he calendar with Leonora Jimenez…Well, what I can say… Probably the most spectacular and engaging photoshoot I’ve ever done. I hope it is not the last one, otherwise it would be sad, but it is the best one so far in terms of complexity and momentum. First of all, Leonora is a wonderful woman, she has that feature that I love about women who are as beautiful as they are intelligent. She has an amazing sense of humour, distance to herself. We have always enjoyed working together during commercial shoots, and therefore we wanted to do something more artistic one day.
The story is between her and the car.
In fact, it did not take long, because Leonora came up with a proposal to shoot a calendar with her. The calendar is an ideal form of communication for the photographer, because basically – in terms of theme – it can be about anything. Here, too, Leo says: Simon, give vent to your imagination, do whatever you want. I knew, in turn, that she as a model, as a person is also ready for many sacrifices and that with her I would be able to do something absolutely unique. That’s why a concept came to my mind, which I was keeping for a special occasion and had already wanted to realise for a long time, i.e. the crash-test. It all began with a movie scene, which is a bit different from my usual workflow, where the particular location starts the whole creative process. The location was the second step here and film inspiration was the first.
…as on the drawing. It’s moving towards her and she is f*#%ing struggling with it. In general we start with this scene.
So, the film Constantine with Keanu Reeves. There is a scene where some lunatic steps in the middle of the road and a car falls into him. The car is completely smashed and the guy goes onas if nothing happened. It made quite an impression on me. And then I thought to myself that if I could recreate it in a photograph, it would be amazing. As I emphasize many times, behind each fence there is a super cool location that can be used for a photoshoot. You don’t have to be in New York, Milan or Paris. You have to do your thing. The important thing is that if you are location scouting and you have a crazy idea, generally don’t say too much to the owner, just give the impression of a well-organized guy who simply wants to do an artistic session, because if you say too much, people also have great imagination and might get scared and say no. If I say that I want to drop three cars here, crash them, and the model will be standing up there and we need the crane over there, of course nobody would agree. And you must know that it was an active square, an active junkyard. What does that mean? It means incredible noise. We could barely hear
one another. We could not communicate, because metal was being thrown from one place to another, loaded onto trucks and so on. It is probably also important to say that shuch shoot does not happen overnight. This session lasted six months. Okay, one shooting day with 12 photos for the calendar, but to squeeze that one day like a lemon, so that everyone knows what they are doing, we needed 6 months of preparation. Actually, more than 6 months. In January we started the first talks with Leonora, and in July the we carried out the photoshoot. Once you know your vision, okay let’s say… I want to do a crash test. So what do you need? You need a crashed car. But crashed how? Crashed adequatly. So that
it looks like this person actually fell into this car. So it can’t just be any crashed car. Thus a research had to be done within all the local junkyards, looking for a car with a big frontal dent resulting from hitting a tree or a pole. It was necessary to analyse all this. I don’t know how to draw, but that does not prevent me from seeing. So we created these storyboards which illustrate particular situations, precisely what is going to happen during the Crash Test, what is going to happen on the hill, what is going to happen when she fights the crane imitating the mechanical force with which she can fight or struggle. And all of this nicely combined into one story. In this case, I engaged Marcin Kulak, who is also an outstanding stylist from Cracow. He has a fantastic knowledge about our native Polish artists who create unique outfits. Strange and completely useless stylisations, which in turn do incredible job in photographs or films. Marcin responded to my general guidelines: junkyard, something very technical, maybe a little futuristic, and so he invited Katarzyna Konieczka, Halina Mrożek, and other amazing creators who do unique things on a global scale and perfectly fit into the whole concept.
If it were not for that, this session would look completely different and and would not have such a strong expression. I always try to keep an eye on the people who prepare makeup, hairstyles and styling, so that everyone is always concentrated on the job and focused on details… because it is easy to lose it in the hassle of the ongoing session. You may become overjoyed by the astonishing model, impressive junkyard and flying cars. If you let yourself get carried away by your emotions, you might lose the sober look at what you are doing. You must keep your feet firmly on the ground. Not in the clouds, here on the ground. You say that to yourself and you team: look at this, correct that, turn around, do it differently. If something goes wrong – nother important advice – it is crucial to reset yourself, to give yourself a break. Do it again, but do it differently. Just because it looks good on a piece of paper, on a storyboard, does not mean it has to work in real life. Also remember that some things just don’t work and you are still on the clock. You just have a couple of hours to realise your plan. So you do something else and it will also be awesome.
Will the sun come out? Is there any chance?
In this particular project, there is some post-production. It’s obvious that it was required in the crash-test scene, where Leo runs into the car with such a massive momentum. The backstage film illustrates it very nicely how we had to position the car with a certain angle in order to maximise the impression of collision. If it had been on the ground, it wouldn’t be it. I wanted to catch the exact moment of crash. In order to make the scene fully dramatic and dynamic, it was necessary to add in the post-production all those small elements and pieces of galss flying towards the model. There is a nice anecdote related to this issue. In order to complete this vision of yours you have to go to the end consistently, so that it really looks like you had it in your head before you pressed the shutter button. Therefore I organised a casting among three retouchers before the final photograph was released. And here again it was a very interesting experience to see that each of the
retouchers interpreted this situation differently. The car, as you can see in the backstage material, doesn’t even have a front wheel. This wheel had to be fitted from another car to make it all look so consistent and cool. Finally, only one of these three guys was closest to my vision and that is how I published it. It is also amazing that this photograph was later one of the first I sold to a private collector as a unique 1/1 print. It seems that he actually saw something absolutely unique in this composition, in this final effect.
We destroy the car completely.
We throw the car sideways as much as possible.
Higher, higher. Ok, Leo, act act, close your eyes, you are fading away…