All right, so this is eventually going to turn into a love letter, but first I want to share a little bit of the reasons I want, what I worked on, and the people that made this trip what it was.
For the past four days, I’ve had the chance to hang out in New York City. After a day of shooting with Richard for TheRingBearer.ca’s Kleinfeld bridal contest, I decided to stay a couple extra days in town to hang out and do what we call ‘creatives’ – shoots that are not for a client, but more of portfolio development pieces. It’s been quite a while since I shot a lot of photography, and it was good to go back to a medium in which you can tell stories with a single frame (and it’s also just good for the eye to try and generate your own ideas/frames/stories in the context of non-commissioned shoots). I shot three times in three days – more than in the past three months put together -, and had to overcome different challenges in every location, and with every shoot. Overall, I feel like I could have gotten more shots in terms of final edited images, but still, I really like the top two images from every shoot, which is still okay in terms of portfolio development.
Before moving forward, I just want to say a big thank you to my high school friend Jonathan who let me crash on the couch of the amazing apartment he shares with a million other roommates, including another high school classmate, Clarence (his hair is different and I was tired, so it took a second before I recognized him… sorry! But yes, thanks so much for the hospitality, for inviting me to the HealthiNation End of Summer event at The Standard, and for introducing me to a bunch of cool people. I had an amazing time hanging out with everyone!
Not my shot, but it gives you a sense of the view from the rooftop!
It’s such a good feeling to reconnect with people you’ve shared so much with in the past – it seems that the connection we all made back in high school never fades. Moving on, before I get all mushy about the past, etc, etc.
I don’t want to go overboard with describing all of the different shoots I did while I was there, but I think it’s important to first thank my models Kate Wang, Jessica Vienna and Anna Gu, all of whom did a great job and were an absolute pleasure to work with. I’m pretty laid back (and, frankly, quite slow) when I shoot, so to have people that can work with me, casually discuss who they are what they are about, and then at a moment’s notice jump back into it, is pretty awesome. Thank you ladies, you were awesome and I hope you like some of the images!
For the camera geeks among you, all shots were taken with Nikon lenses (17-35 f/2.8, 20mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.8), either on the Canon 7D or the Nikon D300s. Yes, these are fairly ‘old’ cameras, and I do wish I had a 5DMarkIII with me or something like that, but at the end of the day, as I always say, a camera’s a camera’s a camera…
All right, so a few images… First, Kate at her friend Emily’s apartment. This was the first time ever that I did a more ‘intimate’ shoot. It’s something I’ve decided not to do in the past, for various reasons that need not be discussed here, but I thought that I may try while I was in New York. Those of you that know me well know about my admiration for fashion/editorial/art photographer Akif Hakan Celebi, whose more personal work explores the complex relationship between beauty, intimacy, vulnerability, and pain. Now, I of course didn’t create anything nearly as beautiful as what Akif does, but I wanted to throw it out there that he really is my inspiration for these more intimate shots I did with Kate and Jessica. Many, many times we had to stop and think about how do we not make this into glamour? It seems easy, but when you put most people half naked in front of the camera, they try and look good, sexy, so the real challenge is how do you allow for a certain amount of staged beauty while communicating the awkwardness of an ultimately voyeuristic exchange. People, naked, are vulnerable. Most of the time photographers and models overcome that by over-posing and over-playing the sexual tension to the point where reality isn’t part of the equation anymore – think of Maxim, for example, who do glossy sexy. Anyway, this is a much wider discussion about how one approaches and depicts beauty, vulnerability, sexuality, etc, but I did want to provide some insight, if not to what I did, at least as to what I tried to do. The images are not meant to be offensive or sexy in a way that creates sexual tension, but are meant more as slices of moments frozen in time.
Kate, at her friend Emily’s place, one of the most amazing spaces I have ever seen! Very happy with the first photo; I also like the second shot, but realize that it definitely has a little bit more staging to it, but still, this seemed like the second best image from the shoot and fit well as a diptych (Below).
Jessica (who’s also an aspiring photographer), at her brand new apartment, and then around Carl Schwartz park. She was such a pleasure to work with, very sweet girl, and very open to trying all sorts of poses. Too bad the one outdoor location she wanted to shoot at – an abandoned boat dock I think – ended up being locked… (Below).
And, last but not least, the amazing Anna around South Street Seaport. This shoot was probably the most challenging because I messed up in my estimating what time sunset was going to happen. By the time Anna showed up, I had no light left and, quite frankly, was a little bit panicked because I had a weird kind of situation going on with my gear (half Nikon, half Canon, with some compatibility issues). But in the end, we found one incredibly inspiring location and really made something happen I think. I just love the narrative quality of this series! (Below).
Well, that’s it for the shoots…
I’ve fallen in love with New York again. It is such a beautiful city, full of creative people, and I hope to return as soon as possible. I may even have to find a way to move there permanently, given how deep the talent pool is there, and how inspiring a place it is. I’ve been super lucky in the last year, visiting Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Tokyo (very briefly) – thanks mostly to my good friend and business partner Michael MK Siu, who’s got me working on a bunch of amazing projects – and it seems that each of them has its own vibe, things that make it unique and loveable. But words fall short to describe what I felt in New York these last few days: a sense of belonging, of wanting to participate in building this city further, being part of its future. I am not sure if this means more short-term projects there, or perhaps something more permanent, but what I do know is that this little four day affair between New York and I is something I want to happen more often.
Dear New York,
I suppose it’s a little strange to be writing to you like this, out of the blue, but wanted you to know that I had a great time with you these past couple of days. I didn’t really discover anything new about you, or even about myself, but something happened. I can’t remember ever feeling quite like this. I think we should keep this thing going. I don’t know if we’d be just lovers, or also friends, or if we’ll ever develop a real relationship. But yeah, there’s something there. I know I’m not the only one, that you’re not going anywhere, and that, ultimately, it’s up to me to make moves. Well, I’ll be back sometime soon, and I hope we can resume this thing.