Portland-based Molly Strohl considers herself a “motion-obsessed” photographer and she’s dedicated her career to producing captivating cinemagraphs, a hybrid medium that combines photography and video. These looped images have become increasingly popular with brands looking to refresh their visual identity with subtle moving imagery.
Due to her experience with this type of motion work, Molly was approached by Lillian Hardy, an art director based in Portland, about working on a project for NY-based boutique Shop Sounds. The client wanted to highlight their body oils in a new way and utilize the images to promote their products on their website.
Lillian approached me about working together on some new imagery for her friend’s store, Shop Sounds, based out of Brooklyn, NY.
Molly collaborated with Lillian and Ester Kislin, the shop’s owner, to get a feel for the tone they wanted to achieve with the new imagery. Ester also provided them with some samples of the body oils for reference so that each one could be highlighted according to its specific aroma.
We sampled the product to get a feel for what each scent evoked, and found ourselves transported into a mystical dream world.
Scents play an important role in our sense of place, and Molly found several locations in the Pacific Northwest that evoked a feel of otherworldliness. While the customers wouldn’t be able to smell the oils from the digital platform, the breezy fields and trickling waterfalls would help illustrate its natural origins.
We spent one day along the Columbia River Gorge jumping from the Oregon side to the Washington side, and another shooting on Sauvie Island. The Pacific Northwest landscape rarely disappoints, and I loved finding pockets of beauty that took my breath away.
Lillian intentionally sought to cast a variety of people from different backgrounds and age groups. In launching Shop Sound’s new brand identity, she worked with Molly to ensure they used diverse talent and produced an inclusive visual identity that could speak to their audience no matter their age, race, or gender.
She cast the talent herself, and each person brought distinct energy to the set. Some were bright and energetic, others were quiet and reflective.
In the still imagery, Molly wanted to showcase movement by capturing the intimate feel of “dancing on one’s own.” She directed the models to move in a way that wasn’t just performative but would also enable them to feel comfortable in their skin.
It was so much fun capturing everyone connecting and interacting with the product.
To add a tactile sensation to the images, Molly shot moving imagery to show the product and models immersed in rejuvenating waters. She located a beautiful waterfall nestled in the dense woods that only added to the dream world she sought to create. Despite the cold temperatures of late spring in Oregon, the models dove into the waters several times so that Molly could produce these earthy and sensual images.
The waterfall location was my favorite, the light filtered through the trees and made the whole area absolutely glow.
Through skillful planning and dedication, Molly’s two-women crew produced a series that touches upon our visual, aromatic, and tactical senses. Her talent and enthusiasm for this type of work is evident in the truly mesmerizing images produced.
I had so much fun at every stage of making them, from directing the shot to creating the finished product in post. Cinemagraphs with people in the frame are always extra challenging, but when it works it is so satisfying. Everyone’s reaction to them was an absolute reward.