There is a scene in the movie Divergent where the main character is standing on a roof-top and told to jump off it. All she can see from where she stands is a long fall into darkness. The uncertainty of what’s below makes it hard for her to actually jump because she cannot see where or how she’ll land.

Sometimes the best projects are born out of moments of frustration and that fuels you to do something you might not otherwise do. Three weeks before Halloween, another project I had really, really wanted to see happen never materialized. So in a rash moment I called Kristopher Osuna of Perfection Artistry and said, “Hey, this fell through but let’s create a Halloween poster that showcases both of our skills.” What we discussed was a poster that would mix elements of high fashion with Halloween and would push both of us beyond our comfort zone. I wanted it to be elegant, dark and a little sexy too. I started playing around with the idea of the The Furies or The Fates from Greek Mythology and Kris suggested MacBeth’s three witches as a concept as well.

I was giddy with excitement. Then I spent most of the next day and night  asking myself, “What have I done and why did I do that?” During this time James, a good friend of mine, gave me some of the best advice ever  – especially when I’m racked with uncertainty. He said, “Just jump Paul…you’ll find the net”.

So I poured myself into the project planning phase. In thinking about models for the various roles Kris and I quickly settled on three people. Charia Underwood is someone I have worked with before and knew would be a great fit for this. She has an amazing gaze and brings a lot of attention to details in her posing and likes the gothic side of things. Kayla DeRosa was someone I had not worked with before but I had seen a lot of her work. If anyone has cheekbones that were meant to be carved by light it’s her. Last but not least was Jordan Anderson.I had met Jordan a while ago but we had not been able to work together. Jordan has these long beautiful, elegant lines and is incredibly expressive and her ability to emote would be critical to this role.

Kristopher and I started pulling pins on Pintrest for inspiration and soon we had a board with over a 150 pins. I gave Kris free reign on the makeup and styling side of things and then I turned my attention to the details of the poster.

From the beginning I knew this would probably be a composite shot. As I sketched ideas and thought about various things I realized pretty quickly that each girl needed to be doing something unique or interesting to justify them being the photo. I spent a while thinking about various ideas that could be magical, mystical or just different. I finally settled on one girl holding fire, one with an eye in the palm of her hand and then the last girl holding blue fire. In my mind’s eye I could see it all working but I was a little bothered by the fact that there were going to be girls holding fire with the primary difference being the color. For that reason I looked at other ideas as well including multiple arms, various veils, headpieces, fangs, wings and more but there were always questions about whether any of those things would work.

The night before the shoot, I realized I had one last thing I had to do. With my son’s help we started dousing tennis balls in lighter fluid, impaling them on a stick and then burned them up. While they burned, I photographed the flames. We had a ball doing that together and when it was done I had 300 new flame shots to draw from.

Sunday Oct. 17  as the models began arriving was sunny and and warm. There was no hint of the storm that could come drench everything that afternoon yet. As people started coming over to the home studio, I really sensed the power of a good team and just felt deep down we had all of the right people to create something special.

Kristopher was on fire. He had truly gone all out bringing some amazing headpieces he had made just for this occasion that were simply stunning. His attention to detail and his ability to create unique and completely different looks for each girl that will stand on their own but still fit them and together as larger whole is amazing.

The day was really four photo shoots in one. One with each girl and then a group session. Each of the girls brought their own unique energy and individuality to their parts but I was most impressed with them when I asked them to pose a group. For a photographer, posing groups creates an interesting dynamic and it can become exponentially harder because it’s very difficult to capture one person at their very best in a photo let alone three people at the same time. As Meatloaf once said, “two out of three ain’t bad…” but for this to work we’d need to go three for three.

It’s hard to be asked to stand in a line and pose dynamically and with emotion – especially if you don’t know someone and have not worked with them before. I watched the girls begin start and begin working through the inherent awkwardness in a situation like this. The first few shots were a little stilted but suddenly you could see them begin to gel and and start exploring new ideas together. I was impressed and grateful at what they were creating. This is another place where shooting tethered to a big monitor can help. At one point I just turned the monitor toward them so that they could get instant feedback on what was working and what was not. Even though in the final poster I decided to composite individual shots together some of the group shots were the best photos of the session.

At the end of the day and 1,800 photos later (66gb) we called it a day. I started downloading the photos and did a very quick look at them and then crashed.

Over the next few days I began sorting through photos and thinking about what kind of poster we could make from the pieces we had. For me the process is a little like dumping a jigsaw puzzle out all of over the floor. For a while you’re overwhelmed and can’t see quite how it will all fit together. Then, just when you feel it might be all falling apart, you suddenly see how a few pieces could fit together. Then instead of falling apart you realize it’s falling together. Once I felt that happening I went on a marathon editing session deep into the night to finish it and then wake up the next day with a massive editing hangover.

In the end, I was very proud of this project and of the group that created it. I’ve never seen better work from Kristopher. Each model really delivered something special to the process both individually and as a group.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit to Joshua Reed, of Joshua Reed Photography, and thank him for his help and assistance. All of the the behind-the-scenes photos are courtesy of him but more importantly he kept me on track and helped keep me from getting overwhelmed with all of the details.

Considering this whole thing was born out of a moment of frustration where I felt I had been forced to take a step backwards it’s gratifying to know that even when things don’t work out the way you originally hoped that if you’ll set your fear aside and jump anyway things can work out better than you imagined.