Photographing live animals becoming a more common occurrence in my line of work, so when international burlesque performer Missy Fatale offered me the chance to work on a reptile couture location shoot with Albino Burmese Python Ronnie, Albino Granite Burmese Python Reggie and Royal Python Fredrik, I literally jumped at the chance!
With snakes being cold blooded – and us living in the completely unpredictable English climate – there were so many factors we had to take into consideration when planning a reptile couture shoot. Firstly, we were keen to avoid a snakes on a train style fiasco, so our shoot location either needed to be somewhere local to Missy Fatale or accessible by car. With this in mind, along with the uncertainty of whether the reptiles would ‘perform on demand’ (for lack of a better phrase), we both agreed it would be much easier to shoot somewhere close to Missy’s home. Secondly, the weather had to be warm enough for the snakes so they could maintain a decent body temperature. Whilst the shoot was discussed weeks in advance, the actual date and time was very dependent on the weather forecast and didn’t happen for several weeks. When the sun finally came out to play, I legged it to the train station with my camera!
The location we’d originally chosen for the shoot was a public garden in the heart of Dalston, which is usually pretty quiet during the early hours of the afternoon. For some reason, however, that particular day it happened to be full of pretty excitable teenagers. I blame the nice weather! Not wanting to risk our luck with live snakes and a decadently dressed burlesque performer in a gold beaded bikini and candelabra headdress attracting unwanted attention, we headed a bit further out of the area to a local park, which had a semi-enclosed area of trees that would be perfect to shoot in.
Joining us for the Reptile Couture shoot was Taz, who came along as both photography assistant and snake handler to balance out the number of humans to number of animals on location (after all, none of us really fancied chasing a snake up a tree or through the bushes!) As it turned out, all three snakes were in their element sitting quietly in the lower branches and posing for the camera, but the spare pair of hands was invaluable whilst transitioning between poses. Between setting up the Go Pro and helping move Quadra packs around in the grass, a lot of Taz’s time was spent trying to unravel a snake from one of Missy Fatale’s limbs, or occasionally from another snake!
We started out with a few shots in the enclosed area of the park, but soon spotted some large rocks and more angular trees that would be perfect to shoot as a backdrop. There were a few mothers about in the park with small children, so Taz went to test the water with the parents to see if they minded us bringing the snakes out into the main park, just in case it was going to make anyone uncomfortable. The parents were more excited than the kids to see the snakes and agreed it would be fine to bring them out, so we ventured a little further into the park, where we were accumulated an audience of mothers and toddlers, a local college photography class out on a study trip and two very friendly community support police officers who seemed to be having a pretty good time!
As a boudoir and lingerie photographer, I spend most of my time in the studio away from prying eyes, so it was great to have the opportunity to get out and about with my camera and try something new.