This past weekend we ventured to an astonishing location in Harrisburg PA. The home which belongs to a friend of mine was built in 1957 for a prominent optometrist named Dr. Robert Morrison. He is credited with the development of the soft contact lens. The home actually featured an apartment and clinic in the basement and many celebrities and dignitaries actually stayed in the home as Dr. Morrison’s patients. Here’s a great article on him showing him at home: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2010/10/former_optometrist_once_had_ce.html
Somewhere late in 2014 I was visiting an antique shop in nearby Shamokin PA. I had been chatting with the owner about shooting at her place as her apartment above her shop was fabulously decorated and she up and says “have you ver been to Bill’s Old Bike Barn?”. To which I asked “Where’s that?”. She rummages a bit and produces this brochure that had me rubbing my eyes. It looked amazing and was located in Bloomsburg not far from me. It was confusing a bit as I know the area and thought I would have known about this place already. Looking at the map I noticed it was between Bloomsburg and Berwick. A stretch of road less traveled by me compared to the other end of Bloomsburg. So one day not too long afterwards I ventured over.
And my mind was blown.
This was a full on miniature town inside this rather plain looking, windowless building tucked on a hill just off the highway. You’d never see it if you weren’t looking for it. Even the minimal sign on the road was nearly camouflaged.
I was able to meet and chat with the owner and namesake Bill (one of the nicest guys on planet earth). We discussed the possibility of my shooting there and the rest is history. For more on the museum visit Bill’s Old Bike Barn website here.
I visited today and noted several new additions to Billville and chatted with Judy, Bill’s partner and we are working towards returning for some sessions in May. We are announcing this to our regular clients first to see who wants to be on the list for the date on this one. A few points must be made on this session. First it is a working museum, it will not be closed for us. Some visitors may be present during the shoots. Last time it was not remotely an issue. This does mean that wardrobe must be kept conservative-ish. Plenty of the first sessions had some “sassy” attire but there was no lingerie etc. Basically nothing more revealing than the examples shown here. Second, this is a FANTASTIC session for people to bring their significant others’ to, it’s an amazing museum that anyone could wander and explore and not get bored with. Last time several clients did just that. However while those who book their session have their admission included, any additional parties would be subject to the $5 admission fee (it’s well worth it). Third, given that there are some insanely valuable pieces in the museum NO ONE has liberty to sit on, pick up, step on, step over ANYTHING without my say so. Use of this place does cost me money but it’s also reasonable enough that we can do this and reasonable because I take responsibility. That doesn’t give anyone license to do anything without discussing it with me. Fourth, this location has a cost associated with it. Deposits on this session will be half the total fee and are non-refundable or transferable as a result. Cancellations near a shoot date are nearly impossible to fill and dramatically affect the per shoot cost. Our options are to have higher and higher shoot prices to absorb this or maintain very strict cancellation policies.
So now for some photos. You can, and SHOULD click on these for larger versions.
Bill’s has just about everything a town would have. Like a soda shop.
You can get your saws sharpened and your small engines worked on too!
There’s a beauty parlor to get your hair-did as well…
Motorcycles are fuel efficient but they too need gas from time to time.
You can also pretend you’re a Bürgermeister in a German hamlet.
or head over to the turn of the century general store
You might want to make a grand entrance on the wonderful staircase that was a centerpiece of the Magee family mansion saved from their nearby home. They once produced carpets that were renown during the mid-century age in America
Maybe you’re a pinball wizard
Or need to get the mail….
You also have your choice of phone booths, American or British…Thirsty? Cool off with a mighty PBR out of the re-purposed WWII medical plasma refrigerator
Why not dine at a lovely bistro decorated with 2 cargo containers worth of wrought iron brought over by Bill from a Belgian castle?
Need some Avon? Billville’s got it too!
Careful, just because the window of the Citroen may be open with keys in the ignition doesn’t mean it’s an invitation for grand theft auto…
If you get caught you’ll end up in the jail….
TV & Radio repair? this shop will get you dialed in
Need a tune-up on your car? The Billville service station has the loveliest attendants…
Most citizens cycle though….
In case you get a toof-ache, there is a dentist office. It is however self-service, which isn’t all too fun
SO, as you can see. This location is unlike any other we have worked at. For fans of nostalgia this is a wonderland. I liken it to being in a life sized miniature village or doll house.
A genuine “problem” is that there is so much you’ll love, it’s quite a problem to decide what to do while you’re there. With that said another aspect of these sessions cost is that we will likely employ an assistant to help permit participants to get in as much as possible during their time there.
We will be looking at a Friday session and try to arrange a Saturday as well. The hours on Saturday permit fewer sessions and we may have 2 different prices for each day as a result.
Want to be sure you don’t miss out? Message us to get on the list for this session. An early pricing estimate will be $275-$300 for style and shoot sessions. This is dependent on what usage fees we are subject to.
Somewhere in the middle of last year the resident stylist here Nicole asked me about doing a session with her sister-in-law Kate. What they wanted to do was something along the lines of an image that was in the style of the famed Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha.
His work was not just synonymous with the genre but can be argued it was the greatest influence of it. It permeated advertising and intermingled with all the other arts. Even for those who don’t know the name, they know the work.
For the shoot we settled on a series called the four seasons as our starting point. We zeroed in on the first panel and began planning.
We wanted the images to actually be as if painted as well as have more than one option. Building multiple sets wouldn’t be practical so these would be digitally executed. This meant there would be more work after the photography session, much more as it turns out.
We all finally got together in the first week of December. Nicole had prepared some ornately styled wigs for Kate to wear and they began work on her makeup. I began staging the minimal set which was on neutral gray paper. I added a few elements to assist in the images but would later find they never made it into the frame. Here’s Kate and the actual raw photo that would eventually become her image.
This is where we ended up:
This is quite a departure from what we normally do. To illustrate it with more detail here’s Kate’s lovely face from the initial photo through the final image.
The process took me through normal processing and enhancement through literally painting on the image (digitally of course) Notice the hair change and the border around Kate. This is something that struck me with so many of Mucha’s works, key elements are outlined. Needless to say this takes some time. In fact the entire timeline on one of these ends up being about 8 hours. For the background art I created the leaves from scratch.
Other elements were from stock art which I licensed (paid for their use). Some will take things of the internet to use. For these images I feel many people will want to have fine art prints made to hang and the thing about web images is this, they are small, blown up they do not have the detail suitable for a large print. Below is art that became part of the background. This was through iStock. Did you know I personally create and sell stock photography with a number of online companies?
We recently had another session with this theme and here I have more examples of what goes into one. This is Jenny Jayne. The animation below show some initial editing to coax some details.
As I got ready to begin formatting the art I realized I would need more fabric for below Jenny’s feet. I also had the flowers to consider and actually ran down to the florist that’s next door for some advise on what specifically those flowers in the art might be. While we didn’t have a concrete consensus on what they actually were, the florist offered me some poinsettias they had left over from the holidays which I brought back to the studio to shoot as component art. Later once the flowers were added I would distort the petals to alter their appearance. In time much of the components would be painted on to further the “art” appearance.Below you can see some of the progression and the various elements I experimented with.
When I had several variations and treatments I presented them to Jenny for her to choose her favorite.
We are now offering these sessions to our clients. These are incredibly different than anything else we’ve ever offered. For those who’ve shot with us the process is about 2 hours in the studio with an hour of Makeup and Hair by Nicole of Making Faces Professional followed by a one hour shoot with me. Clients leave with an SD card with hundreds and hundreds of images (600-800 on average). Many go home and find something they love and share it immediately.
These sessions will actually only entail about a half hour in makeup and hair as a pre-styled wig is utilized. The shoot portion will also be able to be done in under a half hour. Clients will only take home a few dozen images with which they will then choose their favorite to be transformed.
While the session itself is quick by our normal shoot standards significantly more time is spent afterwards creating the finished art.
But by many pinup and boudoir studio standards, the pricing for this session is actually comparable to a basic shoot. You can choose either theme shown here (your face and body in these “settings”), get your styling and session and a finished artwork for $325 plus tax. Additionally there is an option for a one of a kind work where every single element is created just for you and will not be repeated for anyone else at $500.
Are you ready to be transformed into a work of art?
Most recent posts here have been in support of upcoming shoots and of the informational variety for the studio. This isn’t. This is my thoughts on a gallery show I recently had work in. Friday January 6th I took part in Scott Church’s 10th Annual Legacy show at the Mulberry Arts Studio in Lancaster PA.
For those who don’t know the name, Scott Church is a Lebanon PA based photographer who enjoys quite a bit of renown and whose accomplishments if listed would run on for days. Let’s just say his work has graced the covers of Penthouse, and Hustler (this year). He doesn’t just shoot that stuff, he does families, weddings, you name it. I was first exposed to his work years ago, easily 10-15 at this point, via Model Mayhem I think. It was, and is, the sort of work that stays in your memory. About 6 years ago I reached out to Scott as I was putting together the Taboo Editions of my magazine Retro Lovely, the naughty stuff. I was excited that he was supportive of it and agreed to permit me to include some of his work. I remember a phone conversation we had where he recounted some early group books he put together. It turns out one of those very books was the first publication to feature the work of the now very well known Viva Van Story. Viva’s naughty work was also well represented in the Taboo Editions of mine. Some months later when one of the issues with Scott’s work was ready and printed I stopped by his old studio in Lebanon to drop some off. It was my first time meeting him in person. When you meet someone vs. just correspond it’s always interesting in how your perceptions can change. In person you can instantly see how Scott’s personality is a huge component of his success. It’s not just his work. It’s him. And the two aspects combined become greater than those two parts. I’m not trying to blow smoke up his ass either, just sharing my thoughts (I think he’d appreciate that statement) . As smartphones began to replace physical print publications and magazine sales were decimated… I lost touch with Scott and have not been in touch in years. Here and there I will work with models he regularly does as well, Millie Mie, Ludella Hahn, Shanin Jean, and when I do I will always tell them to say hello for me the next time they work with Scott. But I’m not checking in with him myself, not engaging online. I know he’s busy. I’m busy. I also very well know what it is to be in a position of influence and be overwhelmed by people wanting to be your best friend because they want something from you (I’ll wager he’s gotten more than two inquires of “how can you get meeeee in Penthouse”). It’s why I began using the name Victor Devilbliss for my photography. That’s a whole other story which also deserves a post, but not here.
Some months ago I noticed Scott mention there were still some spaces left for his annual art show. Something struck me to get off my ass and take part. The last time I had printed work hanging in a “gallery” was I think… in 1995 or 1996 (I am old) and given those dates, that work was shot on film. It was manipulated mind you, other worldy in fact and in time, some of the very those became album covers for a dozen or so releases from the Cleopatra family of record labels of California. That’s it. That was the last time work of mine was printed and exhibited on a wall somewhere other than my own space. Scott shot me a message and said “you’re in, two pieces any size. And that’s the extent of the conversation.
The show was January 6th. I ordered the prints December 30th. They arrived the week of the show. Yeah.
To be fair I was having a hard time choosing what I would include. What size? Framing? Print type? I also had a lot going on with clients at the time as well. Still do. I had several images I was considering. Narrowing that down was tough. I had a lot of strong work with Millie Mie this past year and I knew this gallery would be a perfect showcase for them but I also knew that the walls would be covered with many shots of her as she’s worked with tons of the people included in the event. I actually spoke to her about it as we were talking about the show in the weeks before. I actually felt for the sake of variety i really shouldn’t use one of the many fine pieces we’d done. One thing that kept playing on my mind was this one frame I have. Well painting in a frame. It’s this large portrait of Jesus Christ. A classic. In fact the whole thing is a vintage mid-century modern thing I’ve seen many times in varying sizes. This particular one was by the Turner company. A well known wall art company of the period. The print area was 30 inches by 40 inches.
On one hand it pained me to cut away the paper backing with the manufacturers label as that just killed it’s value as a mid-century classic, but…. that frame tho…. Knowing this would be my main piece I began to review images for this frame. The colors. The size. The size was a tricky thing as this particular ratio is nearly a classic 4:5. That’s tough for me because I have noticed over the years I typically compose for the frame I am in. With the 35mm equivalent camera I use that means most of my shots tend towards its 2:3 ratio… meaning longer or taller depending on orientation. Many images I thought I would consider looked odd to me when cropped down to fit this frame’s ratio. To be honest it was depressing and nerve wracking. I did have a few contenders from a shoot I did mid-year with my very good friend Miss Claire Marie. A session we did that formally kicked off my use of the third floor of the studio and an area of it that’s become home to a series of work I’ve been calling “The Curiosities”. This as the space is not pretty. It’s rough. It’s in disrepair. And for myself and others, it’s perfect. One of the rooms has specifically been dubbed “Der Fetisch Klinik” as the walls have cabinets and these large paneled doors that make it feel as if it could have been some sort of medical clinic. Add in the exam table I found at a shop (very near where Claire lives coincidentally) and there you have it. The next decision was which shot. There were several that would work. One I kept coming back to was Claire standing between the large double doors between two rooms. She struck a pose that had a beautiful form to it. Everything about it was “on”. One thing though, was that she was facing away. Several others that were contenders showed her face, and most who’ve seen it agree, it’s a good face (I actually just chuckled). But the one between the doors had a lot of things I love, there’s a light behind her casting a near halo around her head and providing rim lighting on her figure. You can see some smoke around her head from a cigarette and in the air here and there are specks of dust frozen in the light that the camera caught. The angles and lines of the doors, shadows and paneling created nice geometric shapes, virtually everything in the image except for Claire is straight lines. I’m not going to be arty-farty and claim to have planned all this. Hell no. The general “look” yeah, that I planned and we got it. But the details of this shot no. I think in the course of the few hours we shot I took over a thousand photos but that’s because Claire and I work well together and she moves through poses in such a way that there’s just too many opportunities to capture some magic. We had plenty of those moments too as I will show below. So, even though her face was obscured, I decided to go with this shot for that large gold frame. The next thing that pained me though is that cropping business. As shot, there’s more image at the top and bottom of the image I had to crop away in order to fit. I love how the image looked as shown at the gallery, but I love the original more. Have a look (you can click these to see them larger) this is the crop I made the print from.
Here is the image as shot:
The other photo that I kept coming back to fared worse with the cropping though. I know some of you might say “no it’s fine” but the version shown on the right…. her head and feet are too close to the edge. It’s crowded. And it’s a pity as one of my beloved mannequins is clearly seen lurking behind a door.
So with the image selected, I ordered some prints. I am a big fan of metallic prints so that was decided. Grrrrr my normal go-to lab does not offer 30×40 sizes. So now I have to find and use a vendor I never have before. How will they handle the color? I know what I get from my normal source. Now I have a question mark there. A bit of shift isn’t too much a problem, but density, brightness. Unknown and a roll of the dice. Well thankfully what arrived was pretty much perfect. I did notice one or two things I should have corrected in the file but was able to actually hand retouch on the print itself.
I got the art framed and had it sitting in the studio just days before the show. During a session a new client happened to see the print and pretty promptly exclaimed “Is that Claire?”. It turns out this person had also done a photo shoot with Ava Dae out of New Hope. Claire does makeup and hair for Ava. But still, Claire’s face wasn’t shown.
Thursday came which meant it was time to take the prints to the gallery and get them hung. I arrived early and already there was quite a buzz of activity. Lots of great images were already up on the walls. I scanned for some empty wall space and headed towards a corner. There was a guy on the opposite side of the corner hanging some things and I noticed a shot of Mille and asked if I might throw my stuff up near him and mentioned having worked with Millie myself. Introductions revealed he was Jason M whose work I’ve admired and have heard good things about from models. I gave my name but then had to add “Victor Devilbliss” to which he then had recognition. Really glad we got to meet.
Friday arrived. After some sessions at the studio I got myself together and set off for Lancaster. I think I got to the show by 7:45 or so. Millie messaged me asking where I was just as I parked. When I made it in it was already bustling with people. Seeing the walls fully covered was amazing too, several spaces at that. I said some hellos, found Millie. Got introduced to some more people and took a stroll through the space taking in the art. There were quite a few things
that really made me stop and study them. Whenever I discuss art, be it music, photography, whatever… I will never say this is “great”, this is “good” this is “bad” rather I will say “I love this”, “I like this” “I wish I did this” or “it doesn’t speak to me” because art is so subjective. There are entire genres of music I don’t think I ever care to hear again that are someone else’s favorite music. So it isn’t universally good or bad… I can say whether I like it or not. Or tell you what I like or don’t about it. At this gallery I saw a lot of work I personally thought was great. There were a number I thought “I wish I took this” that’s about as high a compliment as I can give too, when I am envious of a work.
While at the show it was fantastic to bump into a few people I know and meet some new folks I’ve been wanting to. Of course Millie was on hand (and all over the walls for that matter, which I was right
about) Eventually my studio partner Nicole arrived with short cropped hair and a beard (she was performing drag nearby later that evening, AND KILLED) then Lizz Maldonado (who did Nicole’s styling). Shanin Jean showed up with her husband who I never met previously. Then Claire Marie herself and her friend Amanda, another pal Leo who I did meet before. I also ran into my old friend Dave Deardorff who I have known since my days at Terrace Music in Harrisburg. Who else, Mike Grimm, we had a great chat. Then Jason M again. Millie introduced me to Richard Frost. I also saw but didn’t
get to say hello to Jennifer Burd. And the elusive Larry Bradby was floating around who I spoke with many times while I was in the DC area but never did meet and AGAIN this night did not get to say hello in person. Gary Clark was also in the house so it was cool to see another artist from my parts there. Oh and Lizz’s friend Liz (one Z) who I also had a great conversation with. These are the names I can recall.
So by some point, Claire and I and others were in a hall just outside the main studio space when Millie came rushing out exclaiming “you won, you won!!!” I’m like “what?”. So she grabs me and I tell Claire to come along and we squeeze our way into the room as Scott is on the
microphone announcing the “Best Black and White” award. As he finishes up Millie moves towards Scott and tells him “This is Victor” ( I am not 100% sure Scott has connected the two names) He mentions this to the crowd and though I was late for class he handed me the award for Best Color. I stayed nearby as Scott moved on to announce Best in Show which as it turns out was an image by Richard Frost, which was one of those very images that kept catching my eye all night.
Unexpected. An honor. And again if you recall my little rant about calling art good or bad… something I have to say, could have gone to many other works shown there that night. Something about the night and the timing meant the decision went my way, no our way, it’s Claire’s work too.
Thanks to Scott for the event, for the recognition and more for supporting other artists as he has and does.
Here’s more from the shoot.
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