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My Little Rey

I feel like there's a real shortage of quality female heroes these days throughout our entertainment media. They always seem to be flawed in one way or ano...
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I feel like there's a real shortage of quality female heroes these days throughout our entertainment media. They always seem to be flawed in one way or another by the system that produces them. They're either a distressed, incapable damsel, or an obnoxious, loud-and-proud feminist who deems it necessary to remind the audience that she's a women every five seconds (just in case we didn't notice). Rarely do I watch a movie where the writers and filmmakers just let the female characters be themselves. Characters like Ellen Ripley (Alien), Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), and Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs) are few and far between. All of those characters have one thing in common: their gender didn't determine their capabilities. Audiences didn't think any of those characters could or couldn't do something because certain achetypes and agendas were being shoved down their throats. This, however, isn't the norm. Usually, it's Megan Fox up on the screen complaining that she's in "The same situation I'm always in. 'Cause, I don't know, I guess I just have a weakness for hot guys, for tight abs, and big arms." or Anna in 'Frozen', who insanely wants to get married the moment she sees people. Even the recent should-be-awesome 'Wonder Woman' trailers have been bogged down with lame secretary jokes. Just....why?

This brings us to Rey. As my family and I neared the end of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens', I realized she was going to be one of those characters that was going to be awesome all on her own, without the assistance of needless, gender-based dialogue. From start to finish, the focus was on her character, not her own self awareness of reality-based gender limitations. Since I'm the father of an amazing three year old girl, these characters have become very important to me. I know it's essential that my daughter focuses on being the best she can be, regardless of the many boxes the world will inevitably try to put her in, and she needs strong female heroes she can look up to. As soon as she watched 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens', she was hooked. When the movie hit Bluray she watched it over and over, and Rey has since become her favorite character, all without any parental coersion from me.

So, of course, I decided to do a photoshoot! Full on, out-of-control, dad support. It was a real challenge finding a Rey costume that fit a child, so I had to make a lot of it myself, or mod different parts of different costumes to fit her. It was well over a month before it finally looked right. Then I took my BB-8 droid (which I might've already owned...) and weathered it up with acrylic paint to look like less of a toy. Then a new challenge came along: location. Since we live in Florida, which is just a giant swamp, there's not many places that look like the desert planet Jakku. Degobah, maybe, but not Jakku. I was determined though, and finally found a construction site with some tilled dirt that would work.

I wanted this to have a very cinematic feel and stay as true to the movie as possible. It would have been easy to photograph her being cute and just use natural light, but I wanted this to really pop. My goal was to create an image just as strong as the character my daughter has grown to look up to. To accomplish this look I brought out the big guns and used a studio strobe on full power with a Westcott Halo modifier. I triggered the strobes with the PocketWizard FlexTT5 and the PocketWizard MiniTT1 for my Nikon D810. The location was not optimal due to it being peppered with large construction equipment and trees in the distance, so I shot this wide open at a F1.8. This made it so the buildings in the background looked like the market in the movie. Using just a wide open aperture, I had to bump up the shutter to as high as 1-8000s of a second on some of the images and shoot with the awesome High Speed Sync feature the PoketWizards offer.

My daughter and I had a blast. She was fully into it, and shockingly into character for a three year old. I'd tell her to pose a certain way, and she'd refuse because "Rey wouldn't do that, it's silly." Throughout the entire process, she took the shoot very seriously, and was more professional and determined than many of the professional adult models I've shot with. As I watched my three year old daughter wholeheartedly repeating Rey's movie lines that I didn't even know she knew to a plastic droid, in the middle of a construction site, in 90 degree heat, my thoughts that characters like Rey are sorely needed were affirmed. The process of creating the resulting images also reminded me of the importance of personal photography projects. Whenever I work on creating photos that actually mean something to me on a personal level, I remember why I became a professional photographer in the first place, and those projects always end up being my best work. These photos mean a lot to me, and I know that I'll cherish the memory of creating them alongside my little one for forever.
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17 Comments | Report
aidanreilly March 15, 2017
not real. definitely not real.
Lesabre1954 PRO+
Lesabre1954 March 15, 2017
Great staging and capture. I like your summary also.
hamidjalal March 27, 2017
Excellent Capture. The explanation of 'My Little Rey' and what lead to this creative image were all the more helpful in understanding the subject and the motivation from another level. It is almost as if I want to take my children out and start shooting such images. Though don't have a girl in the household :-(

All in all, loved everything about this image
That is soooooo gangsta! Great job. A Star Wars fan.
seangtierney May 16, 2017
Wee Rey! great photo
blootoonloon May 16, 2017
very good work
KcJones85 May 17, 2017
Nice job
davewarner May 18, 2017
Lots of work and love behind this
alfredohernandez May 19, 2017
This is excellent, the Little Rey thing is superbly captured in your photo.
DaveJoeMiko May 21, 2017
Love it.
pacinodeppfan1 May 23, 2017
That's awesome! I love it!
pacinodeppfan1 May 23, 2017
I love Star Wars!
sujatasetia June 01, 2017
amazing shot
sujatasetia June 01, 2017
Just shared your wonderful image and the back story on my FB page. Very inspiring.
boogyidol April 13, 2018
Wow, u done an amazing job....
BenjaminHornePhotography January 10, 2019
Ah, yes.... Little Rey, and BB-8... Nice
tsgallant PRO
tsgallant April 14, 2020
This is exceptional. You're a fabulous photographer.
spectaclephoto PRO
spectaclephoto April 14, 2020
Thank you so much!

Behind The Lens

This was taken at a construction site on a Sunday while there was no one working.
This was shot mid-day when the sun was super high!
I shot this with one studio strobe at full power.
Nikon D810, 50mm 1.8
As with most creative fields, it's easy to get stuck in a rut or burn out from only creating client projects. At my studio (Spectacle Photo) we not only challenge each other but require ourselves to do a personal project per quarter. Sometimes they are awesome, sometimes they are a complete failure! Regardless this exercise opens the mind, refills the creative tank, and blows the dust of self-doubt off the real reason I fell in love with photography. It was to tell stories. The exercise also presents an opportunity to include my children in my work and show them that work can be fun, and only you limit the stories you can tell. It's fun to show them an idea, create props with them, and then scout locations that will enhance the story. The best part is to watch them get carried away with the concept and add their own ingredients. Photographing children, in general, is awesome because they are natural actors. They have not been tainted by the realities of being an adult, and their imaginations make it easy for them to play the role you present to them. With my daughter, I knew she liked Star Wars and loved Rey, but I had no idea she would take the role so seriously. I would ask her to smile at the camera, and she would refuse! Why? Because "Rey wouldn't do that!". There are a few shots from the series where I managed to catch a brief moment of her breaking character with a smile. A moment that reassured me that this was not torture or work for her, but pure fun. It also opened my eyes to the fact that even at 3yrs old my daughter was not only able to really look up to someone, but also respect the character and what she admired in them. When I showed my daughter the final image, she pointed to the image and said "REY!" She did not see Kylee the 3yr old, she saw Rey the smart, confident, and self-sufficient hero who just so happen to be exactly like her. …
Other than the background ship most of this image was done in camera. I made the BB-8 and the staff by hand.
In my camera bag
Nikon D810, 85mm 1.8, 50mm 1.8, and my studio strobe.
Create! Keep Creating!!! The only thing you have to offer as a creative is your ideas! Anything else can be purchased by everyone else!

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