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True Colours

A few years ago I started a series of work called 'True Colours'. It's portraiture, as real and true as I can do it. It's an exploration on my behalf - a view of beauty which is deeper than surface physicality, a view of beauty which exists behind the veil we all erect in front of ourselves - largely for protective purposes. 

I see my job as a portrait photographer to see through this veil. This is confronting for many of the people I photograph, and I get that. My explorations over the last few years have demanded more and more of the people I photograph, and they have given me so much. They've given me themselves. This in itself is really so beautiful, and a complete gift in my life. It's one thing for a subject or model to remove their clothing and stand naked before my camera but it's another ballgame for them to drop their veil. That's true nudity, true nakedness. Often I witness both at the same time, physical and emotional nudity.

Trust

It involves huge amounts of trust and connection between myself and the model. This is another immensely rewarding but also challenging dimension to this work. Essentially I'm asking people to be themselves for me. My usual subjects are models and this is understandably hard for a model, usually. Models have a model identity, they have a brand and their model persona is intrinsically linked to that brand, It's how a model makes ends meet out of their passion and profession. So when confronted with a photographer who doesn't so much want the model persona, the model pose, the model expression, then I often get asked, "well what do you want me to do?" It always works out OK. We always end up getting great pictures. So something's working. But don't ask me what it is.

There's actually a number of ways this type of work can be done. There's the completely raw approach but there's also a way that utilises a model's talent at expressing emotion. For me, to be able to photograph authentic emotion, if the model can act it convincingly, then the job is done. What sort of emotion? Anything human, anything that makes us human - it's all that stuff that for me makes great pictures. It could be sensuality or sexual provocation - fantastically human traits and stories there. It could be happiness. It could be melancholy, reflection, or even intense sadness. 

So two more things:

  • I really want to thank the women who bother to collaborate with me. The women who drop everything on the ground before me, for the sake of art, for the sake of capturing a beautiful moment on film. A simple thing, but not one that I take lightly or underestimate. Thank you.
     
  • I got to this level of thinking after finishing the edit on this video which was shot in April this year. The model is Laneikka Denne. What she did for this video cannot be underestimated, and for me, it's not just another shoot. She took herself into a dark and sad place so that I could film it. Laneikka has quie extensive acting experience, so she drew on that in order to do this.

The video was shot at the end of our first shoot - and believe it or not this was Laneikka's first photoshoot. And guess what? We ended up getting a beautiful fashion set published to Elegant magazine during that shoot. See it here: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1310120 

Related blog posthttp://www.mikestacey.com/blog/2017/5/22/laneikka

Laniekka:

The Video

This video, for me is an extension of my exploration into portraiture. An extension of the True Colours works. The video also marks an important intermission in my work.

Featuring LANEIKKA (https://www.instagram.com/grunge_chil...)
Video and Edit: Mike Stacey
Music: "Everyone Wants to be Found" - by Fabrizio Paterlini

Filmed in Sydney, April 2017
Part of an ongoing exploration...

July Newsletter - Genevieve, Sylph Sia, Sass-Kia

Genevieve

July kicked off with a shoot with Genevieve out on the Sydney coast at my fave spot. Perfect Winter weather as usual, and working with a model of the calibre of Genevieve made for an amazing afternoon.

Genevieve hadn't shot many portraits previously but who would know? She was so comfortable in front of the camera and her performance background in gymnastics I'm sure helped her move freely and in an uninhibited way. 

I'm so happy with that shot. The light on Genevieve's skin, her poise and expression, her hair, the slight wind movement in her hair... 

Shooting portraits like this is always a result of a great collaboration - it just can't be done without that creative connection. It's not like shooting anything else and needs to be more connected. I'm always so grateful for the chance to create in this way with like-minded souls and Genevieve was so lovely to work with.

I love the expression that Genevieve invested into these shots. She really gave it everything.

This next shot was one of the last few of the day. We were walking back from where we'd shot the video, and as we were talking I noticed Genevieve's form with this amazing backlight. So we got the gear out again and did this last set with Genevieve in full flight.

Video - A Short Winter Story

On the spur of the moment I asked Genevieve is she'd like to do a video. "Yeah of course". So in a very impromptu way, we did this...

 

Sylph Sia

Sylph was in Sydney for a two week tour so we hooked up and I arranged a cool warehouse-style apartment in Chippendale to shoot in. I'd shot here before a couple of times and the light was pretty special.

Shooting with Sylph is always something I look forward to - there's a great confidence there because I know we're going to walk away with something special. The following are only a few of the images we did as most are still in edit.

We shot a range of material from edgy-lingerie-sensual to T-shirt polaroids. These Polaroids were actually Fuji FP100C, which people call Polaroid but the true Polaroid fill film was discontinued February 8, 2008. That film was really something special. For some good examples see the work of Marc Lagrange - his series Polarized. What that film did with skin tone was something else. For colour Polaroids, shot on 8x10 also, see the work of Paolo Roversi. The colours that Paolo got from the Polaroid colour film were truly sublime - virtually no primarys at all, perfect.

We shot some pretty edgy content using a sheer top that I'd brought with me. Sylph had some ideas for the top so we did it. Those images will probably be for her Patreon page and for my "Vanilla Life" magazine, which will be out soon.

Of course we shot some film too. Portrait-sensual style. Just my thing.

One of my fave portraits is the one below. Sylph's presence and poise is something else.

More images coming from this shoot!

 

Sass-Kia

Last time we shot together, Sass had mentioned wanting to do a video where she could express herself using her dance skills. So we arranged to shoot out at a new spot which I'd scoped on Google Earth the week before. Sass had actually been close to the spot I had in mind previously, so she knew the way down through the cliffs - that was handy. We walked around and got to the spot I was thinking of pretty easily, but I wouldn't try it at high tide!

This shoot was mainly all video and the main video is still in edit - and that will be for Sass-Kia's Patreon page. But I put together a short portrait-style video also...

That video was shot at my usual location out at Cape Banks, which we walked over to after shooting the main video.

Here's some stills too. We had such a blast, Sass was getting into the dancing in such a happy way, the vibe was really cool for the whole day - and these stills reflect that. There's no fake smiles or laughter, it's real. And wonderfully human.

And here's some film... and I love the out of focus feel...

The purists will say, "But it's out of focus" - yep sure is.

Wrapped Up

So that's July. Only 3 shoots, but a lot of video in there which is a lot of work usually - plus a few commercial gigs and a full time job - things have been hectic but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Updates

Here are some recent edits from recent shoots that haven't been published here before...

Panic

Something different. Draw your own conclusions. A collaborative effort between Katarzyna and myself on the story with an open minded and open ended finish.

Eyes on Fire

Featuring the outstanding Anoush Anou. Music by Blue Foundation.

Sass-Kia

Sass-Kia is an art nude model mainly but her skill with portraiture and expression is where her real talent lies in my opinion.

The following two images are from a set we shot for Sass's Patreon account. You'll have to go there to see where this series went.

Andrea

This wonderful art model - her expressive skill is really just so good.

So that's probably enough free content for now! If you're reading this blog and appreciate what I'm doing, let me know, I'd love some feedback. Each post and each shoot takes considerable effort, cost and time and these posts just go out into the ether with zero feedback. I also give away a lot of free information within these stories - most of that information I've gained from my own lengthy research and experimentation and persistence. Pretty soon I'll be winding the blog down and spending more time monetising my content! It's just too much effort. So thanks for watching, if you have been?!

Quiet Achiever

I made contact with Andrea after a friend had recommended her. At the same time, another friend - Eric Clayton, was shooting with Andrea at a Surry Hills hotel. I'd been assisting Eric do the planning for this shoot. Looking at Andrea's portfolio it was obvious she could do just about anything, but to me, she had a beautiful expressive style which I thought would be perfect for my emotive portrait work. So when I contacted her through her Model Mayhem profile, I proposed this idea to her. I also offered to shoot whatever she wanted to do as I was proposing a TFP arrangement.

Oh, and the name of this story, "Quiet Achiever". A term used a long time ago to describe the quintessential Australian character which is largely irrelevant and plain incorrect these days. We aren't like that anymore, social media and Americanisation has changed it all. So anyway, Andrea still is a quiet achiever, she doesn't do Facebook or Instagram, preferring to go about her business in a more understated way. I like that.

TFP - or Artistic Collaboration?

TFP gets a lot of bad press. It gets abused by people. My take on it is that is the best and only way to work if you care about artistic collaboration. Sure, I can go hire a model for a specific project, and I do that regularly - it works well as I can choose the mode based on his/her looks, ability and other factors. But, if I want true artistic collaboration - meaning my collaborator actually also wants to work with me - to create the same thing - then that's wonderful, and the images that get made will reflect that investment, engagement and level of collaboration. That kind of artistic collaboration is probably the most satisfying part of my workflow - I absolutely love engaging and collaborating around the same set of ideas. I don't know it all and I'm always open, right up to the actual time of the shoot, the incorporate ideas.

Another dimension of this involves the nature of my work - which is often based around emotive aspects. Many genres of photography don't involve that level of connection and presence. Some genres involve an almost routine approach to posing - and a subsequent routine approach to shooting - where neither photographer nor model are  really connected. Presence is often not a part of that styler. So, having  that level of presence before the camera is much easier when there is a good emotional investment - from both sides of the camera.

I met Andrea at Central station and we drove over to my spot at Cape Banks. It was the least I could do, sh'ed caught the train down from the central coast. Just doing that, demonstrates a large degree of commitment and interest in the shoot and I'm so appreciative of that. This was going to work.

It was a Saturday but as usual, not many folks around. The sun was shining, it was near perfect. We struck up a good rapport on the drive out and I had that feeling wee'd get some great pictures and video today.

The Big Cave

After going through our bags of wardrobe we started shooting in the big cave. Andrea's expression and look was amazing through the viewfinder. 

Andrea's sheer top/dress worked perfectly in this light.

She had an other lovely vintage looking top with her which worked great too.

Expressive Nude Portraits

I don't shoot many nudes these days, unless it's based around a portraiture type aesthetic where the model's character, emotion and expression is involved. In my opinion, there's a lot of 'art nude' photographs which objectify the woman and leave out the human aspects of that person.

We talked about the use of hair as an element in the photos as it's always been a prime aspect of what I do. I love it, and I love seeing it used in creative ways. Apparently, many photographers ask the model to get all the hair out of their face? Or, "just move that one strand of hair from across your eye..." Hahaha, throw that hair everywhere I say. Andrea found some beautifully creative ways to use her amazing full bodied hair, including creating views that accentuated her incredible lips and mouth.

Photographs don't need to be complex when they are directly about the person in front of the lens. Big grandiose poses just aren't necessary, in fact that only detracts from this style of photography.

Edge of Light

So next we moved out to where the shadow ends on the wave platform. And worked that area of light/darkness. These shots are fluid, model moving, me moving, hunting, searching for composition, poise, expression, sun flare - all at the same time.

Andrea was so relaxed and good at this style. Her movements were so fluid and smooth and expressions varied. Such a pleasure to shoot with her.

Final Sunset Shots

I always finish up at this location with sunset shots, shot in a particular way. There are so many great shots from this set, but I'm saving them for later.

Where the Wild Roses Grow

Video

During the final set of stills, we shot video. I'm still editing the video, in collaboration with Andrea, so stay tuned.

Seagull

Sophie is a friend of Zoë's so we hooked up for a shoot mid week out at my fave spot. We had an absolutely perfect day of weather too, bit windy maybe but I do like wind (and hair in the wind).

Sophie caught a bus out from the city, which was awesome of her. I picked her up at the bus stop and drove out to the car park in the National Park at La Perouse. Twenty minutes walk later we were at the spot ready to shoot in my usual cave.

Soph had brought some dark coloured sheer stuff, which I'd suggested as it always works in this light. I also had my sheer black shirt with me of course.

Soph is such a happy soul it didn't seem right photographing her with a serious or intense expression like I usually do.

This is where I think as a photographer you have to move, you have to be open and flexible to go with the flow, that meant for me to take great pictures of Soph, I needed to connect on HER level. When you do this, the pictures come easily and they are not forced.

I love these happy shots. Not what I normally do, but how could anyone resist a face like that.

I'd spied a lovely white fur in Soph's profile and had asked her to bring that along. So the next shots were with the fur, in the wind, with lots of hair - perfect!

We put one of my sheer tops under the fur which gave us this great look with the sleeves sticking out :)

Lots of film still to scan and edit. Here is one from a roll of TRI-X that was pushed to 1600.

Video

I'm so happy with this video. The music - 'Seagull', by Bad Company is one I've wanted to use since I first started putting videos together, but have never had the right footage for it. As with many of my videos, the music seems to fall into place very easily as soon as I start editing. When I looked at the raw footage of Soph, then went to my iTunes library to look for a track, there it was, Seagull.

And the candid 35mm shot involves eating lunch.