired position. The tv live broadcast camera in the centre of the end of the walk. I decided to be a small rebel and treated the evening like a wedding. As it has turned out, it was the best way because I was able to get different angles and variety of styles of the dresses, models and even the action of the scenes. I needed to be sure that I could come away with a story to the evening in a casual format.
During the evening I did have a wonderful surprise of seeing another photography friend of mine suddenly made an appearance. Chima Okafor is a well known fashion photographer based in London and we also met in an unusual way, again more about this later! But his presence was like an extra breath of fresh air. But even he did not escape my camera from its important drive of reportage of the evening! I did not knwo who was most surprised he or myself that we were both present at the show together! His reaction was wonderful and spectacular!
I wanted to make sure I can capture things around me effectively. The photographers of the evening were something of an unexpected great team to be with! The co-ordinations and networking were certainly apparent and wonderfully welcoming. Taking random photographs of models etc over the evening was like an Irish / traditional couples dance where one couple dances and spins and then releasing to another different partner for a dance, and then detach and find another partner and so on. Again, although same look of shot of the model, but each photographer came with some thing different that is their own and very happy with. With myself certainly the outsider I certainly attracted a lot of attention of all sides including photographers. One even collared me for a model to take a picture with! My dress attire is a smart traditional gentleman's attire and I think from the positive expressions it was unusual! But I always like to dress smart where I can to express appreciation of the organisers and models / background runners the tremendous efforts and costs they go through to put on a show.
As the final show of the evening was wrapping up of the couture collection by designer Samina Mughal, I was looking through everything I had taken mentally in my mind over the evening and there was a moment where I felt that I had poked at something that was laying dormant in my mind for a while, a small project back at home with the equestrian world where I would really like to raise the appreciation of the riders and their efforts and inspirations they bring. However back to the evening, as it all came to a close I felt this sudden recharge of unusual energy come along. When Lilly was collecting her stuff together after the show finished and liaised with the guests, Chima noticed her long coat she had put on and got in to take some shots. I saw an unexpected chance for me to be a little bit cheeky and join in on taking pictures because I saw a critical concept had occurred that I really did need a base record for what plan I have in the future.
After the show, and I said goodbye to everyone, I went back to my room feeling positive and seeing a new context for some of my projects. But the evening reminded me of some of my work I did in this world in the past... I shall dwell back into the past works in a future post on this.
The show was certainly a very good eye opener and a great variety and styles of the collections from the casual through to the elegant of styles. The designers at the show certainly did express their own view really well. The show was also very friendly and energetic with buzz and euphoria of magic. It is certainly a show whereby if I was asked to attend once more, then I would certainly accept and do it all again. What is wonderful is the allowance of creativity at the show which really helps with finding ways of making something unique.
Acknowledgements and Appreciations / Links
SMGlobal Catwalk - The group that ran this show - http://smglobalcatwalk.com
Models featured (Instagram)
Lilly Laschelcic - @iaschelcic_official
Izabela Kowalewska - @izabela_model
Sandy Chambers - @sedannachambers
Antonia Cochior - @ambitiousgirl_antonya15
Sophia Jessica - @sophiajessicarose
Tiana Sidor - @misssidor
Sophie Levine - @levine.sophie
Janet Laca - @janetlaca