It all started over drinks one late night at a small Louisville dive bar called Cahoots. Micah Ruelas, Kaityln Tew and I were discussing models for GAGA series and we happen to stumble upon conversation about the model Brianna Newman. Her name sounded strangely familiar, we whipped out our phones and started stalking her Facebook profile. I realized I had seen her photography and modeling sometime ago during my infancy as a photog. So on January 23rd, I asked her to be apart of this wild and crazy concept. When she agreed with a lot of excitment, I couldn’t of been more happy. Our original song for Brianna was to be Government Hooker, but the more and more I looked at her work I just kept imagining a stunning, tall, powerful woman in red and black, it had to be Scheiße.
“I, I wish that I could dance on a single prayer / I, I wish I could be strong without the scheiße, yeah”
Everything for Scheiße came together fairly easy. As time passed and we had knocked out two other songs for “GAGA - A Portrait Series”, I was confident in both Micah’s ability to sell the look and my ability to create a compelling image.
Last year, I was hired to shoot a music video for a band out of Cincinnati; Rose Funeral. The concept was dark and had some controversial themes. The setting for the video was slated to be a church. After scouring the internet and making several connections via voicemail and email, came in contact with Bob Weber who owned a large abandoned church in Newport, KY. The Grace Methodist Church was built in 1866 and had been completely abandoned for sometime. Previous owners had used it for raves, parties and has always been a hotspot for police. It’s considered one of Newport’s most endangered buildings. The church is lays on the same block as Bob Weber’s place of business Dickey’s Glass. Being the stand-up guy that he is, Bob let us use the church all day with some simple paperwork and direction. I made a point to be 100% professional, keep things on time and “shoot the shit” with him to remain on his good side incase I wanted to return to the church in the future!
After the GAGA concept had come to fruition and Brianna has signed on, I did some research and made a few calls to churches in the Louisville area, all dead ends. All the abandoned churches had been sold off or had owners that weren’t feeling “creative”. So, lo and behold, I decided to give Bob a call. After some conversation he was more then happy to oblige and just like that we had a church.
Despite the scheduling issues, when the 18th of March came around I could barley contain my excitement. Brianna had worked with some top Kentucky fashion photographers and I was excited to be included on the list. I knew had to step it up and bring my game.
Brianna’s car had run into some troubles, so we would have to pick Brianna up from Lexington then drive up to Newport for the shoot, then back down to Lexington and back over to Louisville. It was to be a very long day, but I just knew it would be so worth it. We wrapped up the shoot for “Paparazzi” about 1:30am late Saturday evening and had to get up and high tail it over to Lexington by 10:00am. The next morning, we arrived at Brianna’s home a little late and bolted off to Newport, KY. Following my trusty iPhone GPS, I botched and missed the turn on I-75, soon enough we were on our way back to west to Louisville rather then north to Newport. I adjusted the GPS and it directed us to travel back roads all the way up, so that’s what we did, finally arriving in Newport around noon. What was supposed to be about a 2 hour trip turned into 3. But, once we settled at the Grace Methodist Church, I think everyone was energized and ready to rock it out.
By 12:30pm, Micah began preparing Brianna’s look and I scouted around the massive building for my 7 sets. I was creating images in my head using imaginary lighting and posing, one by one I came up with a game plan for each of the sets. At some point during the hair/makeup preparation I noticed a large piece of red polyester cloth draping over some piece of furniture. I took it off and looked over at Micah, the ideas just flooded my brain. “Can we use this?” I rhetorically asked to Micah. He nodded.
Micah did an outstanding job with the look on this song. It truly spoke to the core of Lady Gaga with its demanding power and confidence. Once we wrapped that dark red polyester "cape" around Brianna’s waist, I had to crack a insane smile.
We started the first set right on the altar, I had borrowed an ABR800 Ringflash from Josh Eskridge for Paparazzi, so for Scheiße I really wanted experiment with it and I did! For the first set I used it as an off camera fill light and it worked fairly well that is until…
The church had no water, heat, air conditioning or power. I ran extension cords from my car through the building to power things such as a curling iron and blow dryer. When I decided to run the 320 watt ringflash on that same power strip, it didn’t like that at all. After about an hour of use, the fuse in my car decided to blow and that was it for the ABR800(I didn’t have a Vagabond). I was really blessed to get the shots I did before things went kaput.
As the shoot progressed we played with a lot of ambient natural light and I was using my tripod quite a bit. Shooting a 1 or 2 seconds exposures on f/22. It was something I had never done before, but the results we’re fantastic as long as the model remained posed as ice.
It was no big deal for Brianna. Being a photographer herself she has a massive advantage. She knew where the light was coming from and could predict movement before I even spoke. Other then Gaga herself jamming through the boombox speakers, the set was pretty quiet because there was no direction needed. Brianna knocked it out of the park. I seem to remember repeating “Fabulous”, “Great”, “Awesome”, “Hold That” and “Wow” quite a bit. She is hand down one of the best models I have ever worked with and I’m proud to of had the opportunity.
We moved quickly and were knocking out set after set. At some point, I noticed the sun had moved the shadows on the floor from the giant stained glass windows. I knew we had to start wrapping up to make the 3 hour trek back the Lexington and Louisville for it was getting late in the afternoon.
We closed up the day in the bell tower, which had to be accessed from a short flight of questionable very steep steps. I knew it was the perfect setting for the vision I had with the red polyester cloth floating behind like a cape. One light, one softbox at a camera setting of 1/50, f/14 and ISO 400. I sprayed and prayed. Brianna grabbed the ends of the cloth and swung it back over her head well over 20 times until I was confident we had the shot. I was nothing but smiles from that point on.
Just to add to the fun, as he did in “Heavy Metal Lover”, Micah decided to step in some shots with Brianna and play model.
We couldn’t of had a more beautiful day and I’m confident the images show that. The drive home was short and sweet, but everyone including myself was worn out and wanted to get home to enjoy some much needed time with Netflix.
P.S. Yes, that is my rottweilers training collar Micah is wearing.