An Enchanted Portrait Party

Chapter 5: The Enchanted Forest

In which all of the party elements finally come together

We've been so inspired by our favorite photographers this month that we wanted to create an experience we imagine we'd find on one of their photo shoots.  And for something as involved as creating a stage set, altering costumes, scouring for props and bringing in a make-up artist, we knew we'd want to invite people to join in the fun.  And so, the idea for an Enchanted Portrait Party was born. If you've been reading our posts this week, you know that the process of pulling this off has been anything but "enchanting."  But, spoiler alert, it DID all come together in the end, and if you ever want to do something similar, just skip over our mistakes!

Ok, so first we figured we'd have about 14 people milling around in elaborate costumes, waiting for their turn under the lights and acting as an audience for fellow party goers.  Luckily, Karen quickly scrapped that idea, realizing that she had limited time to actually edit all of the portraits.  Then we decided to nix the passed hors d'oeuvres because so much attention would be on taking the photos rather than the usual party activities such as imbibing in alcohol, playing charades and wearing lampshades on our heads.  So now, it was really becoming more of a photo shoot than a party.  But hey, we ended up ordering pizza, so in my book that still counts as a party.

Second, the setting.  As mentioned earlier, we imagined a black and white forest where we'd be able to capture people running or hiding throughout the woods.   We spent some time collecting about half a dozen large branches and painting them white.  We figured we'd string the 200 dragonflies (remember those?) from our trees.  All of this got me thinking about fairy tales for my portrait.  Using Photoshop, Karen could add an image of a wolf, chasing me.  Karen also wanted her portrait to be a wide shot where she'd be letting a bird fly free from a cage. She herself was going to channel a raven, giving the impression that one bird had the power to rescue another.  We probably spent several hours over the course of a week staring at the same couple of rooms in our homes.  We kept thinking that the walls would miraculously expand, offering up the exact space needed to install a woodland scene, in which we could set up the wide shot both of us envisioned.

Alas, the wide shot was simply not going to happen.  I wasn't going to be "running" from anything and Karen wouldn't be letting anything fly free. 

Once we finally accepted our spatial limitations, we decided on using a space in Karen's home that could hold four trees and no dragonflies.  If you're ever in need of a large quantity of paper insects, please call us.  

With our new, reduced space came the task of rethinking what our characters would be doing.  I had originally envisioned a heroine lost in the woods, but I didn't want to specifically play out a well known story such as Red Riding Hood. To mix it up, I decided to look for a light pink ball gown, something Cinderella might have worn.  Not sure when you were last looking for a cheap ball gown to fit a grown woman but I ended up in the prom section of JCPenny's.  I was so embarrassed to be trying on prom dresses at my age that when I went to pay for one I made a point of asking the cashier if my "daughter" could return this if she didn't like it!  In the end, I returned it because I found a much better (age appropriate) choice at Nordstrom Rack.  It was an evening gown rather than a full-on Cinderella dress but I was pretty happy with it.  

And now, since I wouldn't be running from any wolves, we decided to go more with a woman who has be lost in the woods for several years after she left the ball (imagine Cinderella never finding her pumpkin carriage after losing her glass slipper).  She's never found her way out of the woods but has built a magical globe out of moss in the hopes that she can eventually find her way home.  (Yes.  She is crazy).  

For Karen's revised scene, she still wanted to look raven-esque and Greg did a fantastic job on her make-up.  Since there would be no birds flying out of her cage, she decided to set the butterflies free.  Symbolically, the dark and earthly raven contrasts with the light and ephemeral butterflies, representing an aesthetic that Karen is drawn to repeatedly.  The things she finds most beautiful in the world have a dark side, not in a sinister way, but in a way that shows the full spectrum of what it means to be human.  Ravens are often portrayed as the harbingers of doom but in this case, the butterflies fully trust the raven and freely interact with her.   Karen's photos are truly beautiful, in way that we may not have been caught in the scene we had originally envisioned.  


Betty was also channelling the energy of a bird, this time, a peacock.  You may have seen her facial transformation in our step-by-step make-up post.  It all started with the jacket she chose to wear.  That iridescent, deep turquoise collar is just stunning and reminded us of that glorious bird.  But being that we wanted to find something that seemed unexpected for each character, we asked Betty to think of luring someone into the woods with mesmerizing peacock feathers and the promise of a juicy apple.  We imagined that the story continued with the bird turning into a wicked witch once the forest had grown thick and there was no where for her prey to escape.  

Laura had a great time with her character and had all of us rolling on the floor during her shoot. Her daughter suggested she pretend to be a chef or a painter or something and Laura remembered she had an unfinished painting she had been working on years ago.  Instead of being a painter, though, we thought she should interact with the painting as if the person in it were real.  And then, the slightly drunk, very proper but desperate socialite character came to life.  Laura perfectly acted out a relationship with "Harold," starting with a contrived "date" she had planned in the park.  Harold was at times flirtatious, humorous and even jealous, but always offering Laura much-needed attention as her suitor.  By the time her character was fully three-sheets-to-the-wind, Laura was even introducing Harold as her fiancee to the imaginary people walking by.  Maybe you had to be there but it was HILARIOUS.

So, in the end, our PORTRAIT-PARTY-TURNED-PHOTO-SHOOT was totally worth the effort and we all had a great time.  And boy, do we have the pictures to prove it! Or at least Karen and I think it was worth the effort.  When Karen was dragging 8 foot trees into her living room and painting them the day her water heater burst requiring Jason to explain his crazy wife to the plumber, we weren't so sure.  But by the evening of the event, Jason had withdrawn the divorce papers and got himself up on a ladder to take hundreds of photos.  Whew.  So if you decide to replicate any or all of our party, please know, there's no holding back on this one, folks!  You gotta go ALL OUT.   

xoxo Zandra (with Karen June's stamp of approval)