Behind the Scenes - The Feast

Before I moved out of my townhouse, I wanted to use the basement/studio as much as I possibly could before it went away.  I came up with the concept of a vampire standing on top of a pile of dead bodies and thankfully, Ashley agreed to be part of it. 

I put up a post on Facebook looking for kids who wanted to be part of the concept and had rounded up about 9 or so to come out and shoot that day.  Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts came up, but I had 5 beautiful children to come play dead for me.  

As I'm sure you can imagine, there were some challenges in turning 5 children into a mountain of dead bodies.  I had to play with this one for quite a while to get it where I thought it needed to be.  I took multiple shots of the kids in different positions and put it all together.

 

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After countless attempts at trying to make everything fit and then going back and changing hair colours, clothes, and strategically placing body parts, it was finally finished!  I then edited a couple of side shots with Ashley and the set was complete.

I had released the two solo shots of Ashley far before I finished the larger piece, mostly due to procrastination. 

Okay, it was all due to procrastination.  But!  I absolutely adore how it turned out and of course Ashley and the kids all did an amazing job.

Melissa xo

Behind the Scenes - She Talks to Angels

During the Summer of 2015 I went on a road trip and travelled to Montreal, Quebec City, and the GTA.  It was my first adult vacation and there are so many great memories from that trip.  I had gone to Montreal briefly for work training at the beginning of the year and immediately fell in love with the art and culture and history of the city.  When we went back, we researched all of the places we wanted to go and see and the Notre-Dame-Des-Neiges cemetery was on the top of the list.  I can't explain how happy I was to just walk around and look at everything there.  The statues and crypts are things you can't find in Edmonton so I took as many pictures as I possibly could, specifically focusing on the statues.  I had an idea of turning the statues into humans somehow but then life took over and I sat on the stock for the next year.

After starting Stolen Innocence, I was hit with inspiration.  I called up Edyn, a little model I had worked with before, and asked if she'd be interesting in shooting a concept with me.  She and her mother agreed and we headed over to the St. Albert Botanic Park.  Edyn wore a great dress and I took shots of her posing with and without the help of her mom, having a rough idea in my head about what poses I'd need her in for the photos with the statues, but mostly just trying to shoot everything and hoping I'd fit some pieces together.

After putting together two of the photos in the set, I struggled to make a third one work.  That was until I went to Orlando in September.  I did some research and went to the Greenwood Cemetery and spent a few hours walking around in 30+ degree heat with my dad looking for the same types of statues and crypts.  I wasn't really finding anything I was looking for, although I will say the Spanish moss-covered oak trees are absolutely amazing and will definitely be part of future shoots.  Beautiful.  Near the end of our tour though, I found a crypt on top of a hill and ran up to take a look at it.  

Once again, life took over and I sat on the stock until a few days ago when I finally put the pieces together to create the last photo in the series.

I'm absolutely in love with this set, not only because of the emotions I feel when I look at them as completed pieces, but because of all of the memories that are there in the stock pieces.  If I had my way I'd visit Montreal every year but for now it'll keep its spot on my ever growing list of places I want to go.

Thank you again to Edyn!

xoxo

Melissa

2016 - A Year in Review

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Wow.

Putting together this image was a little bittersweet.  There was so much more I wanted to do and so much more I could have done, but thankfully it'll keep until 2017.  Even still, I hope next year's roundup is just as hard.  There's a comfort in never fully accomplishing everything you want to do; maybe it has more to do with keeping things in your back pocket just in case you're hit with a block or just the knowledge that you're not quite done yet.  

Professionally, this year has been incredible and overwhelming at times.  May will probably go down as one of the most exciting months of my life and I will always be grateful to Anna and Sherri and everyone who looked at that picture and decided to like/love/share/comment on it.  I am forever indebted to amazing people I've been able to work with over this last year and there's a long long list but I need to especially thank Ashley, Payton, Deacon, and of course Farrah for always putting up with whatever I'm wanting to shoot.  You are all superstars and I love you to death.  Maxine, Tiffany, Andreja, Randi, Raina, Lauri, Katt, Matt and my favorite little diva Edyn - you all helped make this last year amazing and I'm so thankful for you all.

Personally, I can pinpoint the areas where things kind of went off the rails, whether it's prolonged periods of not posting anything, or pieces I can't stand to look at.  I'm happy there are more happy moments than sad ones, but having to reevaluate situations and saying goodbye to people I loved took its toll whether I had meant it to or not.  December was a hard month.  But things are definitely going in the right direction and more than anything, I look forward to all of the projects I've already got planned and the ones that will inevitably sneak up on me out of nowhere.

I'll end this by saying I love being able to do what I've done this year and although there's so much further to go, I'm excited that all of the learning and growing I'll do in 2017 will help me get to a place where I can do this all full time.  Please never forget that it's you that enables me to do what makes me happy and that I'm grateful beyond words.  Thank you.  It's not enough, but it's all I have.  

Wishing you nothing but love and happiness (and maybe a little blood) this holiday season.

Melissa xo

 

Behind the Scenes - Off With Her Head

As soon as I heard Ashley's mother, Cheryl, owned an actual guillotine, I knew what I had to do.  Whether or not I should have done it is another conversation altogether, but I am more than in love with this set.

After the Blood Dress came out I knew that the chances of me losing the fans I had gained were through the roof, and granted, I did lose a few, but not nearly the amount I had thought.  Blood Dress was creepy, but still had a fashion type of vibe, so those people who liked that photo may have not all been horror/gore fans.  I knew this one would quickly weed those people out, and it did for the most part.  Not before they had some fairly harsh parting words, but it's more than alright.  Eventually they'd see exactly what I like to shoot and it's probably best they left at that point.

Ashley and her children were out at her mother's house when I made the drive out there.  It's practically in the middle of nowhere, but it was definitely worth it.  The sheer amount of Halloween-themed costumes and decorations was astounding and although I've been seriously procrastinating, going back out there is a given.  

As they set up the guillotine, Farrah and Payton put on their dresses (white, of course) while her son Deacon raked up some grass for the field shots.  Normally Farrah is all over killing her family members and loves the blood, but today for some reason she was quite hesitant, specifically when using the guillotine.  We started slow and took the shots of her holding Payton's head.

After those were done, we moved on to the actual guillotine shots.  Ashley is holding the string to ensure the blade doesn't actually come down and that helped to make Farrah feel more comfortable.  While I'm not sure why Payton didn't have any problems, I didn't ask questions.  We took the shots, and moved into the field.

I then asked Payton to do some portraits and Ashley got some revenge.  When I first met Ashley, it was through a "Trash the Dress" shoot and we poured blood all over a wedding dress she had.  At the end of the shoot, Payton dumped the entire pitcher of blood over Ashley's head so this was a perfect opportunity to get her back.

 

All in all, the girls had a great time, and I always love shooting them.  They're some of the best parts of doing what I do and I love Ashley and her entire family for working with me.

The aftermath of releasing the shoot was fairly explosive, which we would have been crazy not to expect.  People drawing parallels to ISIS, comments on what these poor girls must think, how we must have coerced them, what we're teaching them, etc.  At the end of the day, I cannot stress enough that how they feel, what they like, and what they want to do is the absolute most important thing to me.  Neither I, nor their mother, would ever put them in a position where they are uncomfortable, scared, or unwilling to do a shoot, no matter what the concept.

In any case, it's late so I'm heading off.  I hope you've enjoyed the behind the scenes pictures, and I can't wait to shoot the concepts the girls will help me with next!

xoxo

Melissa

Behind the Scenes - Blood Dress

Fair warning - behind the scenes shots are most likely NSFW.

Slightly conflicted on how much detail to go into on this one - not that I'm super concerned with keeping the secret of how it was made to myself, but mostly because I feel like it's been talked to death and in all honesty, this really was a half-baked idea that I put together without really recognizing just how much work would have to go into it.  Nothing was really well thought out or concrete aside from Anna telling me I had her for the day and there were little obstacles throughout the day and at multiple points I was close to just saying "fuck it" but, well.  Obviously that didn't happen.

The morning(ish - I think we both slept in) was spent with Anna and I sitting on my deck coated with icing sugar while mixing blood in a massive Rubbermaid tub.  We then ended up doing a lot of driving around mostly because I wasn't sure if it would be enough blood, if it was cost effective to be using the materials we used, or if there was something else we could use instead.  We debated over clamato juice, cranberry juice, red tempera paint, and others.  Eventually we decided to paint her where the dress would be just in case the blood didn't cover like we needed it to and hoped for the best.

We did have another assistant who was going to help out but they had to back out unfortunately.  We lucked out and managed to rope Anna's sister Sherri into our mess and she did an amazing job on Anna's makeup - honestly, I could not have hoped for better.  Neither Anna nor I are really all that adept at it and I will always love how good of a job Sherri did.  

Fighting against dying light we rushed out to my friend's field - she has a greenbelt in behind her house and she generously allowed us to shoot there.  I may or may not have told her what exactly we were doing, but she hasn't yelled at me yet so hopefully I'm forgiven.  We quickly found a spot, checked the lighting, painted Anna, put Sherri in a garbage bag poncho, and then just started flipping blood at Anna.  

I have to say at this point that while this was the messiest shoot, it's probably not the worst thing I've shot Anna doing.  I think the medical staples in the mouth might have this one beat, but she'll be the best one to ask.  There are definitely reasons I work with people like Anna and Ashley and her little ones - there's absolutely nothing they won't do to get the shot and that means more than anything to someone who will constantly put them all in situations where things are a little fucked up.  They're the real heroes.

In any case, we left a messy (very messy) spot in the field, used copious amounts of baby wipes to clean Anna off as best as we could, wrapped her up in a garbage bag, dragged everything back to the car, shut the gate, and laughed the entire way home about when Anna got the best facial she'll ever receive, and what would happen if the cops pulled us over.

I won't go too in depth about the editing process, mostly because it's tedious and boring and there are, I'm sure, far more efficient and technically advanced ways of doing it than what I did.  Just know that it was about 10 hours all together, involved a bunch of "does this look okay?" Facebook messages, multiple smoke breaks, a few YouTube Phlearn tutorials, and finally the moment when it was done and both Anna and I just kind of knew we did something pretty neat.

Even if nothing had happened; if nobody ever saw the photo and it didn't go as far as it did, we're still 100% beyond proud of it and if nothing else, it definitely helped us both grow in so many ways in terms of honing our crafts.  We learned a lot, and ultimately, that's what makes us better and that's what matters most of all.  

Anyway.  Enjoy the never before seen (ooh special!) behind the scenes shots below.  Any other questions or comments?  Feel free to leave them below.

Thanks for stopping by. 

xoxo Melissa 

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Published for the first time!

I received a nice email back from the magazine that contacted me on Instagram and they told me they'd like to publish six of my photos.  Six?!  Is this really happening?

Apparently they're putting out two horror themed issues; I'll find out which one(s) my work will be in and then I'll go broke buying them all just in case I manage to lose the first 15 issues and need backups.  

It would be much cheaper for me if I was kidding.

I'm excited and thrilled and the random things that happen never cease to amaze me.  I realize social media definitely has the potential to expose my work to many different outlets, but I also realize that work I feel the most proud of can do absolutely nothing while other works, for whatever reason, seem to garner much more attention.  Either way, I'm still making whatever it is that's in my head and they're all pictures I want to hang on my own wall (but I don't because I can't decide if it's too pretentious or not to do things like that.)  Sometimes I get lucky and other people want to see them too.  And that's pretty fucking neat.

Anyway.  Back to pretending I'm actually working.  Please visit Stubborn Magazine; I'll post an update on it all as soon as I find out more information on when it comes out!
 

xoxo Melissa

Updated Site, New Blog. Ooh. Shiny.

I was being generally lazy with the other site, mostly because I hated the layout and it was a pain in the ass.  For some reason, websites are a whole lot like the diaries I always intended to keep but always forgot about after about three days. 

In any case, I decided to add a blog mostly to add in behind the scenes shots and give people more information on the shoots if they're interested in finding out more.  I've got more shoots coming up soon and I've just finished one earlier today so I'm a busy bee but I promise I'll put up some pictures to share tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out this shiny message I got on Instagram today!  If they like me, it'll be my very first time being published and that's beyond exciting because nobody's ever liked me that much before *cough*Dark Beauty*cough.*

Anyway!  Thanks for visiting.  I'll be back soon.  

xoxo Melissa

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