The Planning Phase
This has been by far one of my favourite photography projects that I have had the pleasure to produce. From the brainstorming phase to the day of, it was such a wonderful experience creating these beautiful portraits with an unbelievably talented team. I have been trying to collaborate with other talented people more often, to bring our ideas together and have a really fun experience.
I have been admiring Alison’s hairstyling on social media for a while. I absolutely love the way she transforms a person hair into a wonderful piece of art. We wanted to bring both our styles into the photos. Alison has a ton of experience in pin up photography from modelling to hairstyling. After lots of great conversations and many messages back and forth, we has a solid plan of what we would like to create. I learned so much from her during this project and I am super thankful to have had the pleasure of working together.
Both Alison and I love styles of the 1930’s- 1950’s. From the fashion to the music, these eras have always has always inspired me. It was also a time in western culture where female sexuality was becoming more accepted and celebrated. The roaring 1920’s were coming to and end and women were starting to become liberated. Dr. Alfred Kinsey was researching the sexual lives of Americans and his results shocked many people. Americans were not as sexually moral as many people thought. During WW2 women they entered the workforce and started becoming more empowered. The 1940’s victory rolls hairstyle came from this time, to keep women’s hair away from their face while working in the factories.
Suggestive sexuality started to appear more mainstream media and icons such as Bettie Page, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Mae West and others started to influence the culture. To this day one that remains a popular culture icon and sex symbol of the 1940-50’s is Marilyn Monroe. She was a talented, vulnerable, beautiful, and a carefree spirit. Although societal gender roles and oppression of women were still predominate, overshadowing many of these great revolutions, it was the beginning of empowering females to have more control over their bodies. Now I had the daunting task of trying to create a portrait series that honours this era and celebrates female sexuality.
Now that both Alison and I had our inspiration and an image in our minds, & it was time to make our vision a reality. Alison recommended Yvonne, an extremely talented makeup artist, to be a part of the project. She has such a positive energy and brought so much to this project. She took our inspiration and created a style for each model. Kelsey, Reagan and Victoria were all available for the date we had selected, I started to feel everything really coming together. These girls all brought their unique personalities to the set, which complimented the project so well. Alison made sure that their hair would work well with the styles she had planned out, and Yvonne created a makeup look to match each model’s personality.
I had an image in my head, a smoky room with a stunningly beautiful woman in a classy but seductive pose. Intelligent, alluring, captivating, elegant, mysterious, and sexy were just some of the words that inspired the mood I was trying to create. For the background I decided to use wallpaper to give it a grungy, cigar lounge vibe. Lucky I am not very good at wallpapering, because the uneven lines and the wrinkles gave it the look I was trying to achieve. I painted it a dark grey to keep a neutral colour background. I used a fog machine to create atmosphere in the photos as well as to compliment the lighting setup that I was planning to use.
For the outfits something simple but textured would add another element to the photos. I wanted Kelsey, Reagan and Victoria to have a unique textures that worked with their hairstyle, makeup, and personality. My first thought was white fur! I was very fortunate to be able to borrow the floor length jacket that my friend wore on her wedding day (Thank you so much Tasha). Victoria had a white feather boa that she brought that worked perfectly. For Kelsey I wanted something smooth and silky. We went on a mission to Fabricland and after touching and playing with different fabrics we found the perfect one! Alison has some pearls and earrings that added the perfect touch. All the elements really complimented each other and helped create the 1930-1950’s mood that inspired us.
The use of light to tell a story or create a mood is very important to my photographic style. I knew that the way I was going to light this shot would greatly impact the overall mood of the series. I wanted to incorporate my darker style, as well as take inspiration from the atmospheric lighting that you see in cigar lounges and bars. I also wanted to ensure that the lighting complimented the hair and makeup that Alison and Yvonne worked very hard on. I used a beauty dish directly overhead of the model, this highlighted the hair nicely while giving me an overhead lighting look. I used a softlighter point up, bouncing off my white ceiling to fill in some of the shadows and a silver reflector directly under the model to fill the shadows under the chin. The next lighting element that I added was an overhead speedlight with an orange gel, behind the model to mimic a lamp, adding atmosphere and some colour to the shot. This light also provided a rim that helped the hairstyle really stand out. I used another gridded, diffused light angled sideways to the background to help show the texture in the wallpaper and fill in the shadows. The fog was an essential element that helped bring out the orange light while giving the whole photo a softer diffused feel.
- Nikon D750
- Nikon 85mm 1.8
- Elinchrom BRX500
- Nikon SB-700
- Mola Beauty Dish
- Photek softlighter
- Silver reflector
- Orange gel
- Grids and diffusion paper
Thank you Team
This was one of the largest productions I have done, but also the most rewarding. I learned so much during this process that will help me improve as a photographer and producer. This experience really reignited my passion for working with others. I was so fortunate to work with this team, everyone brought their talents and energy to this project and the results speak for themselves. Thank you so much Alison, Yvonne, Kelsey, Victoria, and Reagan.
Photographer- Jen Bernard @jenbernardphoto
Hairstylist- Alison Espinoza @bombshellhairbyalison
Makeup Artist- Yvonne Haddad @_makeupbyyvonne_
Models- Kelsey Burns @belseykurns
Victoria Vermouth @victoriavermouth.Reagan Bradley @reagansays