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The beginnings of a Knight’s tale

This post is four months overdue.

Picture the scene, if you will: Brilliant summer sunshine twinkling through the leaves of a lush bit of English woodland. The birds are singing; the sky is the colour of powdered sapphires, fading to a deep, rich purple-y colour the further up you look. You’re surrounded by creative people: two models (one, who I’m given to understand falls firmly into the hunk category, is doing something with his arms that involves wrapping a giant elastic band around a tree), a makeup artist, an assistant and lots of boxes full of stuff.

Some people would look around them in a situation like this and remark to the world in general how great it is to be creative, and to have a great creative team around you.

Me? Outside I was smiling. Inside, I was swearing. Swearing because the sun was going to cause me exposure problems; swearing because I hadn’t thought about just how reflective plate steel is; swearing because I’d just trapped my fingers between a box full of plate armour and a rock. Swearing because I’d already had to postpone this shoot once because of the weather. Today was the day — sunshine beats rain on that score, for sure — and I had to get the shots I wanted, because the armour had to go back the next day.

Meanwhile Ryan, our male model, was still doing that thing with his arms.

The idea for the project — which is just in its infancy, but which will hopefully get going in earnest next year — came from a random jotting in one of my notebooks some time in the spring of 2012:

Jen of Arc — Jen Brook in a suit of plate armour. Hmm…

I have a bit of a fire-and-forget brain, so it didn’t stick with me at first, but I kept seeing it as I was flicking through the notebook (as I am wont to do when creatively frustrated) and so finally I found myself researching companies that rent out plate armour, and companies that rent out weapons, and working out whether or not I could get a fully-armoured Jen Brook onto horseback.

Turns out that plate armour is damned heavy.

A Knight's Tale

One thing you should never take for granted is just how professional your talent is. Jen and Ryan were consummate pros throughout the entire day — Jen, particularly, was extraordinarily patient as we loaded her down with about 25kg of steel that restricted her movements to, basically, “hello, I am a robot” and left bruises on her shoulders despite all the improvised padding. How people actually ever functioned in this stuff is beyond me.

I still haven’t finished editing the images from this shoot, partly because I’ve had tonnes of other stuff to do and partly because the concepts in my head keep shifiting and changing. However, I intend to get them done within the next few weeks; hopefully you’ll get to see them some time in the new year.

Finally, on a gear-nerd note: both of the above images were shot using a Mamiya RZ67 (currently my favourite camera, though I keep eyeing up 8×10″ view cameras now; it’s a sort of attritional GAS) on Kodak Portra 400 film. I used Portra 400 for the BTS shots and Portra 160 for the final images. Suffice it to say that film’s not dead, and Kodak Portra is a wonderful thing.