If you’ve followed my work, or this blog, for any time at all, you probably know how infatuated I am with Brazil.
I love it so much I’ve been studying Brazilian Portuguese ever since I first went to Rio, back in 1987. For the past few years my Portuguese teacher has been my friend Luzia, who is originally from Goiania but has been living in Honolulu for a long time now.
I love Brazilian men almost as much as I love Brazil itself, so when Luzia told me she had a Brazilian friend she thought I should meet because he’s so hot and sexy and was interested in modeling for me, I said great, show me pictures! Unfortunately the only pictures she could find to show me were terrible, shot from far away, group pictures where he was in the back, etc. So I couldn’t really tell whether he was as hot as she said. Then she told me he’s leaving Hawaii and going back to Brazil forever. In FIVE DAYS.
So she gave me his number and I called and left him a message. That evening he called me back and started speaking rapid-fire Portuguese over the phone and I had to stop him. My Portuguese is okay but not when you’re talking fast and not over the phone. So we spoke English and Vinni (short for Vinicius) told me yes, he was interested, and we set up a meeting. He came over the next day.
As soon as he walked off the elevator I began to see what Luzia was talking about. Vinni is not classically handsome but he is very sexy. He’s masculine without being macho, he’s confident without being pushy or arrogant, and he has an unself-conscious grace when he moves. And a great smile. I saw all this as I talked to him and began taking some test photos. He said he’d never posed nude before but didn’t have a problem with it, so I told him to get naked, which he did. Everything I saw, I liked, and I told him yes, I think you’ll do!
As soon as he left I started work on finding a location, and called my friend Doug, who has a gorgeous pool and garden (where I did a photo shoot with Jeff a few months ago). Doug told me yes, the place was available, so I called Vinni and we set up a photo shoot for the next day.
Vinni showed up at my place the next morning and we drove to Makiki, which is where Doug lives. It had been cloudy and rainy the previous few days so I was immensely relieved that the morning was bright and sunny. We let ourselves in to the garden through the old wooden gates and I let Vinni look around while I assembled my camera equipment.
Usually I just kind of wing it when it comes to directing the model and the overall photo shoot. I make it up as I go along and trust that I’ll get the shots I want/need. It’s not a very conscious process, and recently I went over the photos from several of my shoots and I realized how often I really don’t get all the shots I want and need. I think this lack of conscious direction is because I’ve always thought of myself as a painter, and I’ve not taken the photographer part of my job very seriously.
But as I get older and more confident and have more respect for myself as a creator, I’m no longer satisfied with that approach. I’m starting to take myself seriously as a photographer, and because of that I approached this photo shoot with Vinni in a way I haven’t before. I made a very detailed checklist of things I wanted to accomplish with this shoot.
I wrote down all the basic poses I wanted to try, and I wrote down my intention of trying all the basic poses against as many different backdrops as I could. Same idea as when a filmmaker shoots many different versions of the same scene. It’s called “coverage.” And I knew in order to get that coverage I would need to follow the checklist closely throughout the session.
Just to give you an idea, here’s a summary of the checklist:
BASIC POSES: Standing, stretching, twisting, undressing, walking, arms folded, arms at side, rubbing hands over body, jumping into pool, climbing out of pool, toweling off, sitting on edge of pool, standing on edge of pool, lying on towel face up/face down.
BACKDROPS: Do all or most of the basic poses in front of several backdrops, in this case including: the pool itself, lots of tropical foliage, some beautiful old wooden gates, and the patio beside the pool.
MOOD: With every new backdrop, all the basic poses should be done in two versions: calm and animated.
So this is how it works: I find a backdrop I like, the wooden gates for instance, and I pose the model in front of that backdrop. We go through all the basic poses in front of that backdrop, with each pose being shot in two moods, calm and animated. Then we move on to the next backdrop and repeat.
This adds up to a LOT of time, work and a huge number of images, but that’s my goal: to capture, with this single model, as much variety as possible in terms of backdrops, angles, lighting and mood.
I have planned photo shoots before, but never before to this degree, and I was never able to stick to the checklist before. I would get caught up in the intensity of the photo shoot and while that can be a good thing, I wanted to see what it would be like to really push through this shoot in an organized way.
So that’s what I did. I was determined to stay focused and follow that checklist, and I did so, for the entire 4 and a half hours of the photo shoot. This took a lot of discipline on my part, but I was rewarded by by some of the best results I’ve ever achieved in a photo shoot.
These old wooden gates provided a perfect backdrop, and I took a lot of shots of Vinni standing by them.
We shot at the main location for about 3 and a half hours, then went back to my apartment and I did another series of shots of Vinni on my lanai. When we finished, I was exhausted, but very pleased with the results. I wound up with 2,100 images of which an amazing percentage were good. And I got the variety I wanted, to a degree I’ve never before achieved in a photo shoot.
It sounds so easy and obvious—follow a checklist to get better results—but it’s amazing how long it took me to wake up to the possibilities of getting more focused and organized with my photo shoots. Or maybe I should say it took me a while to mature to the point where I could remain focused and professional despite the overwhelming excitement I feel when I’m photographing a beautiful model in a beautiful setting. At any rate, I’m really happy about the way I’m growing as an artist and photographer.
Oh, and Vinni’s words after the photo shoot? “That was really FUN!”
Update to this Entry:
In March 2013 I published an e-book of uncensored Vinicius photographs from the above photo shoot. You can purchase it for instant download here.