I like to tell people that I started out as a feral street photographer - outdoors - but I'm aiming to be domesticated in the studio environment, in the pursuit of portraiture.
A little joke. But there's some truth in it from another perspective. Replace 'domestication' with 'mastering artificial light' and you'll get the gist of what I'm saying. As you can imagine, street photography makes use of the available light. You may control the timing of your excursions to make use of the best natural light at golden hour. There are numerous other ways too. But the point is, by comparison, when you're doing studio work shooting portraits, you have 100% control of the lighting at all times. And that's a different game to play for a photographer like myself who began his career as wandering photon collector, who shot in all kinds of lighting conditions, even very poor ones.
Paying tribute to photographer & director Terence Donovan
& pop music icon Robert Palmer
The idea behind my recent shoot with Niyati was to pay homage to both Donovan and Palmer. I wanted the model to resemble the ones in "Addicted To Love" as close as possible. I wasn't worried about trying to replicate the look exactly. My make-up artist explained to me prior to the shoot that Niyati's skin tone wouldn't take to the white. She said she could try but there could be difficulties. Plus she brought up another issue I hadn't even thought of - was she to color all of her skin white to match her face? It would be necessary or it would just look weird. I said to leave it. For me, it would be enough to settle for an approximate attempt. Plus, I didn't really want to tread unnecessarily into unpolitically correct waters of painting up Indians to look Caucasian. Another thought which occurred to me on the day of the shoot.
Technical difficulties aside, the reason behind the concept was out of pure nostalgia. I was a teenager when this video came out and naturally loved the visuals. Even more important to me was the music itself. I had purchased the album on cassette sometime after its release in 1986. I listened to it repeatedly when I was dwelling in my room. Music and reading (and my first exploration of writing poetry and stories) were my only refuge back then.
Within a couple years, I was fortunate enough to catch Robert Palmer playing a live show at Central Washington University, of all places. "Addicted To Love" had become an iconic video by then, so much so that Palmer toured with all female musicians who were dressed up as the models in his video. It was an unforgettable experience. The music sounded as good as it did on his recordings and we were close enough to the stage to see his backing musicians in all their made-up glory.
For the shoot, I didn't feel the need to stay true to anything in the video, once shooting began. Maybe I can chalk that up to inexperience on my part for being new to portraiture. I'd say that shooting for personal work is probably a more accurate assessment though. What would happen if I added a hat? Sunglasses? Scarf? What if I didn't even focus on the dress at all? Or even changed the background from the original red? As I learned in retrospect, if you've time to improvise then one should do it. Because I firmly believe that inspiration shouldn't result in mere imitation.
As I look at these images as a collection, the edited and unedited in its entirety, I don't think many out there would make the connection between the images I shot and Palmer's music video. Would you?
For me, at this time in my portraiture apprenticeship, it's far more important to be inspired to be in the studio. My skills, my "style", will eventually emerge, just as it has done presumably after a few years shooting street photography. None of that is really my concern. My audience, however large or non-existent after I'm long gone, will determine such things. I'm content to follow my bliss, as I've done most of my creative life, until Charon chauffeurs me along on my final journey.