More Natural Beauty
In the time since we penned our "Natural Ideal" essay early last year, we have been delighted to see numerous plus-size models becoming more creative with their test shoots, stepping out of the minimalist, utilitarian confines of bare studios and into lush, verdant settings, the idyllic charm of which harmonizes with their own fecund beauty.
Even models who may not yet be among the most popular plus-size goddesses can attract interest when their photographs are enhanced by the loveliness of the organic world.
In this thread, which will highlight several examples of gorgeous test sessions in bucolic surroundings, we hope to illustrate how altering location, wardrobe, and poses can generate very different emotions and moods and highlight divergent aspects of a model's craft.
We begin with a pair of test shoots that use natural backdrops in very different ways, one test exhibiting dangerous seductiveness and the other innocent prettiness.
The model emerges from the water in this secret grotto like a siren intending to tempt the viewer, possibly to perdition. Her outfit discloses a daring expanse of her buxom contours, as if her clingy outfit can barely encompass her curves. The sequined, filmy cover that she wears over her shoulders glitters in the dappled light, as does her wet skin. The earrings are opulent, but have a folkoric look, as if they were relics of Anglo-Saxon artisans, either woven from wicker or crafted from gold. She glides her hand across the water, causing delicate ripples, as if she were disguising her reflection in the waves--which might otherwise reveal her dangerous true essence, a more terrifying image than the fair illusion that she generates to ensnare the viewer.
A second image of the model in this creekside setting is more subdued, though still attractive. The crouching pose, not always a successful stance, is effective here--perched as the model is upon a stone in the midst of the water, with the brook reflecting her image. Although the hue of the dress plays off against the greenery, a more organic colour, or a dress with a more vintage design, might have been more harmonious in this context.
Several seasons ago, we posted a thread using a model's image as a springboard for a mention of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan stories, but never yet have we seen a photograph more effectively recall the novels' love interest, Jane, (the "beautiful white girl" who ends up lost in the Dark Continent and under the protection of the Lord of the Apes,) than this image. The forest greenery evokes the spirit of the African jungle, with the ancient tree seemingly a survivor from the primeval past. Even the branch that the model clutches in her right hand recalls a jungle vine. The animal print of the dress and the way in which it exhibits a somewhat distressed look creates the impression of a garment made of the actual hide of a big cat. The dress also subconsciously recalls a Burroughs storyline whereby this daughter of civilization is learning to enjoy the pleasures of an uninhibited environment and indulging her carnivorous appetites. Alternatively, the image suggests a voluptuous vixen indolently seducing her next prey--an appetitive man-eater whose predatory qualities approximate those of a panther lounging in the trees.
To employ another contrast in tones, observe how the following image presents the model looking uneasy, almost nervous. One could arrange these two jungle-themed images in reverse sequence: this one depicting a city girl who has just discovered that she is cut off from civilization and at the mercies of the jungle,
while the previous image (and the following one) depicting the same girl after the course of several months in the wild, as she has acclimatized herself to the freedom of her new life, no longer having to suppress any of her desires for the sake of genteel decorum, freed from all inhibitions.
The following image is a more traditional woodland shot, with the model in an organic-looking dress that harmonizes with the setting. Her pose suggests a trace of reverse-view curves.
When we posted our "Natural Ideal" thread in 2010, we observed that fewer models were incorporating flowers into their outdoor tests than one might have expected, given the inherent femininity of floral motifs.
The following image shows the model's prettiest expression, the one best suited for her dreamlike environment. The business of holding the branch delicately in the fingers is a winning touch. The fabric blends into the model's own skin tone, creating an implied disclosure effect.
By far the most effective use of this magical setting appears in the next photograph, which is a fantasy come to life. It shows the flower blossoms decorating the forest floor in a carpet of pink, while the branches above the model's head frame her like an enchanted archway. Macey appears to be beckoning the viewer to enter into this Arcadian paradise with her. Could prettier, more feminine, more romantic wardrobe choices have made this masterpiece even more perfect? Perhaps. But if one is tasked with showcasing casual, practical attire, then shooting it in a breathtaking environment like this certainly makes it more appealing.
A closer view of the model finds her sitting upon the carpet of cherry blossoms, gazing up at the viewer with eagerness and expectation. Once again, the model is to be commended for avoiding harsh looks and selecting softer, more docile expressions, to harmonize with the setting. The glimpse of buxom decolletage is a sensual touch, but modestly so, in contrast to the more boldly voluptuous presentation in the grotto image, above.
A photograph of Macey relaxing on a park bench takes the viewer away from the wondrous dreamscape of the cherry blossoms, but still employs elements of greenery and an attractive, outdoor location. The model's pose, which emphasizes her voluptuous curves and the fullness of her arms beneath the fabric, adds a dose of seductiveness.
The final image of the test may be the finest. Here the lavender blossoms complement the emerald greenery of the grass--blossoms so plentiful that they seem to weigh down the branches to the point that they kiss the ground. One can almost sense the heady, perfumed aroma in the air from this natural bouquet. The model's pose is relaxed and inviting, and while the wardrobe is more practical than romantic, the bare feet, which seem to curl into the natural green carpet, help to set an indolent, fancy-free mood.
Shooting in gorgeous, natural locations offers models endless creative opportunities. By their choice of settings and wardrobe, they can establish themes and moods which they can then enhance with their poses and expressions. The gorgeous images that result from woodland location shoots can help models get noticed by the public in a way that rudimentary studio shoots might not.
Re: More Natural Beauty
The locations in both shoots are stunning.
The second test, with Macey, brings to mind the most famous scene in the classic John Boorman movie Excalibur, which remains by far the finest adaptation of the King Arthur story.
The background to this scene is that after the dishonour of Guinevere and Lancelot is revealed, England has become a cursed, barren land, and King Arthur, like the land itself, is enduring a kind of living death.
But Sir Percival (or "Parsifal" in Wagner's eponymous opera) finds the Holy Grail. When King Arthur drinks from the Grail, his wound is healed and the land regenerates.
The stirring "Fortunata, Imperatrix Mundi" theme from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana starts playing at 1:29 in the video. Then, just after 2:01, the blossoms start flowering again. The following scenes, with the Knights of Camelot riding through blowing flower petals, is breathtakingly beautiful, and the Macey test reminds me of that visual.
Actually, although this is a bit of a stretch, even the first test with Ava has a passing Arthurian association. The model emerging from the water in this manner recalls the Lady of the Lake, who offers Arthur the sword Excalibur.
Re: More Natural Beauty
Kiyonna's fall campaign with Melissa Masi is very much in line with "natural beauty" principles. I wish it featured Kelsey or Katherine, as a fair-haired model in the forest is such a folkloric archetype, but still, the promotion is very attractive.
The woods in the picture do look as mysterious as those of an Old World forest, and the ad copy effectively plays up these qualities, with the reference to "romanticism" and the phrase, "Hidden in the mysterious woods on a dark twilight night," or better still, "Surrender yourself to the dark glamour of the Hidden Hollow."
Here's a screenshot of how the entire Kioynna page looked under the "Hidden Hollow" theme:
The campaign evokes both qualities of nature as presented in the original post in this thread- both the dark mystery of the woodland test and the sunnier, floral qualities of the cherry-blossom test. The second theme of the promotion, "Love Struck," highlights the floral aspect.
The highlight of the campaign is certainly the video that Kiyonna shot to accompany it. Watch for especially beautiful shots of Melissa at 0.26 and 1.52, while the view of the forest at 2.02 could have come straight from the Lord of the Rings film footage of the Shire. Also, there's a shot at 1.09 that shows the model changing, which should answer a question that many have probably pondered: How does a model change clothing while she's on location and preserve her modesty?
A beautiful campaign with an attractive theme.
Re: More Natural Beauty
Maurice's has also photographed a fine fall campaign in a stunning natural setting, featuring a model named Amber Hebdon, who won a recent Maurice's model search. With measurements 40-33-46, she qualifies as a legitimate full-figured model.
These images were apparently shot in Scout Mountain State Park.
If anything, I think the behind-the-scenes photo is even more attractive in its display of the stunning vistas and the sunlit greenery.
Maurice's also features two images of Amber in an attractive 19th-century style interior that epitomizes the opulent maximalism of the fin-de-siŤcle.
These were shot at a location called the Standrod House:
It does have a castle-like, Neo-Renaissance beauty, doesn't it?
A Maurice's 'blog from the shoot offers more information about the locale. Apparently, the model herself suggested the setting, which was a fine choice.
I also found this moody image of the Standrod House that I thought I'd share. It reminds me a little of the colour scheme of the nocturnal photograph in Katherine Roll's recent shoot with Patrick Brassard.
Bravo to Maurice's for devoting the resources to shooting in such attractive locations. The indoor opulence of the Victorian house harmonizes with the lush greenery and sweeping vistas of the outdoor setting. The result is an overall impression of a world of unmodern, traditional, timeless beauty.
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