When Sarah Gardner of Sarah Gardner Photography put out feelers via her Facebook Group as to whether anyone would be interested in a collaborative styled photo shoot with our teenage daughters, I jumped at the chance. It took all of two seconds to persuade Abii; the mention of hair stylist and make up artist did the trick! The arrival of the creative brief coincided nicely with a girlie shopping trip, so we bagged a couple of antique lace-looking items and raided our wardrobes for other bits and bobs. I had the standard argument with Abii about her choice of clothes for the journey: hoodie, well-worn jeans and black Doc Martens; where do all the pretty tops and dresses go to once they’ve been spirited away to her room?! It felt like quite an adventure as we set off just after 7am, with a meandering journey from Cheshire to Milton Keynes, on a cross country, buffet-less train. The collaborative and friendly nature of the shoot was established from the outset, with the generous offer of a lift from the station by a fellow photographer who I was yet to meet. We all congregated somewhat nervously at the Westbrook Arts Centre, where Sarah regularly runs photography courses. Five photographers, 5 girls, one florist and a make up artist all chattering about what clothes we’d brought along, admiring the flowers, comparing lenses and discussing the brief. Teenage girls are a breed of their own, no one willing to speak first, all surgically attached to their phones and warily checking each other out, whilst pretending not to! It was great to see their confidence grow as the day went on and they enjoyed the feeling of being stars for the day, with all attention on them. I would never describe Abii as an ugly duckling but she underwent an amazing transformation, from 13 year old in plain hoodie and jeans to a beautiful young woman in a lace dress with flowers in her loosely curled hair (the Doc Martens stayed on her feet all day)! One by one all the girls became similarly transformed, emerging from make up and hair, selecting their clothing themselves from the rail and then taking their turn in front of our many lenses.
I didn’t envy them posing this way and that, slowly loosening up and “working the camera”. It would be my idea of hell, but each of them, with no previous experience, did amazingly well, gaining in confidence as the day went by. I’ve done collaborative shoots before and photographers can be an egotistic breed, who don’t like to “hunt in packs” and there can be lots of elbowing people aside and hogging the model, but this shoot felt very different: more relaxed, non-competitive and a genuine spirit of helping each other out. “What’s your ISO set at? Try using a lower aperture. Here, let me hold the reflector for you. Have you had your turn yet?”
Sitting on the train (stopping at every station!), I’ve got a memory card full of gorgeous images that I can’t wait to edit and a very happy daughter by my side (trying not to think about my tennis elbow and worrying whether I’ll be able to hold a glass of wine when I get home). I want to offer massive thanks to Sarah Gardner for inviting us, organising everything and being so generous with her time and advice. Thanks also to my fellow photographers and their beautiful daughters. Make up and hair artist Tricia did an amazing job working tirelessly all day and Louise’s floral arrangements were stunning. Credits as follows: Sarah Gardner Photography Flowers: Louise Bowditch of Bouquets & Blooms Hair and make up: Tricia D’Costa Venue: Westbury Arts Centre, Milton Keynes