Ingrid Alice: Creative High End Fashion Portraiture

All images by Ingrid Alice. Used with permission.

Ingrid Alice is a Creative Director by trade, but is also smitten for photography. Her experiences help her to mold specific visions in her images and she is a photographer that firmly believes that light is everything.

I found her work on Behance, and after going through her Lost in Yonkers project as well as various others, I found her work to be unique, captivating, and refreshing. Fashion photography for many years had a big emphasis on being a large scale production with the exception of some of the more street style jobs that we see today. Like the old school of wedding photography, there were lots of chefs at the pot working to ensure that the best of the best was created and nothing more.

But she has an even more interesting story and thought process.

For full creative credits for the attached images please see: www.ingridalice.co.za Images taken from editorials including: The Enchanted Forrest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Queen Of Cakes, Lost In Yonkers, Great Expectations, The Empress Arcana, The Orient, Twilight.

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Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

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Ingrid: Photography happened to me, more than I happened to photography.

I am a Creative Director by trade. After spending 15 years on various international projects, I was lucky enough to be working on a magazine project that required a number of shoots and editorials. I found myself in the midst of an amazing production shoot – and thought that this looked like the most fun anyone could have at work!

I decided it was an excellent time in my career to move away from the office – and out into the forest and up into the trees. Basically I like climbing ladders, am a complete nerd, as I LOVE technology and think photography is a mystical, magical craft – that is filled with enchantment.

So that’s how my journey started, and I’m so excited to see where it’s taking me.

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into fashion photography and portraiture?

Ingrid: I originally wanted to shoot food and interiors. I took a part time course at a local photography school, where an amazing lecturer seemed to think I should give fashion a try. I thought he was mad. My first assignment was on Testino and LaChapelle. And that was it. I was obsessed. I felt like I had discovered a chest filled with hidden treasure. The idea that you could create these extraordinary images and fantasy worlds just caught hold of me like a firefly in the moonlight.

I love everything about photography! The creative process (which starts usually around 3am in the morning with an idea in my head), to the set, working with my amazing team or discovering and sourcing locations right to the very end of the final image development is just the most extraordinary journey. It is honestly what gets my heart pumping double time and blood running through my veins.

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I am at my happiest at the end of an 18 hour day, in the middle of a deserted mansion or enchanted forest sitting around drinking tea and talking about all the adventures we have had during the day – and deciding who is going to be up at 3am for the next day’s shoot prep!

Phoblographer: Your work looks like very high production stuff but also incorporates lot of elements of beauty–not just with the models but the scenes themselves. What typically inspires you to create the scenes that you do? Some of it looks like fairy tales and myths.

Ingrid: Books, films, stories, myths, legends, art, poetry, graphic novels. I want to create images and stories, that make people stop and take pause for a moment, “what was she thinking” or what is her story. I like creating beautiful images filled with whimsy and mystery. The romance of a life lived in a far off time and place. An escape from the mundane.

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I am so inspired by the work of Jack Vettriano, you can feel the tension and underlying narratives in the air of his paintings, and the extraordinary visual story telling of Tim Burton, Sofia Coppola, Michel Gondry, Richard Linklater and Baz Luhrmann. The colour… the energy in their stories leaves a whisper on your soul for eternity. They make you question the world and the art of story telling. What is possible, another creative ideology to consider.

My team is small. As you mentioned my projects look like large production shoots – however we keep it focused and simple. Just the best people collaborating together. The bulk of the creative work is done in concept stage, and the actual shoot itself would typically be my Stylist, MAU (which is one person), an assistant – more to carry equipment if we are on location, as I set up my own lighting designs, and a project manager, who makes sure that no one rips a dress or falls off a mountain. I work as the Creative Director and Photographer, and the model of course :)!

I shoot very fast, 15 min a scene at any given time – as I know exactly what I am looking for in a shot.

Phoblographer: Do you give specific thought to the use of color in your work? Some photographers feel like color can be a distraction but with you there is a trend for it to be very simple and therefore keeping the palette down.

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Ingrid: I try my best to do this. In my head I always think I should be shooting white scenes with unsaturated colours – however as hard as I try, when the final images come out, they are visually full of crazy colour. This has given me sleepless nights. Should I be doing this… or following that trend.

I have however, always promised myself to be true to what I love. I have to create images that speak to me. If I do not love them, why would anyone else? Paramount as a creative to live your creative truth.

You have to find your tribe. YOUR people. Clients and brands that resonate with your work and style will find you. For me colour is the drama, it is life, it fills my images with whimsy and enchantment.

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Perhaps my white phase is still coming, but for now I create the scene I see in my head. I set up the lighting design to shoot what I see and most importantly, what I feel.

Phoblographer: What about lighting? How does your use of it help you to deliver a specific creative vision that you’ve got in mind?

Ingrid: Are you kidding! It changes everything!! As I mentioned before, I am a tech geek, and LOVE, LOVE lighting. I think one of my skills is mixing natural and artificial light, which is why I love location work the most. I use Profoto B1’s which are amazing for taking up mountains or lighting old haunted mansions.

They are light and easy to carry into obscure places. I am literally a full on lighting nerd. In fact it was quite a challenge for me to shoot natural for a while, as from the start of my photography career I have been playing with lights.

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Phoblographer: When you work with models, is there usually storyboarding involved? What’s the communication process like?

Ingrid: We start with a concept and an idea. I generally do not show these to the models – this will be a source that myself and the stylist and make-up / hair artists will work with – and will include colour palettes and mood. There is always a strong key colour thread in the story.

I focus on a story telling process with the model, and work on building a solid connection with them. We will think about the space, the clothes, and what ultimately we are trying to achieve within the image. Emotion, romance and a little whimsy is what I am usually looking for.

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My shoots are filled with light heartedness and flow. We have a no drama rule on set. Good energy is the secret to get the best out of your team. This combined with a happy space to work in and ensuring your models are looked after, well fed with healthy meals, and at ease will ultimately translate into amazing images.

I am completely overwhelmed by the work my team put into a shoot. It is emotionally draining, with long hours, and they are just there being amazing.

I am most mindful in this process of the team effort that is involved in these images. You are only as good as the creatives you collaborate with. I make it my mission to work with the best people. I seek my creative tribe that resonates with my design vision.

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Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear that you use. How does it help you to achieve your creative vision.

Ingrid: I shoot Nikon. I love the D810 cameras for the range they give. I also like that they are light, I don’t like heavy gear. I am a prime girl. I LOVE my 85mm f/1.4 and have lots of fun shooting with the 135mm f2 DC. I tend to shoot wide open. I also LOVE my 70-200mm f/2.8.

My lights are the Profoto’s B1’s. Modifiers, everything from beauty dishes, to hard reflectors and soft boxes. On Location I shoot with two B1’s and reflectors and in studio for beauty work I use on average 2-4 B1’s with various other light shaping tools, such as large poly boards.

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I am currently experimenting with film. Paolo Roversi and Sarah Moon have been huge influences on my work throughout my creative career.

Phoblographer: Do you feel it’s more important for a photographer to market their ability to render a creative vision or to be able to shoot? How do you go about doing one or the other?

Ingrid: I am a creative photographer, as my roots are as a creative director. The concept is always where I begin my process and narrative.

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When I am shooting for a brand or client, I will start off from the creative story telling launch point and build the campaign around the idea. Photography is the tool I use to tell my stories. A little like an artist would use paint to render his images.

I shoot the stories I see in my head, the images that want to manifest themselves onto a page. They mostly have a life, voice and shape of their own.

Technically you have to have the skills to work your gear properly. It is really difficult to get the most out of a concept if you are relying entirely on your assistants to do your lighting designs.

However this is my work flow process . You have to do what feels right for you. In my opinion the creative industry can take itself a bit to seriously. We tend to pigeonhole our crafts. Afraid of cross pollination between design disciplines.

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We forget that what we do is amazing. There should not be rules or the ‘right way to do things’, or the wrong way… , just constant experimentation with all the various elements of design and photography we can get our sticky fingers into!

Ultimately, I think whatever your process is – you just have to put your best work out there. Find your tribe and the rest will fall into place. The harder you work, the luckier you get 🙂 There is simply no such thing in my work space as being over prepared for a shoot. Regardless of test, experimentation or client shoot. I approach every project with the same amount of prep work and energy.

Phoblographer: How do you plan on stepping up your work in the next year?

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Ingrid: I feel I am at the beginning of my creative photography journey, so perhaps I will discover the colour white yet ☺!!

For me though it’s simply about continuing to work in this amazing craft I am so passionate about. Work with cool creatives. Keep shooting as much as I can!

Every shoot I work on, every creative I collaborate with, I feel my work improves. My skill gets sharper and our ideas bigger. We discover something new, try something different.

I am now collaborating with South African designers to conceptualize the images we are working on. For example, my amazing Stylist Karin Orzel arranged with one of South Africa’s top designers Arwen Swan to create a dress for a chef we are branding for client as the Queen of Cakes.

I also really want to work with film. Going back to the myth and magic of the dawn of photography.

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