“People don’t realise how much goes into a shoot,” says photographer Damien Bredberg, a veteran of INTHEBLACK cover shoots who spent seven hours on this one. And that was just the studio work.
It starts with an idea, a story. In this case it was a feature on how to get more women into executive leadership roles and on boards. We spoke to some of Australia’s leading female business and strategic minds. That was the story. From there came the idea: “What about getting these women in a room and photographing them for the cover,” was the cry from the newsroom. Yes, let’s do it!
And next, the vision.
That vision lies in the constantly-talking hands of Kate Barnett, creative director of INTHEBLACK and Custom Magazine Designer of the Year in 2011. Barnett begins by reading the story and researching her cover subjects. “It’s about trying to get a feel for what they’re about and trying to get their personality,” Barnett says. “You want the character, the personalities. You want to see who they are.”
Next comes brainstorming with the photographer and figuring out a way to capture that personality. “They’re artists,” Barnett says of Bredberg and his photographic peers. The pair throw around ideas, do more research and finally settle on a concept. “I wanted something opulent. I wanted them [the women] to look sophisticated, glamorous in a way,” Barnett says.
You want the character, the personalities, you want to see who they are. Kate Barnett
It all comes down to the day of the shoot. The day starts quietly enough. Barnett arrives to the studio early close to five hours before the first frame is shot to ensure that everything has arrived and to set the physical scene and the mood. Greeting us at the studios are boxes of furniture and burgundy facades, painted for the occasion. Bredberg arrives, black suitcase in tow. He surveys the room and starts to unpack his gear. There’s lots of gear.
Barnett, Bredberg and stylist Stavroula Hortis then set about turning a blank canvas into Barnett’s vision. Bredberg determines the perfect lighting and creates a space. He selects an area that will make the image look like it’s set in a large house. Hortis then styles the space a chair here, a mirror there. Gradually the vision takes shape.
Bredberg snaps a few test shots and uploads them to the laptop. The trio crowd around the computer to check that carpets are working, fabric is draped just so, furniture is put in to the set, taken out of the set. Meticulous planning, thought and moments of inspiration combine to form a set. This takes hours.
Finally, after almost five hours, the “talent” arrive. Seven high-profile women board directors, government commissioners, leaders of industry walk on set, and frankly look a little uneasy. It’s not every day you pose for such an ambitious photo shoot. And suddenly what began as an ambling shoot becomes a frantic chaos of hair, makeup and positioning as Bredberg, Hortis and the makeup artist all work furiously to get three key women (Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, board director Catherine Brenner and Women on Board’s Fiona Hathorn) ready for the cover shoot.
Once they’re on set, the remaining four women (Claire Braund and Ruth Medd FCPA from Women on Boards, Kathryn Fagg from Chief Executive Women and Susie Peterson from AMP) network in between hair and makeup. All the while Barnett hovers. “I’m a perfectionist,” she laughs. Then she utters her stock standard instruction to photographers: “Shoot the hell out of it … I want it to be brilliant.”
Finally, with minor readjustment to the drapes, a gentle brush of a fringe and a slight tilt of a head, we are ready to shoot. The tweaking continues half a dozen times or so before the remaining four more women complete the picture and the shoot continues. Smiles and giggles ensue. Everyone’s finally having some fun. In all, the actual photography takes about 30 minutes. The preparation to get there: almost five hours of setting up and countless hours of planning, research and inspiration.
When Bredberg declares a wrap, the room erupts in applause.