I'm pinching myself that I finally get to share this project/gift that I've been working on for the past three months! It has taken over my life in all the great ways and the hardest part has been keeping it a secret from Ethan. Let me start from the beginning... it kind of evolved from my original idea.
My parents planned a family trip to Branson, Missouri this summer (Ethan couldn't go because of work) and I immediately thought of my friend Mandy, who I initially met through our Flickr days, who lives nearby in Springfield and just so happens to be a very talented photographer. I've really been wanting to have our family photos taken, but my husband is always very reluctant at that idea, in fact, we haven't had a professional family portrait taken since Cooper was a baby (!!!) So bad. (We were able to get some pictures of us last year with the help of my tripod.)
I also really needed some good photos of myself (mostly a "head-shot" for work) and when it comes down to it, it's just very hard to get good and interesting photos of yourself with a tripod. I knew these photos could be something I could give Ethan as a surprise (as well as gifts to family, etc.) So I contacted Mandy in early May, committed to a shoot in late June while in Branson, and we started brainstorming! I knew Mandy would be the perfect photographer for me because we have similar styles and are into the same vintage aesthetic. She is talented at styling and composing beautiful shots.
So, after a few messages back and forth she early on threw out the idea of doing a Moonrise Kingdom themed shoot. I have to be honest - I was very reluctant at the idea of doing a themed shoot! (I've become a bit cynical about themed photo shoots because so many times they come off forced, overdone and cheesy.) Thank goodness it only took me 5 seconds to change my mind because I started thinking about all the possibilities, and I knew that Mandy would do it in a way that would feel timeless, and not trendy.
Another reason I was on board is because we are indeed HUGE Wes Anderson fans... and I'm hestitant to even say that because, well, the internet is saturated with hipster Wes Anderson fans, and as pretentious as this may sound (and yes it does) - We loved Wes Anderson before it was hip to love Wes Anderson. ; ) (Doesn't everyone say that when they are diehard fans?) We knew we had seen something unique when we saw Rushmore in the theater when it was originally released. Then we became obsessed with his first feature film, Bottle Rocket.
(Below is one of my favorite shots from the shoot. This was all Mandy. She lay on the ground and told us to stand over her and not smile - which is a very Wes Anderson-type style of shooting, I specifically remember a shot from Rushmore like this. I knew right off what she was trying to achieve, but I was very reluctant to have someone shoot me from below - as you know that's not a very flattering angle! Ha! But I'm so thankful she went for it because it came out AMAZING.)
We have loved all of the Wes Anderson movies (some more than others for sure), but ironically, as much as I LOVED Moonrise Kingdom stylistically.. I felt like I didn't connect to the story or the characters as I had hoped I would. Fast forward to brainstorming this photo shoot and Ethan actually tells me that he's rented the movie and he watched it on a recent business trip to Vancouver. He kept telling me how much he loved it and how great it was the second time around. All I could do was smile really big on the inside!! If he only knew what I was cooking up! ; ) Then he continued to quote lines from the movie, especially "What kind of bird are YOU."
So now with his over-the-top enthusiasm about the movie, it was even more exciting planning out this shoot. So I started the long process of sourcing props and clothing and accessories for the boys and I.
I also rewatched the movie and ended up LOVING it so much more than the first time I saw it. Maybe it was the initial hype for the movie that made that first screening a letdown for me... but watching it again at home - I not only got excited again about all the little details in the styling that Anderson is so brilliant at, but I also connected to the characters in a much deeper way. I was so pumped. And I devoured every detail I could visually so that I could replicate those details in our shoot.
One thing I've learned that I'm good at and I kind of thrive on, is hunting down the "perfect" items for photo shoots. I've become a master at spending too many hours scavenging the internet for these things. Also, browsing local antique malls and even the local Boy Scout store to get those shirts for the boys. (That was an experience in itself - while I don't agree with some of conservative views of The Boy Scouts association, I have to say it was pretty dang fun scouring those aisles of patches, pins and other nerd gear. : ) You better believe I didn't tell them my boys weren't actually scouts and that we were using their uniforms for a movie themed photo shoot. They might have barred me from the store!
While finding the perfect Suzy Bishop outfit proved to be the hardest search, finding things for the boys, especially their patches was the most fun. I exhausted every option when it came to my outfit - I tried to find a vintage dress, but we all know how hard it is to find the perfect look, in the perfect size, when it comes to vintage. Not to mention, you usually can't return vintage clothes purchased online. So I ended up looking for something new - again VERY hard to find a dress that was already perfect and the perfect size! I did find one Indonesian maker on Etsy that makes replicas of Suzy's dress, but it wouldn't get to me in time. So I kept looking.
I ended up with a sleeveless dress and half-sleeved shirt from Forever21, a detachable white collar from Etsy, and a vintage belt I already had. (The dress - being cheaply made - actually had a stuck zipper when I changed into it at the State Park - luckily Mandy came to the rescue with pins she had!) All of our socks came from Sockdreams (of course.) My shoes are from Bait. And did you notice my hair is around 2 inches longer? This was my first foray into clip-in hair extensions. (Found some inexpensive "human hair" ones on ebay and I dyed them myself the same day I dyed my hair. They ended up working out great! My hair is a little thin so you could see the clips through my hair, so I doubt I'll be wearing them out again, but luckily we had photoshop to photoshop the clips out. ;)
For the boys' patches, I got them from all over the internet. Some are vintage and some are new. I wanted each patch to have sentimental value, so I purchased things like a New York and D.C. patch to represent the Daddy-Son trips Ethan has taken with the boys, letter patches (C for Cooper and Campbell, D for me, and S for our late doggy, Sherpa), a little rat patch to represent Ramona, soccer ball to represent the hours and hours and hours spent playing it with Ethan, etc. I will take some photos of all the patches soon. So cute! The little bear patch reminded me of the patch on Sam's uniform (even though his is a raccoon).
As for our props, I already had the daisy suitcase, found the binoculars (Suzy's superpower) at a vintage shop and Mandy brought some of her own things like the record player, thermos, canteen and magnifying glass. I knew I wanted a Francoise Hardy record in a shot because Ethan loves the song by her in the movie that Sam and Suzy dance to (who doesn't love that song?) but I was running out of time and didn't want to have to purchase a vintage record. So I took the largest image I could find online of her album cover with Le Temps de L'Amour on it, enlarged and printed it at Staples, and then adhered it to an old record sleeve I already had.
You might have noticed the lighthouse, vintage police cars and house shots above that resemble the ones in the movie. Well, before I had rewatched the movie, I told Mandy of the resort we were staying at in Branson called Stormy Point to which she replied "Are you kidding me?!" Or something like that... because the style of the village is very New England-y, they have a lighthouse, and she reminded me of the lighthouse, etc, that I had forgotten from the movie! So we decided we HAD to shoot at the resort as well. I've stayed at this resort before and totally forgot about the two vintage cop cars as well. I mean, how lucky did we get?!? But by the time we finished the shots of us at Table Rock State Park nearby, we lost our light and couldn't get any shots at the resort. So I supplemented the shoot with the lighthouse, cars and house shots later that week.
The boys were SUCH troopers! They hadn't seen the movie of course (not quite age appropriate) but I told them this was a special thing we were doing for Daddy... and I of course bribed them with a present afterwards. ; ) We shot for a good hour and a half and they hardly complained. Afterwards they even said they had fun! By the end of the shoot we were exhausted, it was HOT, and were being eaten up by mosquitos. But we made it through and got so many great shots.
I'm admittedly a little sad that my big secret is finally out since we gave Ethan his gift (a photo book of all the photos that I'll share soon) today. Collaborating with Mandy was so much fun. Seriously, to find people that are so on the same wavelength as you are, creatively, is so awesome! I hope we can do it again.
If you are in the Springfield, Missouri area and are looking for a photographer, I highly recommend Mandy! Be sure to check out her gorgeous Etsy shop as well, and a new one she has with beautifully hand-stitched jewelry.
I'll be back with more photos of us that she shot before the Moonrise pictures. They came out so pretty as well.