I got the email on Monday:
Hey Wild Woman,
How about a encore this Saturday?
Last time was absolutely sublime!
How could I say no to that? I have costumes to document and I am starting to enjoy photoshoots. 5 nights to prep? nooo problem! The fact that I was on a ton of cold meds when I got the email and wasn't sure how healthy I would be? Not an issue. I said yes and quickly Tim replied with the heading OUTSTANDING OZMA
You're the best!
We're going to have a party!!
Details on the way.....
Thanks so much
That's how they get you. They are all so damned loveable and complementary...( My next day ramblings )
I thought about what I would bring. I had one "must shoot costume" an orange Bella I bought while in America...but I was flexible for the rest. I have enough good shots right now that I don't have a pressing need to capture any one aspect of my dance or one costume....but I can always use more shots and more experience doing photo shoots.
I spent weeks prepping for my first shoot last year: I made a new skirt, I polled people on-line, I asked for advice, I hired a stylist and made special mix cds for the occasion...and somehow managed to go to a 6 hour workshop the next day (Sharron Kihara) after having shot until 4AM the night before. This time I prepared quickly and made sure I had nothing physically taxing to do the next day. I also downloaded and printed out examples of the sort of make-up I tend to use/be inspired by for the make-up artist. Last shoot I felt I had not prepped well enough to communicate my make-up desires.
Thursday night I ironed many silk veils,veils are usually around 2-3 yards of silk, so this is more arduous than you realize...and my ironing board is tiny, but I had not finalized my costume choices.
Friday, the night before the shoot, was my usual restaurant performance night. Before I headed off to dance I emailed asking if people had last requests. Tim forwarded me Lars' request for see-through veils and Alexis's request of "something purple." Tim also told me I'd have a great Japanese female make-up artist but that she wouldn't be coming until 2:00 (I'd get there at 12:45) and asked if I would bring my make-up kit to get started.
When I returned how from the restaurant, tired from a so-so show and fending off a drunk salaryman I'd gotten up to dance, I ironed a few more veils ) and futzed about.
I woke up Saturday and made myself a large omelete and a fresh fruit bowl. A large complex breakfast would have to carry me far, as eating gets irregular when you shoot. I pulled a total of four costumes for the shoot: My must-shoot orange costume, a purple and blue homemade that usually wouldn't make the cut but was purple, and two others. I didn't expect to shoot all four, three tops, but figured some flexibility in costume choices would be good for me and the photographers. I also packed fake nails (but not enough nail tape) and my bling. I realized that, because I would also be bringing my make-up and didn't want to crunch up my veils too much, I would need to bring the BIG suitcase.
BIG suitcase background: I think suitcase technology has evolved in the last 7 years, they keep getting lighter and lighter. The suitcase alone is a little weighty. It was the larger of the two I brought with me to Japan when I moved. It was the one that I exceed the then 70 pound limit with when I flew here. I'd managed to convince myself that there was no way the suitcase and stuff weighed more than 70 pounds, because I had carried it up a flight of stairs and into a car trunk...but that turned out to be simply because I am very stubborn.
The smaller of the two big suitcases would have been a little too small for my stuff, the larger was too large...but what ya gonna do? When you are beholden to a train for transport, you want as few items to drag as possible....one too big was better than a large and small.
I replied to Tim's latest email making sure we both had eachother's cell numbers incase of anything last minute. I told him I would call when I got there because I would need help getting my giant suitcase up 4 flights of stairs. Last time I carried it up and he'd chided me for not just calling and asking.
no bodies in there, i hope?
lots of eager guys available
to help pretty women ;)
I washed and dried my hair and piled it up on top of my head. I tore through my recent cds and grabbed some for the shoot. I put on base make-up eyeliner, and false eyelashes. I got my iPod, tossed a mandarine orange in my bag, and headed out. On the way to the station I picked up bottled water. I took Chiyoda line straight to Harajuku, a 50 minute ride.
Just as I was on front of the studio, dialing the number, an Asian American (or Asian Canadian?) boy around my age walked down and asked "Ozma?" and carried my bag up. This would be Irwin, one of the new boys.
Tim hugged me. He explained that because they didn't want to wear me out and that there would be another model (a rock star) coming to do some shots as well so that I could have some down time. I think Tim is realizing if there isn't something to force me to rest...I'll forget to. Our rockstar's make-up artist was already there, but our star wasn't. She'd lost her apartment keys, was sick, and was panicking and sending Tim text messages. I met the make-up artist, Reo, who doesn't speak English but is starting to study latin dance and was very excited about me being a dancer.
Tim also explained that Alexis, the photographer who wanted something purple, would be there shortly with a make-up artist for me...so my foundation make-up was a waste of time, but we ended up keeping my false lashes on.
Tim went back to updating the new kids (Irwin, Quynh and Barbara...I think) about the general set up. I unpacked my veils and hung them and pulled out my four costumes in their respective Ikea boxes....and we put my empty suicase on the stairs where it wouldn't get in peoples way. We had 5 people shooting, 2 make-up artists, one Tim and two models.
I talked to Reo. Lars arrived on his Harley. I offered and went on a Starbuck run for myself and others before we got started, I would need a scone and coffee to tide me for the next few hectic hours.
Alexis and her make-up artist arrived. I had met Alexis previously when I first visited the studio to meet Tim before we scheduled my first shoot. She'd been enthusiatic about bellydance when we talked and when I had given her an Afet Collective flyer she'd already been aware of the charity we were donating to. Alexis is also American, grew up in the projects of New York, and now works in the financial district in Tokyo. She is a self-confessed "demented hobbiest" when it comes to photography.
This would be our first time shooting together. She'd brought a special lens of some sort, which the shooters geeked about a bit. Alexis has been with the group for a while and is not a newbie. I showed Alexis my purple costume and she was very happy, her eyes lit up, it was worth it.
Her make-up artist met the other one and they decided to do my face together. The rock-star artist is in training for hair and make-up, the other artist often works with men and something to do with scars...either FX scars or hiding scars...my Japanese was a bit unlcear on this. I showed them the images and the copies of Japan Bellydance I had brought and talked about wanting a smokey eye with some color, darker brows, and light-ish lips. They ended up needing some of my make-up kit to get the right foundation and powder for me. I wish I had brought more lip colors, because the colors we mixed for me from what they had were mostly glosses, which I avoid because with the amount I move while I dance, my hair ends up all stuck to my lips and I get gloss on my veils.
They worked very well together and advised each other. Lars chatted with the kids about photo shoot, his experience, norms in studio pricing in Japn...
Both make-up had limited experience with working with female foreigners and were happy for the chance. They were also happy I spoke Japanese. They were most happy with my skin.
Reo kept squeeling how pretty I was and what nice skin I have. I've had this with Momo before, but I don't think of myself as pretty. Good-looking enough, yeah...but not really a feminine or movie star quality.
The rocker, Ces, arrived. She was worn out, wearing a cold mask, and wasn't happy. Her make-up artist told her that she could use that, she could be an unhappy or pout rock-star in the photos. Ces pulled out a lipstick. It was the only make-up she brought. Her artist looked at the dark brown lipstick, back up at her tired face, and wisely told her "No" and stuck to it.
I got changed. I would do my purple costume (with a choice of 3 veils) first. It was then that i realized I only had one safety pin. Boooooo.
I know that the first shots were gonna be so-so because I need to warm up, loosen up, and the photographers need time to take stock of what sort of dancer I am and what they want to play with. That's why I didn't start with my must-shoot costume. If I had a very clear idea of exactly what shots I wanted, it might not matter, but when shooting is more of a work-in progress, I figured I'd rather have my must-shoot at a later time...but not too late to prevent tired posture and hair.
I popped on some fake nails and put on my music.
The photographers showed me what general area I would need to stay in while dancing for the lighting to work. I went with fast fast fast music at first, because my initial nerves about being in front of a camera were kicking in. I could feel the tenseness in my face...so I needed to just burn some of that off. When Alexis told me I didn't need to move so fast I think I first told her that I did, just for a bit, just to get comfortable.
At first I was a bit frantic and my veil work was hit and miss. Then we all started falling into a rhythm. The shooters took turns. Sometimes one would suggest something, the others would like it, and we'd repeat some motions for a while. It started feeling comfortable.
Once I was comfortable I could slow down and really get into a mindset where I wasn't just performing, but I was performing for a camera. In that mindset I need the music, but the music doesn't inform all my movements. When you shoot for the camera there are movements that just aren't going to look great captured, like big tummy belly rolls, so even when the music is suggesting that to you, you need to ride the music onto a better pose. Your mind splits between being honest in how you react to music/who you are as a dancer and an awareness of how you look.
After we worked on the first costume, a few photographers showed me their favorite shots. It helps so much to see what is working as you do a session. Toward the end of my first costume, new photographers were more in the swing of asking me to do something again ( and again) and requesting things. We were working together. A few called mea natural, which longtime readers of my photo shoots, know is not true. Getting to this point has taken energy and effort.
Ces teh rock star got ready to shoot as I changed into my orange costume. I didn't change nails, as my nails were fighting with my veils a bit. Nail extensions and color are easily photoshop-able.
My first two costumes shared one feature: full skirts. Given the basic white set-up, and the fact I am a dancer, the wider skirts provide more movement and dramatic potential for the photographers even when photographed without a veil. Lucky for my photographers, I also wear circle skirts more than my Egyptian style counter parts because the slightly wider stance and hops of Turkish Romani/Turkish Oriental movement. Fuller skirts are also easier for me to get comfortable in at the start of a shoot because of the amount of movement it takes for me to relax and get into my performance/shoot brain.
The last two costume I brought were sleeker, with form fitting velvet skirts. I personally wouldn't start my shoot in one because I know that after veil play, we'll quickly get into the more pose oriented shooting (dancing through poses, but being pose-aware none the less...more face and upper body shots as well) and that's traditionally the hardest part of a shoot for me. It is when I am most aware of the camera and that I am being photographed and need to emote with my face. When I am performing with my whole body the emotions flow to my face, but when the movements get smaller, and the lens comes closer..I feel more tension.
We shot the orange Bella and worked more deeply with my upper body, face, and emotion....although there was a lot of motion and veil and spinning and all out dance to start with...that's my default. We transitioned more into framing my face with the veil and my face itself. In a real performance I wouldn't be concealing and revealing my face in an on-again-off-again peekaboo seduction loop, but I managed to get my brain into it and perform it.
Lars also took some motion shots with longer exposures "Hand held shots way below what's sensible" in both costumes. I see these somewhat as the logical progression from our first session together when he ran some trial shots of multiple exposures of me doing veil..which didn't quite work but obviously gave him food for though.
After we finished with my orange Bella. They asked if I wanted to shoot another costume...SURE! We'd try for three! I looked at my other two costumes: my sleek homemade "Emerald city" costume and my elegant burgundy Johara. I figured the Emerald City costumes had been in the shooting line for longer than the Johara, and both are usually neck and neck in my on-line polls about what I need to shoot...so we'd go green!
I changed quickly, the make-up artists powdered my face and touched up my eyes. We'd give up on my lips due to all my initiial problems removign hair from my mouth with my long fake nails. In shooting my orange Bella I managed to lightly scrape my face with the beads on my arm bands, but not enough to draw blood.
We shot the Emerald City. We started with veil work...and a few memorable series of "one more time, please" moments that resulted, finally in lovely shots. There was more upper body and face shots and a lot of hair tossing. I couldn't go full "zar" because my trumpet skirt is a size too tight and I can't get my knees wide enough. I even managed a few "sultry" shots without pulling too many faces. Towards the end I was asked if I needed a quick break...and I realized that I did, but was reaching a point where I couldn't really make clear judgements and my blood sugar was low. I ate a mandarine orange and chugged water.
Alexis suggested we burn through a few more shots and see if we could fit in the burgundy costume....Insane! I said SURE....because my clear judgement was gone. Tim alerted us to the time and we knew, nope, no can do. Lars got other photographers to play with my veils behind me, so we could use them as dramatic, quick and dirty backgrounds...and then all the shooters wanted in on that action. Go Lars!
I should mention that Tim has always been very concerned about my well being at shoots...Before we started anything this time he literally warned the photographers that I shouldn't be dancing 3 hours straight...because I'm not really built for that. I'm used to 20 something minute sprints....and just because I say I can do something, doesn't mean they should let me. If he hadn't scheduled a low-time consuming second model on Saturday, probably I would have shot four costumes and it would have physically cost me. Today my back is sore, but not a dangerous sore. My thighs are somewhat tight but no muscles have been pulled or over extended, my ankle is ok. Last time we had a session and a photographer talked to me about maybe doing an outdoor beach-location shoot, Tim did express concern about how badly I would burn if they used me. Go Tim.
I forgot I had brought zills, because they were in my purse and not on my "costume and stuff" table. Out of sight...out of mind. It would have been nice to get some Orange Bella and silver zill shots...but I forgot. When I was cleaning up at the end of the shoot I mentioned the zills . Alexis exclaimed, excitedly "You have FINGER CYMBALS?!" which is the most excited I have ever seen a photographer get about zills. She was sorry she hadn't gotten some finger cymbal action...but we thought better to leave them wanting more...
I packed up. They cleaned the set. They were all amazingly sweet to me about how much they enjoyed working with me. It was really flattering. After a restaurant night with only 7 customers...it was like a balm. I kept my shooters in the zone for hours and visa versa. Irwin helped me carry my pack downstairs and we small talked as long as we could...I couldn't keep him from clean-up duty too long. At the ground floor I picked up the one discs of images from my July shoot that hadn't been mailed. I said goodbye and caught my train home.
On the train the full weight of how tired and how hungry I was hit me. A scone, mandarine orange and a black coffee are NOT a meal. I had neglected to pack any nuts to hold me. When I got off the train at my stop I stopped at a 7-11, got some deep fried tofu and a tiny Hagendaz, and returned to my messy apartment. That food tasted so earned, you don't even understand.
It was wonderful.
And I am so glad I don't have anything major to do today. Later I'll train into Tokyo and see a bellydance show, but I don't have to perform!