Updated: Dec 7, 2018
How an abandoned house in a small Texas town inspired a series of glamorous portraits.
There is something absolutely magical when it comes to abandoned structures. Discovering what lies behind each door, down every hall and around all the corners is such an adrenaline rush. My mind bounces from what was, to what is, to what might be as I take in each scene.
Elegant in their prime, abandoned buildings are stunning in a much different way in a state of complete disrepair. Crumbling plaster walls full of texture beg to be used as backdrops; layers of paint colors reveal themselves to create palettes of inspiration; furniture not fit for use beckons for new life; and natural light pouring in from shattered windows urges to caress a face.
"That house was a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or storytelling or singing, or just sitting and thinking, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness." -JRR Tolkien
Texas Hall, a building on the site of the first campus of Trinity University in Tehuacana, Texas, was built in several stages from 1871 to 1892. Now part of The Trinity Institute, photographers and other creatives use the house for editorial and fashion shoots with models, makeup artists and a staff of assistants, while others simply come alone to photograph things as they are. My purpose was a combination of these - to photograph scenes to put models in digitally - giving me ultimate creative freedom.
Along with two other photographers, we scheduled our visit in advance and spent the day with access to Texas Hall. In addition to composite photographs, I also planned to produce a short video of my creative approach. This required both video and aerial footage taken that day to document certain aspects of the process.
If you visit The Trinity Institute more than once, things will be different each time, with interior elements added and subtracted, and building features worse for wear.
Once back home, I culled through all my images and processed those that I thought would make good backdrops/scenes. The next step was planning and executing a studio shoot (or two) with models, a makeup artist, formal dresses, props and lighting. Lighting is key when shooting for composites - the quality, quantity and direction all have to match the scene you are putting the model in as closely as possible. Otherwise, it looks like a composite.
Each scene required that I consider the color of the dress for the model, the model's pose and any props to add. In one case, I changed the wall colors from green and yellow to purple and lavender and flipped the scene horizontally to obtain the exact look I envisioned.
A few of the final images...
The final component was the documentary video, albeit a very short documentary. The entire process from Trinity Institute visit to video completion took about 3 months and involved family, friends and other talented artists as contributors. I'm immensely grateful to them all!!