Redthreaded | Worth Gown in the Clocktower, Denver

Sometimes work really does just feel like play. As in, giddy, crazy fun, can’t-believe-I-get-to-do-this, PLAYTIME. Which is probably why it took so long for me to blog this session. This was too much fun to be considered work, wasn't it? Well regardless of where this falls on the work/play spectrum, I’m really proud of this session and it’s high time to share it here!

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It all started when Boulder-based seamstress and costume designer Cindy Settje, founder of the incredibly successful corset shop, Redthreaded, painstakingly recreated this fashion masterpiece by hand. Originally designed in the 1890s by the House of Worth, it is known as the Ironwork gown, and is legendary in design and historical costuming circles.

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I’ve known Cindy for a few years now, and it is my observation that this incredibly talented woman never stops creating. Ever. Watching her process, from deciding to take on this huge historic undertaking, to actually painstakingly recreating this sensational gown was extraordinary. She hand appliquéd every stitch of the black “ironwork” on the white fabric, every piece needing to ultimately line up perfectly. This was nothing short of a Herculean task. Her level of dedication, craftsmanship and the integrity she puts into every stitch inspires me to no end.

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I’ve been wanting to photograph a session in the Daniels & Fisher Clocktower here in Denver for years, and the pairing of this gown in this location could not possibly have been more perfect! Even in challenging backlight, this fabric soaked up light like a dream.

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SEE ALSO: my first collaboration with Redthreaded, with our dreamy Styled Corset Session (teaser images shown, right).

To learn more about the creator of this historical recreation Cynthia Settje, please visit Redthreaded.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Jennifer Koskinen is an award winning Denver based portrait & theatre production photographer. Comprehensive personal branding packages and couture fashion shoots are custom styled around each client’s specific needs, and sessions are designed to be enjoyable and empowering.

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Meet Catherine | Flowers, Grace & Tulle in the Denver Botanic Gardens

Everything about working with this bright, graceful, kind, insanely talented and beautiful young woman for her senior pictures in Denver was a dream!

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Catherine mentioned at her consultation that she wanted to photograph her session at the Denver Botanic Gardens. As you’ll quickly see, this was the perfect fit for her in every way.

As we discussed styling at her initial consultation, I mentioned that I’d had a vision for a while of a senior session in the gardens with a homemade tulle skirt. Not only did she love the idea, she and her mom jumped on it, hand making not one, but TWO gorgeous, feminine tulle skirts in different lengths and colors.

She looked like a goddess in the gardens.

I should mention here that the weather in Colorado in mid-summer, as anyone who has lived here can attest, is unpredictable, at best. For several weeks during this particular “monsoon season,” my photo sessions were on precarious footing nearly every day. My advice usually is to keep the session and let the weather be a part of the story (barring lightning and/or hail). The weather was iffy enough this particular afternoon that we nearly postponed while watching the intensity of passing storms on the radar. Thankfully (in part on account of Catherine’s new haircut looking fabulous that day), the spirit of adventure was alive in her and with her family (I love it when family members come to watch the senior picture experience -- and I happen to adore her whole family). 

A decision was made to go for it and make the best of whatever happened. From the moment we all arrived the weather convinced us we’d made the right call: the afternoon unfolded in the most PERFECT ways. Soft, filtered light, gentle breeze, moments of sunshine, lovely temperature -- and just a few fleeting raindrops which ended up being no challenge whatsoever.

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We had a dreamy session together and I just adore the ultimate collection of senior pictures she chose for her beautiful storytelling album.

Catherine, you are a gift to those of us who are lucky enough to know you (and those who get to listen to you play the piano).

I’m so ridiculously excited for your next chapter (and happy your mom will keep me up to date!!)

Love you guys!!

Oh and before I go... bunnies! So many bunnies!!

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NOW BOOKING SENIOR PORTRAIT SESSIONS FOR CLASS OF 2019! DON’T WAIT (had to turn away too many end of season clients last year and it broke my heart!)

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’m a fun-loving, Award Winning Denver high school senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out connection and personality in the eyes of my clients. I strive to do more than just take senior pictures for yearbook. Instead my focus is on creating an unforgettable experience. Together we are telling a part of your story with pictures. I collaborate with each of my clients to design an immersive and empowering portrait experience, custom tailored around his or her personality, style and interests. I’d love to tell a high school senior story about YOU. Let’s grab a coffee and chat about designing an amazing high school senior photo shoot for you!

Meet Isa | Colorful Senior Pictures in Denver Arts District

Love. This. Girl.

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What a blessing to get to photograph her high school senior session in Denver!

Isa's grounded approach to life is rooted in her fierce attitude towards overcoming challenge -- you may recognize her from our STRONG girls session following her dance injury and physical therapy. As long as I’ve known her, the attitude she chooses with which to approach life has always inspired me. And on top of it all she is absolutely multi-talented, she expresses strong, intelligent, compassionate and articulate thoughts in current issues... AND she makes me laugh.

When we were discussing locations for her senior portrait session and the art museum area came up, she asked if we could photograph inside the Clyfford Still Museum. Turns out that with special permission, we could! She picked a wardrobe that allowed for some movement inside the museum in her dresses to draw upon her dancer roots.

And so for Isa, a two part high school senior session was born in Denver's Arts District.

For the first hour we photographed Isa with the backdrop of paintings inside the museum.

Once we wrapped up inside, we headed out into the vibrant neighborhood which surrounds it, in Denver’s ever growing Arts District. Starting with a few photos with her adorable smiling puppy, Webster...

I LOVED her entire wardrobe!

Between the stylish and fashionable wardrobe choices and her vibrant, effervescent personality, we had a blast for the whole photo session. And we even had time for a few family photos (with the dog!) and a few extras just for fun with my photo assistant (and son!) who happens to also be Isa's buddy!

Congratulations to you, Isa on all of your impressive success so far... can't wait to see where you take life next!!

NOW BOOKING Senior Portrait Sessions for CLASS of 2019! DON’T WAIT (had to turn away too many end of season clients last year and it broke my heart!)

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’m a fun-loving, Award Winning Denver high school senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out connection and personality in the eyes of my clients. I strive to do more than just take senior pictures for yearbook. Instead my focus is on creating an unforgettable experience. Together we are telling a part of your story with pictures. I collaborate with each of my clients to design an immersive and empowering portrait experience, custom tailored around his or her personality, style and interests. I’d love to tell a high school senior story about YOU. Let’s grab a coffee and chat about designing an amazing high school senior photo shoot for you!

Meet Annika | Playground Garden Senior Portraits in Denver

Annika... one of my boy's first friends in 6th grade...

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Allow me to start by saying that I adore this young woman. I have adored her since knowing her as a precocious, hilarious and strong young middle schooler. She has always possessed a keen sense of comedic timing, immeasurable talent, and the kind of grounded, fiercely independent strength that you know will drive her to all kinds of interesting places in life. An actor, friend and beautiful young woman, she’s got it going on.

I had always pictured her wanting an edgy urban session so it was unexpected when we met for her consultation and she revealed that she wanted to do her senior session in the gardens at her old elementary school. She wanted to revisit who she was through the lens of who she is now. Being a senior is full of different kinds of nostalgia for different people, and what a wonderful opportunity senior photos are to explore where you’ve been as a diving board for jumping into the unknown.

And out of this very personal desire, a warm and fun photographic story was born as we discovered different sides of Annika’s personality amidst the sunflowers and summer light.

And then there's silly Annika... still so beautiful.

A few months ago when I was chatting with Annika about plans for what's next, she answered that she was “ready to be scared again.” I love that.

Here’s to that attitude of bravery and bold choices as the perfect approach to graduation. And life, really. Cheers to honoring where you’ve been and boldly writing new chapters into the unknown. What an exciting time to be a high school senior.

Annika… Gabe and I are thrilled to know you (and your family!)


NOW BOOKING Senior Portrait Sessions for CLASS of 2019! Session times are booking quickly so don't wait (sessions are first come first serve, currently booking summer and fall photoshoots).

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’m a fun-loving, Award Winning Denver high school senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out connection and personality in the eyes of my clients. I strive to do more than just take senior pictures for yearbook. Instead my focus is on creating an unforgettable experience. Together we are telling a part of your story with pictures. I collaborate with each of my clients to design an immersive and empowering portrait experience, custom tailored around his or her personality, style and interests. I’d love to tell a high school senior story about YOU. Let’s grab a coffee and chat about designing an amazing high school senior photo shoot for you!

Moving through Still | Dance Photography and the Paintings of Clyfford Still in Denver

The arts run deep in my family. 

Growing up, I thought it was really cool that my grandfather was an artist. I earned an Art & Art History major in college before becoming an architect and eventually a photographer. Within a few generations we have a concert pianist, an interior designer, a jewelry designer, painters, writers, architects, actors and a photographer. 

I've always felt most alive with a creative tool in my hand -- a pencil, a camera, even a computer (to write or design) or a paintbrush. Creative spaces of all kinds excite me -- museums, galleries, theaters, libraries and studios.

Artists and creators are my muses, my subjects and forever my inspiration. 

I mention all of this because several people asked both Valerie and I why we were doing this project. And the answer is quite simple: it was born in this space -- this love of creativity.

We just decided to make art. Art for Art's Sake.

And I mean really: Art combined with dance and photography… it sounds like a dreamy mix, doesn't it?

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My creative collaborator -- my "partner in art" -- for this project is my treasured friend Valerie Madonia, an accomplished dancer in the world of ballet (seriously accomplished -- check out her bio below).

I have known Valerie since our days of living in Telluride and have wanted to photograph her for years. When I first approached her I only knew that I wanted to photograph her, but the details were still murky in my head. I wanted to create striking images that involved her dance background and her graceful presence as an accomplished, poised and beautiful woman. 

Enter the Clyfford Still Museum. My background as an architect made me quick to fall in love with this unique space when it first opened in Denver. Huge abstract artworks on display in a building designed specifically to show this artist's paintings. The museum is impeccably detailed with beautiful proportions, overlapping spaces, strong architectural materials in natural earth tones, and architecturally designed to take advantage of Colorado's consistent natural light to illuminate the artwork.

When I learned we could photograph inside the museum (with special permits), I suspected I’d finally found the location for our first shoot. Valerie and I toured on one of her visits to Denver. We set it up with proper permits and got to work planning our photoshoot, still not altogether clear on an end goal -- other than to make art for the fun of it.


BEFORE I CONTINUE... A FEW WORDS ON ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM: If you're not familiar with the roots of abstract art, this genre of art is non-representational. Expand the photos below (from inside the Clyfford Still Museum) to see the evolution from more representational art to abstraction in both Clyfford Still's artwork, and in the larger context of art history.

In these demonstrations (which I photographed at the Clyfford Still Museum), you can see that while elements of abstract art are often derived originally from figures, landscapes and more traditional still life subjects, in their final form the compositions may be openly interpreted by those who experience the art. 

It is this idea of artistic interpretation that most excited me about photographing Valerie in this space.

I anticipated that her breadth of experience as a dancer and choreographer, along with her vision as an artist would all lend themselves to compelling choreographed movement in her reactions to the motion she felt in viewing Still's paintings. My own instincts on this were not wrong...

As I moved around the space with my camera, watching her move, I asked simply, "what do you see?" and directed very minimally, only reacting for compositional or framing purposes. Together we moved through the museum, creating and capturing, from painting to painting. My perspective kept switching from the physical space and relationships between gallery, painting and dancer, to the framed composition within a photograph.

During my years as an architectural photographer, this interplay between three dimensional design and two dimensional photography always excited me, but the opportunity to play with these parameters -- now with a moving dancer -- was creatively satisfying on a whole new level. 

My heart leapt right with Valerie's movements as I watched her improvised choreography transform the artwork before my eyes. Paintings came alive in ways I hadn't previously perceived as she danced with them. Sometimes in quiet contemplation.

Other times it was as if she leapt right into the compositions and became a part of the paintings themselves.

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In this block of creative, "art for art's sake" time we were transported into a world of imagination, color, movement and the beauty of dance. A world of where dance choreography meets improvisation. 

This is a world where three dimensional space can flatten into a framed composition in a celebration of the human body and art -- where photography allows something frozen in time to remain full of life. 

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After finishing this shoot, Valerie and I sat at a coffee shop and scrolled through the collection of images. Exhilarated and filled with satisfaction and inspiration, we realized this would most definitely be the first chapter in a larger dance photography project...

So stay tuned...


ABOUT VALERIE MADONIA (DANCER): Valerie Madonia began her dance training with Maris Battaglia at the American Academy of Ballet in Buffalo, NY and left home at the age of 14 to continued at the National Ballet School of Canada, graduating in 1979. She was a recipient of the prestigious Peter Dwyer Award for Dance Excellence. She danced professionally with the National Ballet of Canada 1979-1981 (under the direction of Alexander Grant), at American Ballet Theatre 1981-1986 (under Mikhail Baryshnikov) and at the Joffrey Ballet 1987- 1997 (under Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino).
 
Ms. Madonia began as a member of the corps de ballet eventually establishing herself as a leading ballerina with the Joffrey Ballet. She had the honor of dancing as a company member with Alonzo Kings Lines Ballet, Armitage Gone! Dance, Complexions Dance, Configuration Ballet and as a guest artist with Alaska Dance Theatre, Russian Ballet Theatre, Lemon Sponge Cake Contemporary Ballet, and at Le Gala des Etoiles numerous times in Montreal and Greece. She performed the role of the Princess in Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival in 2001 and with the New York Philharmonic in 2005, conducted by Alan Gilbert and accompanied by Pinkus Zuckerman. Madonia appeared in six PBS Dance in America Specials and is featured in four dance books, most prominently in, Classical Ballet Technique, by G.W. Warren. She performed the role of Madge in Colorado Ballet’s 2015 production of La Sylphide and as the Queen in it’s 2017 Swan Lake.
 
Her choreographic credits include the full length Ballets: Cinderella for Louisiana Delta Ballet, The Nutcracker, Polar Express and Appalachian Spring for Telluride Dance Academy and Ames Conservatory,  Shapeshift for Boulder Ballet in addition to new works for the NYC Dance Now Festival, Sunday Salons and Les Patineurs for Colorado Ballet’s Pre -professional Division, Solo works for professional dancers in  Colorado Ballet, YAGP competitions, Ballet West and Dayton Ballet. In 2016 she staged staged Gerald Arpino’s Light Rain Pas de Deux  for Colorado Ballet.

ABOUT JENNIFER (PHOTOGRAPHER): After a ten year career as an architect, Jennifer is currently an Award Winning, Denver based photographer, specializing in actor headshots and high school senior portraits. She is also an accomplished theatre and dance production photographer, having worked with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center Theatre Company and Denver School of the Arts. She specializes in creating a positive experience and helping clients find their value through photography, fostering a sense of connection in her work, and bringing out personality in her clients while celebrating THEIR work. Her published theatrical photography work has run all around the world, and has appeared in American Theatre Magazine, The New York Times, Playbill.com, Broadway World and the Denver Post, to name a few.

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FINALLY: A special thanks to the wonderful staff and curators at the Clyfford Still Museum for a lovely experience. I highly recommend a visit to this unique museum in the heart of Denver's growing arts district.

Photographers, please note that a photography permit is required in advance to photograph subjects in this space.

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"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

- Pablo Picasso