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  • Writer's pictureSelima Smith-Dell

Part I: An Ode to Black Women Warriors

I call this photo series "Jelani" which means Warrior in Arabic and also happens to be my middle name.

This photo series is an ode to Black warrior woman. To women fighters and the fighter that lives within us all.

To all who lived before. To all who are currently living. And to all who have yet to live.

This is for you. I see you. I am you. You are me. Together we are we.

To Black women’s strength, stamina, perseverance, and soft power.

To Black women’s vulnerability and softness.

To Black folks resting, recharging, self care, and self love.

We have worked so hard. Our ancestors have worked even harder.

We are deserving of so much rest. To Black rest.

Happy Black History month. I am grateful everyday I am a Black woman.

In Part I of this photo series I am going to share with you all the prep my favorite photographer, Olivia Edvalson and I did to prepare to create these magical moments together. I think this is some of the most fun I've had while preparing for a photoshoot. Let me take you through our process. As everything in life now begins, it began with a text. I texted Olivia that I would be in town. She replied that we should create something magical together. It was a very us text exchange.

So obviously we had to shoot together. Being in the same city was a rare occasion now that we lived on opposite sides of the country. Next we had to pick a theme. I suggested we do a princess theme because I had so many princess dresses that would be fun to play with. Then began our text chain of inspirational photos Olivia found on Instagram of fairy + princess shoots. Soon our text thread became a sea of magical and fantastical images. I loved it. It was so pretty and inspiring. After a while I figured it was time to create a Pinterest board for us to fill with more fairytale images.

Then one day Olivia texted me that she wanted to create a moss forest landscape. But how would we go about doing that? We mulled over it a few days as Olivia found other photographers who had created a mossy environment inside a studio space. We eventually decided to order a bunch of artificial moss online. Then Olivia was brilliant and went to her backyard and gathered up all this luscious actual green moss to add to our artificial moss. What a blessing from nature for our shoot. You've gotta love mother earth giving us life with her creative juju.

After lots of Pinterest images on our board, a rich text thread, and moss landscape prep I decided to create a treatment for our shoot so all the images + inspiration could be found in one place. In the treatment document was each gown along with hair + make up ideas as well as props and accessories for each look.

How did we discover all these amazing gowns? Of course you want to know that. This is a fashion blog after all, right? I had two of the dresses already in my collection (yellow, purple/gold ones). I had bought them for a couple of the weddings I attended to in 2022 and they both were real show stoppers that I thought they'd be great to shoot for our princess theme. Olivia sent me over the green gown. A wonderful photographer had sent it over to her saying it's a great piece for shoots. It's really a photographers dream to shoot. I fell in love with it immediately. When I was ordering the green dress the red one came up in suggested dresses I might like. I died and went to heaven when I saw it. I kid you not folks. I have had this dress on my vision board since 2019. It truly felt like a sign. It would be perfect for our shoot and a future red carpet moment. It was such a full dress with so much luscious fabric to play with. It had definition and bounce and was another one of those pieces that is both a models dream and a photographers dream.

We decided to model each look after a princess or fairy. We created four looks which you'll see in future blog posts. The red look you see in part I of this photo series with the red cape is like red riding hood meets Mulan. It's giving warrior princess vibes. The yellow look is inspired by Belle. The gold/purple look is inspired by the Little Mermaid. The green look is Tiana meets Tinkerbell. After creating the treatment and securing the gowns it was pretty much smooth sailing from there.

Now that all of our prep was done all we had to do was wait for the shoot date to come. After many glorious moons the shoot date arrived. Olivia had created the most amazing mossy forest setting complete with flowers, branches, mushrooms, and rocks in her studio garage space. We played around for nearly 8 hours changing up the lighting and experimenting with the fog machine. It was a wonderful full work dream of a day and all of our prep came together so perfectly.

I don't usually share all the details that go into preparing for shoots but this process was particularly fun and noteworthy to share. I hope you enjoyed hearing a bit about the prep and learned about all the hard (fun) work that goes into creating fairytale magic wonderland photos. I'll be sharing more with you in this four part photo series so I hope you had some fun today and stick around for more. I promise you'll know what other gowns I am talking about shortly. Farewell for now.

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