The idea of the instant photo dress came to my wife Charlotte whilst sitting under a tree in a park in Rome. She wrote some notes and drew some pictures and closed her book…
A few weeks later Meadowhall shopping centre were looking for ideas to pitch for an event they were staging in the mall. Their idea was to run a “ladies night” that would pull women in to the centre so there were a lot of makeup sessions, free samples and the like being pitched. Charlotte thought that the dress would be perfect as they could spend the evening taking instant “polaroid-style”pictures of shoppers with their purchases and then attach these onto the dress – then we could do a photoshoot in the centre once the dress was complete. The images could then be used as an exclusive by Meadowhall for future promotions and PR.
Meadowhall loved the idea so Charlotte, together with her co-collaborator Wayne Sables set about making it happen.
Charlotte already had a model in mind. Tilly had modeled for me on the Volt Shoot and Charlotte had been really taken with her look and intensity. We called her and got her on board so we had a size and height to make the dress structure (although Charlotte actually made the frame of the dress from memory of Tilly’s height and shape). The frame of the dress was to be made from chicken wire allowing her to sculpt the garment and allow the photographs to attached to it using paper clips. It was estimated that around 300 – 400 images would be needed to fill the dress. Charlotte created the structure in two parts – a corset with an open-backed skirt and a train. The main dress shape had a laced opening at the back to allow Tilly to get in it, and the back ‘train’ hid the gap in the back and give a swooping feature to the rear of the dress.
Polaroid? Instax? What’s in a name? Any other picture would look as sweet…
The original idea was to use an original vintage “Polaroid” camera and film to take all the images. However, trying to find enough original Polaroid film for the shots proved impossible as the film is not made anymore. Polaroid do not sell the new versions of the cameras in the UK that take the standard “Polaroid” sized images, only mini versions which would not have had the same look and feel as the recognisable “polaroid” picture. So, they decided to use the Fuji Instax 210 camera and film. Therefore, technically, the name of the dress needed to change as “Polaroid” is a brand name. Unfortunately most people refer to instant film as “Polaroid” as most people refer to vacuum cleaners as “hoovers” or cola as “Coke”. Meadowhall wanted to keep using the term “Polaroid Dress” so as to keep the vision of what the dress was clear to the public. Really now though it was an “Instax” dress but we are now referring to it as an “instant photo” or polaroid-inspired dress.
The Instax 210 camera is a pretty cool piece of kit and worked really well in taking the images of the shoppers for the dress to be created.
The evening of “ladies night” saw Charlotte and Wayne clicking and pinning away from 5pm until past 11pm and the interest in dress was phenomenal. People were queuing to have their pictures take to be featured.
Two days later on a very early Saturday morning Charlotte and I met Tilly and make up artist Sanah Khan at Meadowhall for the shoot. Sanah set about applying a natural makeup look to Tilly and the result is stunning. Very light but also accenting Tilly’s dark eyes.
We had chosen to do the shoot in the bowels of the Meadowhall centre by the service lifts. I wanted the shoot to have a Vogue look about it but also be dark and urban in nature. The dress is something a little different so I wanted the shoot to be too. It would have been easy to do a “fashion” look, bright and light in the mall with shoppers and a cute and fun aspect to it. However, as with most of my work, I think the interest and beauty in the garment can be brought out in a darker way. It makes it classier in my mind adds more of an “artistic” feel to the shoot.
The service lift is on a corner and so the Key light – my Alien bee in an Elinchrom 1m deep octabox – was high up and just to the left of the model. I then placed a speed light at the end of the right hand side corridor in order to add a little depth and interest to the wider shots.
Tilly modeled like a star and looked incredible in the dress. So professional also for someone so young. (I can’t believe she is only 16 at the time of this shoot) She took direction and posed naturally and despite the restrictions of the dress (i.e she could barely shuffle!) pulled off some incredible poses and exuded power and intensity.
With over 200 shots in around an hour and a half the shoot was wrapped. In the editing process I added a slight green colour to bring out the metallic feel to the lift doors and sharpened a few areas such as Tilly’s eyes to bring them out further.
The future is yet to be decided for the Instamatic dress. We would like to contact Fuji, who’s Instax camera and film we used to create the photographs and see if they are interested in using the shots for marketing. The finished dress might be on display in future. We don’t know where or when so I guess watch this space. Thank you to everyone one involved in this project. It was a fantastic experience.