Pieces from the Vice & Versa collection. Click on the image to view their website

On Wednesday of last week I loaded up all my gear, and some other people’s borrowed gear, into my car en-route to Halifax for season 5 of Atlantic Fashion Week. I had a 2 1/2 hour drive to over-think everything, because that’s what I do, I over-think. I was heading down there as the official photographer for an event I had never been to, and really didn’t know what to expect. I knew there were 2 runway shows featuring original designs, and a “fashionista mingle” at The Shops of Mills. I was filled with nervous excitement. I had brought my entire box of business cards and envisioned myself passing them out to everyone I saw. I have been doing primarily fashion & portrait work for the last 3 years and this was a perfect opportunity to rub elbows with many people within that industry and learn as much as I could in a short amount of time.

I arrived in Halifax at about 2:00 and headed directly to the Casino where the event was being held. I knew hair and makeup was to begin at about 4:00 and I wanted to assess where I would be shooting from and what the backstage area was like. I met up with the director of AFW, Angela Campangnoni, just to quickly discuss any last minute details. With my bearings set I headed off to drop my bags where I was staying to be back a bit before 4:00 to start shooting the behind the scenes action. It was at this point that my nervousness set in. Anytime I do these types of shoots where I don’t really know anyone I always get nervous. Even sometimes when I’m doing personal shoots I get nervous. When I used to play music even after being on stage countless times, I would get so nervous before a show I couldn’t sleep the night before, or eat the day of. It’s not a scared type of nervous, more of an excited nervous.

hair and makeup being done backstage before the show

So when I returned just before 4:00 I set my gear backstage, grabbed my camera and headed to the hair and makeup room. Now at this point hardly anyone there knew who I was. I walked into a room filled with models, hair stylists & makeup artists and started shooting. You can always tell when people are apprehensive when you’re taking their photo and I sensed it a bit off the bat. So I would talk to the people I would photograph and tell them who I was, but the first 15 minutes or so I really just took it all in, and assessed where I would try and go to get the best images. Thankfully Angela came in and announced to everyone who I was and what I was doing there and people seemed much more at ease after that. I was always careful not to get in the way, and tried to blend in to try and take the candid type images I wanted to take (not an easy feat for someone who is 6’7″ believe me). I knew the hair and makeup people had some important work to do and I didn’t want to constantly be asking them to move as that would eliminate all the candid aspects from my images.

AFW director Angela Campagnoni preps the models pre-show

At 6:00 there was a meeting with all the models to go over the specifics of the runway show. The designer order, the best spot to stop for lighting, and the walking etiquette. I was able to do a few test shots while the models did their practice walks. Even though the lighting did change a bit throughout the show this was very helpful in my preparation. When 8:00 rolled around people began filling the room, very fashionable people I might add, and I was beginning to realize what a fantastic event this really was. At 8:30 the lights went down and it was showtime. I took my place at the back of the room, straight on to the runway, up on a riser. I put on the big lens and prepared for what would be an exciting 2 1/2 hours of photographing the runway show.

During breaks in the show I would mingle with the people there, introducing myself and handing out business cards. I have been following the fashion industry in Halifax for a few years now. I knew who many of the people there were long before I handed them my business card. I’d seen many of the models’ images, knew who pretty well all the designers were, and other photographers who were at the event as well. I knew who Angela was long before she knew who I was. Like I said I had done my research, I think it’s important that if you are trying to break into an industry you study that industry and people who are in it. To be aware of what people are doing in a professional sense and being familiar with their work is very important. It was great because I have a great deal of respect for a lot of people who work in that industry and I was able to meet them face to face and chat with them about their work.

Veronica MacIsaac Apparel - click on image to view the designer's website

Wednesday’s show was the first of 2 designer runway showcases, the other took place on Saturday night. There was also a “fashionista mingle” at the beautiful Shop of Mills on Spring Garden rd on Thursday night. Here the public could come and see all the beautiful shops and be treated to an evening of wine, appetizers, and live model mannequins. The model mannequins very fantastic, they were live models posing as mannequins (in case the name wasn’t a dead give-away). When I first walked through the door, they kind of took me by surprise as they totally looked the part. I was fooled, & I had met the models the night before.

Lead Makeup Artist Craig MacMillan works on designer Sebastian Blagdon

The final show was Saturday night, and I worked much in the same way I did on Wednesday. I did make a few minor changes based on things I had learned 3 nights before. The models were more comfortable with me, having had seen me a few nights before, as well as a few of the designers I was able to chat with a bit earlier in the day. I left the Casino Saturday night around 11:30 extremely happy with the images I was able to capture, and full of energy. I was fortunate enough to meet a ton of great people, and I was able to put my name out to many people who may not have heard it before. I went down there with approximately 200 business cards and I think I came home with 50-75. I was working my butt off to meet as many people as I could and I was feeding off the energy that was ever-present throughout the week.

Designers (left to right) Ness Pas Designs, Clutch Culture, Drunk Gurl

After being home for 5 days and having a chance to really process last week I am still filled with excitement from the event. The care and time that would have had to go into planning an event of this magnitude and quality is immense. My hat is off to Angela and everyone else that was involved in making this event what it was. Everything went off without a hitch, and even if there were hitches no one was aware of them. The hair and makeup people were extremely well organized and were shuffling models in and out seamlessly. The work of the designers was absolutely fantastic, and just the entire event as a whole was cut-above.

Sebastien Couture

I want to thank Angela (she is also the director of City Models in Halifax) for the constant promotion she gave me throughout the event, and since the event. There are times when a photographer works an event and they feel like “the forgotten one” and this was definitely not the case for me that week. I was able to meet some amazing people and created some new friendships along the way. I made some great contacts saw some beautiful fashion and experienced an event that was just incredible. If you have an interest in fashion be sure to check the next season of AFW as from what I hear they only keep getting better. The things they are doing in Halifax, in that industry, are a step above  and I was ecstatic to go along for the amazing 4 day ride that was Atlantic Fashion Week.

*all my images from the event can be viewed on my new Facebook page here*