It all started with a simple idea. Late one night, well settled into an inebriated state; Josh Eskridge, Antonio Pantoja, Steve Squall and myself came forward with an idea to create one of the biggest collaborations the city of Louisville had ever seen. I remember seeing a “Framed Show” with fashion & conceptual photographers Brooke Shaden and Lindsay Adler. They had both chose the word “Entrapment” and using that word they had to create a photograph. I mentioned the project that evening to Josh, Antonio and Steve and they seemed very into the idea. But, I didn’t want it to be just another collaboration, I wanted everything to be on a grandiose scale which involved regional competitors as well as peers.

Unfortunately, there is some small town drama here in the great city of Louisville, KY. We prepared ourselves to deal with the waves that this project may create, but with that strong support system and creative backbone we also were confident our project would sail far and wide. With the concept in place, it simply came down to the collaborators involved. We mulled for weeks and weeks, It had to be the right people with the right social structure who could not only being their “A-Game” but also maintain professionalism under any odds. It was not easy by any means. Many were considered.

Fast forward two months, time was ticking, and The Kentucky Derby was fast approaching, we knew it was now or never to execute. I formed a Facebook group with the four “Board Of Directors” and the “casting” process began to take shape. We followed a few simple guidelines and selected the collaborators: 20 creative talents consisting of published photographers, makeup artists, stylists and hair stylists from all over the region.

Photography: Clay Cook, Steve Squall, Josh Eskridge, Antonio Pantoja, Joey Goldsmith, Cristian Caballero, Heather Rous, Tyler Zoller

Makeup: Isidro Valencia, Micah Severo Ruelas, Casey Ritchie, Rick Bancroft

Hair: Matthew Tyldesley, Raina Trimble, Dylan Kremer, Liz Lane

Styling: Gunnar Deatherage, Chris Caswell, Megan Wilde, Maui Crane

We had to play right and had to play fair. Each photographer would share a team of a stylist, makeup artist and hair stylist. In other words, we had 4 stylists, 4 makeup artists and 4 hair stylists who would collaborate with two photographers each. The teams were drawn at complete random. Each photographer was then responsible to bring on a model and an assistant or two. 

The team selection process was actually quite nerve racking for me. I was among some amazing talent and would honestly be happy with anyone, but I also had collaborators I had worked with previously whom I had a great relationship with. My friend Chris Miske selected names one by one out of containers and the teams were locked in. Energy was high, I could see magic form right before my eyes and I was stoked to be on the front lines of it all.

My team was drawn last and included creative director and stylist Chris Caswell, makeup artist Micah Severo Ruelas and hair stylist Matthew Tyldesley. A rush of relief came over me, I had a dream team. I had worked with all of these talented gentleman many times and was more than confident create an amazing composition.

Once all the teams had been selected, every collaborator had to submit a word of interest. A word that could potentially tuned into a photograph.Once all twenty words we’re submitted, they we’re voted on and the word with the most votes would be the project word and title. 

I spent nearly two hours scouring through an online dictionary and thesaurus, looking for the right word. I had almost fallen asleep at my desk when I came across the word “oneiric” meaning “dreams.” I was enthralled with the pronunciation and meaning of the word. I immediately submitted the word to the group, but I was in good company with some very deep and interesting words. I voted for Megan Wilde’s submission of “purge.” But, to my surprise “oneiric” came out to be the winner!

While the teams ventured off into their own Facebook groups and messages, the work had only begun for me. I needed to find a location to host the shoot. Since we were guaranteed 30+ people on set and the temperature outside was below freezing we needed a massive location, with heat. I made dozens of calls and even got the Mayor’s office involved. I could fill a blog with all the details of the location debacle, but I’ll spare you.

We got lucky.

With only a week left until the shoot my friends over at The Icehouse agreed to host the shoot. Meetings were set and I took a quick tour of the location. This whole time I had ignored my concept, trying to make the shoot work with the date we had chosen. But once I had The Icehouse locked, I immediately drew up plans for my project photograph; In stark contrast to my usual commercial and fashion editorial work, I wanted to re-visit my aphotic graphic design roots and show the word “oneiric” with a sense of nightmarish gloom. A personalized portrait and an exploratory glint into my own worst fears. I wanted dark, I wanted different, I wanted my own nightmare.

My first fear; although I’m a good swimmer and like water, I’ve always had a fascination of drowning and the process of your final moments in water. One of my favorite films of all time is The Abyss, because they explore the subject of water so intimately. Also, the fear of falling; I’m not afraid of heights by any means, but I’m more enthralled with the subject of falling to one’s death. The image of “The Falling Man” although controversial is one of the most fascinating images to ever be captured. And finally, snakes. Like Indiana Jones, the thought of snakes slithering over me in my dreams is haunting. When I do see snakes in a real life situation, I don’t necessarily scream at the top of my lungs, but a cold chill runs up my back. With that said, my vision was to show a woman floating over a water well with the look of falling, but the “mirage” of floating if you will. And, for the added touch snakes would be slowly moving towards the well.

After a few phone conversations, the vision was locked in and it was time for execution. I had worked with Rebecca Bussey on only two occasions and loved her “doll-esque" look. As I wanted the woman to resemble some form of nightmare or death, Rebecca’s pale look was perfect. The guidelines we set in place stated we had to use one piece of the location. My idea was to use the broken concrete on the 4th floor and combine that with a well, water and floating model. The model would be shot from directly above on a green screen for easy post-masking. I started the shoot by rigging my camera on a large boom and raising it 16 feet at 35mm. Then, using the CamRanger, I fired all the shots remotely. I did this process for the broken concrete and shooting the model.

Sunday, February 16th; It was creative chaos, the best kind of chaos. Nearly 40 people were on set and the energy was exploding through the roof. I was interviewed by a local news station WDRB and a photojournalism class even made it out to the set. I could go on and on about the logistics, but let’s just say it was a success. My concept went off without a hitch and by the end of it, I was exhausted, but very happy with the results. We ended the night with some sushi and sake, a lot of sake.

Saturday March 1st; Right after the shoot, we locked in a date for the release party. Once again, Derek at The Icehouse stepped up and agreed to host the event. It was one of the most insane weeks of my life. I was not only doing editorial work for clients, but also planning production and promotion for the "Project Oneiric” event, I hadn’t even touched my image yet. Luckily, everything went smooth as silk and people stepped up to help. The Sunday before the scheduled release, I crammed in a editing session with my contract editor and roommate Chris Miske. In just under 10 hours I had the image composited and complete. The next day the image was sent off to print. I decided to forgo the frame and have a simple thin-wrap metallic print that was light and could easily mount.

The day of the release party was stressful, but having a history in show production, it was just another rodeo. Hanging the prints was a challenge, the projector was having issues, the photo booth wasn’t cooperating and the band was have soundcheck issues. But, when showtime came, I was floored with the attendance. Over 300 artists, designers, competitors, friends and family joined to celebrate the project collaboration and network with others. For me, It was never necessarily about the collaboration or photography; it was about the event itself. The project was simply a catalyst to bringing the Louisville/Lexington creative community together for one evening of networking, music, fashion and fun. It truly meant the world to me to have such talent in the same room and the resulting images were just outstanding, it was an honor to be displayed among such art. All images are being shared here: Glass Label

We all worked very hard to make “Project Oneiric” a success and there are several people we’d like to personally thank for that; Derrick Pedolzky of Oak Street Productions, Derek Steinbrecher of Crushed Ice Events, Joey Wagner, A Lion Named Roar, Andrew Kim, Justin Gustavision of Nadus Films, NFocus Louisville, WDRB and The Courier-Journal. Without the support of these people and businesses this event would not have happened. It was a grand success and by far our best Glass Label Industry Affair to date.