Carmen by Jamie Skripac

For the publication of Denim+Grace magazine we were asked to write an essay about ourselves and our inspiration. Both our articles are complimentary to each other - so make sure to read both!

Most of our shoots are totally spontaneous, this was no exception. All the details were not planned out perfectly. Although some ideas where discussed before hand and maybe even thought out subconsciously many years before, we had no real plan for the final vision. We knew we wanted to do new shoots with each other as soon as the weather improved. Unfortunately, where we live, the forecast can change five times a day. On the day of the shoot, we got a lucky break. Initially, our plan for the day was to go location scouting, but when I arrived at her place we both decided we couldn’t let this sunny (but cold) day go by without a photo shoot. After all, Carmen did mention she wanted a new facebook profile picture! Carmen was already dressed in her daily uniform of skinny black jeans and a black blazer. We added her top hat, scarf, flower and viola-la, a more whimsical version of Carmen appeared.

We set out on our adventure to find our location. It’s not unheard of for us to get lost, stuck in mud or chased by a pack of dogs all in the name of photography. After a few detours, we found our spot. It was an old, dilapidated, abandoned property with some overgrown brush. However there were still little signs of spring poking out everywhere with pretty little yellow daffodils and a carpet of soft grass and moss. I was immediately struck by the energy of the place and was already taking mental snapshots while unloading the van. The place was so magical and mysterious and with Carmen’s look, the whimsy was really amplified. We had previously had a discussion about surrealism and one of our favorite artists, Rene Magritte. We thought this shoot was a nice subtle nod to that influence.

We already had the chair and birdcage for another shoot we are planning titles “Dream a Little Dream”. The old movie camera was borrowed from a local resale shop (D’n’S Resale), …. And the necklace was from a favorite local boutique, The Copper Butterfly. Once everything was in place and Carmen sat on the chair for the first time, it all just clicked, no pun intended. We wanted to play a little with movement, but not make the shot all about it, hence the flying hat and scarf, the rolling tire, floating umbrella and mysterious upside down chair. (Surreal!) Actually, the tire was already there just waiting for us in a pile of fallen branches. We love to incorporate our surroundings and let the location be part of the story. You never know what you’ll find that adds to your vision; you just go with it and see what works. We used all natural light for this shoot and that gave us the advantage to keep moving around the grounds and exploring. When we felt like satisfied with what we shot, we decided to try a 2nd location. We knew there was a place nearby that we just couldn’t pass up. We thought it would be a perfect time to pull out the red umbrella. (Hello, Mr. Magritte.)

It’s just a magical moment when you just know you are getting amazing shots. It’s a kind of rush of creativity. You are so in the moment and you just want to keep going and shooting until the sun goes down. The minute the camera is safely packed away, but not until after I’ve looked through about 200 shots on the car ride home, I’m already dreaming about the next shoot. Let’s do it again!

Being in front of the camera is just as fulfilling to me as an artist. You really get an all encompassing creative experience. I feel like I’m having an out of body experience and seeing the shoot unfold from both sides of the lens. The photographer in me is always present and I understand what Carmen is asking of me. I can then anticipate what she wants me to do next in the shot. I can let all of my silly insecurities go and relax because I trust her and am excited about the art we are creating. I’m not thinking about whether my this or that looks big or if something looks weird. A woman knows how a woman wants to look and feel so we have no problem giving each other direction and critique. We just want to evoke a “feeling” in our photos, not perfection.

We approach our shoots the same way, we are inspired by everything and anything that makes us feel something. Carmen’s characters, for lack of a better word, are always based in some truths within herself. A side of her that is always there under the surface, but maybe not everyone knows about. My “characters” are based more in fantasy. I feel like I have many personalities inside waiting to be explored and they change from day to day. (Ok, I’ll admit, that sounds a little wacky. Haha!)

Thinking back, the person that inspired me to want to be both in front and behind the camera was my Grandmother Mabel. She didn’t just take a picture, she composed a photograph. She would dress me up in my best outfit and took such care posing me and choosing her location. She made me feel that this photograph is going to be important. Someone is going to be looking at it for a long time.

My feeling about photography is that you have to in some way fall in love with the subject, whether person/place/or thing. If you love what/who you are shooting, you are always going to capture some kind of magic. Your idea, concept or budget doesn’t have to be grand, just your passion.

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