confessions of an art director by river bennett

river bennett (photographer bec hannaford)


I had been dreaming about doing a WolfpackMrs. shoot for a while but due to my “I hate being in front of the camera complex” I kept making excuses as to why I hadn’t got onto it.

I wanted to base it around an old English University vibe, with a bit of 1920’s  glam, but seeing as it wasn't possible this time for us to fly to England, and I didn’t know how to get my hands on 1920’s wardrobe, I needed to get my hair done, loose 5 kilos  blah blah blah…..

But I am often telling myself (and others) to never wait for perfect conditions or you will never get anything done. So I needed to take my own advice and start the process.

I started with doing a Google search for locations in Sydney that had the potential to look ‘English’. We came across a university in Sydney that seemed to have the vibe we were after, found an amazing black and silver 1920’s jacket with deep green satin lining and sequined sleeves (more on that later), and locked in a date and photographer.

On arrival we drove past a gorgeous dark green MG car outside a sandstone building .... I screamed for us to “Stop!” and told everyone - “we HAVE to shoot there.” (Even though we would need to find the owner to ask permission). 

Even after all the preparation for the Shoot, from concept to wardrobe to finding a location and time with Bec Hannaford, our photographer, I still felt as though something was missing. I needed a contrast. I needed something to make this Shoot different, and interesting, and not just another cute mummy-and-child Shoot. 

Then, out of nowhere, it seemed, Jim appeared. He was perfect. He was everything my imagination had conjured up. Wearing a brown velour tracksuit and a bucket hat, and outrageous orange sunglasses, escorted by 4 British dogs, everything about the man was perfect. 

I told him what we were doing and wanted to know if he would like to be in some shots with us. He laughed and agreed and I couldn't have been happier. He also mentioned that he had a green MG if we wanted to use it in the background to our Shoot. 

"UMMM - yes!!!!" (what are the chances?!)

It was amazing and we loved getting to know Jim and his dogs, Marge, Lewis, Duff and Shonie.


Here are a few things I learnt on this creative venture.

1. Take your eyes off yourself.

It's clear to me the times I have felt most insecure about myself is when all my thoughts have been focused on "me". Negative insecurities (like being in front of a camera - major anxiety haha) breed insecurities that fight in your head. Your thoughts and imaginations can lead you into either a healthy place, or a sick place within yourself.

I learnt again, through this Shoot, that we need to recognize who we are and seek to be the best version of it. Starting from the inside and heading out. Being confident in our true self not only liberates us but also allows others to feel liberated too. 

In all honesty it took me a while to relax, but by the end of the day I gave up caring about what I looked like, and gave who I really was, the best version of me, to the photographer. 

2. Beauty is often found in the hidden places. 

I searched everywhere for a couture gown to wear to make this Shoot pop. My budget didn't allow Valentino .... this time anyway :) - so I had to be creative in finding something. I searched material stores and thrift shops and then as a last resort I searched out a costume shop and found a 1920's vintage jacket. It was hiding between a cowboy outfit and a nurse’s uniform. I hired it for $30 for the weekend. 

Beauty is often found in the hidden places and I believe we need to search for it in order to find it.

3. Limited resources can be our greatest gift.

Limited resources cause us to see what is right in front of us. 

Flights to England also weren't in our budget this time but I am a huge believer in using what you do have.

As a creative director I am often asking myself:

            What is in right in front of you?

            What is within your reach?

            How can I use what I have? 


So a quick Google search for location landed us in a university in the city. 

For some of us, resources can be in abundance and at times this is something that can work against us and cause us to miss the solution that is right in front of our eyes.

My encouragement would to be strip it back and look at your campaign, and imagine your had limited budget and resources. Use that creative brain you have been gifted with and see what you come up with.

4. Wait for the magic. 

Knowing something is missing is often a ‘gut feeling’, and over the years I have learnt to wait until I know deep down its right to continue.

That day, Jim and his 4 dogs were the magic. Not to mention the Dalmatian that happened to walk past at just the right moment.

Always allow room for the magical stuff to happen. It will always make for a great Shoot and will always put a stamp on it and deliver something special, which, if you hadn't waited, you would have missed. 


Creative Director @rivbennett

Photographer @bechannaford

Stylist @renaebartley