Posts Tagged ‘beach fashion’

Model Models

Thursday, March 25th, 2010
House of the Waves

House of the Waves

Recently, NYC based production company Silent Crow was in Ventura. Two writers with the company happened to have connected with Donna Von Hoesslin of Betty B and learning a little bit about her female inspired Eco Fashion line. They came up with an idea.

Producer Matt Bennett showed up to do a little bit of discovery work, and honed a reality show concept that deviated from the norm, in that it endeavors to look at the personalities and lives of the women in both my and Donna’s lives. Silent Crow named the show Bonafide.

Donna and I have long exchanged working relationships with people who we see as unique, and able to be involved in both the editorial market, and branding process, both for the model as a product, and for Betty B’s unique, ethics based, Fashion accessories line. The Betty Blog is here.

What Matt discovered is that each one of these women is a story unto themselves. Tricky thing to formuate a show upon. I just saw the teaser reel that Silent Crow Produced, and that I contributed footage and stills to. I think they get it. Not an easy thing to do, getting something that is a world unto itself.

Hailey and Sierra Partridge are two of the girls who were not involved in the show pitch per se. Recently a potential new supporter of theirs, Tonic, asked to use a couple images of the girls for branding purposes on their website.

What ensued for me, was a look through the girl’s files that began with a shoot for Betty B in Santa Cruz when they were about 16. Images from that first shoot went into a multitude of publications. Donna had simply shown me a cold pitch the twins had sent in and asked; “What do you think?”

“Duhhh yea”, was my first response. “Beautiful twins, athletes, and self motivated? What is the question?”

Sierra, Winnie, Hailey

Sierra, Winnie, Hailey

But what I discovered in the course of my years traveling and shooting with these young women, was something special. Having a rough go as life started for them, (They were basically born blind) the two daughters of Santa Cruz waterman Rym Partridge, and his wife Winnie, a career flight attendant, weathered the waters of Nor Cal, the alpha male environment of Santa Cruz, and tutelage of their Dad (Think gnarly. Better than you, better than me), to become waterwomen.



As they engage college, they have had a high bar for life and ethics set for them by the family, which has a history of not only strong nurture, but strict ethical and moral compass headings. Rym’s stories of outback charity work which began in the poor parts of Hawaii, and has taken him all over the world (he is a Dentist by trade), set a certain level of expectation for the young ladies.

Rym riding Rym's Reef. 65 years old.

Rym riding Rym’s Reef. 65 years old.

Then there is Donna, and the incredibly competitive group of women who are the core of Betty B’s brand identity. Not an easy act to join, as each person is an entity unto themselves. They are sort of the anti team. But then again, surfing is an anti sport: a renegade, self oriented, lifestyle.

I find it interesting, as I look back on the thousands of images that the girls and I have produced, that I never saw two lanky blond beauties, I only saw sentient, kind people, who happened to be great athletes, and a certain potential. Shadow of their parents.

Betty B, Hobie Sports, K 38 Rescue, Oneill Intl, Ocean Minded, and countless editors, have supported and published this work. It gets pretty entertaining when certain fashion magazines come up with “great ideas”,  then use the girls in them, right down to my art direction items, like the Red Ford Bronco we used in one of our Hobie shoots. (Hey I have a great idea)  There is a reason for me hanging with who I do. I have a low tolerance for insincerity, and a penchant for authenticity. Real is valuable, and life is far better than fiction ever could be.

This edit illustrates a best case example of why I tend to to keep my subjects with me over time. The work becomes vital.  We learn. We have fun. And authenticity? Well, they are the real deal. This is all them. I just pose suggestions which my career and vision allow for. If someone will not push the edge of their comfort zone continually, they will really learn to hate me in short order. But if they do have that desire, what an adventure occurs.

Model models for me, as they are the anti models: they are real.

Another one of Donna’s talented women, is singer songwriter Zuri Star. She has this to say. “You Don’t Know Me”

“Sex appeal is 50% what you’ve got and 50% what people think you’ve got.” ~Sophia Loren

The following gallery is a cross section of some of our work together. Click on any of the images for a larger view.

A Fall Fantasy

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009


Nothing deep to share. Or is there?

The past weeks have allowed me a lot of time and effort to delve into what many consider to be my forte, which is shooting surfing, nature,  beach culture and lifestyle.

So this blog is devoted to showing a few of the sights seen this last several weeks of Fall. It is a teensy sampling of over 1200 final images collected. The culmination of a huge number of commercial, editorial and personal interest projects.

Thanks to the beautiful place that I live in, and all my wonderful friends, commercial clients and publications for making such a huge collection possible. And to my girlfriend and principal stylist, Donna Von Hoesslin of Betty B.

Much looms on the horizon for us as we plunge towards Winter and a New Year.

Take a deep breath. Breath. And as my friend Korina instructed me to do yesterday: “Step on to the sand.”

Click on any of the images in the gallery for a larger view.

All of it was shot on the Canon5D Mark 2 and Canon and Tokina lenses, using SPL waterhousings.

Step On To The Sand

Step On To The Sand

Last but not least:


Sunday, November 8th, 2009

It has been a very busy year. So busy in fact, that I have needed to learn how to recharge my creative battery while on the fly. Fashion, Video projects, TV projects, motion pictures, my penchant for documenting beautiful things, travel, new tech, literary projects, commercial imaging, social projects, community, and hopefully some of me for my wonderful girlfriend and family. All of these things have beat a tempo never experienced in the realm of my career as an image maker.

It comes at a time when the economy is without a doubt at one if its worst places in recent history. Things have never been so hard for so many in the scant 50 years that I can recall on this blue ball. It is so distressing with friends and Country being dragged so horribly through the gutter, that it would be a more natural reaction to recoil in horror. But I don’t.

Seth Godin dropped this fantastic blog into my e mail this Sunday morning that had me go: “AHA” and sit down to write and ply the pixel seas for this.

I am supposed to be preparing for a fashion shoot for the next couple days. In fact I am supposed to be doing quite a few things like that.   Four AM today I awoke with the Music Video for Elliot Minor that Tyler Swain and I have been whacking away on in edit for the past two days, alive in my head.  I have watched a lot of their videos recently. High budget deals. Ours is not. Tyler was simply inspired enough by them to pen a concept and call  his friends, who in turn were equally inspired at the band’s ability and desire to deviate from a Pop culture, success formula laden career path, that we threw down our various skills to make something special at a unique fork in their creative path. So we endeavor to create something that will convey passion. The song is dark. We are all about light. It is a creative challenge. Plus there is only talent, no budget. But talent and passion trump dollars every time. All my close friends and colleagues live this credo. So doing fantastic work without a lot of money is just normal to us.

I was struck by what Seth said as he pinpointed exactly why I am busy: I have been focused on fabulous, but more succinctly: on wonder. The money sure isn’t there. But then I have never had that as a motivation for what I do anyway. Much to some of my commercial colleague’s concern over my well being. But it seems to work.

The Dictionary defines wonder here as a noun. Simple word, but since it converts easily to a verb, it is a very intrigueing thing to ponder:

wonder |ˈwəndər|
a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable : he had stood in front of it, observing the intricacy of the ironwork with the wonder of a child.
• the quality of a person or thing that causes such a feeling : Athens was a place of wonder and beauty.
• a strange or remarkable person, thing, or event : the electric trolley car was looked upon as the wonder of the age.
• [as adj. ] having remarkable properties or abilities : a wonder drug.
• [in sing. ] a surprising event or situation : it is a wonder that losses are not much greater.

The worse things have become for the country, the more I have said yes to endeavors that point out the fabulous, the blessing, the awe inspiring. Why? Because we need them.  I want my family, friends and country to thrive. Inspiration is the fuel of innovation and we need that right now.  Possibly like never before. So I am going to continue with tail feathers on fire and hope the sparks ignite something in enough people that I feel it is safe to rest a bit.

I wonder. Here is some. It is all that I have to offer you. But it may be enough, if you treat it as seed. We need to plant seeds right now. No future harvest exists without them.

Liam: Wonder

Liam: Wonder

Looking for Rainbows

Looking for Rainbows

Hans Rathje

Hans Rathje



Hans: Zuma

Hans: Zuma



Minor Monitor Burn

Minor Monitor Burn





Indian Summer Sunset

Indian Summer Sunset

My son Jon, me: Family

My son Jon, me: Family


Skinny Bitch: A Day in the Life

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009


I have a rewarding job. I get to hang out with people I really like and create images that reflect a vibrant, healthy and exciting lifestyle.  In fact, such is the appeal of that lifestyle that the world of fashion uses it’s cachet to create branding for the many products it markets.

The way my shoots come together has always been sort of weird. Sometimes I feel as if some grand conductor has launched a symphony and I simply stumbled into the performance unawares. Then it all connects and I do my portion. It truly is a small part that I play at that point, albeit an integral one.

Hailey and Sierra Partridge and I were hanging out at my home in Ventura. They had made the drive down from Santa Cruz that day. One of the girls had asked: “Have you read Skinny Bitch yet?”(Skinny Bitch is a book about diet basically.) “I want to!” I had answered. “Just have not found the time. You know what Mary (Mary Osborne) and I always say right? Binge and purge baby, binge and purge.”

Our banter though light hearted and  an ongoing joke amongst us, serves as a continual sarcastic take on popular culture’s icon fabrication  process, where one starves ones self, does the “necessary” drugs and surgeries then models or performs. The result frequently can be an image that is not based in any healthy reality for the average female. It can be” the unhealthy art”. I frequently catch myself being simultaneously fascinated, attracted and repulsed by it.

I had a very general idea of what we would be shooting. Mary had called and asked if the girls would like to get spray tanned as part of a test of her new product and company, Sol Y Mar tan.  Donna Von Hoesslin wanted some shots for a campaign for her Betty B fashion accessory line. The twins were to meet the folks at the eco fashion company, Stewart and Brown the next day about possibly representing their line. My editor at Surfer, Jean Paul Van Swae, had sent me an e mail query about doing a series of vertical frame images for the magazine masthead featuring girls. Hobie always likes to see new images of the twins who as athletes and models, represent the iconic waterman branded company. Then there was Patagonia, Oneill etc, etc… I could hear the instruments tuning up. I made a list.

By the next evening the girls were a newer shade of bronze. Jeanette Ortiz had jumped into the group and I had spent the avo with naked girls running around the house. Now a part of me wants to go: “Yep dats right!” But the reality for most guys that work closely with women, is that though we cultivate a certain amount of sexual tension in order to build emotion that adds to the images depth, we are really more like a doctor-cum- artist when we look at our female subjects: objective and level. The actual process is the opposite of what some might think and definitely far from sexy for the photographer (and the girls if the complete truth be told I think)

Mary explained it to me many years ago from her POV. “Sometimes you feel like my boyfriend, sometimes my Father, sometimes my Brother, sometimes my best friend, I have just completely given up trying to figure it all out and just go with it.” And that is exactly how it is. We all travel together, spend long periods of time together and develop relationships that span many years, so a foundation of trust and commonality of purpose arises which makes for a very efficient process when it comes time to work. We have a lot of fun, and often, some great adventures, since most of the skinny bitches have superior athletic abilities.

The below text was copy pasted from an e mail exchange between Hailey, Sierra and I today. The girls have a casting call for a shoot with Vanity Fair this week and the photographer is Michael Halsband, whose work I have always admired. The correspondence offers a unique insight:

So do you know the photog? And thank you for the reassurance! :)


Nope do not know him personally, but know of his work and preferences. As long as he sees you as the real deal and unique he would select you guys. You would make him look good. Seriously. That is, if he gets to make the call. It is all about selling magazines and VF has a history, albeit recent, of attempting to portray surf culture.

You see, contemporary fashion apes surf culture in a variety of ways. One means is to steal it by doing things like this. I do not mean that in a necessarily bad way. It is the converse of what I do with fashion, whereby I import art, styling, lighting  and fashion and motion picture standards IN to surf culture via the work I produce for the surf industry etc.

Get it? Fashion borrows from popular culture since it is not a culture unto itself really. Fashion is there to sell merchandise and manipulate the wholesale and retail market into a longing for what it produces. Halsband will want that which exemplifies popular culture and makes him look good by having a facile tool with which he can build the image the photo dept and art director want. They have an idea most likely, but they are probably still looking,  trying to firm it up. That is what this modeling call is probably about.

I do this also.  But my process is different obviously. It is no accident that I chose you, or Mary, or Holly, or Jeanette or Hannah or Aubrey to work with. It was the basis of my decision to invest in little Asia as well.  My work is defined by my subjects. Fashion generally takes a different approach due to the way that business is formatted. For  someone or something to become a subject of mine it must be true and exemplify that which I wish to portray. You all do that. As people, athletes, artists/models, there really is a connection on the inside of me to yourselves. With you and your sister, as the saying goes, you had me at hello. Then as our relationship grew and we really got to know each other the entire adventure unfolded. Get it?

This is a fascinating twist and a huge step away from that last Allure shoot. This one is real. Be happy, go down, do what you know to do on the call. Be polite, direct, engaging and approach all in as intelligent a manner as possible.

They may want to portray what they are being sold (Sofia, and the contest surfers in this call, as products which exemplify women’s surfing), but my guess is that they will be looking for what surfing really is. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE OTHER DAY. SURFING IS ABOUT SURFING AND AN OCEAN LIFESTYLE. COMPETITIVE SURFING IS A DERIVATIVE OF THAT. GET IT? One authored the other NOT vice versa.

Relax, focus, have fun. It really is just like surfing. If this is the wave you want, this is part of paddling in. If you miss it, another comes along. It won’t be the same exact wave, but who is to say that one is better than another? They are just different.

Love always,

Blogger Seth Godin points me in the direction of a fantastic video that illustrates the fashion image game, which is here.

The images below are a cull from our 24 hour shoot and illustrates the work ethic and talent of my skinny bitches. We produced approximately 500 images and the conductor that day had us in near perfect form. We had a lot of fun, well, maybe except for the 54 degree water. Click on any of the images for a full view.

Equipment: Canon 5D Mark 2 body,  and more lenses than I can carry.

Location: Ventura County

Models: Jeanette Ortiz, Hailey Partridge, Sierra Partridge

Wardrobe: Stewart and Brown, Oneill, Hobie, Patagonia

Wetsuits: Oneill, Patagonia

Surfboards: Hobie, William Dennis, Dick Brewer

Hair: Danny Moa

Location assistant: Angie Izzo

Makeup and styling: Donna Von Hoesslin, Mary Osborne (tanning tech) for Solymar Tanning

Fashion accessories and jewelry: Betty B


Steven Falconer is incredibly unique and talented.  Today he is a novelist. But his background is as a highly successful New York fashion photographer. His  former models roster reads like a whose who of  fashion. He just sent me a note back in response to the blog, some of which I can post, some which I cannot because rather well known people’s names are involved.   Here is the part of his note that I can reprint from a person with a very rare perspective:

Thanks for sharing David.  I really like this shot, the way she’s carrying the board, the light, the wave behind, her long youthful figure.  Sounds like you’re busy and having lots of fun!  I’ve never read the book, but I don’t like the derogatory title.  I have to say that most of the girls I worked with were still slender because they were so young that they had hardly grown into their tall frames yet.  They had usually been veritable beanpoles when they were younger, naturally.  They didn’t have to worry about their weight any more than I did when I was young.  My problem when I was young was that I couldn’t keep weight ON.

When I  first met Steven some months back he was in a wheelchair.  Turns out a ski-ing accident put him in it when he was young and he built his amazing career while in that wheelchair. Something about him fascinated me from that first moment. I think that it is his  intense energy. One can see how it would affect his subjects.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.