Walking into Stift Admont was like entering Disney’s Beauty & the Beast library.
Never before had a creative photoshoot been done in the Admont Abbey, the oldest monastic library in the world… yet here I was, standing at the entrance of what can only be described as the most magical mix of architecture and art I had ever experienced.
For a few priceless hours, we were going to be given free rein to create some magic.
Doing a photoshoot in a library like Stift Admont had been a dream of mine that, for the longest time seemed completely unachievable. Preliminary emails and calls out to similar locations were consistently met with flat out rejections or exorbitant shooting rates. Just when all hope seemed lost, we received a positive reply from Brother Maximillian, welcoming us with open arms to come, create and share the magic of the abbey with the world.
Growing up, Beauty and the Beast had been one of my favourite films from Disney. I had watched it countless times as a child, and never once, did I imagine that I would find myself inside a fairytale myself, creating a Disney princess of my own surrounded by priceless frescos adorning the ceilings, marble floors beneath my feet and the soft musty smell of old books.
In retrospect, I suppose it would have been impossible for younger me to picture a 27 year old me, looking through the viewfinder of a 40,000$ camera system, surrounded by state of the art Broncolor lighting, capturing my muse, Jen Brook, a beautiful blond model from the UK wearing surreal and fantastical designs by Polish designer Agnieszka Ospia, with hair and makeup completed meticulously by makeup artist extraordinaire Bianca Kristin Woltsche whilst assistant Zoe Klomp, whom we had only met a couple days before at a german photography trade show, hid beneath the dress in order to give it just a little bit more volume… and all this in the largest monastic library in the world.
Assistant Zoe Klomp hides under Jen’s dress and poofs it out on a 3-2-1 count!
Lighting up the library was quite a challenge. It’s beauty was wildly dependent on the 48 windows of sunlight to illuminate the 70,000 books and manuscripts on display. Unfortunately we were only given permission to shoot after hours so that meant trying our best to re-construct the lighting as naturally as possible.
We used a series of small speedlights to light the different arches and ceilings of the library to maintain the depth of the space, as well as our larger Broncolor lights to make our model pop out of the background. A longer shutter speed was used to bring in a tiny bit of the ambient warmth and the flashes were manually triggered by hand when the cloth was thrown to capture the perfect moment.
To me though, the final cherry on the top was actually getting Brother Maximillian himself, a real live monk, to model for us in one of our shots!
BTS photo by Eva Creel
I have always loved photography for the adventures and opportunities that it brings, not the hours I would spend retouching in front of a computer. As a result the desire to search and explore the most exotic locations and make a shoot out of it, has always been a particular passion of mine.
Projects like these are particularly magical because of how they bring people together. From fans (now turned friends) Eva Creel and Nicolas Cormier, American expats and photographers living in Germany willing to embark on a spontaneous roadtrip to drive me across Germany so that I can indulge in my creative shenanigans, to friends of friends likeOliver Schlichtherle,who drove all the way from Switzerland through Austria just to assist in whatever capacity possible… People from all walks of life somehow end up gravitating towards these amazing projects.
And at the end, we not only have fantastic imagery to share with the world… but a story to laugh and remember for the rest out our lives.
Dream big, anything is possible.
Check out the BTS video by Nadja Ellinger
- Model: Jen Brook
- Makeup: Bianca Kristin Woltsche
- Costume: Agnieszka Osipa Costumes
- BTS video: Spiegellicht
- Assist: Eva Creel Photography, Sickled Foot, Zoe Klomp, Oliver Schlichtherle
- I’ll be visiting Brisbane for the Hair of the Dog conference first week of February 2015. Register here!
- I’ll be joining the Fstoplounge for a workshop in Fiji in October! Learn more here.
- I just built a brand new gear guide. Check it out and let me know what you think!
- We’re giving away a Broncolor Siros kit in collaboration with Viewbug. Check it out here! It’s free! Get up to 3 entries if you sign up for a premium account.