Sasha & I discuss things on set-up night, photo by: Dan MacDonald

Ever since I got into photography I had always wanted to do some sort of huge collaboration. Something where I could get many different people involved, of all ages, and of many different disciplines. I’ve always seen photography as a more collaborative discipline. You are always learning from others, working with clients, going on field trips with other photographers, etc… When commercial shoots take place there is usually a huge team of people working together to produce one final image. I’m a strong believer that collaboration makes for stronger work, and allowing multiple creative input helps everyone grow. I wanted to do something where everyone could all work in one space together, for one day, as a huge team with one common goal: produce great images. On April 10, 2011 I was able to make that a reality…

working with model & stylist Sarah Duquette, photo by: Dan MacDonald

I had seen many photographers do their own version of “marathon shoots” where they would photograph a few models with multiple looks, in a certain time frame. I found it very interesting to try and push yourself, as a photographer, to shoot multiple models, looks, wardrobe, lighting set-ups & concepts all in a designated time frame. From what I had seen though, I hadn’t found many people doing it on a huge scale. Now, I don’t live in a city that is highly regarded for it’s artistic prowess. People think that there isn’t a huge mass of creatives living & working there. Oh how wrong that view is. There are in fact many many people living and working in this city who are extremely creative and artistically talented. One of those people is Sasha Onyshchenko, who is a wedding & portrait photographer (check out his website, blog, and follow him on Twitter to see his amazing work). We spoke about working together on a large project, we both love doing model photography, and wanted to do something big, something that really hadn’t been done in our area. “30 models in 18 hours” I said. This was followed by laughter by Sasha, “no I’m serious” I said, “we can do it, why not go big”.

Sasha works with model Jarrah Noel Conway, photo by: Dan MacDonald

Sasha and I are what you would consider “photography geeks”. If you hear us talking it is generally about photography, and anything photography related. We have a huge amount of love and respect for the medium, and spend tireless hours trying to improve our work and learn everything we can. Once the numbers were decided, it was time to talk to people we wanted to be involved in the project and also try and find somewhere to shoot it. We would need a space that could accommodate a huge group of people and one where we could shoot side by side. Immediately David Corkum‘s huge studio came to mind and a call was placed. “why don’t you spread it out over a few days” was the response that David gave me, “but then it wouldn’t really be a marathon” I said. He graciously agreed to let us use his studio and a date of April 10 was set for the shoot, it was early March and we only had about a month to prepare and get everyone we wanted involved.

Sasha works with model Megz McGraw, photo by: Dan MacDonald

The idea was that Sasha and I would each photograph 15 different models, in 30 minute intervals, we would start at 8am and work until 10pm (I should tell you that anyone I mentioned this project to thought we were crazy to try and shoot so many people in such a short time frame). I would shoot from 8:00-8:30, Sasha from 8:30-9:00 and that would continue throughout the day. So the location was nailed down, now we had the challenge of finding 30 different models, hair stylists & makeup artists. We also wanted to have people there to document everything using both video and still photography. In total we needed to contact roughly 50 different people to make this shoot a reality, and we had a little under a month to do this. Our model rosters began to fill up, hair and makeup people were confirmed, and videographers and a documentary still photographer were confirmed. The excitement was definitely building, concepts were worked on for all the different shoots, and Sasha and I had various meetings to go over small details and to check in to see how each of us were doing filling our rosters.

pre-shoot meeting ~ photo by: Joël Culligan

We had a short meeting on March 27 with everyone that was able to make it. Now, up to this point you have to understand that we released very little information to those people involved. Other than Sasha and I, very few people knew the extent of what we were planning to do. We wanted to keep the details to ourselves as we plan to approach various magazines and websites with the images, and didn’t want to jeopardize that opportunity. All these people were agreeing to be involved in a “photo shoot”, little did they know the size of said “photo shoot”. Once the meeting started, we began to explain what we were planning on doing you could feel the excitement in the room. You could already feel the energy build, and Sasha and I were feeding off that energy. We left that meeting even more excited than we already were as we knew everyone involved were as devoted and excited to this as we were. With 2 weeks to go things were coming together extremely well and I knew that many sleepless nights were ahead of me as there was just so much excitement for this shoot.

assistant Amy Ross & I adjust lights pre-shoot, photo by: Dan MacDonald

April 09, 2011 was the set-up day, where we arranged our set-ups, did some light tests, hair and makeup people came by to drop off their equipment, and we shot a small interview talking about the project (view a time-lapse of that day, shot by Dan MacDonald here). We left the studio that night at around 12am, I think I got to sleep at 2am, and we were to meet on April 10 for 6am. When 6am rolled around I was there to unlock the studio and the hair and makeup people began rolling in and the first few models as well. The first shoot was planned for 8am, and starting at 6am would give enough time to prepare. The day went on without a hitch, other than a few last-minute cancellations that brought our model total down to 27, and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had doing photography. Everyone was on time, hair and makeup people were amazing.

working with model Dominique Ratté - Photo by: Dan MacDonald

I personally need to thank Amy Ross who helped as my assistant that day, and did a fantastic job. Also I need to thank my beautiful wife, Sarah Duquette, for all her help with wardrobe (she did all the styling), meeting the models at the door, changing sets, and keeping me sane throughout the day. The day was filled with a lot of laughs, tons of coffee, and over 50 people in ages ranging from 16-42. All working towards a common goal of making great images.

I want to thank Sasha for working with me on it and putting up with my constant emailing about small details. We will be releasing little bits from the shoot over the next few weeks, such as the behind the scenes teaser video (shown at the end of this post). Most of the updates will be publicized through Twitter, Facebook & on our blogs, so be sure to subscribe to the blog to see new pieces as they are released. Also check out Sasha’s blog, and Dan MacDonald’s blog, for their take on the shoot.

If there is something you want to do, only you can make it happen, a project like this wouldn’t have just fallen in my lap. I met some great people, worked with great people, worked my ass off, and just had an overall blast. Push yourself to do things you’ve always wanted to do, keep “what-if’s” out of your life.