Collaboration ... Russell James and Miranda Kerr in New York. Photo: Getty Images
AS A child growing up in Gunnedah, Miranda Kerr was adept at climbing trees, but a photo shoot in the American desert provided a new challenge for the tomboy turned supermodel. "There's a lot of trust involved when you ask someone to climb up a tree naked," says the internationally acclaimed Australian photographer Russell James.
"It was a freezing cold afternoon and it was windy and the sun was going down. I could see Miranda's skin was covered in goosebumps."
But the Victoria's Secret model, in that gutsy Australian spirit, persevered, and the striking nude image is featured in James' new book, Nomad Two Worlds, which was launched in New York on Monday night.
Kerr admitted she had a slight hesitation at James's proposition. "But when he explained the meaning behind it and the connection to the indigenous culture, I definitely found the inspiration to climb a tree naked.
Kerr quickly adds: "And the deal was that nothing would show and it would a very timeless and classy photo."
Indeed it is. James took the shot in the Californian desert in five-degree temperatures, at the site known as Palm 21. He then worked with a native American artist, Jamie Okuma, who painted over parts of the image.
It is a theme throughout the book, in which photography is combined with the paintbrushes of indigenous Australian, native American and Haitian artists. Heidi Klum, Hugh Jackman and the Australian supermodel Nicole Trunfio are among other celebrities who volunteered for the project.
James says his collaboration with Kerr came through her long-time support of Nomad Two Worlds, an organisation he established in Australia to develop and promote the careers of indigenous artists, and raise awareness of social issues. It has since expanded beyond Australia's borders and at Monday's New York event, Nomad Two Worlds launched its first fragrance.
Touted as an ancient "love potion", the fragrance, Raw Spirit – Fire Tree, contains an extract from the fire tree, which is native to Western Australia's Nyoongar community.
Kerr, who was strutting the catwalk last week at Victoria Secret's annual show in New York, says she was happy to devote her time to a cause that helps to bring cultures together.
"Growing up I had a lot of indigenous friends.
"My first kiss was with a boy who was part-indigenous. His mum was Aboriginal," she smiles.
"I think what Russell's doing is a great cause and it's important to be giving back to these communities."
Part of the proceeds of the book will be used to fund art projects in indigenous communities.
James says he is excited about the book and proud of how the socially conscious business has evolved. "When I started out 12 years ago, I had no idea what I was setting out on."