Chris Crisman Photography

The Making of Suitcase Girl

chris crisman suitcase girl portrait

Some photos can be years in the making – even if we don’t realize it at the time. Would you believe that our latest conceptual portrait started in 2008, only to be finished five years later in 2013? Would you also believe that this image took two separate trips to Illinois as well as a costume fashion shoot to finally bring Chris’s vision to life. We wouldn’t necessarily believe it either, but sometimes the truth behind our photos can be stranger than fiction.

So how did this all happen? keep reading for the full story…

chris crisman suitcase girl portrait

In a way, it all started with a bow hunter. Shot in 2008 for Field and Stream, Chris traveled to Illinois to spend a few days photographing with outfitter and hunter Tom Ware. Not only did this shoot result in some awesome portraits of our subject, but it afforded Chris the opportunity to shoot a few landscape images

chris crisman suitcase girl portrait

The hero of these landscapes was this image – “Big Tree” as we called it in the studio. A personal favorite of ours, we’ve kept this photo on Chris’s website and in his portfolios through many redesigns and shuffling of our work.

Big Tree was always an excellent landscape, but Chris couldn’t help feeling that the photo needed something more, it needed a story to tell, more of an emotion to convey.

chris crisman suitcase girl portrait

Jump forward to early 2013 to Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing, a large, crowded costume rental warehouse in NYC.  Not on assignment, but collaborating with famous company owner and curator Helen Uffner and stylist Gabrielle Rosenberg, Chris and our team found ourselves shooting close to a dozen fashion models in rare and beautiful authentic vintage clothing

chris crisman suitcase girl portrait

Inspired by the beauty of our talent and the uniqueness of the perfectly curated and styled wardrobe, ideas began to percolate and images started coming to mind. One of these images that we couldn’t escape was the thought of “Big Tree” – this time re-imagined as an environmental portrait.

chris crisman suitcase girl portrait

There was only one problem – one distinct problem. Our landscape from 2008 was not quite right. Both technically inferior (shot with a 1Ds Mk II) and compositionally problematic, we knew that a reshoot was in order. A handful of phone calls and reassurances (yes, the tree was still there) later, Chris hopped on a plane to Illinois and found himself retracing his footsteps from 2008, slowly working his way down dirt roads in search of the tree.

Unknowingly years in the making, we’ve arrived at our latest conceptual environmental portrait through the power of collaboration and collective inspiration. We owe an increadibly big thank you to everyone who helped bring this image together: Helen Uffner Vintage, wardrobe stylist Gabrielle Rosenberg, hair & makeup stylist George Kyriakos, makeup artist Gregg Hubbard, makeup artist Michelle Coursey, and producer & casting agent Desiree Kennedy. Last but certainly not least, the owner of “Big Tree” and the surrounding land, David Myers.

Questions? Comments? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or @crismanphoto and /crismanphoto!

8 comments
  1. Ad Ro says: October 23, 201312:32 pm

    Great work as always! Is Cris wearing a San Diego State University shirt or a South Dakota State shirt?

  2. elton says: October 24, 20132:59 am

    that’s an great completion to a story! glad you were able to wrap up that loose end. beautiful picture btw.

  3. sally says: October 24, 20131:51 pm

    Absolutely stunning! beautiful images! congrats

  4. Dean Pearson says: October 25, 201312:24 pm

    The shirt is San Diego State. I graduated from South Dakota State University and our colors are blue and yellow. The Aztec colors are red and black. Nice story btw.

  5. Robert Luessen says: October 26, 20138:29 pm

    Thank you Dean! And you are correct, it’s San Diego State.

  6. Robert Luessen says: October 26, 20138:29 pm

    Thank you Sally, you are too kind!

  7. Robert Luessen says: October 26, 20138:30 pm

    Thank you Elton, you are too kind. It’s amazing how photos come together, so many years later.

  8. Robert Luessen says: October 26, 20138:30 pm

    Thank you! It’s a San Diego State shirt…

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