The Soaked Series is an ongoing AzulOx project, and this week I had the opportunity to be a part of it. We’ve had lots of different people bring their story to the project, and the results are stunning. Each person brought their personality, inspiration, and inner struggles. For my session, we shot black & white fashion portraits.
Allow me to introduce myself: Hi! I’m Kari Burke. I’ve been a professional dancer and artist for over a decade, and a model with AzulOx since 2013. (AzulOx invited me to be a phoenix in the Mystics shoot, and we’ve had many awesome collaborations since then.) This year, I started working with AzulOx’s marketing team creating web content, becoming an SEO queen, and reaching out to awesome new clients.
I’ve gained valuable insight to the process due to my dual roles in front of the camera and now, behind the computer. I’m going to walk you through the process of creating images like this from a model’s perspective.
Black & White Fashion Portraits: The Inspiration
Josh and Andrew almost always give me creative freedom as an artist, and this one of many reasons I love working with them. Josh invited me to participate in the Soaked Series, and I began digging for my inspiration. I started asking myself questions to narrow my direction:
- Who/what do I want to embody in front of the camera?
- What do I need to express currently?
- To express it accurately, do I need to put on a persona/character, or strip down to a vulnerable and authentic version of myself?
I was having trouble finding the inspiration for this particular shoot, so I reached out to Josh. He explained the representation of the water and what each person he’d shot in the series brought to their session: overcoming struggle. I decided to bring my current identity crisis to the shoot. I couldn’t decide if I could be myself or needed a character, so I did a bit of both. We decided on the word ninja (I’ve always secretly wanted to be an Assassin) and my inspiration had a jumping off point.
Luxury is in each detail. –Hubert de Givenchy.
I did my own makeup for the shoot, and decided on an intense smoky eye and dark red pigmented lipstick. A smoky eye is powerfully feminine and creates dramatic contrast. My makeup isn’t waterproof, so I needed a look that would wear off well after hours of being sprayed with water. I wore my favorite black hood with my favorite long sleeved low-back leotard underneath.
The leotard makes me feel elegant and poised, and the dress hood makes me feel stealthy and cunning. I chose a simple white nail for contrast. The morning of the shoot I was mad when my day didn’t go my way, so I filed the nails to a stiletto point; it just felt right to have sharp nails in that moment. Instead of letting my feelings affect me in a negative way, I channeled them and used it as an addition to my persona for the shoot. As an artist, every emotion is an inspirational gift if you use it in your favor.
Grit, Beauty, and Nuance
These photos are all from Andrew‘s set. Because I’ve been working with both Josh and Andrew for years, there is a level of trust that takes our work to the next level. I’ve become more comfortable with Andrew’s style, and even grown to love it. He likes to showcase beauty and grit in the same frame, and I used to hate it. I wanted my skin’s imperfections and wrinkles smoothed out. Now, I love the raw human experience that he captures; there is so much more depth and expression.
When creating web content, it’s my job to pick pictures that tell a cohesive story. It can take hours to piece together the right nuance for a cohesive visual story. Notice the difference in the expression of the following picture. The emotion completely changes based on the way Andrew took the shot and the slight angle change of my chin. Virtually the same picture, yet completely different story.
The Technical Process
The shoot itself was a blast. This summer is so ridiculously hot in Austin that the water felt great. It also eliminated my worry of makeup, hair, or clothes getting messed up. Josh and Andrew took turns shooting with the camera and blasting me with the hose. (They enjoyed the latter way too much.)
Aside from the mermaid shoot in a freezing cold pool, this is one of the hardest shoots I’ve done with AzulOx. Imagine standing under the shower with makeup dripping into your eyes while keeping them open and pretending it doesn’t sting and not making the ugliest face ever because it stings SO BAD – it was kinda like that.
Totally worth it.