American photographer Malerie Marder is known for her deeply personal and intimate – if not erotic – work. So when TIME asked her to shoot the stars and the director of the upcoming film based on the global phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey, Marder had to face her first hurdle. “My work tends to revolve around an intimate moment or private moment,” she says. “For this shoot, there were many people involved — and at a certain moment, at least 20 people in the room — so I had to make it feel the opposite. It’s never so much about reality as [it is about] believability in the moment or a felt experience.”
Marder chose to portray the film’s director Sam Taylor-Johnson on a bed among white sheets because she “thought of her as a modern-day angel,” she says. “But the bed implies things not so angelic.”
As for actress Dakota Johnson, who portrays the studious Anastasia Steele, she offered Marder the shoot’s most unanticipated moment. “Dakota threw back her head, turning the image topsy turvy, uninhibited, less portrait-like and more of a surrender,” she says.