Now that I have finally finished my Costume College posts, I can move on to recapping events from the rest of the year. In August, Mike and I hosted a historical costumer photo shoot at the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum building in downtown Washington, D.C. Our goal was to introduce some of our historical costuming friends to the concept of an on-location cosplay photo shoot, along the lines of the format used by the D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots group. Although making a costume is rewarding in and of itself, it’s also a great feeling to capture all that work in a beautiful photograph. But for that to happen, you need to partner with a great photographer and find an appropriate setting.
I wanted to have at least a couple photographers participating in addition to Mike. Mike can only really handle about 5 models in a shoot without exhausting himself. Happily, two of our photographer friends, Justin of Rich and Strange Photography and Dan of Dan Arango Photography agreed to come. I love both Justin’s and Dan’s work, and I knew they would appreciate the different looks and details that historical costumers would bring to a shoot, relative to the cosplay they normally are photographing. I also thought that together with Mike they would expose all the costumers to different styles of photos and styles of shooting.
The National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum (the two museums share the same location) is a great place for a historical shoot, since it is a beautiful building dating to the mid-19th century. In order to ensure that it would be okay for us to shoot there, Mike contacted the museum beforehand and received permission. The museum is welcoming of photography so long as folks do not disturb the other guests.
Here is our whole group. From left to right we have me in my 1740s Belle costume, Stephani in regency, Glynnis in an 1870s ballgown, Carolyn in a late 1870s day dress, Nastassia in an 1880s walking dress, Tarisa in an 1890s evening gown, Taylor in a court gown, and Maggie in her Titanic Jump Dress. We had a lovely variety of eras and types of costumes represented!
The format we did was to split into three groups, one for each photographer. Each group would wander the museum shooting for an hour, then during the next hour the photographers would switch groups. That way everyone got to work with everyone else. I was aiming for there to be nine costumers (so three in each group), but one person got sick, so we had eight. Maggie, Carolyn, and I were in one group, Glynnis and Tarisa were in another group, while Taylor, Stephani, and Nastassia were in the final group.
The museum has a number of spaces that are nice to shoot photos in. Both Mike and Dan started in the Kogod Courtyard, which has a lot of planters and open space to work with.
Later all three groups went to what is my favorite part of the museum: the Luce Foundation Center. It’s a gorgeous room with high ceilings, columns, and tiled marble floors.
Mike took this wide behind the scenes photo while he was working with Taylor. You can see Glynnis posing for Dan off to the left, and Justin working with Maggie on the lower floor. We were all over the space!
Me, fixing Maggie’s hair. Always check to see if your costume, hair, and jewelry are in place before shooting! And don’t be afraid to ask others to help you check. It makes for better photos, and saves your photographer a lot of work in post-production. As Mike’s usual photo editor, I consider this a must.
We finished up in the stairwell that adjoins the painted hall. There are some lovely architectural details and moody lighting in there. Since Mike didn’t bring an external flash, it was just Dan and Justin who worked in that area.
Thank you to everyone who came to the shoot! It was a wonderfully positive, collaborative afternoon of work between photographers and costumers. In my next post, I will share the photos that were taken of me.