How did you come to collaborate on Distortraits?
Kelly: We do a lot of beauty shoots with models coming through San Francisco. That work can tend to have a limited shelf life. The Distortraits came about as a way to re-purpose those images and to give them a new life. By distorting them in-camera, the picture becomes less a portrait of a specific person, and more of a symbol, reduced to mood, tone and form.
How often do you collaborate on projects?
Kelly: We almost always work together whenever I have a booking. I have learned the lesson to never forgo professional makeup on a portrait shoot if I can help it. Stacy
is great at making people feel relaxed before going in front of the camera, which is a valuable asset. It’s why she’s always booked with commercial/corporate work.
What’s the best part of working with your spouse on creative projects?
Stacy: I love that Kelly is so motivated by the world around him. He is always taking in what inspires him, and his enthusiasm and attention to detail inspire me. We are both
perfectionists, which can be good and bad. Working with your partner, you tend to be more honest than you would be with someone less familiar.
Have you included makeup as such an interesting element of your work before?
Kelly: Yes, but not as often as I would like to. I usually tend to want to go completely over-the-top with makeup from the get-go. Stacy usually pulls me back from the edge. We now tend to start really natural and work our way up to more avant-garde makeup over the course of the day. It’s the more extreme looks that I tend to favor for the Distortraits.
Were you looking for something specific with the makeup in order to accomplish the final effects?
Kelly: The goal is always to nail the best beauty shot we are capable of producing in a traditional sense. First and foremost, that’s what the base of these images are. So after
hair and makeup, it’s all about lighting, pose and emotion. The distortion aspect comes later, after the image has already been processed and retouched to some extent.
How much of the final result, and the manner in which you distort each image, is based on what the makeup looks like on the model?
Kelly: The approach to each one is different. The more makeup the model wears, the easier it is to pull her features into interesting shapes. The process is kind of like moving
around slowly in front of a fun house mirror and then freezing the action when the right composition comes together.
What kind of cameras did you shoot the project on?
Kelly: I used Canon full-frame DSLRs for the initial beauty captures and smaller FujiFilm mirrorless cameras and macro lenses for the distortion captures. The post-processing
happens in Adobe Lightroom and the enlargements for print output in Photoshop.
How many total portraits are in the series?
Kelly: The series is open ended at the moment. I’m still adding to it. I’ve made a large number of them, but I try to set a pretty high bar in choosing which images are added
to the group. I’m of the mind that photographs need to age a little before you know if they’re any good or not.
What was the design process for the looks? Was there a lot of discussion and planning or did it unfold naturally?
Stacy: For many of the models, I went pretty clean with the makeup. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do something more creative, but we’re in a market that tends toward the
understated. They are looking for more of a natural look most of the time, even if it’s a fashion shoot. But it’s a collaborative process and we usually put together a Pinterest board beforehand for inspiration. Kelly always has a strong opinion about how he wants the pictures to look, and I share the makeup techniques I’d like to showcase, and it evolves from there. We’re very open to changing things up in the moment and the model can affect that with her energy as well.
Any must have products on set for this?
Stacy: Each shoot has been different in terms of the products that I’ve used, but in general, I like to use the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation because of its texture and color range. I always use the Laura Mercier Loose powder — it’s
been my go to powder for years. Lashes were a key component for a few of the looks along with a strong eyeliner. I prefer to work with cream liner, such as MAC Pro
Longwear Fluidline for creating a cat eye, and Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel pencil for rimming the water line. My favorite lashes to have on set are the Ardell Faux Mink Individual lashes variety pack, because I can custom blend them to my liking. Sometimes, I’ll have a new makeup product that I’m dying to use and that can also influence the direction the makeup will go.
Words Michael DeVellis
Makeup Stacy McClure
Photos Kelly Castro