How this project came to life
The idea of creating a 17th century atmosphere and a story involving ballerinas and a rich baronness came to me while watching The Red Violin, the beautiful movie by Francois Girard. I was particularly impressed by the creamy quality of the light in certain scenes, along with the almost dreamlike atmosphere created by the settings. A few months after watching the movie, I happened to drive by a beautiful old convent in the western part of Montreal. The settings, the architecture, everything was perfect. I went in, and after explaining my project, the landlords agreed to let me shoot there on the promise that I would let them have prints of the final photos.
The success of a shoot like this depends heavily on the styling (costumes, props, hair and makeup). My go-to stylist for complex projects is the multi-talended Vanessa Borris. We’ve already done several challenging concepts together, so I knew I could rely on Vanessa for her imagination and resourcefulness. Since this was a “creative” shoot where nobody gets paid, it was important to keep the budget for costumes, hair and makeup to a minimum. This was a real challenge for the stylist, because 17th-century costumes are rare and very expensive to rent (if you can find them at all). Fortunately Vanessa is a great seamstress, and she was able to craft and sew the costumes by herself using pieces of clothing and various materials around her shop. The results are incredibly realistic, and I can truly say that the Renaissance Project would not have been possible without Vanessa.