It’s been now a few months that I have opened my studio in Coromandel; however, due to a very busy agenda, I still haven’t been able to really start shooting in it. Also it still needs to be a bit renovated and better furnished, to properly welcome clients, models, make-up artists … Eventually, I have recently painted the shooting stage in green for a personal project which will combine 2 types of art – photography and animation. I’ll write more on this later on.

When launching my studio, I had in mind to widen my scope of photography to fashion and commercial photography. Recently, I put a first step into the small world of fashion in Mauritius … but not the studio. I took the opportunity of the first Fashion Photography Contest in Mauritius to gather a first small team around me to be able to submit nice images for the contest. This team was composed by Pawan Cavalli – fashion designer; Mélanie André – model; Valérie Lee – make-up artist; Nicolas Malachie – assistant. The shoes were provided by Bella Donna and jewels by Svarowski. Finally, I got some assistance from Sachin Sagar (he lend me some pieces of photographic equipment) and from East-Sider (which provided me with the male mannequin). Pawan designed and created an absolutely stunning dress, using the latest technology and materials, specially for this shoot. As usual, Valérie did an awesome make-up on Mélanie, who was the perfect model for the occasion. Finally, Nicolas’s assistance and help was extremely valuable, as I wouldn’t have been able to set-up all the lights without him. All this was put together in less than 10 days, and for free, which was quite improbable ! 😉 (the idea of the male mannequin even arose in my mind on the same morning as the shoot itself !)

To participate to this contest, I had to submit 2 fashion images before a certain date – and the last free date we all had was actually the day before the deadline. And on that day, the weather was quite grey, windy and rainy on the whole island ! I had decided to do the shoot at Cap Malheureux, the Northest point of the island. It rained almost the whole trip to there, and finally, the sun came out and we had a wonderful sunny afternoon ! Here are some images I took on that shoot:

After submitting my entries for the contest, I posted some images on my Facebook fan page. A few hours later, I got a message from Alexandra Weber Isaacs, who is promoting fashion in Mauritius through her nice and interesting blog. She wrote that my images were nice and pleasant to look at, and technically well realized, but that I missed some elements to compose some really excellent fashion images. Although I don’t deny it, as it was one of my first fashion shoot, it made me think of the definition of “fashion photography”. What is fashion photography really about ?

Alexandra’s definition is as such: “The principal aim of fashion photography is to combine two elements: the perfect presentation and display of a product and doing this in an original way that blends in and enhances a particular mood.” My opinion is that this definition isn’t fully complete as it missed an important piece of the subject: the model. To me, fashion photography is a kind of portrait photography for which the model wears some fashion items that are presented and displayed in an original way, respecting a certain concept and mood. To say it in another way, there is very little difference between fashion photography, portrait photography, modeling, glamour … Honestly, I am still not sure if I am shooting fashion images or just portraits of models, but to put this internal debate in my mind to an end, I got a part of the answer from contradictory comments on the same image – someone wrote that the mood, model and product did not work up to their combined potential and that it could have been better, stating that the male mannequin didn’t fit the mood or the location / on the same image, other people commented that this is one of the best concept image they have seen for a while and that it is a totally great and interesting concept, looking like a surrealist painting, Dali-style.

With this ambiguity in my mind, I came to the Fashion Photography Contest‘s final (I was selected among the 4 finalists) with the idea of building my own “fashion” style. Being a finalist of that contest meant to shoot 2 imposed concepts, with 2 models each. Dresses and outfits were specially designed for the occasion by La Maison de Haute Couture Lionnet Fauzou and by Sanjeet Boolell; models were provided by Mathis Models, directed by Karen Nicolini; make-up artists were Dominique Chan and Cédric Lanappe; shoes and accessories were provided by Bella Donna and the Mauritius Glass Gallery (which designed some amazing shoes in glass ! – see below). The day was really fun and tiring, it made me think of the TV show “Top Chef” for cookers – we had 2 imposed themes, on an imposed location (L’Aventure du Sucre) – although we could pick up whatever place we wanted inside the domain -, we got to know the models, the outfits and dresses and the accessories only a few minutes before starting the shoot. Finally we had a fixed limited time to complete the task, which was to create 2 fashion images by concept + 1 individual portrait of each model.

The first concept I had to shoot was about 2 queens: a dark/devil queen who wants to invade the territory of the white butterfly queen. The outfits were really amazing, the models acted very well. For this concept, I was inspired by the Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Kill Bill”, mainly the scenes in Japan with swords. On the field, I have looked for potential swords and found that sugar canes would perfectly fit both the place and the swords. Then I looked for a “grungy” place and found out an outdoor facade with a lot of textures, geometrical items, old stairs … Perfect for the mood I wanted to create. For all the below images, I wanted to convey a feeling of the strength of their fight, their anger and spirit of revenge ; I also wanted to experiment new angles, using the background for composing my images. To do so, I had to face some difficult elements, such as a strong and harsh sun (it was 11am), I had to climb on a not-so-stable ladder to find new angles, I used a fan to blow some air opposite to the existing wind … – it really looked like a “super-production” from the outside 😉

The second concept I had to shoot dealt with a soldier, coming back from the future to save his beloved princess who was imprisoned in a steel jail. For this shoot, I had to find futuristic inspirations in the locations and in the outfits, which were also really great. The huge engines of the sugar cane plant, the wheels, the wooden boat, the tubes, all in all formed a good set-up for picturing my tale. Because I have apprehended this shoot as a story in 4 steps (images), with the soldier cruising back through future, her beloved princess in her wheel jail (inspiration from “Modern Times”, Charlie Chaplin), the soldier climbing to deliver her and finally the start of their romance. Here I wanted to show the power of love in a futuristic place, using the great-but-difficult-to-deal-with background. It was very dark indeed and my challenge was both to keep as much ambient light as possible and darken all unnecessary disturbable elements. This second shoot was also very challenging for my team as we had to change lighting set-ups 5 times, at 5 different places … within 1 hour and 15 minutes !

Last but not least, I would like to thank a million times Ali Ghanti and my wife – they have assisted, helped and supported me during this whole long and hectic day. The work of an assistant is very interesting but also very demanding – you need to be proactive, to anticipate, but also to react very quickly; you need to suggest and propose improvements in lighting, posing, framing … Both Ali and Diane did that perfectly ! Thanks a lot again !

And wish me good luck for the results ! 🙂