While each of my photo shoots for HOLIDAY 2011 were fun and exciting, I love it when I have the chance to meet new, talented people and discover their personal approaches to creativity and holiday tradition. For my shoot with Kate Riley (aka Centsational Girl) I flew to the other end of the country and drove over the Golden Gate bridge to capture the essence of her family's New Year's party. Read on to hear Kate's and my impressions of the experience in good ol' He Said/She Said style!
Matthew Mead: It was August when I went to visit Kate/Centsational Girl. I pulled up to her beautiful home and there were colorful flower blossoms everywhere! The facade was friendly, welcoming and engaging and I was eager to knock on the door and discover the home inside. (It occurred to me as I was on my flight home that I should have shot the exterior for a summer issue, as it was really inspiring and special.)
Kate Riley: My first impression of Matthew was that a friend was arriving at my door! We had been messaging back and forth before his arrival and his relaxed style was immediately apparent. I think whenever you're honored to be included in a magazine shoot with someone with his level of experience and standards of taste, the pressure is there, but Matthew eliminated any anxiety from the start. He had no preconceived expectations or list of things he wanted to see; he trusted me to create something beautiful. Matthew's whole approach to styling is to tweak a little here and there, but mostly things really should be photographed as they are. Just like real life.
Matthew: The holiday decor was really ready to go. Many times there is the need for an entire day spent decorating. Not so here: Kate had all of the colors figured out and most of the styling complete. There was so much ready to go that we even had time to go antiquing together in downtown Petaluma, which I hadn't done since I worked for Pottery Barn nearly 10 years ago!
Kate: I was surprised by how easily the day flowed from beginning to end. We worked at a steady, relaxed pace from morning to afternoon, and Matthew took some incredible shots. He was very reassuring that the final shoot would be beautiful, but more important, tell a story. When we sat down to look at the final images, I realized how right he was. It's so nice to learn from professionals who have such confidence in the outcome.
Bumps in the road?
Matthew: None, really! It was a very smooth shoot and I was lucky enough to stay in the guest house which was beautifully appointed with some of Kate's own DIY projects from her blog. I walked through a beautiful terraced patio to a private cottage overlooking a vineyard...an absolute PARADISE! Oh wait; my tripod (which I had shipped to Kate's) did get delivered to the wrong house and didn't turn up til the end of the day! But...
Kate: ....we found out it was delivered to my neighbor's house! We took a walk down my street to retrieve it, but later learned my neighbor stored it in his house before he left for the day! No worries, I needed a new tripod so I ran down to a local photography shop to find a replacement and we were back to work! And because of Matthew's congenial approach, there were never any differences in opinion regarding how things were styled. I loved watching him work, and especially admired his sense of capturing light in the best way to highlight the best attributes of the holiday decorations on display.
Behind closed doors:
Matthew: I got the chance to meet Kate's lovely family and also check out her design office which was filled with ongoing projects and inspirations. Fabrics, accessories, fun furnishings... obviously her treasure trove of favorite things. I was in awe. And I got to meet her fantastic neighbor who joined us for the shoot and festivities!
Kate: I prepared for days in advance, sewing a custom tablecloth, ordering greenery shipped overnight, styling a mantel, and staging other little details. Matthew flew in the afternoon before the photo shoot and eased my anxious mind by looking around and saying, "It all looks fantastic." He folowed that up with, "Now let's go antiquing downtown while we have a few hours!" I loved that.
How to say goodbye:
Matthew: Kate and I vowed to work together again (that is a given) and she shared with me her love of the region, the wine country, and the very special wine she and her husband make together. While it wasn't actually New Year's, it certainly felt like a celebration!
Kate: At the end of the shoot I felt relief and delight that it was such a success. The story we created was about the "Cheesecake, Chocolate, and Champagne" New Year's Eve buffet that my husband and I throw for our friends. We had plenty of sweets left over so I sent some home with neighbors and friends. Then my mister and I finished that leftover bottle of champagne to celebrate a successful photo shoot. The next day, I cleaned it all up and packed it away in boxes and it was right back to our humdrum life as we know it!
Matthew Mead: Thank you Kate, for sharing your beautiful home and family with us and for sharing your insights into what the experience was really like!
Buy our expanded keepsake edition of Holiday with Matthew Mead 2011 here.