Jovana │ Dark and Witchy Yoga Photo Session

When my yoga teacher, Jovana, asked me to create some beautifully styled portraits for her to use on her website, I knew I wanted to create something feminine, strong, mysterious and earthy. Yoga asana selfies are everywhere these days — search for #yoga on Instagram and you’ll find more than 18 million photos, and that’s not including all the photos from other related hashtags. It was important for both of us that this was not your stock standard yoga photo session.

Melissa Katherine │Yoga Portrait Photography Alexandria

I absolutely love using elements of nature indoors for my photo shoots because it adds a seasonal marker to my work. I’m always bringing in branches and cuttings to hang around my studio and home. I’ll always know that I shoot this in Winter because I included those pretty Camellias. It was also raining that afternoon, which added to the atmosphere created in the space.

Jovana │Dark and Earthy Yoga Photo Session in Sydney

Jovana teaches both Jivamukti and Kundalini yoga and combines her love of the esoteric and music within her classes – this is precisely why I love her classes so much. Her individual take on teaching yoga is inspiring and I really feel that I captured that in these photographs.

Bringing your authentic self to what you do is so important. When you connect with your true self and let that shine magic happens.

Jovana │Jivamukti Yoga Photo Shoot Sydney Australia

Connectedness and spirituality play such a big part of my life and I enjoy relating such things to my portraiture. I don’t believe there is only one way to empowerment, but I’m passionate about feminism, spirituality and mythology. All three play an intrinsic part of why I do what I do. Waking up the goddess in us all is so important and whether your inner goddess comes out as a Hollywood Bombshell, Pretty Pinup, Vintage Vixen, Earthy Yoga Witch or Dark Siren, the empowerment gained from doing so is what should be acknowledged and embraced.

Own your inner goddess, whatever form she may take.

Melissa Katherine │ Dark and Witchy Yoga in Sydney

Fantasy takes many forms. It might not be burlesque, but yoga (or whatever your jam might be)can be just as theatrical!

Darkness and magic,

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MAPLE ROSE │ Vintage Showgirl Photo Session

The delightful Maple Rose has been a part of the Australian Burlesque scene since 2011. I’d worked with Maple Rose in the past, well kind of. I contacted her when I was styling an editorial shoot for Ace of Spades magazine. She was making ever so cute pin-up clothing at the time. I was excited to include her designs in the photo shoot I did with Lady Popsicle. Fast forward a few years and Maple Rose now lives in Melbourne. She has settled there after travelling to Europe and enjoying a stint living and working in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm. There she became a regular performer at Melt Bar.

During our session, we chatted about the way in which Burlesque is appreciated and perceived in different parts of the world. It’s always interesting to hear the way in which a different culture views things like burlesque. There was also the fact that Swedes are obsessed with the ‘new’, so vintage stores and vintage fashion/furniture are not really seen as cool or desirable. Of course, as in every city, there are the vintage aficionados that see the value and beauty in pieces from by-gone eras, but it’s difficult to get my head around the idea of nostalgia not being treasured.

Do we get bogged down with the past and what has already been done? Is it important to pay homage to the past in order to have a richer and more vibrant future?

I like the idea of fresh concepts and newness – it stops things becoming stagnant and tired, but I also love aspects of the past – the workmanship, the quality, the longevity of garments and design. In a world filled and ruled by fast, disposable fashion, I think the future must include vintage.

Burlesque Photo Shoot Sydney Studio │Melissa Katherine

Here Maple Rose wears an emerald green gown with leopard details and magenta gloves. I love using bold and striking hue in portraiture, especially complimentary colours. The dress is an 80s does 60s number and she picked it up during her time in Sweden.

MAPLE ROSE by Melissa Katherine

So very glam, so very gorgeous!

For details on where to catch Maple Rose perform check out maplerose.com

 

 

 

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Early Snaps | Melissa Katherine

Blueprints that already existed.

When I was 15 I took it upon myself to contact Dolly Magazine seeking an opportunity for work experience. To my amazement, I was accepted. I was going to have the opportunity to see how photo shoots went down, maybe spot a few of my favourite models and experience the everyday runnings of what was then one of my favourite Teen Girls magazines. In reality, I probably would have just been making coffees all day and running to the post office, but who cared?! It was a chance to see the behind the scenes daily runnings and perhaps catch a glimpse of the IT girl of the time. I was so excited. I just had to get permission from my school and I was good to go.

Unfortunately, my shortsighted and dream destroying career advisor refused to let me go. At my school work experience happened on a particular week each year and the Dolly Magazine opportunity was scheduled for a few months before. Surely they could have bent the rules, but apparently (and quite sadly for me,) no.
I was devastated. I ended up being assigned a week at Wollongong Council in the Architectural Department. They didn’t know what to do with me. It was mind-bogglingly boring. Their jobs seemed boring, they didn’t even ask me to make coffees or fetch the mail. I ended up drafting already built toilet block designs off.

Blueprints that already existed.

In hindsight, apart from the fact that things happened for a reason (although I’m still to work out the point of the blueprint copying), this showed me that I knew what I wanted a long time ago and not fitting in ‘their’ box is just who I am.

Early Snaps | Melissa Katherine

Photo: 16 year old me with my camera.
Sure I’ve taken a different path than I perhaps would have if I did go to Dolly, but essentially my interests are the same. Photography, modelling, art, fashion, girl power and inspiration. It is amazing how when we are young the passion inside us is untainted and real, yet along the way we get cut down and told to do the sensible thing, the required thing, the thing that is best, but best for who?

When I thought back to this time in my youth recently, I felt inspired to share this story with you and remind you to take the time to remember who you were at 13, 14 or 15. Of course, you have grown and learned so much, but I bet that true essence of you is still there. Hold on to this! Return to it by all means necessary, nurture it and let it thrive. There is so much truth in our young selves and reconnecting with that is a powerful and glorious thing!

Be playful,
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Sadness and Beauty - The musings of a Sydeny Portrait Photographer │ Melissa Katherine

Sadness and beauty.

Sadness and beauty.

Much of life can be summed up by two words of concepts – Sadness and beauty. I often contemplate life in this simplistic, dualistic way. Us humans like to simplify and label things, although the more you think about the concepts of sadness and beauty existing in harmony, the more you realise it’s far from simple.

I love the idea of them being completely entwined. It’s as though they dance together and weave a tale, both reliant on the other to embody its own definition in the richest sense.

Without sadness is there any point to beauty? Does beauty not seem more divine in the presence of sadness? It is as though the two are the tangible real life versions of the light and dark polarities – concepts that are hardwired into our psyche.

Of course, sadness encompasses all that is tragic, grotesque and painful in our world and beauty is the light leaking through the cracks. It gives us a sense of hope that maybe the suffering is worth it, the pain bearable. Without beauty, would the sadness be unbearable?

Through centuries of dogma we have been convinced that darkness needs to be avoided, we must strive to find enlightenment, be good, stay happy, enjoy life’s happy moments. In doing so, we are not however completely connected to the magic of life. The richness, the grit, the dirty business, call it what you will, but this is essential to our existence. Sadness and beauty aren’t here to dance the Waltz, the Tango is their preference. Beauty and sadness exist is a constant state of raw flux. There is never too much of either because even in our darkest moments, there is an opportunity to seek beauty.

In my art, I strive to not only celebrate beauty, but also sadness. It may never appear is a literal sense, but by referencing past eras I focus on nostalgia and memory. Of times gone by, the fragility of the past and our memories, whether collective or personal – there is sadness in the ethereal and temporary. Sadness and impermanence go hand in hand, but within impermanence, there is undoubtedly much beauty. In fact, the impermanence makes the beauty even more so.

Sadness and Beauty | Melissa Katherine

A flower’s beauty is all the more celebrated or appreciated because of the impermanence. The temporary nature of this which we love causes sadness and this sadness in turn, when juxtaposed with the beauty of the beauty speaks to us on a deeper level.

 

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So you call yourself a vegan photographer?

Over four years ago I became vegan and shortly after I decided that my ethics had to flow entirely into my photography and business. I made a commitment to stop promoting products and practices that harm, abuse or violate the lives and liberties of animals, thus identifying as a vegan photographer/stylist and makeup artist and announcing that my business was a vegan and cruelty-free operation. It has sometimes meant that I have lost jobs because of it as well as limiting my scope for possible collaborations, but overall it has opened many doors, sparked thought-provoking conversations and created a way of doing business that sits well with my heart.

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Although some vegan photographers may use the term in a different way i.e. documentary activism, I feel it is just as valid to claim the label and promote awareness around such things within my industry, specifically fashion and portrait photography. But is there really any difference between my work and that of a non-vegan photographer. Perhaps not so much from the outside looking in, but from where I sit, there are fundamental differences and I feel I need to start sharing these in the hope that I will bring more understanding to veganism and the way in which it affects all facets of one’s life as well as inspire others to pursue a life with more heart.

 

One of the best things that happened was it gave me the motivation to start doing makeup professionally. Initially, between I struggled to find other vegan creatives that inspired me and that I could work with. As an artist, I felt quite confident and comfortable learning new skills and adding them to my repertoire. So, I slowly but surely started building a vegan makeup kit and now thoroughly enjoy expressing my creativity in this way. As a lover of colour, makeup is a great way to bring this element into a shoot. I have also been told that I love to pay attention to the details and makeup fits into this way of thinking perfectly. Doing makeup and hair during photo shoots also makes the entire process and experience even richer. I love getting to know each and everyone I photograph and doing makeup and hair in the styling preparation stage of a shoot is the most amazing way to do so. It allows me to think about the concept and make any changes on the fly depending on the wishes of my clients as well as how we are both feeling that day. It becomes a truly live and flowing collaborative process. I’m so passionate about this!

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Being a creative portrait photographer, who loves the whole process, means that styling the shoot is also affected by my vegan stance. I no longer use fur, feathers or leather in my sourcing or constructing of outfits, costumes and accessories.

Creative constraints actually fuel creativity! Faced with adversity, I definitely think outside the box a lot more. I have been forced to find new ways of making something or styling a shoot.

I also feel that my connection to nature and the seasons has been strengthened in the process. I have an affinity with flowers and they play a major role in my themes and inspiration.

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So what happens when you book me and you aren’t vegan? I regularly work with both vegans and non-vegans and let me tell you straight off the bat, I will never start any kind of nasty debate with you about why you aren’t vegan or how vegan you are compared to me. I believe that you must come to these decisions entirely on your own.

 

The process will be exactly the same except for a few things. I will ask that you leave certain items at home. These items include feather boas, real fur, leather coats, leather bondage items and anything that is obviously made from an animal. Once you arrive I will offer you a drink, if it’s tea or coffee, just don’t expect me to have dairy milk. We will chat about the concept and what to expect and then get started on hair and makeup. Many of the most exciting makeup brands and products on the market today are in fact vegan and cruelty-free. As I said before I love colours, so quality pigmented foundations, eyeshadows and lip colours are essential to me and the looks I want to achieve, specifically high fashion, alternative, pinup and vintage glamour styles.

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A few other things that would set me apart from other photographers might include knocking back work which included animal circuses, rodeos or zoos as locations. In the past would not have flinched at the thought of such a shoot, but as a vegan, I can’t promote such activities and would simply not want to include them in my art even as a backdrop. Some may say this is quite a hard line approach, but as artists, our job is to shape reality and inevitably create a better future, so whether we are photographing the atrocities of the world or leaving them out of our art our impact can be just as powerful – it just draws on different emotions. As a portrait photographer I aim to show beauty to the world, I create fantastical, cinematic realities that empower and inspire and I aim to do so without the harm and exploitation of our fellow earthlings.
I hope this shines a little light on what being a vegan photographer means to me. I also hope that it inspires you in some way to live a life that is more in line with your heart/truth each day. Don’t forget that small steps are still steps in the right direction.

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Love and light,

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