The first photo session where Dorien and I tested our concept on someone other than ourselves taught us already so much. That we must trust that our fundamentals are right and that we can let go of perfect to get the better results.
Dorien Biesmans and Julie Landrieu (Dien & Jula) have a mission to put every woman in her femininity and her strength.
Femininity, what is it exactly? Every woman and every man interprets this in her or his own way. The media shows the subject a lot, almost dictating us what femininity should be. As a consequence, that I, and apparently a lot of other women, never really know if they are feminine enough.
I always was a tomboy. Dresses weren’t really my thing, I was happy with a pair of trousers to play soccer on the square. I had Barbies, who embarked on world travels and discovered deserted islands and therefore had to design their own clothes. The pink cleaning set was kept by my sister, who did have a doll to mother and could be labeled as feminine already at a very young age.
In puberty I dressed in hoodies and skates, experimented with make up and hair, but as a statement. Not to make myself pretty. I did not see myself fit in in the elegance other girls were showing, thus finding myself graceless and well, unloving.
Do something about that and adapt was impossible. I still preferred to be myself and not love myself than to be someone else. For a very long time I thought to be the only one with those thoughts and feelings, but as it turns out, a lot of women struggle with the same. Now that I have learned to love myself - what a delightful feeling - I want to help other people finding selflove.
Together with Dorien Biesmans, a make up artist and bellydancer, I look to embrace that femininity and find the strength in it. Dorien is very feminine and embraces this, but beneath is also some insecurity about that femininity.
We realized we had the same struggles and that enabled us to show ourselves in our best version. I photographed myself in a sensual, elegant pose, way out of my comfort zone. I photographed Dorien, not as a performer, but as “her”, thus coming out of her comfort zone as well, presenting herself as a person and not behind the mask of the sensual dancer she knew she could be.
Kim ‘Khalida’ Bech is a bellydancer and so much more. She has a lot of camera experience as a performer and it seemed like a good challenge and test to invite her to our concept. A lot of trust is needed to surrender and Dorien and I are very grateful she has given us her trust.
The core of our mission, strength through vulnerability, was not yet in stone what it should exactly be. We wanted to discover how this shoot would develop, organically. In many ways we found out, setting key points will be a must in the future.
Kim just returned from the hair dresser and had to get used to her new cut. We saw that happening in the styling for the shoot. With loose hair, Kim was not feeling it. With a simple pony tail, she flourished. In make up, the choice was natural. Don’t be mistaken, good things take time. Creating a natural look demands expertise and time, remember that.
Seated on the chair, my work began. I was already quite surprised to see the difference in perception I saw of Kim through the lens and out of camera. She was a different person and every pose brought another persona. Kim allowed herself to be vulnerable and to just be in front of the camera, a very interesting experience for her she told us. The moment I gave her directions, her energy changed in dancer Khalida and we had to dial it down again. Or to find the balance between her and her performer persona. Quickly we saw there were endless possibilities. On the one hand you want to capture the real person, on the other hand the most powerful version that person could be.
The selection after ingesting the shoot was a challenge in itself. How do I attain the maximum from this image? Every detail had to be perfect and thus I did not approve one image anymore. Taking time and letting go luckily always helps. Dorien, and maybe you too, can see the search happening in the selection. Even after I had determined a look, I had the urge to treat every image a bit differently. You can see this in this video. Even when everything is already decided, every image gets its own time to become everything in its own right.
What did this collaboration teach us?
- Schedule some days between your hair dresser and the shoot, so you can get used to your new do.
- Hydration before and during the shoot is key. On the inside and out. Drink plenty of water and hold off on that cup of coffee.
- Being vulnerable in front of the camera is challenging.
- You learn what a shoot like this entails and the many possibilities available. A planning session beforehand is a must.
- The affirmation that everybody looks with a different filter. Seeing the results immediately after the shoot is a positive for expectation management.
- It’s OK to be insecure and letting your guard down to affirm yourself in a safe environment.
- Suggesting key points to stay within a frame and to pull everything out of that frame creatively.
- Elaborate more towards the client what inspires Dorien and I to make images. To tell what we already see, upon the person can get inspired for herself.