New England fashion and beauty photographer

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The Chai Lai experience – Help feed the elephants

Imagine thatched roof mountain bungalows perched atop a gentle rolling hill amongst foggy mountains in the northern Thailand province of Chiang Mai. You wake up to take a heated open-air shower in your bungalow, while hearing the symphony of jungle fauna coming to life. You walk outside on the balcony because you hear some rustling in the bushes. You realize that you have somebody joining you for breakfast… and he wants all the bananas. Your breakfast companion is Nam Phet, an adult elephant. This may sound like a mythical destination, but The Chai Lai Orchid is an actual place. It may seem like the world’s most Instagram-able place – and it may actually be that too – but the core and soul of Chai Lai is what makes it a beautiful organization. The Chai Lai Orchid is an eco-friendly organization which rescues elephants that have been abused in tourist shows or other organizations. It offers the opportunity to interact with elephants in an ethical, natural way while learning about them at the same time. Chai Lai Orchid also partners with Daughters Rising Thailand, whose mission is to rescue women from neighboring countries and parts of Thailand where they are at risk of being sex trafficked. Chai Lai Orchid serves as a safe house for these individuals, where at the same time, they learn business-related life skills that will help them at Chai Lai and beyond.

The images and video were captured in 2019 when I spent 4 days there. As I am typing this in April 2020, the world is in the throes of the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. As almost all travel has been shut down, it is serving a hard hit to the elephant tourism industry of Thailand. The money that would be coming in from visiting guests has been eliminated; therefore, the funds for feeding elephants has gone away. I hope that someday you have the opportunity, just as I did, to visit and experience Chai Lai, but I also hope that if you have the means that you will consider donating to this organization in their time of unprecedented need. The link is below to donate. Thank you all for visiting this page!

LINK TO DONATE https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/savechailaiorchid/daughtersrisinginc

Iceland

I rarely use the term “epic” to describe something anymore. Iceland, however, is going to be an exception. I had seen the other-wordly imagery coming from photographers that had visited Iceland, so I went there with high expectations. Those expectations were surpassed.  I spent 8 days traveling along the the Southern coast of Iceland in an SUV.  I chose to go in the late Spring time (mid-May).  I found this to be beneficial from a photography and exploring standpoint that I had 20 hours of daylight to work with every day.  And even during the night, there was still available light that could be used for long-exposure captures.  I would often literally wear myself out during the day taking pictures, get to my AirBnb around 11, only to go back out and start taking pictures at midnight.  Beware… Iceland might have the same effect on you!  The pictures and video that you see here are how I saw and experienced the land of fire and ice.  

Feel free to reach out to me through my website contact page if you have any questions about traveling to Iceland! 

Facts and traveler tips for photographers:

  • 1 day in Reykjavik is all you need.  Get out and see the rest of Iceland.
  • Money – When you’re traveling around Iceland, the best bet is to have a credit card, debit card and cash.  Gas stations are sometimes far between.  Sometimes there will not be an attendant at the gas station, and the pumps will only accept debit cards.  This is one of the most important tips in this list.  Have your debit card with you! 
  • Rent an SUV.  There are going to be times when you’ll want to spend more time in places than what you would think.  Having your own means of travel is the most ideal.
  • Gas averaged the equivalent of $7.50 USD/gallon.  It’s Iceland.  It is what it is… and it’s still worth it. 
  • There are great deals on both hotels.com and AirBnb.  Sometimes they are the same.  There are some that have breakfast included, and that can help cut down on your daily expenses.  I found rates to be very reasonable.  I could find great deals between the $80-$140 range.  In comparison to other expenses, this was reasonable.
  • Food costs are going to run high.  Food in Iceland wasn’t the most memorable part of the trip either… sorry, Iceland!  A fish stew (one of their nationally known dishes) will run about $25 USD.  A burger and a beer will be about $30.  Prices in convenience stores and gas stations were more reasonable.  If you’re somewhat strategic about it, you can manage the costs probably better than I did. 
  • You are going to want to bring a tripod for sure. 
  • Rain gear for your camera will come in handy as well.  Getting near the waterfalls will prove challenging in terms of keeping the water droplets off your lens. 
  • A neutral density filter will be useful for allowing longer exposure times. 
  • Drone photography – if you’re looking to get into that area of photography, then a trip to Iceland can be the perfect opportunity.  The vantage points and things that you can capture with a drone are amazing. 

Marissa and Dave

 

“A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys and keys that fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; We can be loved for who we are and not who we are pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person, we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soulmate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction.  When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we found the right person. Our soulmate is the one who makes life come to life.”

‘Bridge Across Forever’ by Richard Bach

 

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Cuba Medio Libre

Cuba Medio Libre (half-free Cuba)…  it’s a spin on the expression and drink name that serves as a pun, a paradox and a true statement all at the same time.  It’s also the best way that I can describe the country in 3 words.  Cuba is in a state of limbo.  It has one foot in the past and one foot in the present.  The relationship with the US has taken steps forward and steps backward.  Cuba is 90 miles away from the tip of Florida, and a world away in terms of culture.  I think people in the US have a tendency to create assumptions of a country based upon what they’ve seen in the media, the type of government that a country has, pop culture, etc.  But I challenge anyone to go to Cuba and see if those assumptions are not constantly warped as you dig into the seeming endless layers of culture, identity and history that this country will throw at you. Cuba is challenging and perplexing, but it is also invigorating.  An area that I see this is by the way that one can experience history in Cuba.  In the United States, we view history on a linear basis.  Decades are clearly defined by their style, architecture, cars, etc.  In Cuba, history is seemingly circular.  One can experience different eras all at the same time.  You can be walking down the Malecón, viewing the dusty eroded facades of 19th century buildings juxtaposed with 16th century Spanish forts while hearing the buzz from taxis, which are cars from the 50s and 60s, sometimes decked out in black lights and blaring reggaeton.  It’s a lot to see.  It’s a lot to hear.  It’s a lot to absorb.  It’s an assault on the senses, and also an assault on your sense of the world.

Despite the political climate, Cuba is also a very welcoming country.  I felt safer here than any foreign country that I’ve traveled to.  The challenges with technology and communication are real.  However, I felt that also added to the experience of Cuba.  There is a sense of interdependence that a traveler will feel there after a couple of days.  Challenges are best overcome by communication and building relationships.  I found myself in some very unlikely circumstances, but also found support in the most unlikely of places.  Those were seemingly difficult challenges, which turned into experiences… which taught me a lot about a the people of Cuba.  I will never forget them.

I want to thank Alejandro Peñalver and Cubamodela modeling agency for collaborating with me and providing the talent for the photoshoots.  I want to thank Nayvis Fernandez, Carla Guiardinú Reyes, Gina Martínez and Brenda Estrada Enríquez for allowing me to showcase your beauty and talent in the streets of Havana.  I also want to thank Havana designer, Jose Luis, for collaborating with me on the shoot with Nayvis.

Part of my goal for this trip was to network and lay the foundation to create the opportunity that other photographers can experience shooting models and fashion in Cuba the way that I did.  Photographers who are interested in possibly participating in a fashion photography workshop in Havana later this year or early 2018, please reach out to me through email via my website at www.josheskridge.com

Cuba survival guide

A couple of days before hopping on a flight to Cuba from Miami, Trump made the announcement that he would be scaling back the progress with opening relations and easing travel restrictions that had started with the Obama administration.  At the time of writing this, there has not been any legislation or policies defined as to the exact limitations that are going to be in place.  So needless to say, it is tenuous at this point.  The focus of Trump is that he wants to eliminate individual tourist travel, and he wants to prohibit the patronage of US citizens with companies that are owned by the Cuban government (e.g. large hotels).  Companies and airlines have begun scaling back their options and frequency of travel to Cuba.  If you travel to Cuba, it has to be one of the 12 acceptable reasons for travel.  I’m pasting a link to the website on American Airline below that lists those reasons.  I booked my flight through American Airlines.  When you book, you will have to declare your reason for travel.  A travel counselor will call you before your trip; mine called about a week before.  There is no need to buy a visa until you get to the airport in Miami.  At the Miami airport, they have a special check-in station for Cuba, where you can purchase your visa for $100.  I recommend getting there at least 2 hours before your scheduled departure time.

https://www.aa.com/i18n/plan-travel/destinations/cuba.jsp?anchorLocation=DirectURL&title=cuba

Money – If you are a US citizen, you have to carry cash with you.  I contacted my bank before my trip, and they assured me that I would be able to use my debit card to access my checking account while in Cuba.  This was not the case at all, so please do not make the same mistake I did.  You will not be able to use any type of credit card or debit card if you’re a US citizen and you have a US bank.  Money transfer services, such as Western Union, are also challenging.  A US citizen cannot send money to another US citizen in Cuba, and even sending money to a Cuban citizen is challenging.  I suggest estimating the amount that you will need, and plan on worst-case scenario situations.  I always wear a money belt when I travel in foreign countries, where I keep my passport and money.  Do not keep your money all in one place, and do not carry it all on you at one time, unless you need to.  I would suggest making sure that you always have plenty of small bills on you.  It can be challenging, for example, when you need a taxi ride, as they will often say that they do not have change for your bill, which may or may not be the case.

Cell phones – It’s best to use Cuba as an opportunity to disconnect.  I have Sprint, and even with their “international plan,” I ended up incurring charges of almost $200 in 1 day.  When I found that out, I told them to cut my line.  I went to a Cuban cell provider and purchased a Cuban line and cheap cell phone for about $80.  This was necessary for me because I had to communicate with several people while in Cuba to arrange photo shoots.  However, if it not necessary for you to communicate with people in Cuba by phone, then simply contact your cell provider beforehand and see how much it will be for an international package or just limit yourself to using the wifi hotspots and minimal texting.  Also, I recommend downloading a Cuba travel guide app for your phone prior to arriving in Cuba.  You will want one that you can use offline.  I tried downloading one while I was in Cuba and was not able to due to restrictions.

Internet – Let me start by saying that the internet is not free in Cuba.  Internet access is restricted to certain wifi hotspots in Havana, usually parks and hotels.  You will need to purchase a card from ETESCA.  That can be from several licensed stores or bodegas in Havana.  It has also become a popular business for people at the wifi spots to sell cards, for a profit obviously.  The cost of getting connected will run you about $2-$3 USD per hour.  My suggestion would be to go to Hotel Florida in Old Havana and purchase a card in the shop, then have a nice coffee while surfing the web.  Below is a useful guide to the current wifi situation in Havana.

https://insightcuba.com/blog/2017/03/05/havanas-wifi-hotspots-and-getting-online-cuba

Where to stay – I highly suggest using AirBnb in Cuba.  It can be a great way to have an authentic experience, and the hosts are amazing at providing valuable information that you’ll need during your trip.  The main challenge that I found is that I was not able to book AirBnb through the AirBnb app while in Cuba.  Therefore, you will need to have your whole trip booked before you arrive or have another means of booking it directly while in Cuba.

I want to thank my AirBnb hosts, Lidia and Fidel, for not only being welcoming hosts, but for being my guardian angels in Cuba.  The link to their AirBnb is below.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9173931?wl_source=list&wl_id=219923559&role=wishlist_owner&adults=1&children=0&infants=0

I also want to thank my 2nd AirBnb host, Eduardo, for having an amazing place in Old Havana and providing so much help and answering many questions during my stay.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g147271-d2436002-Reviews-Suite_Habana-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Province_Cuba.html

Havana texture pack

Photographers are welcome to download and use the textures in the Dropbox folder below.  I only ask that you share my blog post if you do download them.

http://bit.ly/2v0FN22

 

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Morocco

My 2-week trek through Morocco in 2015 was a rich cultural experience where I got to see the various geographies and people of the country.  Morocco is a layered tapestry of history and cultures that have influenced the country over centuries, which include the Berbers, the Arabians and the Spanish.  There is something majestic about Morocco that draws its visitors in with a sense of enchantment and hospitality.  I started in Marrakesh and made a circle around the country, visiting Casablanca, Fez, Merzouga and the Sahara desert, and finished full-circle back in Marrakesh.

Enjoy the images and feel free to post any Morocco images or stories you may have!

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Amy and Drew

 

This is the story of a fairy tale wedding, caught on March 11th of 2016.  I could not have asked for a better couple or location to capture.  I don’t shoot many weddings, but the ones that I do I always view as unique and special.  I’m lucky to have couples that give me the leeway to capture their day in my own way.  Special thanks for Gary Barragan for backing me up as 2nd shooter.

Congrats to Amy and Drew and may you have a life full of happiness in each other’s comfort.

Message from Amy and Drew:

Drew and I are truly blown away with what Josh and Gary did with our wedding day. Talking to Josh beforehand about the feel I had envisioned was so easy… Because that’s WHY I picked Josh. I wanted our wedding to be art. An expression of how it feels to be around me and Drew: our personalities, our style, but most importantly our love for each other and the commitment we made on that day. One particular shot is truly beautiful in so many ways. Josh and Gary captured the true act of love in a picture of Ezekiel’s hands giving Drew the rings before the vows. This picture means more than a thousand words. Our wedding day was a day full of so much fun, creativity, gratitude, joy, family, and friends. It was very small and intimate, and with your all’s help, it really was a fairy tale. Thank you for your love and support as we embark on our new journey. Josh, you and Gary outdid yourselves. #teamshark Hair- Ana Catalina Perez, Dress made by- Lauren Woods

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Horses at Dusk

 

I had just finished up a fashion shoot outside of Lexington.  It was just after sunset and I was cruising through the rolling hills admiring the scenery and landscapes, feeling grateful to be taking in such beauty after a successful shoot.  I had just topped a hill, and entered into a great patch of light which perfectly lit some beautiful creatures on the side of the road.  Kentucky is horse country; and while I had taken some images of horses before, there was something special about the setting here.  The light at dusk gave it an ethereal feel, and filled in every detail on their majestic bodies.  I knew that I had to turn around and least capture a couple of images.  What happened was moving enough that I started a personal project that would capture horses at this time of day throughout the year.   I called it Horses at Dusk.  Not only was it the lighting on the horses, but it was also the interaction that I had with them.  They were always communicating something with their body movement and seeming expressions.  These are magnificent creatures with complex personalities.  Some of those personalities are captured here.  I wanted to capture everything, the horses, the lighting, the mood, the small things that are easily recognized by somebody that works with horses, but new to somebody like me.

For the image editing, I wanted something that was raw and simplistic, but something that would match the lighting by capturing all the detail of the lighting.  I developed some custom settings that would give it dark undertones to match the mood of the lighting.  Since doing this project, I’ve used those same settings for several fashion images.

I did several shoots in the summer of 2015, and intended to capture horses during each season.  In March of 2016, I relocated to Hartford, CT.  Perhaps, I’ll have the opportunity to “finish” this project in the future.  For now, let’s just call it part 1.

I want to give special thanks to Emma and Le Tilghman for allowing me to run rampant with a camera with their horses.  Most of the images below came from that session.

Farewell, Kentucky…. I will see you again soon.

Cheers!

Josh

 

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10 things models do that I love

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It was roughly 6 years ago when I started photographing models.  I lived in Atlanta at the time, and I started out as many portrait photographers started out…. I shot my friends, neighbors, my girlfriend at the time, etc.  I had no portfolio, nor did I know what I was doing.  However, that was also the exciting part.  I was charting new territory for myself, and I was able to interact with people in the process.  Interacting with people is one of the things that keeps me going.  It’s one of the great benefits of photography; it’s something that you can include others in… you can create great things as part of a team, and then you can share it with others.

As a photographer that specializes in photographing people, the crucial component, obviously, is the model that I’m shooting.  6 years ago, I was shooting my friends… fast forward 6 years, and I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with hundreds of models, all with unique looks, talents and personalities.  I’ve worked with a broad spectrum of skill level, from no experience to those signed with top agencies, such as Wilhelmina and Next.  I wanted to write a blog post to serve as a source of direction.  This is not meant as an exposé for those that didn’t do these things, nor is this directed towards any specific person.  This is information based upon my experience.  I’m using a lot of positive examples, with some examples of what not to do intermingled.  Models that do the positive things, are the kind of models that I want to work with.

Here we go…

 

1 – They know how to communicate.

This is where it all begins.  The whole process starts with somebody reaching out to somebody.  Sometimes the model and I know each other, or we know of each other.  Sometimes we don’t.  But that first step of communication is crucial, and it’s a first impression that will set the flow of everything that follows.  The best communication examples I’ve seen were professional and courteous.  If the model did not know me, then they introduced themselves.  In the age of social media informalities, I know that this is a bygone expectation.  But it’s a good first impression.  It’s good to hear how they noticed my work, or if they are mutual friends with somebody.  This establishes a connection.  It’s also good to hear what they are interested in doing.  What kind of work are they looking to do?  Is it something that would fit my portfolio needs or be something that I’m capable of doing?  If you’re a model looking to work with a photographer, I think it’s better to start with this formal message.  I often see models leaving comments on photographers’ Facebook and Instagram images, saying something like “Would love to work with you!”  That in itself is not a bad thing.  But follow that up with a direct message.  You’re going to be taken more seriously if you do.

Another area where communication comes into play is with comfort levels.  There should be clear communication and expectations established before the shoot as to what the look and outcome of the shoot is going to be.  When a model knows how to communicate well, they’ll feel comfortable expressing any concerns or hesitations with the intended outcome.  They should keep in mind, especially for trade shoots, that the photographer and probably others involved are putting time and effort into something that hopefully all of them can feel good about.  The worst scenario is when there is communication and everything seems fine during a shoot, then when it gets time to post an image, there is concern about who may see it and who may be offended, envious, etc.  This is something that should have been discussed beforehand.  To be honest, it’s not the photographer’s problem or the makeup artist’s problem who on the model’s friend list may be offended by what they see.  If the work is tastefully done, that is what should matter.  It all goes back to clear communication and expectations.  When people put a lot of time, effort and talent into something that they cannot share, and expected to be able to share, then that is an issue.  That is why it is important for the model to know what their boundaries are and to communicate them clearly up front.

2 – They are punctual

I can’t stress how important this is.  It is so basic and fundamental to success in everything, let alone modeling.  If a model is on time, it shows that they are prepared, professional, engaged, etc.  When they are late, it sends a message that they are none of the things that I listed.  It also implies that they value their time more than yours.  So when they show up late, it has a psychological effect on all those involved, and the shoot gets off to the wrong start.  Take steps to prevent this. Don’t estimate the trip time based upon perfect circumstances.  Plan for setbacks, plan for traffic, etc.   Make punctuality a priority.  Make it a habit.  And when you cannot arrive on time, clearly communicate.

3 – They know their bodies and they are comfortable with it.  

This one may seem vague and hard to define.  So many psychological factors come into play here.  One of those is confidence.  While the confidence can be boosted or diminished by the photographer, the model should come into the shoot “ready to rock it,” basically.  It’s easy to tell when somebody is a fan of the camera, and they want to work to get a great image.  On the flipside, if a photographer is spending time getting a model past all their insecurities, then less time is available to actually get great images.  The photographer should make it a comfortable environment and flow for the model, provide feedback where they can, etc.  This builds positive momentum when the model feels and knows that she is doing well.  That in turn makes me feel better about what I’m doing.  It’s all reciprocal.  It all starts with a baseline, and that baseline is higher when the model is confident about themselves when they walk in the door.

4 – They have a personality

This may seem harsh at first glance.  But my point is this… I think that shoots should be fun, and that means having an creative environment with open communication.  I love working with models that enjoy the process of a shoot, and are able to have fun with it and still be able to snap into “model mode” when necessary.  If there’s no personality, it’s kind of like doing a whole shoot without music.  It seems longer.  It seems mechanical.  And images themselves are much more powerful when they show personality.  If I’m getting a grasp of a model’s personality during the shoot, then I have a better chance of knowing how to bring it out in an image.

5 – They promote what we created

The best models that I’ve worked with do this.  I think that it takes a little bit of maturity.  It also takes a little bit of marketing savvy to realize how this can actually help the model out.  It’s realizing that the process is about more than just them.  They understand that there are others, potentially many others, that are contributing to the final outcome.  They also understand that promotion is a two-way street.  Photoshoots are a great way to cross-promote each others’ work.  When I shoot with a new model, I want others to take notice.  If I had a good experience with that model, I will work to promote them to others.  If I’m helping build their success, then that is rewarding to me in and of itself.

6 – They give credit to the team

This is pretty simple, and goes along with number 5.  But I appreciate when models spell out who did what in the credits when they post an image to social media.  I do the same on any social media post.  It’s just plain courtesy, because it’s more than just about me.  If I see an Instagram or Facebook feed or album with a ton of professional images, and no credits given to the people that helped create those images, that is something that makes me pass on considering a model for a shoot.

7 – They have a passion for modeling

It’s hard to be great at anything if you don’t have a passion for it.  I want to work with the best that I can, and passion plays a big role in that.  Models who have passion for what they do will realize that being a model requires work on a continual basis outside of a shoot.  This means taking care of themselves physically.  Yes, the fashion industry has a rather narrow mold of what a “fashion model” should look like.  I’ll disregard that as I please.  A model does have to be in great shape.  This is one of the aspects of being a model.  It takes work, and that means doing the things required to stay in great shape.  The other part of this is continually developing oneself as a model.  I like it when I see them doing shoots with other photographers, appearing in publications, etc.  This shows that they are actively involved in the industry on a consistent basis.  I also like to see a model developing in terms of poses and expressions in order to get more captivating images.  The more they have the opportunity to practice those things, the better they will become.

8 – They have a portfolio or are building one

A good model will always have a portfolio of their work available.  That portfolio should be the best examples of what they are capable of as a model.  This is the same for a photographer.  If I have a potential client or a model that I’m reaching out to, I don’t say, “yeah… just scroll through my Instagram feed, and you can see what I’m all about.”  This would be lazy and unprofessional and a waste of time for the person that I was communicating with.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens to me frequently as a photographer receiving messages from models.  They are often asking for TF (trade work), yet do not have a portfolio put together.  Coincidently, the majority of my paid work is doing exactly that… putting together model portfolios.  If a model is just starting out, I would highly suggest investing in one or two shoots with experienced photographers that will be able to provide a variety of looks for their portfolio.  If a model starts out with strong work, they will capture the attention of others that would be willing to use them for portfolio work or for paid gigs.  That momentum will build as they gain exposure and experience…. and a portfolio.

9 – They don’t re-edit the images and they upload the high-quality images

I appreciate when models understand this.  They know or have an idea of the amount of work that I put into the editing process.  I keep open communication with the people that I work with.  And I’m also open to ideas, suggestions, etc for the editing.  However, if I spend time editing a photo to make sure that the colors are right and the mood of the shot is right, the reaction I’ll have to seeing an Instagram filter being put over it will not be good.  Most photographers that I’ve talked to feel the same way about that.

The other part of this topic is uploading the files when models post to social media.  I will usually provide the model with the files that are formatted for social media uploads.  Most models do this, and there is no issue.  What shouldn’t happen is the model taking screenshots with their iPad or iPhone and then uploading that.  This deteriorates the quality of the image and is a bad representation of the work.

10 – They are selective with who they work with

While I would expect models to work with different photographers and build up their experience, at the same time, it is important for models to be able to differentiate between good work and bad work.  “Good work” is inherently subjective, but models should have some idea of what is quality work that they can use for their portfolio and what will further their modeling career.  If you’re a model and you have photographers reaching out to you about doing test shoots, and you are unsure about their quality of work, you should seek out somebody that you trust in the industry to provide a 2nd opinion.  At the end of the day, who you work with represents you, and that can be in a positive or negative light.

 

I hope that the list above is helpful in some way or another.  They are exclusively from my perspective, and not intended to represent an industry standard.  However, I am confident that those things will help a model further his or her career.  If you’re a model, photographer, makeup artist, hairstylist or anybody in the creative industry, feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or Instagram.  I’d love to connect with you!

 

Appearing in the image above (Louisa Kleinert, Laura Sioux Kirkpatrick and Pam Jean of The Beauty Patrol)