What a Dai...
I first met David Shickell (Dai), at a Peaky Blinders Live Festival back in late 2018. I was playing a Cheeky Peaky Bird for the two day event and he was a Photographer, we were bound to bump into each other at some point.
When the pictures from the weekend were shared online Dai's work stood out for its authenticity; Dai is charmed by all things old Hollywood and shooting in a way that respects that time period. It is his knowledge and use of traditional film cameras rather than digital's that added an air of historicity to the images.
We discussed his work, the weekend's events, the success of a mutual friend of ours and then vowed to find a time to shoot together when our hectic schedules allowed. Which turned out to be May 2019, almost 6 months since we met. But the experience was well worth the wait. We may have bumped into each other at the Peaky event in Digbeth, but we really clicked during our Film Noir photo shoot in Gloucester.
Working with Dai is a methodical process, his use and understanding of lighting is second to none, and I told him as much as he was adjusting the traditional set up of our first shoot. With a chuckle he told me that it's easier to work before hand and get the shot right than to edit it afterwards. And he wasn't wrong. The images above are the original film prints, without an airbrush, filter, or trip to Photoshop.
And over a year on they are still some of my favourite studio images. Just like the traditional equipment and techniques used, the pictures themselves have stood the test of time.
It was another four months before Dai and I worked together again: this time we met at f/8 Studio in Gloucester city centre to update my headshots after a summer in America and a dramatic haircut.
We took the time afterwards to catch up; my time in America and his time in Canada being the main topics of conversation.
As seems to be tradition for Dai and I, schedules and distance stand in the way of us collaborating regularly. But this time, in the ten months between our headshot session in September and our latest project in July, it was a pandemic that really threw a spanner in the works.
The bonus? Plenty of time to plan. And so to Pinterest I turned.
Knowing we would have to shoot outside, Dai and I decided on a day in Malvern Hills, which is half way between Birmingham and Gloucester. After a little research on walking routes, picnic spots, and tea rooms, we decided that Little Malvern Court and Gardens would be ideal for what we had in mind. Something elegant and clean within a country setting. You can get a feel for what we imagined here in the mood board for the shoot:
As I began my hour or so drive and the sun baked through my windshield I couldn't help but wonder why both Dai and I had been so drawn to heavy knit wear and thick black tights for a photoshoot on the first day of July. I was none the wiser throughout our meander around the lake to find specific backdrops, nor was I enlightened as I awkwardly got changed behind a tree, and staring into the summer sun and burning my retinas didn't do much to make sense of the matter either.
But Dai and I were finally reunited, we were being creative, and we were enjoying being outside, especially in such a beautiful setting. And I was reassured by Dai's praise and direction that what he saw through his lens was not a pale and sweating out of practice model, but instead, a pale and sweating model that was faking composure really well.
And as I knew they would, the images that Dai sent across a few days later proved that we were right to juxtapose cosy knit wear with such a grand venue to create a high fashion country aesthetic. And I was right to trust Dai's vision through the lens. I would have also been right to have a little more faith in my own composure, even after such a long time away from location shoots.
Though I guess that is something we could all make more time for; a little self-praise in a world profiting from self-doubt.
With that in mind, here are a few sneak peek images that I am really proud of:
It is always wonderful to work with people you know and admire, but while collaborating in such strange circumstances, being with someone you trust is also a major factor in the quality of the images produced.
More images from the Malvern set will be uploaded later in the week, so be sure to subscribe to see more of our work. If the technical elements of shooting are up your street then you can find Dai's info and his portfolio below, as well as the details of our locations.
For our Film Noir collaboration, Dai shot using a medium format film camera called a mamiya rz645. The set was lit with tungsten arri lights and the window effect was created with an elinchrom with various gobos.
During our headshot session, Dai shot with an a7riii and natural light for the outdoor portraits, and the professional lighting set up of f/8 Studio.
Dai used an a7riii and natural light on our location shoot at Malvern Hills.