What happens when you combine fashion, sustainability, and female empowerment? Ask New York-based photographer Melinda DiMauro, who recently had the opportunity to photograph for lifestyle retailer Raven + Lily. The company has made it its mission to support at-risk women and female entrepreneurs, selling artisan-created fashion, accessories, and home furnishings. They reached out to Melinda to create the visuals for their Spring/Summer 2018 Lookbook, and with a series of past Raven + Lily projects under her belt, she was more than happy to sign on.
This year’s shoot took Melinda across the globe, capturing one collection in Sintra, Portugal, and another in Morocco. Although Raven + Lily handled most of the travel and location planning, Melinda still had plenty of coordinating to accomplish.
What was involved in preproduction for this shoot?
We started planning this last shoot about 4-5 months before the trip. It started with a basic overview of what we were shooting and possible locations. Raven + Lily handled all the booking of flights and hotels, aiming to find hotels/guest houses we could use as a location for shooting as well as sleeping. Once we confirmed dates and locations, we started looking into talent.
How was the process of casting the models yourself for this project?
I really love the process of finding the right models for the right project. Our two key shoot locations were in Essaouira, Morocco and Sintra, Portugal. Sintra is not too far from Lisbon, so I reached out to Elite Models in Lisbon with our shoot dates and budget. They sent us a package of possible models that would be available and we began to pour over who would be a good fit.
In the meantime, I also searched for possible models in Morocco. I had a really hard time finding a local girl that would fit the brand, so we decided it would be worth it to fly a model over from Lisbon since Elite had sent us so many options. Raven +Lily is a global brand so it was really important for their models to represent various ethnicities, but feel culturally relevant to where we were shooting. I spent tons of time looking through the models’ portfolio and also their Instagrams to get a feel for their personality and look. At the end of it all, I had a gut instinct on who would be the right pick. We really loved the models we ended up with.
What were the shoots like?
We went to Marrakesh first, to meet with Raven + Lily’s artisan partners and also to capture images to show the process of hand weaving and manufacturing. The company employs marginalized women at fair trade wages and I love being able to meet the women actually making their gorgeous products. It’s important to me that the photo shoot makes them feel honored and not exploited, so I try to take a little time to get to know them and their story.
After that, we traveled to Essaouira and had a few hours to scout and prep for our model shoot. I love travel days as well, because I’m able to explore and see the country. The desert landscape at sunset was stunning.
We did two long half days with the model to shoot e-commerce and lookbook photos. We wanted to maximize our daylight so we broke up the shoot times over the course of two days. In between, I also did stylized photos of their home goods collection. Soon we were flying to Lisbon and then to Sintra for our next leg of the production. We had one more shoot day of lookbook images. The city of Sintra is known for castles and its Moorish influences which so nicely contributed to the overall aesthetic we were going for.
What were some challenges you faced with this project?
Shooting in crowded public places can be really challenging so I have to keep my gear minimal so that I can work fast and not draw unnecessary attention to us. I feel like then we can move quickly and loosely, always looking for the next incredible back drop.
Any fun stories from shooting?
There were a lot of cats. Cats are everywhere on Essaouira and they tend to just wander in and out of public places. I had to always make sure none of the cute kitties were playing with lighting cables or knocking over stands! HA!
Satisfied with a job well done, Melinda has some time to start dreaming up images for her next big project.
See more of Melinda’s work on her website.