A black-and-white Stratocaster guitar propped against a swirling, expressionistic mural. A dark, wooden billiards table crouched near the onyx sprawl of antique black leather couches and a four-post bed. Graffiti-covered walls splattered with metallic skulls and fairies. The 40 rooms that make up Image 1st's sprawling studio move these visions in front of guests, nearly overloading the senses. The halls finally spill cathartically outside onto rambling gardens and the deck of a rooftop pool. Designers pepper the space with metallic paints and century-old furnishings, all selected to catch the eye under various lighting schemes.
Professional makeup artists and hairstylists prepare guests and match personal looks to specific rooms, and all team members call their clients by name from the first consultation, getting to know them as people while catering to their aesthetic aims. Beneath the endless curls of damask wallpaper, photographers direct the facial expressions and body language of newly dolled-up models to create sultry glances, playful poses, and faces that express the complicated feeling of discovering a birthday cake was full of puppies. The shutterbugs then hand off snaps to editors, who highlight subjects' beauty through skin retouching and color correction.
The idea for Image 1st came to Danny Gabriel from his brother Doren, who established a similar studio in London. After seeing a need for a photography studio catering to non-models, Danny devised a photo-shoot process more focused on a pampering experience than a traditional portfolio session, which involves high levels of stress and the need to blow-dry hair with exhaust from a Ferrari. His new venture nestles in the Wynwood Arts Complex, which houses many of the city’s creative minds.