The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

The Kippford Mermaid

Zoe as a mermaid

When I met Heather Molloy from PAMIS (Promoting a More Inclusive Society) for a cuppa, she told me she was looking for a promotional photo for a multi-sensory story book called, The Kippford Mermaid.

Front cover of the book

Based on a local legend, the book had been created by "The Arts End of Somewhere", which creates inclusive and accessible arts workshops and events working with the community to support individuals with PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties)

Heather already had ideas where the 7 members of the group would be dressed up as mermaids and sailors so we set about exploring options from shooting on the beach to using a swimming pool, but given mobility restriction with some, not to mention the practicalities, we soon started paring it back a bit.

However, we didn't just want a quick press-photo with everyone in costume, in a row, smiling for the camera and holding a copy of the book above their heads. Now in full flow, bouncing ideas back and forth, we decided something that looked like it could be the scene from a theatre production held real possibilities.

The final image with added moon, stars, beach, and mermaid symbol on the sail.

We created a Pinterest Board to post ideas for the visuals and over the few weeks had a couple more meetings, one of which I invited Izzy Leach along to, who I'd been mentoring as part of the Upland Emerge programme.

Officially my time mentoring her had finished, but because most of it had taken place under the blanket of Covid, Izzy had never had the chance to accompany me on a larger photo shoot – something she'd been keen to do from the very beginning. And on the day of the shoot, she was a superb assistant, helping to create the set and take behind-the-scenes photos among other things.

Setting up the photo - image courtesy of Izzy Leach

It turned out my daughter, Meg, knew at least half the people involved, so she came along as an assistant too.

Heather managed to get hold of the Baptist Church in Dumfries. A large modern building, it gave us plenty of space for the shoot, as well as for hair, make-up, costumes and socialising, without feeling cramped. And Simon Lidwell of Wordsmith Crafts managed to supply us with a pile of boat related props for the set.

By this time though, pretty much everyone involved had received at least one vaccination, and most had both. And with a team of around 18 people, including carers and volunteers, involved on the day, everyone was doing flow tests on the run up to the shoot to ensure it wouldn't become a Covid hot spot, particularly as several people taking part were in high-risk categories.

The full team. Can you spot Meg?

While all the effort up to this point was to get the main group photo for promoting the book, we also wanted to create individual portraits of each of the members in their outfits.

Few of them had ever been involved in a photo shoot before, let alone one where hair, makeup and costumes were included, so it was an opportunity for them to feel a bit special.

The 3 sailors were easier to do as I we were able to use the set we'd already created for the group shot.




The mermaids, on the other hand required an entirely different treatment.

In my mind it all seemed pretty straightforward – I would photograph them against a green screen, and create an underwater scene for them in Photoshop once I got back to the computer.

Zoe against a green screen - photo courtesy of Izzy Leach

Sometimes it feels like one of the continual themes of my life, is throwing myself into something I thought would be quite simple, only for it to turn out to be way more complicated than I could ever have imagined.

I went down so many dead-ends trying to find a way of creating at least semi-convincing underwater photos, that it took me several days before I finally cracked it. Even then each photo took a lot of time to assemble, but at least I now knew what was required.




Here's a behind-the-scenes video of the shoot

If you would like to see me talking through the editing process, then watch from 22 minutes and 32 seconds in to the Episode 78 of my Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres video podcast:

And if you would like to get a copy of the book, then head over to the Curly Tale Books website, here:

All proceeds go to PAMIS

And as a final treat for everyone involved, the main photo ended up in a double-page spread in Dumfries and Galloway Life magazine, while Zoe adorned the Contents page!


debra said...

This is wonderful, Kim. Thanks so much for sharing.

Kim Ayres said...

Thank you, Debra - it was such a great shoot to be involved in :)

All content copyright of Kim Ayres. Powered by Blogger.