Susie was sat in the window against the flowery backdrop of Leaf and upon seeing me walking in, she shot me a beaming smile that lit up the lobby. And this, should you not know her, epitomises Susie.
We'd met a couple of times and her reputation proceeded her on each occasion; she was a well-known, much respected and liked interiors and lifestyle blogger in Manchester. After she applied to a collaboration opportunity I opened up in the Manchester blogging community, I picked her amongst those that applied because I felt she really valued the creative process and the energy committed to shooting.
Now, after a successful period of crafting an engaged following that she lovingly nurtured and enjoyed, Susie was turning her hand to writing. She was no stranger to putting words down but now she had annexed a new channel of her work - writing a fiction novel.
We sat and had coffee, catching up on my latest exhibition and her new project, running through a brief plotline and some important elements. As soon as she started talking, I knew what I wanted to create. I wanted to present her to the world, to show that creative, passionate and capable feeling I got in my stomach. I had this real hankering to bring nature into things, using flora to both take over and pull-in her environment - this was important not only to her novel but I felt to Susie, seemingly to love plants as much I do (but being much more successful in keeping them alive).
Some five weeks later I was squatting down on her driveway connected to my MacBook shooting a slightly nervous Susie on the stairs of her hallway. I'd dreamt of this shot - ivy, florals and vines pouring down her staircase with her presented amongst it.
We'd planned for four sets; one in her hallway, another in her dining room and the remaining two in the garden. I'd already scouted the locations - firstly through videos Susie had kindly sent me (a bit of a walking tour, complete with commentary) and then finally when I'd arrived on the day of the shoot, sniffing around the place like a dormouse, discovering the right spots to shoot from.
With the first stairway shot complete, we move to the dining room and get some at the table there along with some in the high-backed chair that sits in the corner. I really love how the chair shots come out, they feel authentic for an author. Once we've got shots there and thoroughly discussed Eurovision, we move into the garden (taking the chair with us) and create a scene at the back of her garden. There's lots of adjustments here but we get what we need and move to the front of the garden, picking a corner seat and going for some more relaxed vibes. I shoot at a wider depth of field here to pull in the backgrounds and the sun provides a challenge in post-production as I get the levels corrected throughout the shot.
I was passionate about this shoot. I had a vision in my mind of what I wanted to achieve and there in lies a problem; the perfectionist in me can mean I've never wholly satisfied with how shots come out but I can report that wasn't the case here. I'm not by any means saying I don't look at them and see adjustments - I don't think that'd ever go away - but it felt like there was a true connection between what I'd first imagined and the end result. I felt like something had been achieved.
Karen, a friend of Susie's and an interior design blogger (who I've already shot with) joined us for a brew and to help out. She was on hand to jump in and restyle shots (one of the benefits of shooting tethered), bringing in or removing plants, nudging me when something didn't look quite right.
Working with Susie was superb and what really came through was her professionalism, authenticity and utter appreciation of my time and efforts. It's crucial to me to retain my value even in collaborations and working with Susie was absolutely the right choice, knowing she was putting in the same blood, sweat and tears to pull everything together.
Thanks go to Susie, Karen and The Plant Shop in Stockport for their help with the flora.