Written by: Dina Konovalov
The shoot of Spider Woman and her Prey has been long in the making. The inspiration sparked when I moved to a new studio location and was, once again, moved to create. Exploring the nooks and corners of the historic Windsmith Mill of Norwood, MA, my new creative home, I came across the space below the basement level that immediately caught my attention. The old pipes, broken windows, almost pre-historic metallic structures, chipped rock walls and floors that would sink if you stepped outside the poorly-placed wooden paths – a dwelling fit only for the flock of pigeons that definitely made their mark everywhere and called this place their home. In other words – true photographer’s dream. I knew right away that something special was to be created in this space and left with ideas flowing.
I thought of creatures that would inhabit such environment and the idea of a spider (one of my personal fears) came to mind. It had to be a beautiful but scary creature – a woman, of course, and she would share the space with her latest catch of the day – her prey. And so, the idea behind Spider Woman and her Prey was born. I love telling stories though the photos and engage the viewer and it was important to me to do the same with this shoot – I didn’t want to just put a pretty girl in a dress there, but wanted the idea to go deeper. Exploring the dark side has always been of interest to me and since I already picked a very dark place and the subject of my fears as inspiration, I wanted to also explore the genders and their roles in the viewer’s eyes. Most will always picture a woman to be the prey, but I wanted to make her powerful instead with a male model playing a more submissive part.
I shared the idea with was my long-time trusted friend and an amazing make-up and hair artist Noel McKinnon of Makeup2die4. We have collaborated on creative projects many times before and she was excited to be on-board. Noel suggested highlighting one or two strong features for the female model and we chose to go with eyebrows and bottom eyelashes while keeping the rest of the face desaturated. For her hair, she went for a messy-structured do to keep the face open. Noel has also applied light make-up on the male model to help him appear lifeless as well as some body paint to finalize the look.
The search for the right designer to collaborate with turned out to be the biggest challenge. We wanted the shoot to be a creative narrative and fashion forward with just a hint of S&M. After much searching and consideration I came across a perfect match – an amazing Tracy Belben of T*Racy designs. T*Racy is a Boston-based online accessory boutique that specializes in creating strong and unique pieces. When I reached out to her to help us create a garment worthy of our idea, she responded with a photo of a dress that was a match made in heaven. The dress was made out of metal chains that even had a spider web design on the back. For the shoot Tracy also prepared a headpiece and hand accessories with chains (web) stringing out.
We chose the beautiful Heather Doyle to be our Spider Woman. Heather has an amazing body that could showcase the dress and killer eyes that expressed the emotion needed to tell the story. It also helped that she was a pro who didn’t complain about working environment. For her prey we were seeking a male model and it was very important to find a character that was vulnerable and masculine at the same time. We decided to go with a newbie, Yaroslav Burdin. Yaroslav has never been in front of a camera before but had some acting experience necessary to play the part.
The shoot took place on a very gloomy May afternoon and the models were faced with challenges of sticking it out while shivering in their outfits. Enough can’t be said of the bravery and commitment Yaroslav had exhibited thought out the day as he laid on very cold and dirty surfaces in nothing but the undergarments. His ‘outfit’ consisted of a costume spider netting bought at the Halloween store and styled by Noel McKinnon.
I can’t stress how important it was for all right elements to come together during the shoot. Our team was a perfect match and everyone worked so hard in making the story come to life. We hope our viewers get lost, if only just for a moment, in our dark visual fairytale.
Photography: Dina Konovalov of Dina K Photography
Make-Up/Hair: Noel McKinnon of Makeup2die4
Wardrobe/Dress and accessories on female model: Tracy Belben of T*Racy
Male Model outfit:
Calvin Klein underwear and decorative web cloth.
Models: Heather Doyle and Yaroslav Burdin
Dress, Headpiece and hand accessories on female model: Tracy Belben of T*Racy
Male Model Wardrobe: Calvin Klein underwear and decorative web cloth