The night had all the markings of a great shoot. A beautiful model, a talented make up artist and good lighting. Erica and Denise got to the studio on time and got right to work on the hair and make up. When Denise first brought up the idea of body painting we had very different ideas of both the approach and overall look. A couple of years back I photographed a fully body paint job from start to finish. It was quite and eye opener to say the very least. Denise’s idea seemed a little less larger in scope. Maybe some basic face paint, not much else. However, as the days past and the date was set, we came closer to a middle ground and came up with a great concept.
About two hours into the make up job I began taking shots and only minutes after the job was complete, so was the photo shoot. Not that it was rushed or anything of that nature, no, not in the least. We got some great shots in a sort amount of shooting time. We all parted on friendly terms with some new experiences under our collective belts.
A few days later after sending the images out to both Denise and Erica I began to see pictures find their way onto Facebook. Normally I would have no issue with it whatsoever. However, the images she loaded looked washed out and less than flattering. I commented on one of the images how they looked as if they were taken with a cel phone. That is when the fit hit the shan. Denise blew up on me on both Facebook and in a text. “How dare you criticize MY picture?” “You are a rude fucking so and so.” The tirade continued and grew in anger and threats of retribution. It seemed uncalled for and quickly took on a comedic level of neurosis. It left me wondering, “Did I really say anything that could be construed as demeaning or cruel.” In going back to the picture and my comment I could honestly cut myself a break and chalk it up to somebody just completely blowing something way, way out of proportion. Though there are always three sides to every story, I really have a hard time seeing myself as the bad guy here. Needless to say, it was an important lesson in being very selective in who you spend your time with. Do what you must to control the crazy that sneaks it way into your everyday.
I had worked with Iya a number of times through the years. I’d seen many sides of her personality and beauty. Uncovered layers of her personality and character I never knew existed. All while building a level of trust and friendship that made me feel as comfortable with her as she may have become with me. So when Iya returned for from her trip to Russia I invited her over to catch up and put some of my new ideas to work.
Though I had done my share of Boudoir Photography in the past I had recently found myself engrossed in a book by author/photographer Christa Meola titled “The Art of Boudoir Photography. Within the nine chapters Meola covers a wide array of subjects including, but not limited to posing, movement, lighting and communication. All with great detail, imagery and easily understandable text.
As Iya arrived I explained my ideas and vision while expressing my hopes to show a side of Iya my camera had rarely captured. Since meeting and working with Iya I’ve been able to capture many of her strengths, beauty and naturally sexy look. Yet I’ve never been able to capture the soft and often funny side she often reveals in private. I don’t specifically remember her reaction that day but I do remember the relaxed pace and approach to taking those images. Moving from the lights and backgrounds of the living rooms studio. We moved to the bedroom, relying on the soft natural light coming through the widow late in the day.
During those few hours we shot some beautiful images while capturing some very intimate and unguarded moments. It was by far the most laid back and natural session we’ve done together. One I’ll look back on as the day I really allowed me access to Iya’s softer side. Thanks Iya.
I had all but given up on an idea that had started just months ago with a somewhat anonymous email from someone on Model Mayhem asking me if I could photograph her with another, yet to be picked woman. At the time I was intrigued by the idea. Yet, time passed and after a few close calls nothing ever materialized with her.
Weeks later I brought up the story while photographing Steph. I wasn’t eluding to anything. It was just small talk. Something worth bringing up in conversation. The idea seemed to intrigue her. Later she noticed a picture of Iya and said “She’s beautiful. Can you ask her if she’d shoot with me?” Her question was like that of a kid in a toy store eyeballing the biggest and most expensive toy. I thought “what the hell” and asked. Iya seemed curious and within a few days the three of us were in the planning stage of it. The day of the shoot I had everything ready. Chock full of ideas, energy and that James Damion angst. Then, less than an hour before the shoot Iya canceled. I don’t remember the reason but it was pretty serious. As big of a let down as it was the girls scrambled to reschedule for next week and my hopes were again high. The next week it happened again. This time it was Steph whose son came down with a fever. It was as if someone was playing a cruel joke on my emotions. In the weeks that followed it seemed Steph was more focused on making it happen then ever. While Iya seemed to be losing interest quickly. Me, I had all but given up. Different women were approached. Each one falling to the side like casualties on a battle field. Cancellations are a big let down. You’d be amazed at how hard it can be at times to get two naked women in the same room at the same time.
That’s when it happened. Steph calls and tells me they set a date. It would all take place the following weekend. “Sure, Sure.” I thought. “Don’t expect me to get excited.” I’d been there before. I’d been down cancellation road one too many times before. A few days before I confirmed with Iya and set a meeting place to pick her up. The day before I sent a message to confirm again. Last minute cancellations happen time and time again. Steph got back to me right away but Iya was nowhere to be found. To make things worse I had misplaced her number. Expectations were low but I’d go and wait at the time and place we set to meet. This time of course with a back up plan. I sat and waited with zero expectations for Iya to arrive. Already set for a day in Brooklyn. Suddenly, out of the mist of Avenue of the Americas I see a familiar face walking towards me. It’s Iya and she’s right on time. Shit was about to happen.
I give the word “GO!” to Steph and head back to meet up with her at my place. Within minutes Steph arrives and with child like glee asks “Are you guys excited or what?” Now, up until now I’ve been uncharacteristically calm and “Steady Spaghetti”. But as I realize this is about to happen I start to feel those nerves. Steph and Iya spill into the bedroom and begin the task of picking out what they’ll be wearing. Like the scene in ‘A Bronx Tale’ my mind wanders “Stay calm James” “Don’t lose it James” “Don’t Blow it.” “They’ll think you’ve got no heart” I take a breath and all is well. Within a few minutes Iya pops her head out of the bathroom. “James, you’re out of toilet paper!” I reply “Oh My God.” “You don’t have to take a shit now. Do you?” My true geek self revealed. Things are going to be just perfect.
Here were two women who had never met in person before. Two women from opposite sides of the world chirping and laughing it up like old friends. They immediately meshed and I reminded them. “Don’t worry about me.” “I’m just going to observe.” “I’m just the voyeur.” I wanted their exchanges to be natural and honest. I didn’t want them to be playing for the camera. Now, you might think getting two beautiful, sexy women together for a photo shoot is dirty. Something for dirty old men to take with them to the bathroom. Or a priest to gaze upon in between taking confessions. That’s your deal. What I was witnessing was two complete strangers in a very loving and tender exchange. They were laughing, joking and being intimate. You could tell they were very much in the moment. My favorite shots were those where they were just laughing and talking or sharing the pictures I had just taken.
My Mom has always been a pretty cool lady with eccentric, yet classy tastes. As a kid we had Vargas paintings in our apartment and she was always pretty cool about having Playboy magazines around. So a few years back during a visit to her home in Florida I bought her this piece . I don’t really remember the details but to this day I think it’s a pretty awesome gift to give your Mom. I got to spend the holidays with her this year and stayed in the room where it’s proudly displayed. Just thought I’d share it with you.
After playing matchmaker for weeks. The dye was set and I had Iya and Steph scheduled to shoot a new project together. As of late I’ve been getting a lot of requests for boudoir, fetish and sessions that sit firmly on the kinkier side of the fence. Often being asked to play matchmaker. It’s not easy playing matchmaker and it’s something I’m definitely not used to. But like most things, I’ve learned by doing. I had worked with both Iya and Steph in the past. Both unique and beautiful in so many ways. Together, the possibilities were endless. Everything was set. The day, time, clothing, props. Everything was ready. Then the morning of the shoot came and at the very last minute Steph tells me she can’t make it. Her son had gotten sick the night before and took a turn for the worse that morning. I totally understood. Shit happens and when it happens, you deal with it. I notified Iya and prepared to face the day. Almost instantly Iya got back to me. “My emotions are in this shoot.” I still want to do this. Even if it’s solo” My senses and excitement came rushing back and I met up with Iya. During During the original two sessions with Iya, communication was minimal. The first time we met it was all business. “Devay”, translated from Russian is “Let’s Go”. The second time she kept calling her boyfriend in Russian to assure him he was safe. In the back of my head I heard her say. “I’m here now. I’ll leave the door open so you can kill him.” But this time it was different. She was radiant, beautiful and in even better shape than before. (If that was even possible.) We were talking like old friends and laughing. Iya was teaching me Russian and being downright chatty. Though we missed Steph dearly, we had a great time and got a tremendous amount of work done in minimal time. We plan to reconvene in a few weeks. I’m sure that by then we’ll have even more ideas. As i began to go through our session I couldn’t get over how many amazing images we created. Narrowing it down to the best of the best, to the one’s I loved and then finally down to my absolute favorites was quite a task. Here are just a few.