Chris Crisman’s ‘The Making of Suitcase Girl’

by Robert Luessen

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Some photos can be years in the making — even if we don’t realize it at the time.  Would you believe that our latest conceptual portrait started in 2008, only to be finished five years later in 2013?  This image took two separate trips to Illinois as well as a costume fashion shoot to finally bring Chris’s vision to life.  We wouldn’t necessarily believe it either, but sometimes the truth behind our photos can be stranger than fiction.

So how did this all happen?  In a way, it all started with a bow hunter. Shot in 2008 for Field and Stream, Chris traveled to Illinois to spend a few days photographing with outfitter and hunter Tom Ware. Not only did this shoot result in some awesome portraits, but it afforded Chris the opportunity to shoot a few landscape images.

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The hero of these landscapes was this image – “Big Tree” as we called it in the studio. A personal favorite of ours, we’ve kept this photo on Chris’s website and in his portfolios through many redesigns and shuffling of our work.

Big Tree was always an excellent landscape, but Chris couldn’t help feeling that the photo needed something more, it needed a story to tell, more of an emotion to convey.

Jump forward to early 2013 to Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing, a large, crowded costume rental warehouse in NYC.  Not on assignment, but collaborating with famous company owner and curator Helen Uffner and stylist Gabrielle Rosenberg, Chris and our team found ourselves shooting close to a dozen fashion models in rare and beautiful authentic vintage clothing.

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Inspired by the beauty of our talent and the uniqueness of the perfectly curated and styled wardrobe, ideas began to percolate and images started coming to mind. One of these images that we couldn’t escape was the thought of ‘Big Tree’ — this time re-imagined as an enviornmental portrait.

There was only one problem – one distinct problem. Our landscape from 2008 was not quite right. Both technically inferior (shot with a 1Ds Mk II) and compositionally problematic, we knew that a reshoot was in order. A handful of phone calls and reassurances (yes, the tree was still there) later, Chris hopped on a plane to Illinois and found himself retracing his footsteps from 2008, slowly working his way down dirt roads in search of the tree.

Unknowingly years in the making, we’ve arrived at our latest conceptual environmental portrait through the power of collaboration and collective inspiration. We owe an increadibly big thank you to everyone who helped bring this image together: Helen Uffner Vintage, wardrobe stylist Gabrielle Rosenberg, hair & makeup stylist George Kyriakos, makeup artist Gregg Hubbard, makeup artist Michelle Coursey, and producer & casting agent Desiree Kennedy. Last but certainly not least, the owner of “Big Tree” and the surrounding land, David Myers.

To see more of Chris Crisman’s photography go to his website and Altpick page.

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