It’s not very often when someone strikes you as Leah Cultice did with me.
I first took notice of Leah in “Spy-Wear”, an incredible portrait set from the like-minds of Gunnar Deatherage, Bil Brown, Claudia Susana, Steve Squall and Micah Ruelas among others. She had a mysterious poise and stature, but expressed stunning beauty in every image. I was extremely intrigued. Then Leah popped up in a few images from Lana Wilson, that was it. I had to work with this model.
When Micah Ruelas and I started the “Beauty Book” project we had a few names in mind and Leah was always on my list. Around the time of the first shoot, “BELLEZA”, we started thinking about the next set. Leah came to both our minds. I immediately touched base with her on Facebook and we locked down a date. However, I would be traveling to her home in Beavercreeek, Ohio. I didn’t care, the pros outweighed the cons. We only had a two day window before she left for the west coast. The time was now.
Three days later we were on our way to Beavercreek, Ohio. I really didn’t know what to expect. I only knew what I wanted to get out of it, a solid model relationship and some stellar images. The drive was pretty easy, other then the normal photographer/MUA banter, Micah and I passed the time by discussing the hair, makeup and our expectations for the images. We wanted color and we wanted pop. It had to be ELECTRIC.
Beavercreek, a small subtle town, seemed like a normal nice neighborhood. When we arrived we were greeted by Leah’s Mom, Susan. She showed us the house and we setup shop immediately… right in the middle of the living room. Since we we’re only doing beauty shots, I didn’t have to worry about wardrobe or the location. Simple backdrop and a couple of lights, I actually brought a mobile studio.
Hair and makeup started and I planned out my sets. I wanted the cleanest look I could possibly achieve. The setup would be simple and I was confident we could reach all our goals for the shoot.
As the first look reached completion, I was ready to go. It was almost as if I was a Olympic runner, on the mark, waiting for the gun shot. As soon as Leah stepped under the light, it was on. Leah’s quiet and ethereal personality, fit the first look perfectly. It was elegant, quaint with a touch of spark. As I full predicited, Leah nailed it within 5 minutes.
About 95% of the models I work with require some form of direction, most take it very well, some take the direction and run with it. Others don’t and require a "puppet master" so to speak. That small 5% make me feel like I’m doing something wrong, but everything is just right. They render me speechless, there is no direction needed at all, whatsoever. Leah is a perfect example of that 5%. She knew how to use her hands, knew how to move her shoulders and moved her body, because she knew it effected her expression. I just sat back and snapped the shutter at her every movement.
We moved onto the next two looks and this is where the shoot heated up. Electric pink lips, turquoise background and platinum hair. My lighting was spot on with the beauty dish and I was in love. We snapped away and Leah moved her body as if she was in a ballet performance. 30 or so minutes in, I just didn’t have “THE” shot I had about 100 shots that could be considered for “THE” shot. I would really have some trouble narrowing these down to just 3 images.
And I did. Upon the 3 hour trek back I quickly realized that these were probably the best straight out of camera images I had ever created and the small team of three we had that day had everything to do with it.
I had a terrific time with Leah and the family. I wish her the best of luck on her journey to Los Angeles and stardom. Thank you to Susan for opening up your home and thank you Leah for being apart of our project.