The photographs in Colorado Uncovered -- a new book by photographer Darrell Pierson and his wife, Sherry Whitney, which places naked models before both manmade and natural landmarks in this state -- can inspire lengthy study. But despite the inspired staging, the photos themselves were taken very quickly.
After all, when you're revealing the naked truth of the Big Blue Bear, or Mesa Verde, you don't have much time.
That means you need a lot of ingenuity, and a little "magic," Pierson says.
At Mesa Verde, he points out, the only way you can get to the ruins is with a guide. So on the day of the shoot there, his crew hung out near the end of the tour, and as the rest of the group went up the ladder and the ranger at the rear waited for another photographer, "We said, let's just go for it,'" Pierson remembers. Whitney grabbed the coat that had been cloaking the model, and he grabbed the shot. When the other photographer caught up with Pierson and saw what he was doing, he told Pierson, "Well, you really got the shot."
Pierson and Whitney run Body Photage, a glamour photography business that won a 2010 Best of Denver award for Best Arty Nude Portraits. Most of their work is done indoors, but this book was inspired by a client who wanted a photo taken outdoors more than a dozen years ago. "She wanted a shot that was very urban," Pierson explains. They got the shot -- in the Kettle Arcade in Larimer Square -- and put it in their showbook, which they show prospective clients when they come in for a consultation.
"There was so much positive response, people said we should do as calendar," Pierson remembers. They started with black-and-white photos taken in both urban settings and the great outdoors, then switched to color, and soon had far too many for a calendar. So about five or six years ago, they decided to do a book instead.
In the studio, Pierson has lots of equipment and many props for his glamor shots, and all the time he needs. But they had to take a different approach for the photos in Colorado Uncovered. "When we go out to do shots for the book, we don't bring a lot of lighting equipment, I don't even bring a tripod," he says. "We work very, very quickly. Sherry's generally right next to the person we're shooting. We've already practiced the pose...she pulls off the coat, and I knock out five or six shots."
It's tricky, but they've managed to get photos in most of the spots on their hit list. They had no problem finding models for the shoots, either. "Every single one is a former client," says Pierson, who explains that he made more than fifty phone calls asking if they'd like to be part of the project, and "not a single one said no," he recalls. "I'm very very flattered by that."
But then, Body Photage photos are very, very flattering.
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Whitney and Pierson are already working on a list of additional places in Colorado they'd like to capture for book two. But first, they need to sell this one; they took out a second mortgage to pay for this 2,000 copy, coffee-table-quality run.
Pierson and Whitney will launch the book at a party on November 30 at the Sanctuary, the private golf course featured in some of the shots, to which they've invited clients and friends; they plan other signings at public parties later in the season. See theColorado Uncovered slide show here.