I was lying on my sofa waiting, as any moment Dave and Stephanie would arrive from their trip down from Birmingham, it was 11pm and my eyes were slowly closing after not getting much sleep the night before, thinking about the excitement of the shoot coming up. A crazy dash to France to shoot the beautiful Stephanie Warwick, with help from Dave Kai Piper. My eyes flicked open as my phone vibrated next to my head, marking the arrival to my door of two smiley looking people, excited about the shoot about to happen. We all spread out around the house to capture a measly 4 hours sleep before heading to the Euro Tunnel, surprisingly despite the time, we were full of cheer until we almost reached the tunnel and suddenly realised realised we were in the wrong place! 10 miles from the check in and only 15 minutes to get there. It wasn’t gonna be easy 4 of us packed into a tiny Nissa Micra, loaded down with bags in the boot, we burned it at 100 miles an hour and made it by the skin of our teeth, laughing and breathless we felt super lucky we had made it.
Soon we were in France It was 11am and with a 2 hour time window to get the shots before we moved to our next location we had to move fast. I had visited the first chateau a few months prior with Darren, Dusty and Nick and instantly fell in love, despite being very dark inside and covered in pigeon poo, it had a special fairytale quality to it, with a grand piano covered in dust, its keys broken, never to be played again, with Stephanie lying on the cold wood, the whole scene looked like a twisted dark fairytale. Tightly holding onto some dying roses we had found, the final photo looks like a beautiful tragedy. Using my Elinchrom kit to light Stephanie really helped as the area was very dark. I had a large suitcase filled with the glorious costumes of Agnieszka Osipa an amazing designer, who I have been a huge fan of, for over a year. It made my year when she said she would send over from Poland 4 of her beautiful costumes for the shoot. Stephanie looked incredible in all of them. And despite the freezing cold and the effort and time it took to get inside each one, it was totally worth it and Stephanie remained brave from the cold throughout.
At 1.30pm, slightly behind schedule we drove to the next location, the sun would set soon, so we had to be quick, Dave captured film of us getting ready as gale force winds slammed the window shutters closed, as old doors toppled to the floor and Stephanie shivered under both hers and Dave’s coat, her frozen hands in Dave’s gloves. I can’t believe her stamina, even my hands were in pain as I put together my soft box, we moved quick and shot two costumes, before swiftly making it back to the car.
We all shared a huge group feeling of accomplishment and capturing some stunning photos. 3 hours later we were back to the Euro tunnel after a rather hair-raising near crash on a round about where our car deiced it wanted to partake in a bit of drifting action in front of some on coming cars. Luckily we didn’t drift too far and then after our morning incident of nearly missing the train, we again found ourselves in the lorry lane instead of where we were meant to be. The lorry drivers giving us the most awful looks, we finally got out the huge queue of lorries and again made it to the train by seconds.
Our spirits throughout the whole trip despite the usual challenges and hair-raising experiences remained high and we laughed the whole time, by 11pm we were all back at my house in bed out like a light for some much deserved sleep.
It was a tiring shoot, with not much sleep, but filled with so many laughs and being surrounded by wonderful people, its shoots like this that make me feel so lucky to be doing what I do. I’d like to highlight the great importance of team work, because without a great team none of this would be possible. There are many important parts to a photo shoot and if one was to lack or fail then the rest of the photo will also fail. I often put my team through horrible conditions as abandoned buildings aren’t the easiest to shoot inside and often early morning starts are needed, long journeys in the car, cold, getting into buildings and then hanging around in damp, dirty, dark places for long periods of time. I am so lucky to have people willing to share their time in creating these photos, without you all they wouldn’t be possible
Photographer: Rebecca Bathory
Model: Stephanie Warwick
Costume Designer: Agnieszka Osipa
Assistant/ Video: Dave Kai Piper
Location: Two abandoned chateaus in France