Why towels is a very fair question, so here are a few thoughts that I link with this project which is meant to be a simple showcase of beauty in an unfiltered clean and uncluttered way. Beauty is a thing that we, as photographers or artists creatives or just people like to aspire too. The idea of beauty is simple yet quite complex too.
Why are these not beauty images?
Photographically speaking, beauty is a genre. Beauty photography an assumption of a heavy editing process. These are not that, but rather a more stripped back, clean and simple presentation of a person. But I also don't see these image as portraits. Maybe they are a blend of a few styles.
Mario Testino's work was something that I was taught about and still is something that I use when I am teaching. His work, while mostly based in the fashion world transcends a few genres, something that I identify with too. I first saw iconic images like his portraits of Kate Moss and loved the simple, stripped back nature of the images. There was something raw but refined about them. Staged images of candid moments in a way. Relaxed, low key make-up but enough to show a let the character of the model show though.
Like Mario, I have tried to do the same. While all photography is about capturing moments, we (as the photographer) can decide how we want to interact with the story before we capture a moment. How we choose to light a subject or how we frame them will change how the viewer reads the story presented.
For a long time, this was intended to be a black and white project. All of the images were captured in colour but immediately processed into black and white. Until very recently I had never even seemed them in colour myself. It was when I did the shoot with Milly (makeup by Penny Grimley) and the first one that featured the red towel, that an image was processed in colour. Mostly as the red towel just looked dull in monochrome. I can not really remember why we used a red one that day, but we did and I am glad we did. Since then we have gone on to use red for Charlie and Mel.
I am not sure this series will ever really be finished, I love the idea of continually adding to it. Creative projects never really are finished, you just run out time.
The idea of the towel works as a break between these being photos of naked people moving them into something else. It's a prop that blends in but is not going to detract from the personality and character of the model. It was really interesting to see how each model worked with the limitations of what is just a plain boring towel at the of the day. In some ways, it really helped bring out the models character.