I met with internationally published and Oakland local, model Olivia Dantes at her charming Victorian in the Lake Merritt district.
Olivia and her sweet, pintsized pups, Arrow and Mouse, greeted me at the door welcoming me in. With walls and shelves adorn with beautiful collected trinkets, slightly disturbing toys from the turn of the 20th century, stunning art of all kinds, and vintage everything in between Olivia matched her environment. Bay area born, she and her husband Dominic have been living in Oakland for the past three years. Modeling, burlesque, oddity hunts, and vintage shopping are just some of her every day adventures. Here she gave us a look into her fun and unique personality, where to shop, and why we all need to check out wet plate photography. Enjoy.
How did you get started modeling?
I was really into art as a kid. I did everything you know? I took painting classes in college, made clay sculptures, I would knit, sew. I did a lot of art. Then I thought about modeling. I really liked it because it was just another art form you could do with your body. You didn’t need paintbrushes or a canvas…you are the canvas. Which I think is kind of cool. I think a lot of tattoo artists feel that way too, the body is the canvas.
Where are some of your favorite places to have a photo shoot in Oakland?
I really like…well now you’re having me give out my secrets (::laughs::). No, no…the Rose Garden. I love that place, it’s really nice. I’ve shot there a couple times because I like it so much. I also think shooting on the street sometimes looks really cool depending on what you’re shooting. I shoot at my house a lot, here (living room) and in the backyard.
Are you more comfortable if you’re at home?
It depends on what I’m shooting. I don’t like to be outdoors if its lingerie or really extravagant stuff with heavy makeup or hair or some of the more Avant-garde stuff. I prefer to do those in the studio just because, for one, it’s not very safe to be walking around in Oakland in lingerie (::laughs::). I don’t like getting stopped. People will ask questions or stop and stare or take pictures with their iPhones. If I’m in the zone I don’t want interruptions.
Do you like to model in vintage clothes or more modern clothes or…?
I do pretty much everything. I like everything. I do traditional pinup modeling; like the really vintage 1950s cheesecake stuff. I also do alternative, like latex and tattoo modeling. I’ve been in a few tattoo magazines and that’s pretty straight forward like casual clothes or a bikini and stuff so that part’s not my favorite because there’s nothing too artistic or creative about doing that you know? I also do like the more high fashion editorial shoots. Those are really fun even though I don’t like getting my hair and makeup done that much, I’m more of a tomboy in that way. I’m pretty casual.
How about personal style? Vintage? Modern?
I’m a big vintage lover.
I do love vintage clothing. Like earlier today I was antique shopping. I love all things vintage. But I’m very much more of a casual dresser in my day to day. I don’t, obviously take a lot of time with my hair (::laughs::) or my makeup so I would say that my day to day style is pretty casual. But I do love vintage, I do collect a lot of vintage dresses and I do love like 1930s 1940s evening dresses and for those I like high heels. So I think I’m a 50/50 mix of vintage-girly and street-tomboy.
I’m not a big accessory person. I’m pretty minimal. I have some feather earrings that I really like and hoop earrings are my go-to casual. Rings, I just got a bunch of really cool rings from Fourspeed Metalwerks that I really, really like. In the winter time I like scarves and hats. As far as modeling goes I’m always on the hunt for vintage accessories, vintage props, anything that would look cool or spark my inspiration to do a shoot. I’m always on the hunt for those types of things. I have my casual everyday of what I look like and then I have my alter ego.
It seems like you work with a lot of women in your job. What is it like to work with women in your field? Does it change your environment and if so how?
Guy photographers, not all of them of course, some of my favorite photographers I’ve worked with have been men but I feel like sometimes, again not all the time of course, men tend to over sexualize some things. Whereas a woman can see past that and make it more artistic and a little more styled. As far as working with women, a lot of them are my friends. If I shoot with a new photographer we usually end up becoming friends. For example, my friend Lauren Wilkinson is a photographer. I love working with her because it’s a blast and we can joke around. And she’s a really good friend of mine so I can be like, “I don’t like that photo”, you know? (::laughs::) She knows what I like, she knows what photos I like to see and what angles I like so it’s really easy to work with her. And when you’re putting so much effort into shoots like I do, buying wardrobe, buying props, doing things especially for that one shoot it’s nice to know that you are going to like the photos afterwards because nothing is worse than doing all that stuff and then getting the photos back and being like “Welp, that was a waste of time.” (::laughs::)
I can think of a couple off the top of my head that I’ve really enjoyed. Shannon Brooke is a photographer from Sacramento and her work is just amazing, every photo she does is absolutely breathtaking. I was lucky enough to get to work with her and we shot for Victory Mountain Threads, these really pretty evening gowns, and the photos just turned out amazing. We had Jennifer Corona doing hair and makeup and every little thing just came together; it was just so beautiful. Working with Shannon Brooke was amazing, she’s an awesome person and an awesome photographer and having Jennifer Corona doing hair and makeup was incredible. Everything just came together. That was definitely one of my favorites. Another favorite of mine, were wet plate photos done by Ed Ross out of San Jose. I love doing wet plate photography. It’s actually a photo that is taken on a tin and is one of the original ways of doing photography. So when you see the really old photos from the 1900s and earlier they’re actually taken on a tin plate or something similar. That’s another favorite. Wet plate is kind of the slang for it, ambrotype is what they call it, ambrotype photography. It’s actually a really interesting process, it’s also a really long process. What they do is take the plate and coat it in cyanide and other chemicals and then put it in this, basically, big camera that is not exposed to light. You then set up the person you’re photographing and depending on how bright it is outside or how dark or the look you’re going for that’s how long you have to wait between exposing it. When everything’s all set up you take the thing out, light comes in and then you quickly put it back. Then you have this negative image on the plate. You coat it in more chemicals, rinse it and then you get the positive. It’s a really long process compared to, say, digital photography were you can take an image and if you don’t like it you just delete it. And since it is such a long process to take one image you really have to put a lot of thought into it and be like “Okay, how am I going to pose for this one”. There’s a lot of little things that just have to be perfect. And you never know what you’re gonna get, it’s like the fun of a Polaroid. You know sometimes they turn out really awesome and then other times they’re really blurry or you cut off someone’s head or you never know. That’s probably definitely my favorite.
Olivia Dantes’ Top Five Places To Shop In Oakland:
1. & 2. Mercy Vintage and Pretty Penny:
At Mercy they have a mix of 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s clothes. I like it because it’s a mix, it’s not just one decade that they specialize in. Same with Pretty Penny. And both of those stores are pretty affordable. Some vintage stores mark up their price a lot. Like, a vintage cotton sundress with holes in it should not be $80. They’re pretty good about that.
3. Beauty’s Bagels:
Beauty’s Bagels are so good. I like the poppy seed bagel. They also make their own pickles but not just like pickled pickles they make pickled onions and picked carrots. Their coffee is really good. Also the environment is really cute, I would definitely recommend going there.
4. Urban Indigo:
That place is pretty cool, it’s over on Lakeshore. Urban Indigo is more of home goods but they feature a lot of local artists.
5. Mixed Pickles:
It’s a vintage antiques store and they have a lot of oddities stuff. Mixed Pickles has old medical equipment, jewelry, kitschy stuff like vintage toys and dolls. The other day they had a dental mold. They have a bunch of crazy stuff like that which is why I like that store.
To find out more about Olivia and see some of her fantastic images check out:
Store Envy: Xoliviadantes.storenvy.com