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Movember Calendar Environmental Portrait of Suzy Kendrick

Ottawa Portrait Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen - Suzy Kendrick

Suzy Kendrick ©2013 JVLphoto

What do you do if you’re approached by a beautiful, charming, and good friend to help her with a collaborative fundraising calendar portrait, including some of the best wedding, portrait, and commercial photographers in Ottawa? Of course, you say “yes!”

Suzy isn’t spearheading the Socialista’s calendar fundraiser, that honour belongs to Joelle, who came up with the great idea of recruiting a dozen young and talented women to participate in the male-centric fundraiser Movember. These women, in turn, would each recruit a photographer, make-up artist, and hair stylist who will all aid in creating and promoting a fundraising calendar, which is available today, Movember 1st.

Because I had creative control over the shoot, and Suzy and I are very like-minded in our humour and aesthetics, we both immediately wanted something vintage themed. Maybe it’s because we had both recently watched the Great Gatsby, but that was the creative image we both had in our head. With a vintage shoot in mind, I went to work trying to find a suitably vintage location. This proved more difficult than I had hoped, as a few places weren’t too enthused about the prospect of having a tongue-in-cheek calendar shoot at their spot, one demanded final approval on the images, while several others completely ignored my inquiries. Then, a week before our shoot day, twitter provided again. The incredible people at Union Local 613 gave us their downstairs “Speakeasy,” no questions asked. Best. Restaurant. Ever.

Quinn and the test shot

Quinn and the test shot

I had an excellent team to work with. Quinn Brown lended a hand as our grip and light-wrangler. The Speakeasy was in the basement of Union 613, had low ceilings, but oh-so-much character. It was a perfect location, but proved a trick to light. We had to try a couple different approaches before I knew I’d have to build-up the image as both a panoramic stitch to get the field of view I wanted in-camera. It took us almost 2 hours to set up our lights, get them in just the right position, flag them off, gel them, and add cinefoil to keep the light from spilling too harshly onto the ceiling. The above photo is very close to our final look, and it’s the same framing as one of the three images used to create the final.

Melody Iafelice was makeup; it wasn’t my first time working with her, and she again lived up to her reputation as one of Ottawa’s premier makeup artists. No to mention she’s got a hell of a dry wit, and can take my jokes… something that definitely pays off in a such a small room.

Melody Iafelice

Melody Iafelice

Lia Chaddad from Liora Hair Boutique was our hair stylist, who was able to fit our shoot into her fully-packed day. She gave Suzy her amazing locks, but the rest of that shine and glory is all Suzy’s.

Mangie the extra


Finally, where would I be without Mangie? Who volunteered as an extra in the scene (the only person who was able to come out), and helped me “fill out” the bar. My vision was pretty clear on wanting someone, or some people, in the foreground to help frame Suzy, but it wasn’t until we were there and actually shooting that I realized how important she’d be. See, behind her, is one of the lights we used to shoot Suzy, without her body there to block it, you’d see the light, and I wouldn’t have been able to build-out that side of the frame without some extensive Photoshop and/or changing the orientation of the image (which was, and is, shot to be square).

I’m really pleased with the final image. It’s not a stereotypical “sexy calendar pose” even though none of them really are (I mean, everyone’s wearing a moustache), but the humour of Suzy’s big wink just cracked us up when shooting, it reflects her personality perfectly and I couldn’t imagine going with one of the more “serious” takes. This was, by all accounts, a high-level commercial or editorial photoshoot. Except for the fact that everyone gave their time, everyone donated to help support a cause that one woman believes so strongly in, that she motivated dozens of others to work hard and contribute. If there’s one calendar you need for 2014, it’s this one: buy it now.

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