>This article appeared in the March-May 2002 issue of Stage Magazine.
The pictures are alternate version to those appearing at the exhibition.<

[click on the small pictures for enlargements]

There's nothing more rewarding than when a group of like-minded individuals put their energy into a project which erupts beyond expectations. When circumstances throw these people together and their creativity start to spark, you can smell that sweet scent of accomplishment in the air.

It all came to a head the night we met up with Theo & Arno from the Nude Girls at the Ocean Basket restaurant for the Post Nude Girls Reality article (Stage 16th Edition, Dec-Feb 2002, p.22). Make-up artist
Sonja Ruppersberg and photographer Francois Oberholster had been chatting about an experimental photo shoot for their portfolios - one that's different to the same-old-same-old. Having met Christina Storm and loving her authenticity, she was Sonja's first choice as one of the models. It all just fell together perfectly when Christina was instantly drawn to the idea, her housemate stylist Terence Norman also needing very little coaxing to join the team. Francois had always wanted to do a desert shoot. And why only use Christina for one of the shots if she could be the focal point of the entire project? Stage editor Gustav Andor was intrigued and agreed to back the project. And me? I was to be in charge of the documentation of this mammoth task - both in writing and on digital video.

What started out as a studio based idea hovering around relatively dark imagery to be turned into a calendar with various models, evolved after several meetings into something far more specific, elaborate, glamorous, tongue in cheek and free of any rules, regulations, taboos or trends, Ms Storm the focal point.

Sonja had many make-up ideas she wanted to experiment with while Terence grabbed the opportunity to let his imagination go wild from a stylist point of view. With model, make-up, wardrobe and location, Francois had a lot to play with when it came to composing the stunning shots. As a team everyone's ideas were considered, evaluated and used, no matter how outrageous.

An interesting location was of the utmost importance. Contrast was to play a huge role in the whole affair. The logical choice was Fraserburg in the Karoo. This is the little town where my mom grew up and where my parents purchased a quaint little getaway house in this quiet town, surrounded by a whole lot of dry & nothing. Perfect. Accommodation's sorted and self-catering will eliminate added hassles.

But, with the location about 500km away, there were countless logistics to consider. That was Gustav's baby, leaving each individual to concentrate on their specific task. We were all going to travel up in our own vehicles, but he arranged a Gemsbok tour bus with our own driver, Clive to get us there, back and wherever we needed to be in our arid site, miles from anything. And, there was little shortage when it came to oral lubrication - Savannah and Cuervo Gold always at hand. Finding the right time for everyone's schedules to coincide landed on a mere three days - one for travelling (both ways) and two for way over a dozen shots.

Departure date: Christmas Day, 2001.

But before then many a meeting on the particular shots were held at Stage Media Group HQ so that all involved knew exactly what to expect and fulfill their particular function, be it Gustav holding umbrellas or Liezel taking behind the scenes pictures.

The bus was loaded to the brim with equipment, props, luggage, wardrobe and left just enough space for each of our bums to sit through the lengthy drive. Only the first of the many sacrifices: Getting up before the dawn even considered cracking; Unbearable heat; Wind gusts; Using the bucket outhouse; Christina's numerous stringent make-up changes; Stares from locals; Ticks in the field and a failing generator resulting in a fused video camera charger, dead fan & fridge leading to melting make-up & hot tequila to a name just a few.

The group set out to do exactly what wasn't trendy (but toeing the dangerous line of it becoming fashionable exactly because of that reason) - doing something you wouldn't normally see when you page through any one of the generic magazines out there which is merely held together by sheets of ad-space.

The diverse ideas for each shot each got their own pet name. It included everything from HailMary (an angelic Catholic influenced pose); takes on South African culture with white trash and kitsch glam elements (LooLoo, PieterPetronella & Butcher'sDaughter); a fighting chick with steak on her bruised eye (GirlFight); SaddledUp (Whoa!); TiedUp (one hellova stunning image); FoxyBronze(sunset bikini shot on a car wreck with gun in hand); DesolateDenizens (dragging a fish from the dry earth); RagDoll; BassWitch (a witch flying on a 5-string bass guitar) and 082-help (in chains in the desert in evening dress straining for lipstick just out of reach). Wild, crazy, creatively free and visually stunning, each of Sonja & Terence's vastly different make-up concepts and styling ideas wonderfully captured on film.

After a dozen shots over two days, one of Christina's eyes couldn't take the beating of another make-up application, so for the final two shots a little role reversal occurred. Sonja would be the model and Christina the make-up artist. These were two tongue shots. One with fishnet stocking pulled over her tongue and another where she brandished a cow tongue in dominatrix garb (biting it in one shot!). Striking.

With a budget of just a little more than a pittance, the self-financed endeavour was fuelled by pure passion and enthusiasm. Everyone pitching in with whatever was needed (including our helpful driver), the team effort visible in the final product. And without the generosity of a professional like Ms Storm, devoting her time and talents to such an ambitious project, doing whatever was asked of her, the Desert Storm project would not have been a reality.

Where many projects fall short with a mere shoot and the publication of its end product, the ripple effects were soon reverberating across many a medium - from printing selected shots in Stage to, naturally in, as well as advertising-, postcard- & calendar possibilities, an exhibition and a documentary for whichever TV channel is wise enough to grab itů

The fact that all involved really got along so well on a friendship level made the hard work more effortless with humour far outweighing any expected outbursts - which, in fact, was pleasantly non-existent. Each of the players reaching in and displaying the most vivacious professional attitude.

While snowballing can be disastrous when it comes to rumours or debt - in this case Sonja, Francois & Terence's creative addition for their portfolios turned into an all encompassing event not just satisfying all involved, but leaving a creative mark on the South African visual landscape.

And though it may seem a tired pun to some, with all of the elements and energy involved with this collaboration, I could simply find no better banner for the whole experience thanůDESERT STORM. It was our little battle against the confines of a contrived, trend-happy world and the environment - and we exit victorious.

- Paul Blom

[all of the pictures discussed above and a video documentary of the entire process were seen at the Desert Storm Exhibition, Rhodes House, Cape Town on Saturday evening 30 March 2002]

RagDoll & PieterPetronella not pictured here
Will be included soon

Make-Up By

The Desert Storm Exhibition was sponsored by

Video & Words Courtesy

All pix by Francois Oberholster
except 2nd last (082help) by Lizl Strauss

Christina Storm - Model
Francois Oberholster - Photographer
Sonja Ruppersberg - Make-Up Artist & Conceptualizer
Terence Norman - Stylist
Paul Blom - Writer / Videographer for Flamedrop
Gustav Andor - Co-Ordinator & Stage Editor
Lizl Strauss - Assistant
Clive - Gemsbok Driver
Fraserburg - Location
Joan Blom - Accommodation & Lithp
features Sonja as Model
and Christina as Make-Up Artist