pictures of her extensive vintage wardrobe
and possibilities for Doug’s outfit as well),
colored lighting, digital and film shots, and
two to three spaces to play in. And we would
definitely need a separate day of shooting
before their actual wedding day. The idea
of pulling this all together proved to be
incredibly overwhelming, but I realized I had
a lot of resources I’d be able to turn to where
I needed help.
Our studio’s photo editor, Kelli McGuire, took
charge of the Dario Argento-esque lighting.
She chose the gels we used and positioned
the lights for each setup. She also shot
35mm and 120mm while I used my Canon
5D Mark III. Since the couple was drawn
to us because of our use of film, I wanted
to make sure that film was used every step
of the way, and while I love shooting film, I
prefer to focus on one instrument at a time.
Having the luxury of only shooting digital
kept me relaxed and more involved with Mar
and Doug. My wife, Chellise Michael, offered
to shoot 35mm for the second half of the
portrait session; we also wanted a way to
preserve the CMP studio style within some of
the analog photos we’d be giving the clients,
so having Chellise there on the second half
anchored our brand and helped balance this
non-traditional approach we were taking.
Next came nailing down the hair and
makeup. We had worked with Eve Whittington
before on a styled shoot, and her ability to
create throwback hairstyles in a matter of
minutes was unparalleled. She was able to
recommend a makeup artist for the shoot,
Rachel Whitehurst. With all the gears grinding
and the pistons pumping, we had Mar and
Doug more excited for this portrait session
than they were for their actual wedding.
We envisioned two indoor locations: one
for psychedelic multi-colored, off-camera
lighting, and one to serve as a nod to Mar
and Doug’s long-distance relationship
between Boston and New York—they both
spent a lot of time on trains, and the station
platforms became a symbol of connection
for the two of them. For part one, the couple
called their friend in Ditmas Park who had a
house we could use; for part two, Chellise
suggested using Downtown Brooklyn’s
Transit Museum. Genius.
Having never been to the Ditmas Park
house, I didn’t quite know how the light would
be, and in our case, less natural light was
better since we were going to be working with
colored gels on Dynalites. The preference was
actually to work with colored lighting at night,
but our schedules didn’t allow for this, so we
decided to bring some fabrics with us to help
cover any windows that would interrupt the
darkness we were shooting for.
I wanted a loose set of directions for Mar
and Doug to weave in and out of as we were
shooting. The idea was to start off expressing
distance, longing and need. Eventually I
wanted them to come together, without quite
trusting the fact that they were in each other’s
arms, both walking the line of a ghost of the
past and physical beings in a mess of love.
They got so into character that we completely
blurred the lines of what an engagement or
couple’s portrait session is expected to be.
It was actually hard to recognize it as such,
which was exactly what we were going for.
Having a solid foundation with all the
pieces in place beforehand allowed all
of us to just show up the day of the shoot
and do what we do best. Each of us played
a role; all we had to do was absorb the
subtle cues the spaces gave us, allowing
one another and the elements around
us to direct and finesse our actions. It
became a true celebration of our similarities
and differences that bore a shade more
intriguing than any one of us could have
imagined on our own.
Michael Busse is a photographer/musician
based in Brooklyn, NY. He and his wife,
Chellise Michael, run the Chellise Michael
Photography studio, named one of
Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Stars of 2015. They
also host an annual photo retreat, Camp
Go Away, a space for photographers and
videographers to focus on personal work.
INSPIRATION & CREATIVITY
They got so into
character that we
the lines of what an
engagement or couple’s
portrait session is
expected to be.