Jacquelyn K and the tattoo session that never was.

Brhum Bhatia Models and Actors

I mentioned in a previous post how I like to run creative sessions as a counterpoint to my headshot photography business. Sometimes it’s just a free-for-all session, with little planning. But sometimes there’s a plan and sometimes where there’s a plan, you need a plan B. Such was the case when I put out a casting call for a tattooed model.

I’ve shot models with tattoos before, but it was never the focus point of the session. I wanted to shoot a look with the tattoo as the focus point. Well, that’s how it all started. My casting call went out, I got replies from various models including one from Buffalo, NY. Now whenever I cross the border I spend an inordinate amount of time in ‘the hut’ having my fingerprints taken (or is it a retina scan?), paying a fee and on average hanging around for 2 hours before I can be processed. So when Jacquelyn contacted me, I was worried that we’d plan and plan and plan and when she came to the border, those plans would evapourate into a cloud of red tape. She assured me that wasn’t a problem. She also sent me a picture of her tattoo and contributed to the planning of other ideas around some alternative themes. When a model contributes so much to the planning of a session, well, it hits all the right notes for me. Jacquelyn is quite the character as I found out, in her own words…

I firmly believe that a woman can be smart and beautiful. I’m an archaeologist in training, working on my PhD. This means that I get to write lots of papers during the semesters and play in the dirt excavating 10,000-year old sites in the summers–in other words, I’m living my dream. Modeling allows me to express the other half of myself, the side that likes to dress up and play pretend. I say pretend, but perhaps it’s not; rather, each shoot that I do lets me be a different part of myself. For this reason, now that I’ve begun, I can’t imagine not modeling.

So in a few months, she’s off to Turkey to work on a burial site or something like that. She told me all about what they used to do back in the day with their dead and it included burying them, then digging them up and then cutting of their head (easy now) and finally, creating a plaster cast of their heads and keeping those casts as something to remember them by. Now initially I thought “What the hell…” but then I remembered. There are no photos to remember the dead by. What they are doing, in preserving the likeness of their departed is their own version of what we do when we have pictures lying around of those that had touched our souls but that are no longer with us. Their cast is our old polaroid or old print or digital file.

Not a tattoo shot

Not a tattoo shot.
Click to Enlarge

So, plans in place, looks finalized, wardrobe sourced and we’re off. Our session consisted of a headshot, a tattoo shot, a grunge/chic shot and finally an androgynous shot. Everything started well, Jacquelyn even arrived early. We went to work.

First up, the headshot – no problem, then, the whole reason we had communicated in the first place – the tattoo shot – and that’s where plan B comes in. You see sometimes you visualize how the image is going to look and then you work out the lighting you’re going to need, the type of lens that would work, where you need to be, what the model needs to be doing and then when you put all the bits in place – the anti-gestalt moment. The sum is less than the whole. Something wasn’t right. We tried changing things around, still not hitting that high note. That’s not to say we didn’t get anything, we actually got a fine shot – just not a tattoo shot, you know, the type of shot I originally cast for, the type of shot I had worked over and over in my mind.  No tattoo shot.

Move on.

It’s like that exam question in the middle of the paper. Your teacher always tells you, if you get stuck, move on and if there’s time, come back. Well, mentally I was stuck and the clock was ticking.

Move on.

At some point there has to be a plan B. At some point you need to remember that there’s only so much time and while you can move lights around and try and change a pose your best bet might be to walk away and come back fresh another day. So what if you didn’t get the shot you were after, you learned what doesn’t work and that can be just as important as making things work. Jacquelyn was also more interested in the other looks we had planned and it wouldn’t be right to short-change her on those looks for the sake of this one.

When it all comes together. Click to Enlarge.

When it all comes together.
Click to Enlarge.

Move on.

In the end, I think our favourite look was the final one, the androgynous look, something we had never tried before A sort of sexy/sassy meets masculine mash-up. Jacquelyn slicked her hair back, I had bought suspenders (UK : braces) from a thrift store that morning, she bought in a packet of cigarettes to complete the look. And shot after shot came out looking great. Jacquelyn nailed it.

Jacquelyn left the following review on my Google+ business page.

I shot with Brhum this past weekend, and I was so pleased with the whole experience. We shot 4 different looks, for a total of 6 hours…and when you’re shooting with someone for 6 hours, personality matters quite a bit. Brhum was wonderful to work with, and is such a nice guy. Beforehand, he was great about collaborating on ideas for looks and staying organized. During the shoot, he gave me the perfect amount of direction and showed me shots as we went along. Afterward, he was surprisingly quick with beautifully edited shots. I’d absolutely love to work with him again anytime.

And so, at the end of the day, the session produced some great images, I learnt how not to light a tattoo and I learnt a little bit about archeology and ancient Turkish burial rituals. I had cast for a tattoo model for a tattoo session and produced some terrific shots of a beautiful woman dressed in a man’s business clothes.

I was delighted.

To see more of Jacquelyn’s Portfolio, visit her Model Mayhem account here : http://www.modelmayhem.com/3325016

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