I have just recently returned from a six-week trip to Europe. I wish I could write an entire blog post just about my trip because there were so many beautiful and amazing moments. But this is a blog about fashion photography so I must keep to the subject at hand. Out of the six weeks overseas, two weeks were spent in Berlin. I can’t even begin to describe the place. It was so amazing, so much fun, that I literally could’ve spent another 2 months there. My Berlin was trip was not only about pleasure, though, as I ended up doing quite a bit of work there as well. I prepared and printed some large scale prints that were to be shown at an exhibit in my name in Amsterdam after my Berlin trip. I also held another epic Fashion Photography Workshop in Berlin. I also shot another editorial for Kurv Magazine.
I have the good fortune of naming Yoram Roth as one of my dearest, closest friends. Along with being just an amazing person in my life, he also helped produce my Kurv Editorial. Yoram is responsible for making me aware of a location on the outskirts of Berlin called Beelitz. Beelitz is an abandoned mental hospital that was occupied by the Germans during the second world war and then taken over by the Russians after the war ended and Germany was divided in to East and West Germany. The place now stands empty with it’s history, charm and alluringly jaded past. I knew I had to shoot there. I saw picture of Beelitz in Yoram’s portfolio two years prior to this and the images had just stayed with me over the years. I knew before I left NYC I was going to try and shoot in Berlin at this location. So my prep for this shoot started about 2 months before I actually shot.
The first thing I did was reach out to Kurv to ask them if I could shoot an editorial for them at this location. Once I got the approval, I reached out to a couple of agencies that represent hair, make up and stylists to see who they represent and who would be in town and available for this editorial. Once I landed in Berlin, Yoram and I drove out to the location so I could take some location shots of the place and start compiling a shot list. Just using my iPhone, I shot about 40 pictures of the hallways, balconies and guest rooms. I then reconnected with one of the agencies that I had reached out to while still in NYC, Perfect Props, because I liked the team they put together for me. We had a meeting with the team at the agency . I showed them the mood boards, the location stills and some of my ideas for the models. I reached out to many modeling agencies both in Berlin and Hamburg and I finally settled on Lina Spanenberg from Mega Models in Hamburg and Medea who is a trained ballerina and model who is living in Berlin. I wanted a lot of emotion and movement on this shoot, and I felt with Medea’s trained background in dance, she could give me some amazing movements.
We got to the location a little past 9 AM. We rented a mobile make up/location van because we needed to have a space with electricity (Beelitz does not have any available electricity) and also room for the clothes to be hung. While make up and hair was being done on the two models, Anja Niedermeier, the stylist, and I walked through the property and I showed her the exact locations I would be shooting in so she could formulate which outfits would fit best with the corresponding location.
The place is a little creepy, with it’s background and subsequent abandonment. There were some rooms I just didn’t have the nerve to go into. There was a bathroom that was just downright frightening. And the whole day I kept having the feeling that someone was watching us, someone was behind the walls, following us through out the day. Thank God we were a team of 9 people! Safety in Numbers, I always say!
And speaking of the team, they were just awesome! Karla Neff was our make up artist. Karla is a California girl living in Berlin so it was great having that Cali energy on board. Acacio Da Silva works with Karla a lot, so they were the perfect duo for hair and make up. Anja and I had spoken so many times before we the shoot that we were completely in synch with each other by the day of the shoot. So once again, I obviously couldn’t have pulled off this type of shoot without the entire team working together to make great images.
For technical aspects, I used available light. I pushed my ISO’s on my D3X to 1,000 or more. Or less, depending on the light in the space. I didn’t want any artificial light on this shoot. I wanted to capture the natural, decrepit, dark, moody available light and really pick up on the textures on the walls and floors.
I FTP’d the images to my retouch artist back in NYC and then spent the next two weeks leaving my Skype on so I could get those 4 AM skype calls from her because we were on a tight deadline and in two different time zones!
I’m back, I’m busier than ever and have some big surprises in store in the upcoming month for this blog. So stay tuned! Also, for those of you joining us in NYC for the Fashion Workshop, we’ll see you soon!
Elizabeth Skadden did the great Behind The Scene Video on this Kurv shoot. A very special thanks to her! She has since moved to NYC and we have some exciting news to share with you in the upcoming weeks but in the meantime, check out her work at elizabethskadden.com !! Also a very special thanks to Yoram Roth! Check out his photography website: roth-photo.com. Also, last but not least, a very, very special thank you to Proyecto Oniric for letting me use his music one more time. I can’t tell you how much this man’s music has inspired me over the years. Go to his website, show your love. Feel his genius: proyectooniric.com