Former Ford and Elite model, Shawn Ehlers, posed for many of the top fashion and beauty photographers, Helmut Newton, Albert Watson and Olivero Toscani to name a few. During her 8 year stay in Europe working as a model, she also began shooting behind the scenes at some of the Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Gianni Versace and Gucci fashion shows. She brings that experience to her advertising and editorial photography work. Altpick had the pleasure of talking with Shawn about her career and her latest “Beach” series.
Altpick: As a former model, how does that experience help you behind the camera?
Shawn Ehlers: The experience of being a model makes it easy for me to direct models whether they are seasoned or new to the business. Modeling helped me understand how to create a beautiful image. It is all about the angles, shapes, movement and lighting.
AP: Tell me a little about working with Helmut Newton. Did you pick up any photography tips?
SE: I learned so much from working with great photographers. I was privy to their styling, lighting, equipment, direction and the details that go into having a successful shot. It’s all about the details. Helmut was perhaps the toughest of all of the photographers I worked with and perhaps because in his mind’s eye he saw the final product and expected you fully to deliver it. He wanted energy in his photographs. He shot with a very slow shutter speed and you were not allowed to breathe for a long period of time. He is really one of the greatest photographers of all times. I do use his lighting for my Polaroids.
AP: What genre do you love to shoot best?
SE: I love it all! At the moment I really enjoy shooting Polaroids for my personal work and I am happy to shoot either lifestyle or fashion. There is a beauty to not knowing what you are going to get until the image appears on the film…yes film. I love film!
AP: Your body of work covers kids to seniors. Which is your favorite?
SE: Anyone with a great personality and the ability to move with grace and energy. People with a dance or martial arts background are amazing.
AP: How did the ‘beach’ series come about?
SE: I wanted to create lifestyle photos with energy and movement. I love the beach, it’s open and the perfect place to shoot. You can run, jump and move freely. The lighting can be harsh, filled in or backlit…or you can wait until the end of the day and get that ‘magical’ light.
AP: What motto do you live by?
SE: Visualize the outcome, prepare well and follow through.