Starring: Jenny-Anne McCowan // Directed by: Jennifer Toole // Music: Made by God
Starring: Jenny-Anne McCowan // Directed by: Jennifer Toole // Music: Made by God
The words of ‘Pachanga’ translate to “Party, tomorrow is never promised” in Mexican slang. Faced with creating a visual for this stellar Summer track from Azari & iii’s new manifestation, ALI X x XEMINA, I went in deep on the state of the world today. It got chewed up and spit out in the life story of a chicken, an apt metaphor for American greed I think. What do you think? It’s working on many layers so I’m curious what you guys take away from it. Have a listen to more of this group on their Soundcloud @ https://soundcloud.com/alixxximena
Direction: Jennifer Toole // Starring: Xemina, Meredith Jay, Nohemie Renaud & Sarah Toole // Make-Up: Elena Pacienza // Hair: Amber Fairlie @ The Manor Salon // Styling: Megan Ann Wilson // Choreo: Jenny-Anne McCowan
Available on http://www.neinrecords.co.uk/
It has taken me a few days past New Years to get my head wrapped around reflecting on my professional accomplishments of 2017, mainly because it’s been a tough one full of valuable lessons. It was a year of grinding hard with income being the main priority. All the hard work paid off as I dug myself completely out of debt and began saving for my future like a responsible adult. With a main focus of finance however, I really felt a loss of poetry in my work. It is a hard truth that the most lucrative jobs are not always aligned with those that are best for your soul. On the other hand, putting your head down and working your butt off to make that money feels good in its own way too. Oh, this bittersweet tea of life! Regardless, the year was not without its moments of inspiration. Here are a few beautiful opportunities of 2017 I’d like to share with you.
1) P.A. Gigs
Now this may seem like a very humble top highlight, but my P.A. work this year, all thanks to angel production manager Lisa Ericsson, was definitely my favorite part of my professional year. I am a big believer in hands-on learning, and working as a P.A. is often called paid film school. As I continue to develop my directing reel, it was incredible to observe, get inspired by, and work with a variety of talents on set. One set was particularly inspiring; the Wall Street Journal commercial directed by heavy-hitter Ellen Kuras (D.P. of Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Blow & Requiem for a Dream). We had a big budget and managed twelve locations in three shoot days with nine unit moves! Kuras is an exceptional woman and a new role model of mine. You can take a look at the spot below:
This past year I completed the remaining works for The Goddess Array series, which is now 30 goddesses strong! Each of the images is a modern representation of an ancient Greek goddess in the nude with her totems. Hekate, the Goddess of Witchcraft, was finally captured after three epic failed attempts that included a near-death experience lost in the Mojave Desert. Hekate is elusive, and the final image encapsulates that trait in a powerful way, I think. Taken on the shores of Venice Beach in a sandstorm with torches that did not want to stay lit, we captured her eerie magic. I also captured Pamona – Goddess of Fruit at the UCLA orange grove, Rhea – Mother of Gods with her lions, Peitho – Goddess of Seduction at a secret L.A. waterfall, Aletheia – Goddess of Truth in a cave with a magical reflected ray of light, Nemesis – Goddess of Divine Retribution with her reflection and a sharp blade on the shores of Lake Ontario, Phoebe – Moon Goddess of Prophecy, Arete – Goddess of Virtue on the stamen of an orchid, Pheme – Goddess of Fame at the Hollywood sign, and Oreithyia – Wind Nymph on the Scarborough Bluffs. Take a look at an outtake from each of the ten shoots below:
Now that the thirty goddess images are complete, plans to show the full collection at large in L.A., NYC and possibly Vancouver this year are in the production phase. This is a big goal for 2018. Wish me luck!
Canadian teen pageant queen Cricket emailed actress Caitlin Stasey who contacted me to shoot Cricket in an act of defiance against the beauty pageant industry by shaving her head and posing nude while telling her story on Herself.com. It was a whirlwind shoot at my studio in Toronto and we got some beautiful photos on 120mm film and some captivating video as well. Alyson Peach of Blyss Salon was graciously on hand to make sure we didn’t totally ruin Cricket’s shave. Cricket wrote a moving poem to be the soundtrack to her rebellion. Watch the resulting video below:
Jessica Viola of Viola Gardens, an L.A.-based sustainable design landscaping company, is one of my angels in life, and also an inspiring friend, and involved client. Over the last few years I have aided in the development of the Viola Gardens brand through project photography, web design, logo design, and social media engagement. This year we continued on all fronts, growing the brand into new territory as the business itself grows and evolves. If you are at all interested in Permaculture, California native gardens, drought tolerant gardens, landscape design, hardscape design, Wabi-Sabi etc. take a peek at Jessica’s work on www.violagardens.com and on Instagram @violagardens.
5) Creative Collaborations
In the excitement of making something beautiful simply for the sake of beauty, I embarked upon a few creative collaborations this year. Some shone bright and some will never see the light of day. I learned a lot from these experiences and I will share with you what I’ve learned.
Lesson #1: Don’t work for free. Period. Even if it’s your best friend or your mom’s high school art teacher. Your time is valuable. Don’t sell yourself short. People you are doing work for won’t respect you until they are paying for your time.
Lesson #2: Be very careful about who you work with. Again, even if it’s your best friend, you need to be sure before you commit to working on a project together that they have the proper work ethic, desire, and drive to bring the project to fruition with you. You never know what can happen during the creative process so it’s not a terrible idea to get all parties’ responsibilities and expectations into a binding contract up front as a guarantee.
Shout out to Clara Klein, Teesh, Asia Vickovic, Myles Mindham, Corrine Anestopoulos, Alison Keery & Vlad Kato for their skills in our collabs in 2017.
6) Boudoir Photography
Always a mainstay of my photography business, it is a bittersweet affair as I offer my boudoir clients complete discretion, of course, and often feel I am burying some of my best work in the secret folds of my private boudoir portfolio. I love shooting boudoir. This year I shot the widest variety of ages of clients ever before, which I see as a hopeful sign that the idea of beauty is being pushed beyond its border of youth. Very exciting!
Hair and Make-Up by Elena Pacienza.
I had the incredible opportunity to live on Venice Beach for two months in the Spring of 2017. Arguably one of the most photogenic places in the world, I spent every sunset I could strolling the beach with my camera capturing the enigmatic locals in the magical neon colours the sunlight creates there. Very cool, a little bit dangerous, and totally surreal, I feel epically lucky to have called Venice Beach home for that short but sweet time. Many thanks to Vanessa Morcom and Billie Mintz.
Amongst some incredible company, I was asked to judge the Art of Creativity Awards this year. What an honor! The Toronto event was at The Soho House hosted by MOCCA director David Liss. I was chuffed to be involved. Here’s a little photo booth peek of me and my date Veronica Cojocari at the event.
This wasn’t a crazy year of published work for me but I did get a few nods.
In a celebration of 30 years in print featuring sophisticated and sexy fetish fashion, Skin Two Magazine published a coffee table book called “Skin Two Fetish Fashion – the definitive album of fetish fashion.” Tim Woodward, the magazine’s editor, curated a collection of the most iconic images published in the magazine over the years and I am honored to have two of my images for Northbound Leather included.
And new Australian publication Fead Magazine published my nude shoot with Caitlin Stasey alongside an interview with the actress.
Always a pleasure! I’m booking for Summer 2018 weddings now. Contact me at email@example.com.
I’m moving into 2018 with the promise to work hard, stay humble, do good work that is of service to women, and stay ruthless! Let’s go! Thanks for reading. xo
Demi Labelle, a real life goddess, mother, and muse of mine (Herself.com + The Goddess Array), has just launched TheMotherlandCollective.com, a safe online space where mothers can speak their truths without judgement.
In Demi’s words:
“Here at The Motherland Co. we aim to raise awareness about women’s wellness through different workshops and creative projects. We believe in healing through transparency. The more we can be honest with ourselves about what we are feeling, the more we can be open with others, and the more we speak about things the more opportunities for safe spaces can be created. The more that emotions will be normalized and not criticized. We want to heal the collective womb and help bring healthy children into the world and help our sisters stay connected to their feminine and masculine energies to raise spiritually balanced children. We want to grow with you, We want to share with you, We want to learn with you. That is what Collective means to us.” – Demi
The Motherland Collective’s first project is entitled Ain’t No Hood Like Motherhood (ANHLM). The project features revealing, honest interviews with moms on motherhood accompanied by candid photos of the participant at home with their kid(s) in an effort to break the silence around the issues that come with motherhood and create an online space where moms can share their truths. I shot a little call to action video of Demi for the project below:
You can participate in the project and share your truth HERE. Demi’s full interview is below. It is raw, real, and moving as all hell. Of you have a spare 20 minutes please take a look. It has been an honor shooting photo/video, and consulting on such an important project. xo
Cricket is an 18-year-old beauty Queen from a small town outside of Ottawa. Her first experience with pageantry was the heartfelt, charity-oriented, supportive experience of a hometown pageant which she won. This brought her to compete in the Top Model of Canada pageant which she then won. After winning, the first thing said to her from the judges was “You better lose a bunch of weight if you want to get an agent.” Cricket quickly became disenchanted with the modelling industry. On her way to Egypt to compete in the Top Model of the World pageant she stopped by my studio to shave her head and do a photoshoot/interview for Herself.com via Caitlin Stasey. Cricket’s plan was to wear a wig to all her fittings leading up to the pageant so not to be disqualified and although nervous, managed to get through the lead up without incident. Cricket revealed her shaved head at the Top Model of the World and needless-to-say, she didn’t win. Her interview and photos were published on Herself.com to hopefully inspire women to love themselves as they are. I shot this video throughout the head shaving process which became a rebellious ritual of sorts. Cricket wrote the accompanying poem to give voice to her actions. I found it to be raw and of a high quality. I hope you enjoy it too. xo
It isn’t everyday in the advertising world you find yourself on a set run by exceptional women executing relevant and inspiring creative for a brand you believe in. I had the opportunity to take part in such an experience on the production team for “Good Things Come to Those Who Don’t Wait,” the new campaign for The Wall Street Journal targeting their most burgeoning online subscriber demographic; young women. The spot follows an ambitious woman running from birth to opening her own business, stopping for no one, letting no one get in her way. It is an inspiring message directed by industry DP legend, Ellen Kuras. Kuras shot Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Requiem for a Dream and more recently the last few episodes of Ozark. She is a total badass and a new hero of mine. This was a job that left me totally inspired and feeling blessed. Take a look at the final product: