Let me tell ya, Little Mary almost did us in! Unruly animals, unpredictable weather, and not only did we have to create Christmas in south Texas in September, we also needed to transport about 200 years back in time. Piece of cake!
Let’s start with the setting. On the one hand, it was really nice to have everyone all together and essentially be staying on set. On the other hand, those cabins are OLD. Of course, that’s exactly why we picked them – and they were perfect for the scene – but they were not without their inconveniences.
“Oh man, they were stuffy!” laughed Mitchell. “They just didn’t have any insulation and it was muggy and humid and hot, and well, you can just imagine what that would be like in an old wooden cabin!”
And Mitchell wasn’t the only one who had a little bit to say about them.
“Well, it sure feels like we are in the 1800s!” laughed our super-stylist Lisa Martensen. “I’m over here doing makeup in the dark! I may have to start all over once the sun comes up, she could look like a clown! No, I’m kidding, but I can tell you that I can’t read any of my makeup labels in here.”
So that was inside, which was paradise compared to what was going on outside.
“Anytime we are having to fake a season, it’s tough,” Cheryl said. “And snow is hands down the hardest. Some of it is fluff we lay down for extra coverage, and then it’s this ultra-icky soapy, slimy snow that we make in a giant trashcan and then we have to dump it out and manipulate to look as believable as possible. It’s frustrating to the point of funny, honestly. I’m not sure we emphasize enough the amount of laughing we do on a shoot – it’s what keeps us sane.”
Well, “sane” may be a stretch. At one point, Jack put himself in the trash can – listen, sometimes we seek respite wherever we can find it! As if the premise alone (ya know, fake winter in the 1800s) wasn’t already setting us up for a struggle, Mother Nature sure wasn’t doing us any favors.
“It rained on and off all afternoon,” Mitchell recalled. “Which, as a photographer, or as a model even, is surprisingly worse than one solid downpour. You get a downpour for an hour or so, and everyone gets a nap, a snack, a break. Intermittent sprinkles are just enough to make you have to get the camera inside and ruin the models’ hair. For like 5 mins. And then you’re back out for 20 mins. And then you’re back in. Maddening. You know what else doesn’t take kindly to rain? Fake snow.”
And it wasn’t just the weather, our handsome horse – who was integral to the catalog because Mary’s horse, Old Billy, had a strong presence in the collection – was rather uninterested in our efforts.
“Animals and babies, man,” Mitchell laughed. “If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, nothing is guaranteed to give a photographer more trouble than animals and babies. And in a cruel twist of fate, they take the best photos when they do cooperate.”
“Ok, but that’s actually pretty poetic,” Cheryl interjected. “Because in the letters we found of Little Granny’s, her horse Old Billy was a bit of a cantankerous creature himself. Maybe that horse was just getting into character!”
Oh, and on a photoshoot, innovation is the name of the game. We’re always pinning and clipping and tucking and tying, making something out of nothing, and making one thing into something else. Like Kaylin’s fur hat.
“Oh lord, the hat!” Hedy exclaimed. “Here’s the deal, we made that out of a sample of that fur we took off of something else, and I’ll be danged if that Dr. Zhivago-looking thing didn’t become the most sought-after thing in the whole catalog! We were just trying to really sell the fact that it was supposed to be winter so we pinned it around her head, it’s not even a real hat, didn’t have a top, basically a headband. But the minute that Cowboys & Indians ad hit, the phones started ringing wanting to know why it wasn’t online. I guess we need to get in the fur hat business!”
Shenanigans aside, there was a sense of sentimentality to this shoot.
“It was the final of our Scrapbooks collections,” Cheryl said. “Which, that whole thing was kind of emotional for me, starting with Eloise. I really dug deep into our roots and it had me thinking a lot about family, and our ancestry, and in turn, our legacy. And at one point, I was sitting in the cabin surrounded with all those framed family photos from generations ago, and it was just a surreal moment of how far we’ve come and all the people who paved the path for us to even exist. It was pretty moving.”
Once again, it was all worth it. And as always, it takes a village! We owe a huge thank you to the Seguin Conservation Society for allowing us access to the Campbell-Hoermann Log Cabin and another to the Seguin Police Department for monitoring our site overnight so that we didn’t have to do a complete tear-down every night. This shoot and catalog would not have been possible without their participation.
And, we had an unexpected added bonus that also felt extra rewarding.
“I can say this for sure,” Audrey added. “We all feel a whole heck of a lot better and less exhausted at the end of a shoot now that we’re not each carrying around an extra forty or fifty pounds!”
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