Photo Daily: Carlotta’s Dark Circus, Part 1

Carlotta's Dark Circus, Part 1, Chicago ©2014

Carlotta’s Dark Circus, Part 1, Chicago ©2014

Sometimes an idea comes out of nowhere. Or out of a suitcase. Or a suitcase that happens to be a time machine.

I had the good fortune last June to have the lovely Carlotta Champagne staying at the studio for a few days. She was in traveling through Chicago to do some modeling work and to coincide with a couple of concerts to celebrate her birthday. And on that day, we had a wonderful shoot.

We shot a setup of her, nude with some beautiful jewelry pieces she had collected in her travels which resulted in some lovely images. Then we paused for a moment to figure out what we might try next.

“Is there anything you’ve been dying to be photographed in, but no one has wanted to shoot you in it yet,” I asked? It’s a question I sometimes put to my traveling model friends who spend most of their time shooting what other photographers want to create. Carly has great taste and I was certain there was something in her suitcase that we both might find inspiring. And did we ever.

“This, is a vintage romper from the 20s,” she began, as she very carefully lifted it up to hold in front of her. “It’s barely holding together because the threads are so old, but I really love it.”

It was beautiful. My mind began to race to put together the rest of the photograph. It’s moments like that when I really know something special is going to happen.

After a few quick brainstorming moments, we were both immediately on the same page. Carlotta began to work on her hair and makeup in a gothically sublime 20s silent film kind of way, and I headed off to the basement of the building where my studio is located. I’d never shot anything down there before, but I had explored it many times, making mental notes… for someday… some…day.

Today was that day. There were no electrical outlets, so it would have to be the sparse available light or battery-powered strobes. When I returned to the studio to see what lovely, haunting creation Carlotta was turning into, I knew I would want to shoot motion as well as stills, so the strobes were out. It would have to be available light. And my fastest lens, one of my favorites, my Canon 50mm L ƒ1.2. It’s a beautiful lens and it can shoot in the light of a birthday candle. Perfect.

We headed down to the basement, past the print shop and the curious stares of some of the technicians working down there, around a few corners until we came to a wonderfully creepy arching doorway. This was it.

I had her stand in a spot, just where the overhead light, while a bit harsh, might create something interesting. We alternated between shooting motion and film, Carlotta trying her best to keep the beautiful fragile romper from getting covered in the dirt that fell from the bricks every time she touched them. But it was simply adding to the mood. This was very special.

Here’s one of our favorites from the stills. Carlotta did the retouching and color correction herself and she did a beautiful job. Credit where credit is due.

I can’t wait to start working on the short film of this!

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