The idea for Destination Session came to photographer Ashley Lewis in the middle of the night. What if she could take girls all around the country shooting in multiple locations for an experience like no other? She instantly began to research and texted her close friend Janae to run the idea by her. The idea grew into a list of questions: Where would she go? Who would she take? How much would it cost? Would people in this area even buy into this concept?
With Destination Sessions in both New York City and Los Angeles under her belt now, all those doubts have been replaced with the desire to make this experience bigger and better. With a team comprised of a photographer, stylist, hair and makeup expert, and now a model mentor, Destination Session number three is in the planning stages, and the group is heading back to where it all started: New York City.
A typical day for a model during Destination Session starts around 8 a.m. The girls head over to a room where Hannah Simpson of Crown Beauty Bar in Fayetteville, and Allison Sullivan of J. Walker Salon in Fort Smith, begin working immediately. These appointments flow so well because Hannah and Allison have previously met with the models to discuss their skin, hair, and the looks they would be wearing for each shoot. As the girls wrap up their time in hair and makeup, that’s when I step in to finalize the look.
When Ashley approached me about styling these sessions, I was more than ready to take on the challenge. I was running my clothing boutique in downtown Fort Smith, and although I loved aspects of the business, I wasn’t allowing myself to be as fashion forward or as creative as I wanted to be because of the constraints of making sales. This was my opportunity to explore a side of the industry that I hadn’t tapped into yet.
Since Ashley envisions each destination session as a unique experience, the team is able to put together some interesting styles that the girls wouldn’t typically wear. We’ve met with the models two to three times trying pieces that both the models and the team have collected before finalizing all the looks. These looks are captured on Polaroids and placed in a binder Ashley uses to keep everyone on track. All of the clothing items the girls will be modeling are placed into one piece of luggage that stays with Ashley and I. Upon arrival, the items are sorted and steamed in order to make sure all the looks are prepared for each individual shoot.
When a model is completely styled, Ashley and I head over to the first location. On set, she’s shooting and directing while I’m watching for the small details like an out of place hair or a piece of jewelry the model forgot to remove. The girls are encouraged to do some research on posing, so they have an understanding of how they want to position their bodies during the shoots. We’ve found that some of the best shots come from unplanned, awkward poses though, so we try not to put too much pressure on them.
We wrap up the last day with the models reluctant to leave and the team completely exhausted. We’ve styled and shot two or three times every day for each model over the course of a long weekend. It’s a whirlwind, but it’s also the perfect balance of professionalism and play. The girls work hard during their daytime shoots, and they’re out exploring the city by night.
This experience is targeted to girls in both high school and college, so we typically end up with a range of ages for each destination. The models submit an initial application and then proceed to part two where they go more in depth about who they are and what they hope to gain from this opportunity. The team looks over the final applications and chooses girls based on who they feel will benefit most from these sessions. Although we would never disclose any specific personal details the girls reveal to us, their reasoning ranges from things like building a modeling portfolio, traveling to new places, or finding confidence.
We hope the girls board the plane to come home with a sense of fulfillment unique to their purpose for applying. Our intention is that Destination Session becomes a launch pad for the models to dream big and never sell themselves short. Although they’ll face adversity and setbacks, we want them to love the story they’ll live.