A Horse, a Cosmic Skirt, Mints & Buttercups

I was going to serve up some mountainous goodness next, but instead, I have been distracted by yesterday’s longest day-ness, such that I’m going to quickly squeeze in a few sunny shots from a recent leisurely afternoon spent once more with Karen Jones. We’ve worked together many times (and will be doing so again soon), and she’s another photographer who’s great at coming up with different ideas each time, throwing new props at me and even letting me pose with a horse again (this time it was the rather pretty-headed Joss, who Karen’s husband kept reminding me was ‘just a big dog’.). Joss loves mints. And grass. 🙂 I was at the same time having serious befuddlement over whether or not to keep a recent purchase, my ‘cosmic skirt’ (so called, obviously, because it has planets and stars on it, as all good skirts must..), so I thought I’d put it on and see how it photographs for some gypsy bohemia, avec a bunch of Karen’s lavender (and then I thought I’d imagine how that might translate to some hot beach somewhere someday..). We then found a little moss-covered nymph perch, for which Karen covered my head in a wreath of rose buds for a few quick shots… And then, it would have seemed a real shame not to dunk ourselves amidst a field swimming in buttercups.

Any favourites?

Now, today, I WILL master my plans for Iceland and Germany next month. I will I will I will.

Firebird

In hindsight I’m slightly amazed (if I do say so myself) that I managed to help create the images below while feeling as unwell as I did back in March this year (it was just a cold/flu thing – I was a bit of a wreck but determined to show up as the previous date had already been called off due to snowy roads!).

Photographer Vanessa Mills and designer Asia Prusinowska wanted images with fire, movement and passion, and I think we achieved that!! The purpose of the shoot was to showcase the conceptual side (the drama) of Asia’s designs, and we did three separate pieces during the session. I was pinned into the clothes, which flowed and dazzled in felt and silk as I danced, and Vanessa’s use of blur and capture made for some stunning, dynamic shots! I love this way of working! (All taken in the black room of The Works Studio in Cambridge.)

I think the first and last are my favourites.

(This post, published earlier then almost immediately snatched away from public view, is reposted – with thanks – now that Asia’s designs are ready for public viewing.)

24 hours in Pareeee!

Originally, I’d planned a 5-day jaunt; half a work trip, half Parisian ‘me time’. I’ve wanted to live in Paris practically forever, and will, I’m sure, at some point – I love the city so deeply. I’ve been lucky enough to have been to Paris quite a lot now, and have ‘done’ various sights and museums, so my plan for part of this trip was to simply ‘be’ there; to write in cafes, pretending I was French.
Alas, these plans were not to be, as the week before I was due to leave I suffered a bout of ill health (after almost 2 months of feeling ‘run down’) and fainted for the first time in my life. The swollen, cut lip, bruised chin and concussion had me swiftly cancelling my trip, feeling very sorry for myself and desperately disappointed not to be boarding the £34.50 outbound train from London to the city where beauty reigns and everything feels like a fairy tale escape world.
Yet, as much as I resented the extortionate last-minute prices of Eurostar, I couldn’t resist zipping in and out in the end, going in at lunch time and returning the following evening on my original ticket. I had worked out that if I didn’t go, bearing in mind things already paid for, I would be down £84. If I DID go, bearing in mind things paid for and the ticket to be bought and money to be made there, I would be down £94. It was a lose/lose situation, and therefore a win/win situation; I was going to go to Paris! 
And then the Eurostar website didn’t work, giving my (absolutely in no need of encouragement) bank an excuse to block my card, after 5 failed attempts at purchasing a ticket. Every single time I go abroad ANYWHERE, Barclays, in the perennial prudent manner of an overly cautious parent, blocks my card. It’s a running joke in my family that I have to use cash abroad. However, this time, I’m blaming the malfunctioning Eurostar website (Barclays merely blocked my card, gamefully, for good measure); I bought a ticket easily by phone on the morning of the journey (yesterday), having packed in the hope that a slice of Paris might be a possibility after all.
Oh, Paris. It isn’t a place, it’s a state of mind. It’s one of my favourite states of mind.
As with two previous visits to Paris, I got to work with wonderful Jeremy Howitt, who managed to arrange a coinciding visit when I mentioned to him that I’d be going (he’s written a bit about the trip here if you like to read things from another perspective). This time we were joined by Jessica Taylor, a sweet, friendly model I’d not met yet but had spoken to online, for some shots Jeremy had in mind somewhat inspired by Helmut Newton. We all took it really easy, especially as I was a bit ‘dazed’ still, so there was no pressure.
The next day, we had lunch at a cafe often frequented by Hemingway, amongst other impressive literary and philosophical characters, and stopped at a cute chocolaterie (I, of course, had to try the ‘Earl Grey Tea’ chocolates, but have to say I much preferred the raspberry hearts). I’m already thinking of planning my second visit for this year, which will hopefully allow me to work with the other photographers I’d originally arranged work with, and do the ‘pretending to be French’ thing, but that will have to wait, probably, until I’m back from my ten-day trip to Scotland. Other trips to be finalised for June/July involve Switzerland, Holland and Germany, and possibly Iceland too.
Disdain and desire:





A ‘behind the scenes’ shot (while the shot is being framed)… 
(Paris wasn’t all that warm… but luckily Jess and I had coordinating purple coats. :-))


My new red ball gown; perfect, we thought, for a red cafe scene. I love the background details in these – the reflections, the handwritten chalk menu, the chairs put away for the night…







Thanks Jeremy and looking forward to the next one! 🙂

Twigs, Sticks and Weaves

Afternoon! I had another highly creative play-around in the studio (Unique Capture, in Milton Keynes, this time) with Karen Jones at the weekend, and have already been sent some shots I think are sooo lovely. Karen and I have worked together a lot on quite a range of styles and settings, and these latests shots are way up there with the best of what we’ve done, I think! It’s really nice to work on ‘themes’ with Karen, and it’s always good teamwork.

The original plan for this booking was something completely different, a ‘part two’ to a theme we’d already started (and which had resulted in some lovely shots, I think) but on a bit of a whim Karen decided to abandon that idea, for now, and work on some other ideas, including one set using twigs in the studio. Funnily enough, this had been on my ‘to do’ list for a while, and was also the plan of the photographer I worked with the just day before (luckily the shots are quite different though)! I have modelled in studios and outdoors in nature (as the eagle eyed among you may have noticed), but I hadn’t before brought these two disparate tropes into synthesis before, and the idea of bringing nature inside and posing it against an indoor, modern studio setting, makes for all sorts of connections about both life and death, joy and sadness, doesn’t it? We did a bit of classical ‘mother nature’ style stuff, and also some more ‘messed up’, ‘earthy’ portraits  for which it seemed only right to backcomb my hair into an enormous tangly state (it needs little encouragement, to be honest). Those came out kind of glamorous (which was nice) though. Karen had made a necklace using moss. So clever (and a tinsy bit itchy, after a while…)!

These twiggy ones were done with natural light, which is often very flattering, I think.

Karen’s soft processing and the luminous light here reminds me of the film 300, somehow:

And one we liked without the twigs:

Then, another idea Karen had was inspired by an ‘oriental’ accessory. I remembered that I once bought a Thai hat on the floating market of Bangkok (why have I never used that on a shoot before?), so I whipped it off my shelf and brought it along, braided my hair and put on this rather funky jumpsuit Karen had brought along and kindly donated to my modelling wardrobe afterwards! I’m not usually one for wearing orange, but I do love it and I think it made for some cute, bright fashion-y shots. I really like the slightly retro tint in this first one especially!

Some monochrome nudes, for a different feel…

And a ‘Black Widow’ experiment:

Thank you Karen! Looking forward to the next one!

Sumptuous in Brussels

Fresh from Belgium, I bring you some new images courtesy of a quick session with wonderful photographer Pieter Vandeur. He was so great to work with, picking me up off the Eurostar and driving me on to my excellent hostel, ‘Sleephere‘ in Brussels (which I would really recommend to those passing through the city – it’s the home of a man called Karel and his gorgeous old dog, Caesar, so feels more ‘authentic’ than the usual kind of thing, and has no room keys whatsoever – the only other place I’ve stayed at like that was in Costa Rica – Hostel Bekuo, whose owner I slightly fell in love with and who waved me off with a handmade hat – and it shared the automatic atmosphere of friendliness and trust that has to follow – anyway I think Sleephere won a ‘best of Belgium’ award, or something, and there’s a piano in the lounge which I could not resist when I got the room free before I left to go home, plus some brilliant restaurants nearby.)

Back on track… Pieter took me to a rather amusing bookable-by-the-hour hotel for our shoot. (Ahem!) But hey, it really worked, even if we did have some raised eyebrows on the way in. He was good with offering thoughts on direction, too. The setting was rather gorgeous, and this black lingerie I’d recently treated myself to (among other sets, and various long ballgowns) got to be worn and photographed in the exact style I’d had in mind when I bought it (the standing shots particularly)! So thank you Pieter!

Would appreciate some votes for which people prefer… I’m still deciding. 🙂

Bulbs and Benches

This morning I wrote roughly a million words of my WIP. Feeling very inspired at the moment, if a little exhausted after a much needed 24-hour jaunt to a place I adore. And now I’ve just come back from a garden centre, of all places. Why is buying birthday presents for my Dad so difficult?! Anyway, I think I’d quite like my own garden one day, if only so I can buy pretty watering cans. Sadly, though, I never even remember to water anything when I attempt to have plants on my window sill. After I came back from Amsterdam, I put one of those one-euro tulip bulbs into a pot, only to discover, months later (and, I admit, having never watered it), that the bulb had completely disappeared. It wasn’t there anymore. I had been displaying, in this non-fruitful but expectant interim, a small pot of soil. I imagine it had given up on me and decided to disintegrate, thinking ‘I’ll just be soil, it’s easier’. I hope one day I’ll be the sort of person who can water a plant. In the meantime, and between some other things I’m doing today, I thought I’d post a quick miscellany of images I haven’t blogged yet, but which I love, with thanks to the photographers.

By Barrie Spence, Scotland:

By Rayment Kirby, Sussex:

By OnePixArt, Beverley Hills:

By Eddie Ray, taken at Paul’s Studio, Reading (inspired, of course, by Rossetti and Arthur Hughes):

By Davefish, taken at Eye For An Image Studio in Banbury, Oxfordshire:

By Paul Bartholomew, Oxfordshire:

House of Flying Daggers

Hello from Belgium! I’ve just completed my final shoot and am relaxing now here in Brussels. Below are two quick behind-the-scenes shots taken on my phone from a shoot with the lovely Johan Verlust and the excellent make up artist and hair stylist Fraukje Van de Wiele.I’m looking forward to seeing the proper images from this shoot (this was just one set we did, but I rather liked it!). 🙂

Highlights in this rather multi-lingual country have so far included free plates of radishes, free limoncello and ouzo(??) (I didn’t have the heart to tell the enthusiastic waiter I don’t drink, so I drank), a successful foray into the world of the waffle (I quite liked it!), restaurants that claim they have ‘no legumes’ after I settle in and  order the one vegetarian thing on the menu, pasta legumes… Seriously? The entire restaurant has no vegetables? Slightly worrying. (I left, obviously, and stumbled instead into an AMAZING restaurant that made me very happy (goats cheese served on a bed of apple, scattered with honey, strawberries, raisins and walnuts), so if that’s not evidence for the ‘it’s meant to happen’ brigade, then I can’t possibly think what is.)

I have also done some non-foody things here in Belgium, I promise – e.g. I spent a lovely, lazy afternoon dawdling around art galleries – including Magritte’s crazy surrealism – (this was my first trip to Belgium, so I left myself a little bit of free time), and topped up my postcard collection by a humble 47. Yep, I don’t buy shoes (though I am hoping to stumble across a new pair of trainers soon, as my super dooper spin spot dance ones make me just a tad too spinny during planking, etc., and really shouldn’t be worn when driving), I buy art postcards! Seriously, though, it really excites me. I’m going to create my third new massive board of them for my room. I even had a practise run on my brand new hostel-friend’s bed, when I got back. (I’m too cool.) I’ll probably blog a picture of the results, along with my previously made board, in case anyone else shares my joy of ‘I get a print of this amazing amazing amazing painting for 1 euro’. And the Grand Place is beautiful, and somehow reminds me of the incredibly brilliant main square in Mexico City. (Though maybe that’s just because that’s the last ‘main square’ I saw. I don’t know.) I also went to Bruges yesterday with a lovely American girl I met, and we had fun jumping around in front of the windmills on the outskirts of the old town. I think I’m going to have to do a bit of research to find out if the vial of blood we saw really is likely to have belonged to Jesus or not; if so, that’s really quite amazing.

Anyway, I get to wander around Brussels a bit more tomorrow before getting on the eurostar, partly on the search for some statues of some kids (and a dog) pissing, or something. I’ve been promised an equal mix of delight and anti-climax. Haha. On my next trip (I might possibly come back sometime in the summer), I’m going to also look around Ghent and Antwerp, I think, as I’ve heard that Ghent in particular is a great place to visit.

And now, I’m blogging some images I’ve been excited to see and show you! There’s something a bit ‘House of Flying Daggers’ about these images, I think (despite that beautiful film being set in China, not Japan). I was asked to model for a photographer on behalf of his friend who is submitting a design project on Japanese modes of dress set in a western context. This kimono was the one actually worn by Ally on her wedding day; so it was such an honour to wear it! It was so beautiful – and very heavy! – and I learnt that, while the western fashion is generally to show off a woman’s waist, the opposite is true in Japan, or at least in this context; my waist was padded to be in line with my hips!! For what I’m used to, that’s not the most flattering stylistic decision, but it’s interesting, isn’t it? Different aesthetics for different cultures… It was such a fun shoot, and I think the photographer, London-based Will White, made them so stunning! The make up was by Ema Doherty. We got quite excited about all the jumping around… and as soon as Will handed me the parasol, we both immediately knew without speaking that I had to do a ‘caught in the wind’ jump. I’m looking forward to a second shoot sometime soon. And I CANNOT WAIT to go to Japan later this year; I just find the culture so fascinating and beautiful, and there are so many different contrasts and aspects to it. I’ve been wanting to go there for so long!

Which are your favourites?

…And if anyone cares to educate me about some beautiful Japanese films I should watch, please do!