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Art and Apparel

A blog by Sara O'Neill

Ben: Another North Coast Shoot

Photographer: Joseph Jude
Model: Ben Callan
Stylist: Sara O'Neill
Location: The Harbour Bar, Portrush

The final shoot of 2013 was a seriously relaxed affair, as one would expect between Christmas and New Year and shot in my favourite location, the North Coast. Coming from Portrush I am biased of course, but I think everyone would agree that we are very lucky to have an area of such natural and dramatic beauty right on our doorstep. It's the perfect location for a shoot, especially at this time of the year: moody, atmospheric, tumultuous and ever changing.

When shooting against a backdrop such as this, the best thing is to take your inspiration from and be led by your surroundings. Fashion went a bit crazy for a few years, and over the past year or two I've found myself stripping my work right back, focusing more on the model, the location than before, so that the whole image is more harmonious, like a still from a film. I want to give a wistful, sometimes nostalgic, feel to the images I style, which will hopefully evoke emotions within the viewer. This is always achieved when working with photographer Joseph Jude- his images are raw and powerful, with a muted colour palette and moody or natural lighting.

I hadn't met our model, Ben, prior to the shoot but the photos I'd seen of him were great, and I loved his beard and tattoos. I sourced clothes that looked worn, with a neutral palette and natural textures that would blend with the model and the backdrop. I used a mixture of labels: Marc Jacobs, American Apparel, Barbour, All Saints, a beautiful jumper hand-knitted by Joe's wife, Maria, as well as a good dose of vintage. I wanted the look to be quite Irish, quite mariner in style, with a timeless quality, like if Ernest Hemingway was in a hipster remake of 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley'.

Me having a pint at my weekend local, photo: Stephen Lockhart

Of course, you would never plan a shoot on the North Coast in December without having an indoor location in case of storms. The perfect location was my favourite bar and weekend local, the Harbour Bar.

Behind the scenes: Mighty Beards

I've been going to the Harbour literally since I was born and all the way through my childhood. We used to sit beside the big cast-iron range (there was one, wasn't there?) and play cards. At the risk of sounding like a young alcoholic gambler, I had cordial and crisps and we also played Connect-4. The Harbour is a proper, authentic old-fashioned Irish bar, the real deal compared to the many 'pop-up' versions that have appeared in NI over the last couple of years. The walls are filled with traditional drinks ads, curios and poignant photos detailing the history of the bar, the harbour area, and locals from yesteryear. It is a wonderfully unpretentious little time warp, with a familiar, welcoming atmosphere and is perfectly camera-ready.

The shoot was great, although being the only one without a mighty beard did make me feel a little out in the cold. I was seriously amused to find out that someone walking past the bar mistook Ben for a ghost until they spied Joe with his camera- I'll take that as a compliment to the authenticity of my styling ? After a cheeky pint (it would've been rude not to) we headed over to Portstewart harbour and on round the coast.

See the results of our shoot below. Photos: Joseph Jude Model: Ben Callan

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