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!

denver-fashion-editorial-redthreaded-photographer-merritt-portrait-studio.jpg

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.

denver-fashion-editorial-photographer.jpg

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.

denver-fashion-editorial-photographer.jpg

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.

redthreaded-corset-photography-merritt-portrait-studio-denver.jpg

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.

denver-worth-gown-redthreaded-photographer-merritt-portrait-studio.jpg

Meet Isa | Colorful Senior Pictures in Denver Arts District

Love. This. Girl.

denver-high-school-senior-pictures-merritt-portrait-studio.jpg

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!

Moving through Still | Dance Photography and the Paintings of Clifford 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?

dance-photographer-denver-madonia-koskinen.jpg

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.

denver-dance-photography-jennifer-koskinen.jpg
08-denver-dance-photography-art-triptych-merritt-photo.jpg
denver-dance-photography-art-koskinen.jpg
09-denver-dance-photographer-art-triptych-koskinen.jpg
dance-photographer-museum-koskinen.jpg
denver-dance-photography-art-triptych-koskinen.jpg
dance-photographer-museum-jennifer-koskinen.jpg

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. 

denver-dance-photographer-paintings-triptych-koskinen.jpg

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.

10-denver-dance-photography-art-triptych.jpg
Madonia-Clyfford_Still-Koskinen.jpg

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.

Valerie_Madonia-Clyfford_Still-Jennifer_Merritt_Koskinen.jpg

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

- Pablo Picasso

Oops We Did it Again | 3rd Annual Silly Blossom Shoot

Ok so yes... there’s something about these blooms in springtime that I find completely irresistible. There's a melancholy to their fleeting beauty. Their wet, pink scent. The way they filter light. Perhaps living in the mountains for those 13 springs, where the world is nothing but mud brown and rushing water and no green until late May makes these technicolor trees I find in Denver, particularly vibrant to my eyes. I think of Doctor Suess as the hues buoy my winter mood.

Whatever it is, I'm almost grateful their time is short so that we are urged to stop and appreciate. AND have an excuse to do something silly in their midst. To create something joyful in the name of art.

01-denver-flower-portraits-cherry-blossoms-Merritt-Photo.jpg

A few words on the random nature of this different kind of session. This particular series came to be quite by accident. I was taking a women’s portrait class three years ago and wanted to practice my posing and directing. My available subject? My then 16 year old son. It just so happened that the trees were in bloom and we were forecast to get hit with a winter storm which I suspected would freeze the flowers. I had a hunch my boy's sense of humor might find this idea amusing, so grabbed some fabric from my backdrop collection, promised him a pizza, and into the flowering trees we ventured.

The teasers from that first session went silly viral and a springtime tradition was born.  

And so here you go... the third installment of our silly blossom with fabric series!

Always gotta let the boy be himself, too. Perhaps you can discern which poses are all his?

09-denver-portraits-blossoms-Merritt-Studio.jpg

If you’re curious, here are our old silly blossom posts:

YEAR ONE

and

YEAR TWO.

Before we left these trees, as is also tradition, Gabe and I traded camera positions and he got a few shots of me, too... so... yeah... that's me!!

Later this summer my boy will be college bound. I'm already anticipating flying out to Savannah (where he'll be going for his BFA in Performing Arts at SCAD!) for next year’s installment. From what I see in photos, the trees out there are spectacular. I'm quite excited!

There are a few flowers left to bloom this spring -- want to do a blossom session? Drop me a line and we may still be able to squeeze in a happy, joyful flowering session with you!

---

Oh... and last but not least, I've included one final parting photograph that takes me back to my landscape & flower photographer days, back when I lived in Telluride and chased sunsets and great light all across the San Juan Mountains.

That light at the end of the day in behind these spring flowering trees, even right here in the heart of Denver, is truly extraordinary. 

Cheers!


 This photograph is available in various print sizes (Mother's Day is coming right up!) through my   Fine Art Photo Gallery  .  Navigate to: Art Prints & Landscapes.

This photograph is available in various print sizes (Mother's Day is coming right up!) through my Fine Art Photo Gallery.  Navigate to: Art Prints & Landscapes.

Art for Heart's Sake

Today, I got to make ART.

For the sake of art. In the spirit of collaboration and creativity.

merritt-portrait-studio-photographer-dance.jpg

Even better, I got to make art ... in a museum ... with a treasured co-conspirator in the arts.

My muse was my gorgeous, extraordinarily talented friend Valerie. A life-long dancer with unparalleled grace in her movement through life. Someone who shares the calling to create art with her life's work... and sometimes purely for the sake of art.

We got to make art that was inspired by art. Giant, abstract expressionist art came to life in a whole new way before us as Valerie danced.

We made art inspired by the “life-lines” that run vertically through so many of Clyfford Still’s vibrant paintings. Inspired by the movement we found in his colorful canvases and the sumptuous light in this special space, a museum designed specifically to house this one artist’s prolific body of work.

Downloading the photos tonight brought me intense happiness (I may or may not have shed a tear) -- watching what we had created come to life image by image on my monitor. What a liberating experience it is to create art for the sake of seeing, for capturing a moment, feeling depth of color and composition with no agenda outside of discovery, and possibly a desire to share (if anything ends up being worth sharing). The act of sharing would be like icing on the cake. For what it’s worth, after today, I'm so excited to share what we found in there that I'm here with a sneak peek, something I hardly EVER do.

 SNEAK PEEK: this is a low quality iphone photo of my monitor, highlighting a few unedited images as they downloaded from my camera tonight. Final Images are yet to come... watch this space!

SNEAK PEEK: this is a low quality iphone photo of my monitor, highlighting a few unedited images as they downloaded from my camera tonight. Final Images are yet to come... watch this space!

My heart is full. And I'm left with a strong emotion that, especially given the uncertainty and unrest in the world, we all need to remind each other to make moments for those things which make our hearts full. Discovery, creativity, adventure, love.

Thank you, Valerie, for your beautiful heart, for your life’s art, and for coming to Denver to share this crazy idea with me. And for letting me collaborate with your dance today. I can’t wait to share the final photographs!