In pursuit of happiness, photographer Lærke Rose Møllegaard takes sisterhood to Mexico’s sprawling landscapes and New York’s hidden waterfalls.
Somewhere in New York, at the height of summer, a perspiring stylist lugged two garment-stuffed duffle bags up a steep incline to a waterfall. She wasn’t alone, of course. Sharing the weight of tulle and knit dresses were her assistant and the rest of the shoot’s 10-person crew.
Two months earlier in Mexico, a volatile sky cast heat, then rain, then a storm over a different team.
These challenges didn’t taint the images in the least, but that was a given. When she pitched the story to Vogue Philippines, photographer Lærke Rose Møllegaard’s mood board had three uppercase letters plastered on the opening slide: JOY.
The idea sprouted from her own journey with happiness. Reflecting on her hustle-fueled 20s, it dawned on her that somewhere between grinding at work and cycling through projects, she had forgotten what true joy felt like beyond fleeting glimpses. Revisiting the shoot’s ideation stage, she remembers, “What first came into my mind were the feeling of sun, walking barefoot in nature, and spending time with friends where time felt timeless, like when we were kids. This pure form of joy and bliss was what inspired me for this story.”
At both locations, Møllegaard led the way. “There were challenges on both shoot days,” she tells Vogue Philippines, “but the [teams were] prepared and helped each other when needed. Keeping the spirit high through all the sweat.”
Childhood was an inspiration shared with stylist Hannah Krall of the shoot’s New York unit. “As I was doing initial market work and selecting pieces to request, I realized I was gravitating towards looks that I would have wanted to dress up in as a little girl,” she shares. When Hannah and the team hauled the two duffle bags up the mountain, they were really carrying a girl’s dream wardrobe: composed of special pieces like Adeam’s layered tulle tutu dress and Rave Review’s white peek-a-boo top decorated with delicate flora.
Hannah expounds, “I think we lose our sense of joy and adventure with dressing up as we get older—so with this story I wanted the models to convey a purer and more naïve self-expression with the looks I selected. I didn’t want the fashion to feel childish or contrived, but I did want to revert back to what I loved when I was younger and drawing outfits (badly) in sketchbooks with gel pens.”
On the other hand, Angel Macias, stylist of the Mexico unit, built the fashion direction around the location’s “inspiring surroundings, colors, and textures.” Romina Montserrat’s three-dimensional florals and Anna Sui’s all-over emerald blooms reflect Mexico’s rich eclectic culture—which Angel was happy to immerse in. Of the shoot experience, he narrates, “Sensory overload is the best way to describe it. We fell in love with the abundant warmth of the people we came into contact with. It was an excellent opportunity to be more present and be able to discover and share the amazing times with the team.”
In hindsight, Lærke’s decision to shoot the same concept in a second location mirrored her upbringing. The Chinese-born photographer was raised by her adoptive parents in Denmark, leading her to feel “in between cultures, never fully rooted in one place.” If in Mexico everything and everyone felt foreign to her, in New York, where she resides, she had familiarity. “I wanted to shoot in these two contrasting locations to see if it brought out two perspectives of joy,” she explains.
Was it successful? “Joy to me is hard to describe,” Lærke confesses, “I’m still in search of it. But in this current state of my life, joy to me is learning new things. The freedom to be creative. Feeling time doesn’t exist. Making warm memories with loved ones and living in the present.”
Photographs by Lærke Rose Møllegaard. Styling by Hannah Krall and Angel Macias. Mexico Unit. Stylist: Angel Macias. Makeup: Gus Bortolotti. Hair: Octavio. Leon. Models: Dalia Xiuhcoatl, Akima Maldonado, Ambar Venegas. Photographer’s Assistants: Brian Rodriguez, Mikey Sanchez. New York Unit. Stylist: Hannah Krall. Makeup: Tomoyo Shionome. Hair: Taichi Saito. Models: Diana Carl, Jiwon Ra, Megan Rodrigues. Casting: Eric Cano of Cano Castings. Production Design: Selena Liu. Florist: Michelle Pelletier of Love Me Not Floral. Photographer’s Assistant: Lawrence De Leon.
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