All images by Frank and Dame. Used with permission.
Photographers Saul Sheldrick and Jaimee Sutton make up a team called Frank + Dame: who states that they love taking quirky portraits. Both have different backgrounds that together work quite well. Jaimee is a makeup artist and a photographer while Saul is a technical super geek. Lots of their work is portraiure and boudoir work, but they also shoot weddings.
I found their work on EyeEm, and started to gain an appreciation for their combined mindset which balances the technical and the artistic.
Lots of their work is of the Suicide girls; which have their own according following in the photo industry. This just adds to their overall versatility.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
Jaimee: I guess it all started when I got a job in a photolab. I loved the concept of printing images and developing film. I loved colour correcting peoples’ images and seeing all the random and crazy stuff that came through photolabs before digital really hit it off. I headed of to University to study Psychology, the human mind really interested me and I wanted to learn more about it, but it just wasn’t for me. After my first year I differed my studies for a while to work full-time at Kodak Express in Brisbane. It was there that I bought my first DSLR, I was 18 years old, I had no idea what to do with my life so I decided to study photography at the Queensland College of Art. This degree made me open my eyes to different photographers and started to peak my interest in Art, which I had never really been exposed to. I learnt a lot about not only my camera and how to use it but also about myself. I think University for me was more of a self-exploration. Until I met Saul, I was feeling pretty uninspired with where I was going. He came along, sparking something in me again.
Saul: I was always super into photography, but never really had a decent camera until I turned 21. My parents got me a sweet Canon 400D twin lens kit, which I pretty much used in auto for the entire time until I met Jaimee. She taught me all I needed to know about apertures, shutter speeds and ISO’s and got me my first prime (the old nifty fifty) That’s where the love really began. After that we jumped right into the swing of things, shooting anything and everything, every chance we got.
Phoblographer: What made you want to get into portraiture?
Frank and Dame: I was at University, stagnant and not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Then Saul came along, eager to learn about photography and start up a business with me even though, at the time, we really had no idea what we were getting into. I taught him about the basics of photography. Then he started to get passionate about setting up shoots for us to do during the weekend. No joke, he would book in like 2-3 shoots for us in one weekend with different models and different locations. I really think this was when I started to realize that I loved photographing people. I always loved landscapes, but there is something about photographing a person and capturing their essence in a photo that just makes me so happy. So it was around this time that we were kicking around as JnS Photographics aka Jaimee + Saul, but we decided that we needed to separate our businesses (our brides probably didn’t want to see so many half naked ladies in their feed). That is how we came up with the idea that is; Frank + Dame. We honestly thought we just did it so we could have a bit of fun. It didn’t start as a business, more as an outlet for us to be creative. This led us down the path of boudoir, portraiture and Suicide Girls.
Phoblographer: You two are a multi-award winning make-up artist and photographer duo. Lots of the work that you folks do is of the Suicide Girls. How did you get into doing gigs like that and what made you want to do it?
Frank and Dame: This was all Saul!! After being on the site for almost a year, we were contacted by a girl called Emmameow Suicide to do a set with her. We really had no idea what we were doing, we just winged it, but it worked and we had a lot of fun. The set looked great and that’s where it all started for us. I love how shooting the sets made me feel, I love the girls reactions when they first see their images and really empowering our clients to make them feel so much more confident about themselves.
We really love Suicide Girls. We’ve made so many friends within the community who we shoot regularly. I think that the connection you get with people is so important to getting the results and you want to make a set the best it can be. I pride myself in being able to make girls feel comfortable with us.
Usually when we shoot we just chat about random stuff with the clients, helping them to relax and open up. I don’t think there is an exact science to this part though. I think if you’re just yourself and really relaxed the model will relax with you. Saul tends to look after the technical aspects, like setting up the lights and light modifiers and troubleshooting any issues with triggers/cameras. He is always their to make my life easier, which means I can focus on connecting with the client and not the equipment.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about where your inspiration comes from? Pinterest? Old Pinup magazines?
Frank and Dame: We like a diverse mixture of art forms for this one. We love looking at magazines with high end fashion and beautiful architecture. We also love going to art galleries and generally exploring to find new places that might get out creativity buzz going.
We usually find our creativity when we hire out amazing houses on Airbnb and when girls bring different props and outfits to shoot in. We just basically walk around the space with the girl and design our shoot around the best light and shoot in spaces that they really like. That way they are comfortable and the shoot will be special to them. So I would say our inspiration really comes from the people we shoot the most.
Phoblographer: Lots of your work has similar elements, but all the ideas are different. How do you go about ensuring that the ideas, locations and more are always fresh and individual based on the person that you’re photographing and for each shoot?
Frank and Dame: We try not to use the same spots. That is why we love Airbnb so much as you can hire out so many amazing venues with stunning natural light and beautiful designs. It makes everyone so much more excited about the shoot when we’ve booked a sweet venue that we often don’t shoot at.
The houses themselves are a work of art, I love being able to shoot in them and being able to experience and explore the space. It takes a long time to find and book places, as I am a huge researcher and want to find the best venue to suit the style of the shoot. Sometimes we find cool natural elements and spaces, which are lovely for shoots, but we like to change it up and work in as many diverse locations as possible.
We are also a part of regular Shootfests for SG, which we and a few other photographers run. We shoot a bunch of sets in 3 days at a stunning location, smashing out about 15 set’s each. Many girls then get the opportunity to get a bunch of sets done in one weekend maximizing the use of a designer location.. These are so much fun and I really get a kick out of shooting as a group. The entire experience is so rewarding and the people you get to meet is really the best part of it. It is tiring work but I love how each different girl brings something new to the table, which really keeps me inspired.
Phoblographer: What ways do you folks use to market your work? What’s it like networking with folks who want to shoot with you and the folks who obviously want/need to pay for your services?
Frank and Dame: The biggest way we market our work is through Instagram @frankndame, which has the biggest following of our social media pages. We find it’s the easiest way to find new models and clients. Especially now being able to Direct Message, they are able to ask us for booking info and they can see all of our work.
With Facebook, we find it’s best for organizing bigger group shoots so everyone can post their ideas etc. We have and use a FB page, but find that since FB brought in the paid advertising it just gets too expensive for us to reach everyone.
Nothing really beats the good old word of mouth though, no better advertising than a super happy customer.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear that you use.
Frank and Dame: Our main cameras we shoot on are the Nikon D750’s with a whole bunch of lenses. The main lenses we use are the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art; 50mm f1.4 Art and Nikon 85mm f1.8G. We also shoot with the Nikon 24-70mm and 70-200mm f2.8s.
We shoot most of the BTS and everyday stuff with a Sony A7MKII + Sony Sonnar T* 55mm f/1.8 ZA and Fuji X100T . Lighting wise, we try and stick with natural / reflected light as much as possible but when in our studio we use a combination of SB900’s, SB800’s and Nissan i40 flashes and modifiers.
Phoblographer: By browsing through your work, it honestly doesn’t seem like it’s about the gear at all. Instead, it’s about the interpersonal connection, sense of comfort and vision that you guys create–which is the sign of a great photographer. So to that end, what are the pre-shoot conversations and shoots like? Is there music involved to set the tone?
Frank and Dame: Most girls love music. We usually ask them what their favorite artist is or if they have a playlist they might want to play. But if not, Saul usually sorts out a good Spotify shoot playlist for us to listen to. I personally could shoot in silence and just have me chattering away with the model, but Saul hates awkward silences so music is a must if he is in the room for the shoot (he usually holds my reflector for me and provides the awkward jokes). With that being said, conversations at shoots are usually just me getting to know the model as we go along.
With newer clients who haven’t modeled before I take a slightly different approach, directing more and showing them shots of themselves along the way so we can work on improving their posing. It helps them learn how to move their body and see what does and doesn’t work for the set.
The hardest part is getting their facial expression relaxed but still fun and happy without being fake. I take a lot of photos of the girls in their outfit first, getting them super comfortable so that by the time the shoot rolls around – they are partially or fully naked – they tend to feel super comfortable and the entire set just feels right.
Phoblographer: What do you feel makes your images stand out from the rest of the pack?
Frank and Dame:This is a hard one. I have had to reflect on our work to try and explain this one properly. We can see that most of the time we get the best possible shots because of the relationships we have with our clients. First and foremost we try to be really relaxed and open when we shoot so that the subject, in turn becomes relaxed too. We think that is what sets us apart, when you have a deeper connection with your subject the images become real and not forced, resulting in genuine images; natural posing and relaxed faces.
Phoblographer: Lots of your work also has a big emphasis on the closeup, personal details. Why? Why are they important to the photosets and the stories that you’re trying to tell?
Frank and Dame:First and foremost we are documentary wedding photographers so we find that this is just a cross over from shooting so many weddings. We love to tell a story and the most interesting parts of the stories are usually the little details.
Phoblographer: How do you plan on improving your business in the next year?
Frank and Dame:We are looking at creating more of a studio space to allow more clients to visit, hold a few more boudoir marathons and Shootfests and step up our shooting game.