Since I was a little girl, I was stark raving mad about airplanes. Other girls had Barbie dolls, I had Barbie dolls and model airplanes and almost all my dolls were pilots. Yes, as a child I somehow defied physics. Even today my graphic novel project revolves around an Air Force.
I wanted to join the South African Air Force with everything I had after high school, but certain things (such as my complete ineptitude at math) prevented me from doing so and I ended up studying graphic design and photography. It was during those years that my involvement with the SAAF Museum Ysterplaat began.
Sometime during my second year I found out that the Engineering Faculty of Stellenbosch University has a Mirage F1-CZ in their Mechanical Engineering Lab and come hell or high water, I wanted to see that jet. And so, one day I marched up to the Engineering Faculty full of bravado and I spent an entire afternoon in the company of an ex-SAAF Mirage F1-CZ (admittedly only the shell, as the engine and avionics had been stripped), tail number 207 to be exact.
I sent the photos I took of her to the Museum at Ysterplaat asking them if they knew anything about the Stellenbosch Mirage and one thing led to another and I received an invitation to go and visit the Air Force Base. The rest, as they say, is history.
This isn't my first model shoot at Ysterplaat - the previous one was three years ago, almost to the day - and it was amazing to be able to revisit not only my favourite "model and fighter jet" concept, but also to see how far I've come in terms of photography.
I was incredibly lucky to have a great team on board - nobody would have been able to do the concept the justice like the amazing Bia (Little.Harlequin) did. I really love working with that girl - she just brings so much to a shoot and it was an insane amount of fun running around on the Base with her. The wardrobe was kindly supplied by the unbelievably talented Jelena Jablanovic - when I saw these pieces online I absolutely fell in love with them and I simply knew that they would fit "jet girl" theme perfectly!
Thank you also to my wonderful friends Laura Lee (who ended up being my wardrobe assistant!) and Shane Swartz for dropping by and keeping us company and my amazing boyfriend Philip for being such a super patient lighting assistant and putting up with my orders!
However, the BIGGEST thank you goes to Chris Teale and EVERYONE at the South African Air Force Museum at Air Force Base Ysterplaat. Nobody actually has any idea what goes into keeping up these incredible aircraft - it's not simply planes locked up in a hangar. You people do incredible work and I am unbelievably proud to be a part of what you do at Ysterplaat.
For anybody who would like to know, the aircraft used in the shoot are as follows:
- FIRST LOOK: North American F-86 Sabre SHERDANOR II. Formed part of the SAAF's 2 Squadron that joined the United States Air Force during the Korean War in the 1950's. SHERDANOR II was named after its predecessor, a North American P-51 Mustang (SHERDANOR I).
- SECOND LOOK: Atlas Impala MkI and Dassault Mirage F1-CZ. The Atlas Impala is a South African license build of the Italian Aermacchi MB-326 and number 460 was the first Impala that took service with the SAAF. The Dassault Mirage F1-CZ was used by 3 Squadron SAAF and number 213 was flown during the Border War by John Rankin, taking one of the only two "gun-fire-only" MiG-21 kills. The other F1-CZ currently resides at SAAF Museum Zwartkops.
- THIRD LOOK: Dassault Mirage IIIR2Z and Dassault Mirage F1-CZ. The SAAF operated Dassault Mirage III-BZ, DZ and R2Z variants during the Border War, but upgraded them to the Altas Cheetah through a joint venture with Israel to maintain air superiority. The Mirage III R2Z is a reconnaissance jet and the only airframe of its kind in the world.
I urge all of you to go check out the biennial Wings and Wheels air show at Air Force Base Ysterplaat the 7th and 8th of December 2013!
MODEL, MAKEUP AND HAIR: Bianka Hartenstein/Little.Harlequin
PHOTOGRAPHY AND RETOUCHING: Grethe Rosseaux
WARDROBE: Jelena Jablanovic
LIGHTING ASSISTANT: Philip Curran
WARDROBE ASSISTANT: Laura Lee Burford