The boys hard at work putting the dock in.
To celebrate designer Stacey Martin’s refreshing rebranding of her clothing line from Kania Couture to Stacey Martin Lifestyle I thought it would be fun to look back on our first shoot together. Stacey has been an inspiration to me for a decade now with her consistent commitment to greatness and hard work, thriving as a successful entrepreneur, designer, dancer, mother and friend. She makes it all look so effortless. Her line of stylish clothes that are made to be moved in is habit-forming, so beware. All her fabrics are locally sourced, hand dyed and machine washable. Feel like you’re wearing your favourite sweats while looking like a million bucks. That’s what Stacey’s clothes do for women.
Back in the spring of 2013, Stacey booked a 16-year-old Herieth Paul for our shoot right before she blew up into global supermodel status. The Tanzanian beauty has gone on to grace the covers of Vogue Italia, Teen Vogue and Elle, walked for Diane von Fürstenberg, Lacoste, Tom Ford, Calvin Klein, Armani, Cavalli and 3.1 Phillip Lim, starred in campaigns for Tom Ford & cKone, and is now a brand ambassador for Maybelline. We were very lucky to have her!
The theme for the shoot was “Tropical Luxuriance,” however we were planning to shoot in Quebec so we needed to get creative with our location. We decided to break into a construction site on a Sunday that had a mountain of white sand we could pretend was the fine beaches of Jamaica. Of course, we were risking a confrontation with security etc. etc. but no one was there and the shoot went splendidly. We were blasting Rihanna all day from Stacey’s hybrid SUV. We shot through sunset, exhausted but patting ourselves on our backs for a wonderful shoot completed. All packed up and ready to head home, we piled into the car only to realize we had naively completely drained the battery with our beats throughout the day. Now we were stranded in an abandoned construction site in the dark.
As we frantically read the hybrid’s manual searching for a solution, three dudes on dirt bikes, also taking advantage of the unprotected sand mountain, pulled up to our vehicle to see if we were alright. Luckily they were kind souls and with all of our heads together we managed to get back on the road. The “Tropical Luxuriance” lookbook was born and nobody was harmed! Another one for the books. xo
I will never forget the first time I met Jenny Burton. I had been hired as a model for the F/W 2013 Mooseknuckles Canada campaign. The shoot was at a remote cabin in the wilds of Quebec in the dead of winter. The other models and I were getting glammed up for an exterior scene in the snow when the art director, this stunningly beautiful, warm and incredibly nice woman named Jenny, lined us all up and assigned us our wardrobe for the scene. I guess no one is immune to the charms of an enchanting woman as my usual resolve crumbled at her request for me to don nothing more than a military hat, boots, a skimpy bra and thong for our subzero shoot. I was impressed and eager to befriend a woman of such influence. We did become fast friends and the following summer I decided it was time for a playful payback.
I cast Jenny in our September 2013 shoot for Northbound Leather where I was working as art director and in-house photographer. The theme was “Wet ‘n’ Wild.” We had a curated selection of Northbound’s slipperiest pieces and had secured Toronto’s favourite swingers club Oasis Aqua Lounge on a Sunday morning for the shoot, which was a blessing in timing because they clean the pool every Sunday morning, so the debauchery of the weekend was all but a memory. I had a young-Liz-Taylor-hires-pool-boy-with-benefits fantasy in mind. Jenny and I were very excited for our male model. Armed with enough champagne to get a party started we were looking forward to a great shoot and perhaps getting into a bit of trouble afterward. Our excitement quickly dissipated soon after our pool boy’s arrival.
He was even more handsome than his photos, however, as I was taking him through his looks for the day he began to get visibly upset. Holding a latex thong in one hand a leather bowtie in the other he claimed that he was an Ambercrombie & Fitch model and absolutely not comfortable posing in Northbound’s fetish gear. I guess he did not care to research the brand before taking the job? How boring! He was about to abandon set completely so I had to think fast. I figured all we really needed from him was his body and could do without his face or increasingly dull personality, so I made him the offer to shoot him anonymously, without ever showing his face. He agreed and we went ahead with the shoot.
Jenny shone bright and easily commanded the shoot serving up a blend of young Liz Taylor meets Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio. There was only one moment when we got into some deep water so to speak…
Donned in a full body latex catsuit complete with a gimp face mask without nostril air holes I had her jump into the pool. As we set out to get the shot her mask filled up with water nearly drowning her! I think she secretly liked it though. Some of us are suckers for punishment. The resulting photo is still my favourite from the shoot. No pain, no gain they say! I felt we were even after all for the frostbite I got on my butt at the Mooseknuckles shoot. Thank goodness for adventurous friends. xo
Where did 2021 go? It seems to have flown by in the blink of an eye. Who would have thought we would still be in the throes of this pandemic two years after it took the world by storm? We are learning how to live with Covid as it appears to be here to stay, bending and shifting with each new variant, vaccine, and government-imposed restriction. Much like 2020, I did not get to shoot as much as I would have liked, but I did manage to get the creative juices flowing for a few special portrait sessions. Film work continued in full force, thank goodness, and all of us in the film industry bravely spent 65 hours a week in full personal protective gear to guard ourselves, each other and the actors in health.
I am getting to this annual highlight post of mine so late (posting mid-February this year!) due to a rough bout of Omicron that took me out for two weeks right after New Years followed by a major life move! My husband and I bought a beautiful home outside of Port Hope and in a Herculean effort managed to move our lives from downtown Toronto to this glorious winter wonderland. Needless to say, it has been a busy start to the year! I am delighted to finally have a chance to sit down and reflect on my professional highlights of 2021.
- Blackout Rage
My first foray into narrative filmmaking was encouraged by a few surprising and exciting festival nods in 2021. ‘Blackout Rage’ was selected by Venice Shorts, Montreal Independent Film Festival and Big Sur Film Festival, and was a semi-finalist in the Experimental Shorts category at Blow-Up Arthouse Film Fest out of Chicago.
You can watch the film HERE. It is rated MATURE. Enjoy!
2. Becoming a Full-Fledged Member of the International Cinematographers Union
After almost two years of paid apprentice placements with seasoned teams on epic shows being produced in the GTA, I finally earned my stripes and upgraded to full membership status with I.A.T.S.E. 667. My rotations included stints on Suits, Tiny Pretty Things, Good Witch, Pretty Hard Cases, Locke & Key and Chucky. The extensive training prepared me for the fast pace, long hours and high level of responsibility required when working on the camera teams of these high-budget productions. It was a challenging journey, made even more so with the limitations imposed by Covid shutdowns and restrictions, but I made it through and am proud to have tucked this accomplishment under my belt in April of 2021.
3. Pandemic Portraits
In the Spring of 2021 I posted a call for subjects interested in posing for a series entitled Pandemic Portraits. The goal was to play at glamour, beauty, fashion and freedom of expression in a rebellion against not being allowed to work, having to be masked in public and the inability to socialize with our loved ones. The photos in this series are some of my favourites I got to capture in 2021. I have always been a sucker for a sweet distraction from reality.
4. Locke & Key S.3
I was lucky to score my first job as a full member of the union on Locke & Key S.3 in May 2021. I had worked with the Locke & Key camera team for a six week placement on Season 2 the winter prior and from that experience, they hired me onto Season 3. I was so grateful for the opportunity! I had no idea if I had the stamina or guts to complete a five month contract working an average of 65 hours per week, but I did it! We had to get tested for Covid three times a week and our lunch breaks were spent in sanitized white plastic cubicles and we weren’t really allowed to have contact with departments other than our own, but we made it work and stayed safe.
At the end of the shooting schedule I was offered the opportunity to travel to Nova Scotia to shoot the final scenes for the series. We took a private jet to the east coast, were put up in nice hotels, and feasted on seafood in the quaint town of Lunenburg. The crew became my second family and we shot the hell out of Season 3. It will be out later this year on Netflix so keep an eye out!
The new TV show about everyone’s favourite murderous doll Chucky was my last placement as a trainee for the International Cinematographers Union in March and April of 2021. It was educational and inspiring to see how it takes five puppeteers to bring Chucky to life and also how little CGI is used on him. He is truly terrifying! The original Chucky doll is still used in filming along with the original Master Puppeteer! Creepy.
I asked Don Mancini, the creator of Chucky, the writer of the series and the director of the pilot, what his inspiration was in creating Chucky. I wondered if it was a childhood fear or experience. Don said his father worked creating advertising geared toward children so Don got an up close and personal education about how evil and manipulative children’s advertising is. Chucky was born as a metaphor for this evil. I was a bit disappointed because I am terrified of Chucky and wanted to believe in his spirit, but no, he is a product of the times.
Boudoir photo sessions have been a mainstay of my photography practice since the beginning. I enjoy the process of creating an environment where my subjects can feel comfortable in their skin. It is an exercise in self-love, which is so deeply needed sometimes, especially when we get down on ourselves. I work to provide a mirror for my subjects to help them see just how powerful and fierce they are inside and out.
7. Little Tree Wellness & Apothecary
This autumn I got to do some art directing and photography of the lifestyle and products created by Little Tree Wellness & Apothecary. We caught some warm moments of little ones using the kid-friendly wellness teas and tinctures and mommas delighting in the facial serums and belly butters. It was a wonderful day capturing beautiful products and beautiful vibes.
Little Tree Wellness & Apothecary supports mamas, babies and families with functional botanical skincare and wellness products. The products are designed to help ease transitions and tackle common challenges of new motherhood and parenting, all the while feeling cared for and luxurious.
I honestly couldn’t recommend these organic, small-batch products more. Discover more HERE.
I picked up the new practice of painting during the lockdowns and have come to love the medium very much. I can work from any photograph in this colour block style. Send me a note if you would like to commission an original painting for a loved one as a unique and thoughtful gift. It would be my pleasure. xo
9. One Plant Kensington
In my second shoot with the shopping mall of weed stores in the centre of Kensington Market I got to shoot some product, some interior and some lifestyle shots for the brand. Always a wonderful time!
10. Flute In the Wild
Effervescent Canadian flutist Jaye Marsh received a Factor grant to produce a promotional video for her new album. A mutual colleague put my name forward to shoot the set of stills on greenscreen for use in a stop motion animation video. I always enjoy working with musicians as they generally make delightful subjects being so used to performing. Jaye was a delight in the studio. Watch the video and have a listen to her sweet blend of flute, harp and the sounds of nature HERE.
And finally I will leave you with a few self-portraits I took in 2021 because that is what happens when you leave me to my own devices in the studio. They are exercises in self-love. I wish you all a wonderful year ahead and hope we all rise out of these trying times better versions of ourselves.
To shine like diamonds, we must first be cut.Daniel Lanois
Blow-Up Arthouse Film Fest has selected ‘Blackout Rage’ as a semi-finalist in the Experimental Film category!
Childhood trauma can be held in foggy, fragmented memories that are clouded by a need to survive. In an attempt to unravel an old, twisted torment I wrote it out as best I could recall, had three talented performers act it out while I shone light onto it and studied it closely through a lens. Now it is a short film, my first, out on the worldwide web free for public consumption and now receiving it’s fourth film festival nod. The entire process has been difficult but healing for me. Now it is outside of me, not just mine alone anymore, and I feel much better having shared it. Many thanks for the validation Blow-Up Arthouse Film Festival judges.
You can watch the film HERE.
Starring Celia Jade Green , Ethan Laniado & Pancho Bhogal.
Written, directed, shot and edited by me, 1st AD Jeanine Mackie, Sound Recording Reuban Ward, Glam Lucie Green & Amber Fairlie, Score @mfxtotheali @djfathom, Set Decorator Frida.J.Roe, Special thanks to Suneeva
A Pandemic Portrait Series of Sonia Anjos, master colourist at The Manor Salon in Toronto, shot on my Canon 5D miii with Zeiss Primes.
My little brother River caught on 35mm and 120mm film in Florida October 2021.
If you leave me alone in my studio with no willing subjects for too long this is what happens. Here’s me trying out a Summer colour palette and and playing around with my camera’s remote. xo
Pandemic Portrait Series of energy worker Michalina of Attuned Practices shot on Hassleblad 500CM, Yashica TLR & Canon 5D miii. x
A pandemic portrait series of Ms. Amber-Jean Fairlie, owner of The Manor Salon, shot on digital, 35mm & 120mm April 2021.