Kirsten Owen


Friendships are built through shared experience over time. Models Guinevere van Seenus and Kirsten Owen developed theirs over multiple decades in fashion, as they came together again and again backstage at fashion shows around the world and on shoots with leading photographers like Peter Lindbergh as some of the industry's favorite muses.

These days, Owen is based in rural Vermont, living in a homemade tent next to a pond against a forest backdrop and tending an organic blueberry farm. Earlier this year on a family vacation with her partner and his two daughters to visit Owen, van Seenus was struck by inspiration for a spontaneous photo shoot at the tail end of the trip.

The result is Sylvan, an intimate invitation into a fantastical world. Bodies painted head-to-toe in vibrant pinks, yellows, oranges, and blues dart playfully against the greens of a wooded oasis, free to be exactly as they are with nature as their backdrop. No explanation is required, just the liberation of adventurous spirits given permission to exist all on their own.


Photography has always been a passion of van Seenus's, but in the last few years, as she has continued to delve further into the craft and pursue it more purposefully, she says her admiration for Owen has only grown. "She is to me one of the ultimate muses," she says. "For me, being on the other side of the camera is a really interesting and profound experience. All those things that I've heard about how people talk about muses and models, it was right there in front of me and it was so clear. When she's in front of the camera I just can't even capture all that she's giving. And it's who she is—it's not just her physical looks, but it's everything about her. You just want to know more, and she just gets better and more interesting and more beautiful and more special."

What makes Sylvan even more enchanting is the inclusion of Ella and Esther Friedlander, the teenage daughters of van Seenus's partner. As van Seenus explains, there is magic in capturing the people you love, connecting in a way that is beyond the superficial or physical. "They're both gorgeous and they're themselves," she says. "I fell in love with them and how they're individually special. They're both artists and they're both unique looking and they both are just amazing women that are developing in front of my eyes. It's amazing for me to see."

There is courage that comes from baring your naked body, and within these snapshots are four varied souls as bold as their body paint, animated in celebration of being. "There's so much pressure in this world to be so perfect," reflects van Seenus. "Most of what I'm shooting has to do with what I think is beautiful about women: women exactly as they are."

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Featuring Ella Friedlander, Esther Friendlander, Kirsten Owen, and Guinevere van Seenus. Body paint from MAC Cosmetics.

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