NSFW

Posted on Sunday, October 30th, 2011 at 10:14 am

I like to push the envelope a little.  Sometime more than just a little.  To me, the idea of a good photoshoot is a merge of 3 basic elements: a good concept, the right model, and the perfect location.  When the 3 meets, it is up to the person behind the camera to ensure they all glue together.

Leonie contacted me a few weeks ago to do a Halloween kind of shoot.  Yes, Halloween is just around the corner and there is an affluence of Halloween photos circulating on the social networks right now. When something that marks the calendar arrives, there is a sudden urge to do something about it.  For me, it can be the total opposite.  I always thought that if you do something simply because it is the trend, you won’t stick out.  What caught my attention in Leonie’s email though was that she was looking for something pulling her out of her comfort zone.  When you look at Leonie’s portfolio, she has that good girl look quality.

Leonie and I know each other’s through a photographer/model relationship.  I came across Leonie during a Grande Séance (now also called Great PhotoShoot).  I walked by her while she was working with another photographer and snapped a few walk-by photos of her.  We never dialogued in the process.  When she received the photos, she was just signing with the Orlando Galletta agency and asked me if she could use one of my photos on her modeling card.  Since then, we met a few time and the professional relationship chemistry set in.  Because of that trusty relationship I fell ok to respond to her out of comfort zone request with:

“How does Taylor Momsen and a dirty motel room sounds?”

I Googled the words “Montreal” and “Motel”.  Many hits came back but one caught my attention; Motel Pierre.  I called and made sure it was ok for us to go there and shoot.  As long we were paying the day rate (yes, the rate for people who desperately need to “sleep” for a few hours in the middle of the day), we could do pretty much what we wanted.  We were all set.  Leonie and I had discussed the shoot, the clothes, the makeup, any potential boundaries and we were good to go.

I arrived a bit earlier to the motel, scouted a few rooms and decided on room 128: a 2 bedroom luxury rental with a full kitchen.  By full kitchen, well.. a dirty fridge and stove combo unit sitting in the corner of one of the bedrooms.  This is where things started to go south a bit.  Al the sudden, the rate changed.

“You want bigger room, you pay more!  This room for family only, not for filming!”…  Filming?

What I suspected came to realization; I was there to do a porno…  I don’t blame her; I don’t really look like a CEO and the place doesn’t carry the flair of the Queen Elizabeth hotel.  I tried to negotiate with every bit of patience I had toward what I considered was a fair price.  I am sure the police inspector standing in the lobby reviewing the security tapes, investigating an alleged rape case that took place in the motel a few days before was on my side.  I walked out, took another look at the smaller rooms; it would not work.  Leonie and MC (her friend how had a photography assignment for school) arrived and when I explained the situation.  They stormed in the administration office.  There you go, the rest of the porno crew arrived and the main “actress” is pissed.   For some reason, when MC and Leonie asked for the 3rd time if they would be open to negotiation, the owner threw a number I had already asked for and turned down on before.  The administrators seemed to be way familiar with that kind of business and I guess they are more worried about the porn stars tantrums than the cameraman’s.

We had 4 hours.

The place was dirty.  It is hard to put it into words.  It was a complete visual and mental experience.  I wish this blog was in smell-o-rama so you could smell what a motel room that probably contained dead bodies though its existence smells like.  I can’t imagine someone renting that place to lodge his family, even if you hated the little bastards.  The carpet had NEVER been cleaned.  Let me put it this way, I fell like burning my shoes when I walked out of there and drive back home barefeet.  I kept thinking about Leonie who would have to sit on the bed, lean against the walls, sit on the stove and yes, sit on the bathroom floor…  The simple thought of what could be living in those moldy bathroom corners still gives me the shivers.  There you go, you know those places they show on the news, apartment buildings being closed down because the place crawls with diseases caused by years and years of neglecting cares?  The reports that makes you go “Who lives in that?”?

We were right in the middle of “that”.  (sorry, still shivering here…)

We made a few jokes about the place but when Leonie walked in the bathroom to change, I took a look around.  I took her and MC there, I could at least make sure the place was as safe as I could assess.  I looked for bed bugs, rats dropping, fresh stains and such.

We started shooting slow, building up momentum, playing with lights a bit and finding the right angles.  We were aiming for photos you could find in small music magazines distributions, shots done with a careless feeling to them, as if they were snaps of the “sexy-don’t-give-a-shit” lead signer by a band’s member.  We knew the photos would be high contrast black and white mostly.  Lighting choices were important.  I borrowed again Victoria’s ring flash for a few shots I had in mind.  I could have probably pulled it off with an on camera strait flash but I already knew what the ring would give.  For the rest, it was all done with one light.  All with the Alien Bees 1600, mostly mounted in the Apollo 28.  On some occasions, I used MC as a boom to bring the light high above Leonie.  When came the time to shoot in the bathroom, I face a bit of a problem; the softbox was too big to fit in the 5ft X 7ft room.  I took the decision to remove the Apollo and aim the bare bulb strobe toward the corner of the wall and ceiling opposite to Leonie.  The flash was angled in a way Leonie could not see the bulb so all light falling on her would be bounced rather than being direct.  The whole room became an efficient softbox because of the size of it.; the light could bounce several times before falling on Leonie and the multiple directions the light was coming from filled all unwanted shadows.

The size of that room forced me to shoot with a wide angle and be directly in Leonie’s face; I knew I would see my reflection in the glasses.  That was fine for me as it gave a sense of carelessness and voyeurism of what happens in front of Leonie.

The whole thing took about 3 hours and it was well enough.  I could feel the smell of the place creeping through my skin.  I also think Leonie must have had enough of the “Ark!  The ceiling just leaked on me!” or “My hair is sticking to the wall!”.  We turned out to have what we were looking for in terms of results.  There are obviously a few shots I totally forgot to do but I am fine with that; there will always be a forgotten shot.  This shoot is in my book of memorable photoshoots.  It probably tops the list of “What the heck were we thinking?” locations which in the end made it cool, at least in my opinion.  Reflecting back though on the location, I realize the worse could have happened.  The place was shaddy and away from street traffic.  The owners of the place knew what we were walking in the room with in terms of equipment value.  I am sure the other few tenants also noticed the equipment getting in the room.  We were only 3 people, trapped in a dead-end in a less than respectable looking location.  I am not convinced the door chain was keeping us safe from intruders.  I did not have a baseball bat with me; this is why I had 1 extra lightstand in the room.  Got to love those Not Safe For Work places.

 

Model: Leonie Pelletier

Makeup Artist Audrey Gilker

2nd photographer and assistant: MC Girouard

 

 

 

 

 

Responses (3)

  1. Dave Farrant says:

    Some very cool stuff going on here, Steph!

  2. Léonie says:

    Great photoshoot, amazing photograph. Well described scene. Love the results !

  3. Vincent says:

    I’d say one of you best shoots! Super moody! I love it! Good work everyone!

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