The Keeper of Starlight - Part 2

Model: Nadja Stephanie Jensen Assistant: Tenna Vinther Olesen Photographer/Design: Sabrina Nielsen

In my previous entry, I talked about how I had decided to extend this narrative after seeing Nadja covered in glitter on the first Starlight shoot. These photos are the result thereof.

After the first shoot, it was just a matter of finding a date to do this second. We shot this in the middle of September.

I found a spot near my parents' summer cottage, where the grass was wonderfully long, unkept and very lush and green. It turned out, it was also riddled with hogweeds. So we made a point to stay clear of those ;)

I knew I had to use a ladder to get that third shot, so for the three of us to do the shoot logistically, it had to be nearby the cottage. We also had to bring two foldable foam mattresses and a huge amount of flowers, so combined with all of the other stuff, we had to make two trips in my mom's car.

A while before the shoot, I approached Nadja about the idea I had for the first shot. I wanted to create a photo where she was seemingly falling through space and time. And that maybe we could try setting it up, so that she was actually falling backwards onto mattresses for the shot, so it would look authentic. She was onboard for sure. That's why we brought along the two foldable foam mattresses. We kept them folded and put them next to each other, so Nadja was essentially landing on three layers of foam as you can see in the video below.

We did a practice run before dressing Nadja in the costume, because there was so much to work out about the shot, which I didn't want to have further complicated by the huge dress and wig. We all had a go at falling on the mattresses - from a small stepladder and just from standing on the ground. It seems like such an easy thing to do: Just fall backwards, and you know you'll get a soft landing, but once you're on the ladder, it seemed like such a long way down. It was quite daunting for some reason. So I applauded Nadja for doing it over and over and over and over... Countless times until we got the right shot. It took a while, because as you can imagine, the costume had to be adjusted after each fall - a situation in which a fabulous assistant is priceless.

Luckily, for Nadja, for the second part of this shoot, she had to lie down in the soft grass and was able to rest a bit while I arranged the flowers around her and adorned her with glitter. And then I gave her the very helpful instruction: "Look dead in different ways" and climbed on to the ladder. I looked through the camera and what I saw took my breath away.

At this point in the story, The Keeper of Starlight has been caught by evil creatures and had her soul stolen from her. As she dies, she falls through time and space to our world and as she takes her last breath, the magic within her, leaves her body to return to the stars from whence it came.

The bright white dress against the lush green grass, this character on her deathbed, everything felt so real. I aim to create images that give the illusion of the viewer looking in from outside, catching glimpses of a larger story, which is also why I often instruction my models to have very little direct eye contact with the camera. Somehow this effect was just further enhanced by sitting atop the ladder. I felt like I had stumbled upon this scene in the forest and melancholy clung to the air around me as I witnessed the final moments of the life of this ethereal being.

I think that this particular image, the last image, has resided in my mind for years, not always as this specific character of course, but it's been there and finally it's been released. It feels amazing to have it properly carried into reality at last.

And here's the video from behind the scenes on the shoot:

The Tale of the Keeper of Starlight

Now I sit here on the other side of what has been one of my biggest undertakings so far and I'm filled with joy by result and bursting with hope and eagerness to jump further into this realm. As I write this, I'm in the process of putting the last final touches on the next set of photos for this series and prepping to start creating costumes for the next three characters.

A year ago, I was gingerly immersing myself in this project, filled with so much worry and so many doubts in myself, and now I find it blossoming within me, coursing through my veins and invading my every thought. I'm no longer afraid to face this. I feel like a veil has been lifted and the story is revealing itself to me bit by bit.

I wanted to do something for my precious model, Nadja, so I had a one of a kind book printed for her with all the photos from the shoots we've done this year. It's first time I've printed my photos in such a format and it gives me life to turn the pages and see all of our work in a real life hardcopy.

You know, the first shoot we did together this year was only her third shoot ever. I'm amazed at how quickly she's evolved and it's been so inspiring to be part of her journey. Below on the left, you can see two shots from Nadja's first photo shoot ever and on the right, two shots from our recent shoots. It's so fun to set it up like that and see how far Nadja's come and how much my own style's evolved.

Here's to many more amazing shoots and epic times in the new year :)

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© Sabrina Nielsen Photography