It is always exciting when a client comes directly to me with a creative concept for a shoot. In this case it was Megan Williamson, owner of Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse in Singapore, who approached me with a unique idea for a fashion-inspired photographic series she wanted me to create.
As a broad concept, Megan wanted me to integrate wild European animals and beautiful, fashionable women into each of five photographs to be used as advertisements to promote Bistecca and as art to hang on the walls of her restaurant.
Admittedly, it was a rather uncommon brief, but I was attracted to the challenge of creating and capturing these fantastical scenes. Megan was very flexible about which animals I could use, and she gave me the creative licence to conceptualize and art direct the five images myself. Megan's only stipulation was that each photograph needed to be set and created inside the restaurant itself.
My producers, Annette Fausboll and Maureen Audetto of Ugly Duckling Projects, brought together a team of Singapore's most creative and experienced fashion, hair and make-up stylists, and we all met late last year to conceptualize the shoot and brainstorm creative ideas.
The five executions we agreed to shoot were: "Mouflon", a woman going head-to-head into battle with an angry ram; "Pheasant", a localized interpretation of "American Gothic", the famous painting by Grant Wood; "Cows", an homage to the iconic Richard Avedon photograph, "Dovima with the Elephants", substituting giant 7-foot Chianina cows; "Boar", a wry take on a wealthy woman walking her toy poodle on a leash; and "Deer", inspired by the 19th century John Collier "Lady Godiva" painting.
Of course, once we determined and agreed on our concepts, the next puzzle that needed to be solved was how we would bring these animals -- some giant, others ferocious -- to life inside Bistecca. It was crucial to me that every wild animal look completely lifelike. I therefore quickly determined that compositing existing stock photographs of these animals into the scenes would not yield the faithful outcome I was seeking. Additionally, bringing the animals to Bistecca and shooting giant Tuscan bulls or a raging wild boar inside the restaurant was clearly going to be impossible.
I reached out to Procolor, Singapore's preeminent digital imaging studio, to help me tackle the challenge. We agreed collectively that the best course of action was to shoot the models alone and then, in post-production, photo-
realistically illustrate these animals and composite them into the frames.
Annette, Maureen and I then began searching for a concept artist who could could manage a job of this complexity. We settled on Calvin Chua, a young graduate of Nanyang Technological University, who joined the team and worked alongside me on the shoot to layout each scene with enough consideration for the life-sized animals he would illustrate and Procolor would composite into the frame.
It took more than six long weeks of illustration and digital post-production, but this past Monday we finally completed the job. It was the most challenging creative assignment I have ever undertaken; hundreds of hours of blood, sweat and (quite literally) tears were shed by the illustrator, digital imaging team and my entire production staff -- a true labour of love, resulting in finished artwork of which we are all very proud.
Explore "Orphan", another fantasy-styled collaborative fashion series I recently completed here. And see more of my fashion and portrait photography on my website.
Client: Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse
Production: Ugly Duckling Projects
Styling: Furqan Saini
Hair & Make-up: Andrea Claire
Hair & Make-up Assistant: Mag Yang
Photographer's Assistants: Zam, Simin & Jun Yang
Models: Nataliya Zapolina & Fabiana Cassol / Phantom
Illustration: Calvin Chua & Dave Phung / Procolor
Digital Imaging: Dave Phung / Procolor