abandoned nursing home

abandoned New Orleans

Photographing abandoned New Orleans has been a goal of ours for several years.  We’ve always loved exploring abandoned locations and have a passion for photographing models in them.  Most of our abandoned work has been our series Last To Leave with sideshow performer Mackenzie Moltov.   I think our work in abandoned locations is some of our very best and most artistically satisfying.  It is important to us to bring beauty into these devastated and decaying structures before they’re gone.  We always treat our locations with respect, and never remove anything or cause further damage.  We love to show the beauty in abandonment, the poetry in being shattered, the strength found in the most vulnerable of places.  Of all the photos we’ve produced together, I think these are the most profound for both of us. I can’t thank Chere Noble enough for being the latest collaborator to bring these images to life.

Our abandoned model shoots are tricky to coordinate.  Traveling to photograph abandoned New Orleans was going to be even more challenging.   No matter how much location research you do, there is always a chance of limited access or increased surveillance.  Photographing a model requires pretty light, so we need to get in heavy bags of gear and lighting equipment.  Choosing your models carefully is crucial.  I love using burlesque performers.  Artists who quickly understand your vision for the space and help tell your story with wardrobe and hair changes is key.  You need someone who can tune out the physical fear of dangerously crumbling buildings, the threat of not knowing who may be lurking in the dark corners, and who is willing to risk arrest for the sake of art. Chere Noble was the perfect choice for abandoned New Orleans.

We rented a car and spent a day scouting locations.  We decided to challenge ourselves with minimal external lighting, so good natural light was essential.  Our research led us to the Touro-Shakespeare Home, a nursing home abandoned during hurricane Katrina. I don’t normally share our locations, as  it contributes to their destruction once word gets out to the urbex community.  But given the current climate, 12 years after hurricane Katrina felt like an important time to show the destruction left by natural disasters over a decade later.

The three story, neo-classical building was built in 1929, and designed to care for approximately 175 residents. Originally established by philanthropist Judah Touro, the first building was designed to house the city’s elderly poor, with a stipulation that it would eventually go to the control of New Orleans.  This last iteration of Touro’s kindness that we explored remained operational for 72 years, first as the city almshouse, and later as a senior care facility. In 2005, in the days preceding Hurricane Katrina, 120 residents were successfully evacuated.  They were never allowed to return, and the city of New Orleans remains in control of the building.

We knew we wanted a local dancer to work with, and Chere Noble was the perfect model to help tell our story.  Not only is she stunningly beautiful, she is a total pro, arriving with an armload of looks.  A purple ballgown for the graffiti covered chapel and overgrown courtyard had a dark fairy tale look that was hauntingly beautiful. We were able to create some interesting light with nothing but a couple of flashes tucked into various corners. Behind the building, a demolished and shattered car was a perfect backdrop for a Sara Connor inspired look.  We then moved on to the lower ninth ward, the worst of the Katrina devastated neighborhoods.  Chere channeled her inner post-apocalyptic bad ass babe in an abandoned house, and then bathed in some late afternoon sunlight in fishnets and a corset in a long abandoned gas station.

New Orleans has become a yearly escape and constant source of inspiration in our work and our lives.  It was truly special to have such a gorgeous shoot there.  I can’t wait to get back and find more of these amazing, hauntingly beautiful spots in abandoned New Orleans.

 

 

 

Winter White Witch Photoshoot

Photoshoot based on Jadis the White Witch

The worst advice I’ve ever received as a photographer was that you should never shoot for free.  The theory being, I guess, that you have sunk an enormous amount of money, time and energy into learning your craft, and you shouldn’t share it without being compensated.  This theory has always puzzled me.  I’m a professional photographer, which means I rely on my art to make a living, primarily photographing weddings.  There are often new techniques or ideas I want to try, and I don’t believe that someone’s wedding is an appropriate place to “try” something I’m not a hundred percent sure of.  The secret to making unpaid shoots worth everyone’s while, is choosing a team carefully. My shoots with my partner in life and art, Paul Cofield, have a ton of moving parts, and we only use professionals who are really dedicated to the shoot and to making it work.  Some of our closest friends are models or industry professionals who we have worked on creative shoots with.  We’ve gone on to shoot their weddings, and babies and growing families. Creative shoots are more than something we do just for fun, they are key to who we are as members of the Philadelphia art community.  It is not only crucial to practice and keep our skills sharp during our wedding photography off-season, but to make our shoots a true collaboration of local artists and businesses who we like to be able to promote as well as giving them beautiful photos to use for their own self-promotion. It’s a little way that we try to give back to the community and create artwork we can be proud of.  

This one started off simple enough. A facebook post from good friend and local makeup artist Wendie Hetherington of Wendie Hetherington Makeup Artistry  asking if anyone would be interested in shooting a Winter  concept she wanted to try based on Jadis, the White Witch.  It’s not easy to plan an outdoor shoot that’s based on the weather, especially as global warming takes over and winter becomes less predictable every year, but I loved the challenge of shooting someone else’s concept.  We once again called on our friends at Philly Aids Thrift where Stephen Quick (also known as performer Ann Archy Artist) found us a perfect dress for our White Witch. We ran the idea by Kelly Robin of Batcakes Couture, who had the idea to custom make a crown out of hand cut lace.  I felt like our white witch needed a little more edge, so our buddy Psydde at Delicious Boutique provided the fur cape, hunter’s bag and jewelry that made our witch a little more readable (and a whole lot cooler) than a dress alone would have done.

We lost our original model the day before the shoot and had to postpone for almost a full month, making winter even less of a possibility than ever before. I was determined to not have all of our hours of planning go to waste, and Kelly’s stunning crown was sitting on my dining room table.  I was not about to let her kindness or beautiful work go unphotographed.  I was beyond thrilled when Brittany Ann (@fragilebebe) bravely stepped up at the last minute to be our lovely White Witch. I’d wanted to work with Brittany for quite some time, and although I never really envisioned her in a fantasy shoot, her delicate, exotic features, and porcelin skin made her the perfect, and an enormously interesting choice.  Jessica Saint not only jumped on board for hair, but was able to quickly reassess what we had planned with our first model, and come up with another idea for Brittany Ann’s character. 

I felt like the lack of winter we were dealt needed a really unique location, and Columcile Megalith Park, a celtic spirituality park was absolutely magical and perfect in every way. I also wanted some drama to make up for the dull winter, so we added white smoke bombs to the mix, putting them in a lantern to create an illusion that our White Witch was creating winter.  I’m thrilled I didn’t attempt the smoke bombs at some one’s wedding or engagement shoot, but now that I’ve experimented with them, I know I can, for the right client.  We’re more interesting wedding photographers because of shoots like this. We’ve made deeper connections with people by creating art with them, and I hope we’ve provided everyone who helped with images that they can be just as proud of as we are.

Photography: Lori Foxworth and Paul Cofield of Black, White and Raw Photography
Model:  Brittany Ann
Makeup: Wendie Hetherington Makeup Artistry   
Wardrobe: Stephen Quick of Philly Aids Thrift 
Custom Made Crown:  Batcakes Couture
Accessories:  Delicious Boutique
Hair:  Jessica Saint Makeup and Hair