When I was younger and had my first interest in doing photography I did it because of a movie scene I was watching when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old unfortunately though, I can’t remember what movie it was, but the sequence showed a couple flirting with each other as the guy brought up a classic Instant Polaroid, you know, the white one with a rainbow stripe up in the middle. I was intrigued and asked my mom what that thing was and if I could have one. Sadly, she said no.
Imagine a 15-year-old me surfing the net for all the high-quality images that legendary photographer Tony Duran did alongside Jennifer Lopez, my favorite celebrity at the time. I was very proud to know how to access ‘high quality’ pictures back when most of everybody’s monitor screen resolutions were only 1024 x 768 pixels. The photoshoots they came up with were outstanding. The overall look was eye-catching. They worked together on different projects; magazines, cover stories, album bootleg art shots, etc. I loved the early 2000s aesthetic; bold, high contrasty, and as colorful as it was, one could tell everything rendered harmony. I’m not sure if they were trying to mimic the top clothing brands such as Versace, Gucci, or Balmain, but I certainly think it was the most iconic era for advertising, the peak of inspiration. There was only hope one day I could work in that industry.
It wasn’t until I bought my first-ever issue of Mexican Vogue that I took my career to its first step and finally shaped a path for me to follow; I had to invest in a studio, get some gear and some gray seamless background cycloramas and do some casting and et voilà! my first practices.
The formula was simple; the less saturated and the less ‘happy’ it meant the most aspirational, upper level and unreachable it was. I look at these photographs with a lot of nostalgia because I didn’t enough resources to achieve what I was looking for, a high-end finish.
Here’s the thing, ever since I wanted to commit to doing a blog about photography, I had one main objective; to share everything, the good, the bad, and the cringy. You see, I didn’t think I would struggle writing about cool and successful anecdotes, which of course I will post later on, but for this particular occasion, I wanted to exorcise the sorrow I have for having these amazing candids in my repertoire, that nearly never came to fruition. And I’m not talking about the kind of mistakes that you toss aside and maybe, discreetly make a mental note to ‘fix that later in the post,’ such as having all the clothing wrinkle up randomly, inject the worst-case scenario here. I’m talking about being clueless and careless to the point of falling into beginner’s territory. Yeah. Warning, I’m NOT just a guy with a camera.
These shots are from an editorial I did a couple of years ago on a quick visit to Los Angeles, they are unedited and have no heavy post-process apart from some general adjustments to balance exposure, some tweaking here and there, and that’s it. Quite frankly, that’s a very unusual approach for me and to be honest, I’ve forgotten how good it felt. For instance, guys don’t require as much makeup or styling like girls do – oh but don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining, I love working with a gang full of creative people, I just think that working with a male model taps into a different creative energy, it is more free-spirited. I compare it to the early days, in any photographer’s life, when you just took a camera and started clicking everything around you; you have that feeling of wonder and excitement above all. This whole film made me feel very much like that, I believe as long as you’re doing the best with what you have, you’ll be just fine, but I digress.
I did a couple more shootings in LA with other talented people, like model Angel Lee, who encouraged me to drop Anthony a line (Thank you, girl!). Fortunately, he was on board with the idea and we both managed to make time to shoot around downtown.
They call it ‘Sunny California’ because of its bright scenery almost every day, but apparently, LA had just enough of hot & heavy for the time being and gave us a chill cloudy day instead; a rare trade that I appreciated a lot. The soft light cast upon the city made it kinda melancholic and luckily for me, it put me in my best mood. Anthony and I chatted a little between takes, we went for a quick coffee break at some point and shared some more stories and thoughts about the industry, we then finished our break and got back to work. I must say Anthony’s a committed model; he’s the kind of performer that will take your idea and suggest going a bit further so we had no trouble getting into some interesting locations like going incognito at the KFC or running through pigeons by the Mexican market. Looking back at the whole film it still gives me all the feels and that my friend is the reason why it is such a bummer I didn’t get to fully edit them in the end.
Going back home and realizing I lost all my raw files in the process was a devastating disappointment. No kidding! It not only takes discipline to acknowledge and learn from mistakes, but that feeling of embarrassment tends to linger. This experience taught me to thoroughly revise how I handle external drives and memory cards so that in the future I won’t be left out with low-res previews only.
That is why I didn’t want this story to go untold, to be hidden and unpublished. I love these candids, they capture what I saw and felt on that gray day downtown, in Los Angeles. They remind me how cool it was to, yet again, work with a talented model in a cool location, the hesitance of the old lady running the magazine stand, the lecture on modern architecture, his ever-present desire to run at the pigeons, the encounter with another production in a bakery shop, and just how easy it is to access back alleys.
What is the takeaway from all of this? Know better. Be prepared! As much as doing what you can at the moment is a big deal, there’s always a chance that something will not go as planned, so prepare yourself and embrace the idea that you can always reinforce what you know. Take the chance to better your craft, learn about your capabilities, to grow as an artist, and if I could add something to this never-ending lesson of not underestimating yourself and your surroundings; it would be to enjoy it, and let yourself move at your own pace. I can’t stress this enough, sometimes the truth is simple as that. I have recently learned that not everything you create will be a success and that no matter what your art form is, it will find its way to the world, just like this editorial did.
Oh and before I go, here’s an article here at Format.com worth checking out just because I might not be eloquent enough to list all my advice, besides I find it very relaxing to read about basics, to have the whole perspective of how much you’ve progressed since the very beginning. I might write about that later but for now, I’ll make myself busy and make another tea.
It is not a sign of disrespect, I keep telling myself, it is just the joy of the moment, the huge desire to go against the established. She is my muse, my close friend, and ever since our first editorial I long dreamed of the day I could do a shooting with her again. She was and is so stunningly gorgeous, confident, and with such passion for work that I can relate to her.
It took a bit for me to get used to the foreign environment, to a new land, and it was really easy to, people are just far more accustomed to what I was doing that I quickly became invisible and comfortable to keep snapping photos. Even when the owner of this record store joked around telling us he would sue if we took advantage and used these photographs for commercial purposes… We didn’t, I only ever wanted to keep my heart full of gladness. Also, I loved the location, it reminded me of a dance sequence in J.Lo’s music video for ‘I’m gonna be alright’.
What’s the best way to describe feminism? Attitude!
To me there is no other way around, you can push any boundaries but at the end of the day, what matters the most is what you reflect from the inside out, that sparkle of security.
I have worked with many females in the past, but only a few times I’ve seen real femmes.
I think it’s a matter of time for us not to be described by our born gender, but by what we’re made of!
The true meaning of a beloved milonga.