The Artistic Approach of a Professional Daydreamer – PART TWO

“I don’t dream at night, I dream all day; I dream for a living.” -Steven Spielberg


Yesterday Kenani shared the inspiration and vision for her Oasis and Bound Freedom senior shoots.  Be sure to check out her post to see how she begins her creative process.

The Process Simplified

The Oasis Dress:

1. I dyed the tulle underskirt of the wedding dress orange, yellow and browns to resemble the desert floor.

2. I dyed the dress in a gradient of teal (at the top) down to aquamarine (at the bottom) to symbolize water.

3. I made the contradictory corset and cuffs out of salvaged leather from the vests, jacket and skirt that I had obtained.

4. I cut strips of material from all types of old sheets, curtains, and fabrics, and dyed those that weren’t already blue or green to begin with. Then I attached the strips to dress. I braided some yarn I picked up from a garage sale and attached it as well. I loved how the different materials and yarn created this wonderful collection of textures, each purposefully selected and included.

5. Once the dress was ready I sealed it in an extra-large Space Bag, vacuumed it down to nothing, and packed it in my suitcase for the trip to Palm Springs.

6. When I got to Palm Springs I purchased white tulle from a local Jo-Ann Fabrics and attached it to the bottom of the dress. Now it was complete.


The Bound Freedom Dress:

1. I dyed white t-shirts in a mixture of coffee and black tea, then ran them through a rinse and spin cycle in my washer. After drying them I cut them into strips, looped them together and stretched them to form my rope.

2. I tied one end of the t-shirt rope to a cool old belt that I found in a free box at a garage sale (which was way too big so I had to punch holes in it) and attached the other end to a cross stitch frame thing. I then weaved the rope around and around to get the look I had envisioned. I basically did the same thing with the corset. After first creating it with the leather/faux leather salvaged from the vests, jacket and skirt, I then glued on the rope while winding it back and forth across the corset.

3. For the cuffs and the collar I purposefully added long t-shirt rope fringe to bring an element of movement into the image.


The Location

For the shoot the location and the time of day are as important as the dress. I knew I wanted this to be in the desert but where? What had special meaning? I needed a location that was strong enough to stand on its own and that also provided the mood and atmosphere necessary to support my vision. So my awesome husband/beloved light monkey set out to search the internet with my long list of requirements in hand. What he came back with was absolutely pivotal to the finished project.

Here is the YouTube video he found:

Our first day in Palm Springs was spent driving around the Salton Sea scouting for the perfect location. I found a fantastic place for my Oasis shoot on the west side of the sea. It was facing the direction of the sunset, which was very important to me. It had large wicked trenches that looked like God himself had reached down and drug his fingers through the earth. The orange colored ground was cracked, the sky was a lovely blue, and there was no protection from the wind that swept across the land. All of these things were part of my story, and I said a little prayer that this moment would be here when I returned the next day with my models.

We ended the day on the East shore of the Salton Sea at Bombay Beach – a sorrowful and deserted  place where the dreams and hopes of so many lay rotting and broken. Looking around this beach I knew that my “bound freedom” dress/shoot had found the rest of its story. I instantly fell in love with this beach for the history and feeling of despair that it offered.

Shooting It

The gear: All of these images were lit with an AlienBee 800, a 51″ Paul C. Buff PLM extreme silver (no diffusion panel), the Paul C. Buff vagabond mini (if you don’t have one go get one TODAY) and the Paul C. Buff Cyber Sync system. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II on a monopod, and these images were shot for the most part with a 15mm lens. I think I may have put on my 17-40mm L lens for a few, but I really was looking for the distortion and sunburst effect that the 15mm lens gives me.

The shoot: We started off at Bombay Beach, hoping that the sun would be high enough to get the shot I was looking for. The idea was to get this shot and then work our way down and around the Salton Sea, however with four models and hair/makeup/clothing changes required for client images that I had to get, it quickly became apparent we were not going to make it back for a meeting that my beloved light monkey was determined not to be late for. So, devastated that all this work had been for nothing, we headed back to the hotel.


On the way back we spotted a place very much like my original location – YES!! We made a u-turn and all jumped out of the van.  We had about 15 minutes to get the model in the dress; do her hair and makeup; set up the light; collect the lens and camera, model, light, and me in place; and wait for the sun to set and the wind to blow. My heart was pounding – this was it and I only had a few minutes left in which to do it. My model, Toni Marie, was excellent and needed little direction to deliver the look and feel I wanted. The end result of both dresses/ideas fulfilled my vision as if they had been pulled straight from my mind. The artistic fulfillment I feel when a project like this is completed is empowering. I feel validated as an artist, and for a moment I am completely content as if my soul has breathed a sigh of relief. Finally I can relax.  Then I lean back, stare into the distance and once again begin to daydream.

Model: Toni Marie Bentley

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. –C. S. Lewis 

A GINORMOUS thank you to all the amazing help and support I received from:

My husband and beloved light monkey: Paul Brandon.

Two of my BFFs – who are also awesome photographers and makeup artists – who assisted me and helped me come out on the other side of these shoots with at least a majority of my sanity: XOXO Shelli Fowler & Cherie Phelps.

My beautiful models Gabby Tuttle, Haley Bauer, Toni Marie Bentley and especially Clara Drinkwine, who is always ready to jump in and help with anything. I love you girls!


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8 Responses to The Artistic Approach of a Professional Daydreamer – PART TWO

  1. Shelli Renee March 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    Kenani, Your work is creative,innovating and I must say amazing! To see a concept that comes from a dream to reality as I watched you work so diligently on your creations. Thanks for giving us a moment inside of that creative mind of yours! You have inspired and motivated me like no other. Keep your head in the clouds and keep daydreaming! Thanks Shelli Renee

    • Kenani Brandon March 27, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

      Oh Shelli, I adore you, you have been so very supportive and wonderful. Everyone needs a friend like you! ♥

  2. sarah mcknight March 27, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Oh my lord, who would have known the girl who taught me to ride horses and be a rodeo queen would be this amazing! You took my senior pics 12 years ago, and they were so amazing, your work has turned into the unimaginable. I am so proud of you!!- Sarah McKnight

    • Kenani Brandon March 27, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

      Thank you so much Sarah! We have always had a lot of fun together! Lol, oh geez, seems like a life time ago…a little point and shoot camera and about 100 rolls of film, well at least we got it done:) So nice to hear from you! Look me up if you are ever in the Seattle area, I would love to get together♥

  3. Ambar Garcia March 28, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    Amazing photos! I love them.. Very nice work kenani… very awsome how u made the dresses for your photos..AMAZING!! 🙂

    • Kenani Brandon March 29, 2012 at 1:15 am #

      Thank you so much Ambar!

  4. Lee Paul April 5, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    Awesome Kenani, It is so fun to see what you are creating with your photography and art! I am so proud of you! Keep on dreamin’ my girl, love mom. P.S. Thanks Paul for being there, you are such a terrific husband in all you do!

  5. Jai Macklin October 4, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    You are inspirational. A motivated day dreamer!

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