News & Runway

Lost in the Desert: Closed Set with Julie Bensman

The car that was, minutes ago, filled with frenetic chit chat about Kim Kardashian and media gossip that, fell eerily silent in one sweeping moment. Our rented Hyundai Santa Fe turned right off Highway 128 onto the gravel road leading to Sorrel River Resort and…more silence.

"It's so quiet here," someone whispered. "THIS is where we'll be staying for the next four days?" another voiced hissed. Throughout nearly nine hours of travel (JFK to Salt Lake City to Grand Junction, followed by a pick up at the local FedEx and a 90 minute drive down a single, dusty, canyon-engulfed road), our collective New York energy was slowly dwindling and no one seemed to realize it until this very moment. We got out of the car to unload clothes, props, and equipment, and the enormity of the landscape and deafening silence was, in a word, uncomfortable.

I was in Moab, Utah last week to shoot Aspen Peak's fashion editorial for the holiday issue. We had grand plans which included authentic ranch hands, bareback horses, and a girl-loses-her-way-in-the-desert narrative, plans that were (noisily) hatched back in the Big Apple. My main man Rony was shooting, Amanda was styling, Ms. Shanina was our muse, and Michael Tullio came down from Aspen to stand in for glam.

The contrast from where we came was glaringly obvious, intensified by the fact that no one had service on both Blackberries and iPhones (commence panic!) but we were here to shoot an epic story and epic story we were going to get (or this was going to be my last trip on the company's dime). As our blood pressures dropped and minds let go of their Manhattan set, the shots got easier: horses were calmer, the clouds were sparser, and the light from the sunset seemed to last a bit longer than it had the day before.

As much Type A planning as I put into the shoot, I was no match for the power of the canyons, which had their own schedule in mind. And as soon as we surrendered to that realization, we finally achieved the epic editorial we hoped for…which is not to say we lost every ounce of our city selves in the process. Not two miles after departing Sorrel, Shanina casually mentions her boyfriend is Tyson Beckford. "Tyson Beckford?!" I cried. "You're just mentioning this now?" And the ensuing chatter carried us back the whole nine hours home…