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  • Anthony Lewis

Executing Creative Concepts


 

Clickbait rating:

You're in a great place. Only 1% clickbait. And I'm still sensitive to those who don't know what patience is, so skip to the end if you want, but you might regret it.


So, You Like Fantasy?


So there I was, scrolling maniacally down and up and back down again on the Webtoons app, making sure to fully ingest every drama-filled pixel majestically illustrated by Rachel Smythe in what would soon be revealed, to her audience, as the climax of a story she had been piecemealing to us for months. And then I, just like throngs of her other avid readers, continued on past that final climactic moment to learn that she was going on extended holiday.


And just like that, I added "Lore Olympus" to the shelf of my own critically acclaimed works that I'm waiting for the continuation or completion of: Dre's Detox, Rih's next album to follow ANTI, a successor or predecessor to Aang and Korra in the Avatar storyline, a heated cooking competition let by one of Gordon Ramsay's children...

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And I have absolutely no problem admitting that I have just as much an addiction to amazing art that evolves into globally lauded culture. But just like a mess needing a fix, I had to find something to tide me over until Rachel steps off the train and onto the threshold of her publishing desk. So I turned, naturally, to Netflix.


Again, I was enthralled by amazing storytelling, from a handful of people this time, namely the people of Riot Games and Fortiche Productions. I thoroughly enjoyed watching "Arcane," much more than I anticipated I would. While I haven't downloaded the game to join the legions of players I'd already known about prior to bingeing "Arcane," I did begin looking at the game's expansive character roster and I have to say, it's absolutely teeming with stories.


It wasn't until I had fully processed both of these amazing works that I discovered my two very clearly favourite characters from each fantasy: Hecate from Lore Olympus and Councilor Mel Medarda, voiced by Toks Olagundoye, from Arcane.


Hecate Councilor Mel Medarda



Shutter Therapy


Without much to soothe my impatience or quell my excitement, I chose to express my enthusiasm for such well written and well designed characters by taking a page out of the cosplayer's book: I organized a portrait session.

Enter petite model and performance artist:

Mamie Koroma.


I reached out to Mamie with a mood board and the idea to join each of these characters into a single form. Thankfully, she loved the idea and we both began browsing our closets alongside the Amazon Marketplace.


I knew I wanted Mel's iconic gold freckles, and eye makeup because... WHAT!? I also wanted Hecate's sharp neck length bob and bangs look, so we decided that instead of Mamie needing to get braids, that she'd keep her dope short haircut and we'd just do a wig.

During the session, I found I preferred the idea of asking Mamie to channel Mel Medarda. Where Hecate, as an embodiment of chaos, was written to show joy and enthusiasm around disorder, Mel exuded a calculating nature with an intelligence that far outweighed any of her peers. Leaning in to Mel's character emotively, I think, paired well with the wardrobe.


We used spiked epaulettes, a wide gold belt and choker (which we put on backwards as a nod to Medarda's gold inlays behind her neck), and gave Mamie a choice of rings for multiple fingers. See more details for each character at the end of this article.


Certainties and Challenges


There were some cemented feelings that I wasn't fully aware of until after we were done with our session, like the need to keep Mel's dark lip aesthetic while somehow giving her a flair that could seem befitting of Hecate's non-vertically-challenged Edna Mode style. So @mini_owl and I decided we'd go with a reverse ombre style.


I already knew that in the editing process, I'd change the skin tone to that saturated Olympian blue shown throughout Rachel Smythe's storytelling. I kind of kicked myself the day before the session though, because in honor of Councilor Medarda, we collected the aforementioned gold accessories. I decided to rid myself of stress and just embrace all of it once we got to post (production).


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One wig cap, a tie knot tutorial and a few mid-way documentary clicks later, and all three of us very eagerly arrived at this set of images that I'm proud to share with you all:








Special Thanks


I'd like to give an additional bevy of gratitude to the other artists who, like me, have gone on to create masterful works of art as fans of each of these stories and the characters in them. Some of their art can be seen below in pieces of the mood boards developed for this portrait session. Take some time to visit their feeds and support them!


Omi Gamboa | Ars Long Vita Brevis | Ishali Page | Ksenia Svincova | Sunstark | Psychushi | MagicnaAnavi | Solanj | Eлeнa Нeдeлвa | Mavezar | z7_yuh | Indi | Amber | Alexandra | Emily | Jane Burson


Takeaways


The importance of communication cannot be understated at all.


As soon as Mamie was on board, we set up a time to exit from the DM and speak on the phone. Calls and texts were easiest for her and so I made it my priority to use that method of conversation with her as soon as possible.


If you're planning on hiring a photographer and you know you most prefer speaking a certain way, be open and upfront with the person you're choosing to work with. Equally, as a photographer, it's imperative to be very flexible in order to make the planning/booking process as seamless as can be for the person reaching out to you. This goes doubly for people you reach out to for personal projects.


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In that exact same vein, questions should never be trivialized. As someone looking to contract a portrait photographer, you should feel zero apprehension about asking questions, especially if you are encouraged to do so.


Finding a common ground is vital for the absolute best images possible the day of the session. With all of this in mind, all that's left is to look at all the things that inspire each of you while also pointing toward the specific goal you're collectively looking to achieve in each photograph. Yes, it's true that every single image doesn't need to be thought out this elaborately, but in the interest of making something greater than you have the day, week or month before, take the time to plan ahead.


TL;DR

  1. Have an idea, make a plan, stick to it.

  2. Be flexible and communicate easily.

  3. Focus on having a good time, find common ground together.

  4. You should read Lore Olympus, or better yet, buy Rachel Smythe's books.

  5. You should watch Arcane and continue making/supporting the making of amazing and believable dark skinned women in illustrated works/video games.

  6. Realize you still have no idea what's going on and start from the beginning ☝🏾.

  7. Check out some moments from the mood board leading up to the first frame 👇🏿:



P.S.


If you've read this far, I thank you! There's a part two to this session, so if you're interested in seeing more from this portrait day, comment below! Similarly, if you'd like to view content surrounding how I edit images like these, please let me know!

 

Following me on Instagram yet? 👉🏿 @neatshinyowl

Want to book a portrait session? 👉🏿 Click Here to Get Started

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