Motherland Chronicles #46 - The Seer

Motherland Chronicles #46 - The Seer

Photography: Zhang Jingna zemotion
Hair: Junya Nakashima
Makeup: Alyssa Lorraine
Model: Joanna Bajena
Photo Assistants: Ngoc Vu, Alyssa Yee, Haiyin Lin
Accessories: Harlequin Romantique

So I can't remember the exact beginning now, but sometime last year I saved a few pieces of work by Georges de La Tour onto my computer. They sat innocuously on my harddrive, idling for a long time. Until one day, I came upon the images again, and suddenly was all like, candlelight is so cool! Who did this? I want to try this! And so I went looking for more of his paintings.

The Dream of St Joseph
Christ in the Carpenters Shop - detail
The Penitent Magdalen

Sadly, planning the shoot wasn't as easy as when inspiration struck. We spent a couple weeks researching and sourcing for chambersticks I liked and ended up buying a handful -- from thrift stores, etsy, and one even came from Turkey. But lighting was a little tricky. After numerous tests and false starts I was worried that it was simply not going to work -- I didn't have anything that felt right to shoot with. The concept took a backseat after a while.

And then I scheduled a shoot with Joanna.

I didn't plan on shooting this concept at all initially (I had something else in mind entirely), but once we were done with the hair, makeup and styling, I knew I wanted to try. I took out the candles and candlesticks and started testing to see which ones worked best. The team probably thought I was just trying out the idea, which I often do on set for Motherland, but will then discard and go back to my original concept. When I carried on with this and eventually said, "Ok, we're done." I think everyone was pretty surprised haha. Yay for spontaneity on set?

A few days later, Toby and I went to check out the Vermeer exhibition at the Frick, and guess what, they totally had a de La Tour painting in permanent collection! When I saw it I was like, what, how did I not notice this the first time? I stared at it for a long while in disbelief. Because dude, this is fate. And I totally experienced a boatload of feelings here. Life was awesome.

When I finished up the picture some days later, I couldn't shake this special sense of affinity I'd come to feel for the picture because of the experience. Just ahh, life can be so interesting sometimes. 

And that's the story for this piece. :D Working on the last 2 now~~ 

Motherland Chronicles #39 - Underwater

Motherland Chronicles #39 - Underwater

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Makeup: Lindsey Rivera
Model: Jessica Dru Johnson
Photo Assistants: Tobias Kwan, Alex Stoddard, Diana Chao, Sophia Chang
Dress: Michelle Hebert
Choker: Harlequin Romantique
Housing and strobe rental: AB Sea Photo, LA

My second underwater attempt! I had to deal with equipment all on my own this time and holy cow it was so freaking stressful. ._.

I use a 1Ds Mark III which may be old now, but cost me an arm and a leg when I bought it in 2008, so I was epically nervous each time I had to open up the housing then go back down into the water again. Thank god it didn't flood.  >_<

Camera in the housing!

I had to practice opening/closing the housing and changing the ports/domes for like 2 hours at home to make sure I'd remember everything haha.

Someone also randomly asked me on Instagram how much this weighed so I did a quick google and added the weights together, it totals up to roughly 5.3kg/12lbs! A lot lighter once underwater of course, but still pretty hefty!

 
Anyway I really liked this picture. ^^ I haven't been doing as much person-in-motion photos compared to my early work, so I thought it's a nice change and addition to the series. 

Also definitely a little influenced by Toby's work since we bounce ideas and sketches back and forth a lot in the project. Check out his triptych that pairs up with mine for this week - 

Motherland Chronicles #39 - Triptych II: Waterwalker by Tobias Kwan

On the technical side -- I think I'll have to update my underwater tips post now -- I've definitely learned a couple new things doing everything on my own this time. 

Here are some things I've done differently from the first shoot:

Lens

The first time I shot underwater I used a Tokina 10-17mm on a Nikon D300. But even with the sensor's crop factor, it's equivalent to about 15-25mm on a full frame, still a really wide focal length considering my usual lens is 70-200mm. This time, as I rented my own housing, I got to use my own camera so I tried shooting with the 16-35mm and 50mm. Both worked out great, but the 16-35 probably worked the best for full body. I can definitely see 50mm being perfect for something like beauty though. 

Assistants

I felt that one assistant wasn't enough the last time, so this time round I got four! :D It may sound a little excessive (it totally did to me) but it turned out just right. I had 2 assistants help with everything that needed adjustment underwater: fabrics, dress, strobe cords, etc. And the other 2 for the strobes (one in water and one above). 

Staying in Position/Sinking

Remember how I mentioned it was difficult to sink on my own? Having weights last time was cool but it still required quite a bit of swimming as I tried to chase my angles. Apparently I found out this time, that it's actually pretty nice to have an assistant press me down into the water so I didn't have to think about pedaling while trying to work against floating at the same time. It allowed me to get ready better in the first couple seconds instead of having to make sure I was just focused on sinking properly, and when I found a spot I liked, it was a lot easier to stay in the same place for a short while with the help. 

So overall cool experience once again and it was a lot of fun! Thank you my awesome team for the hard work! And a super mega kudos to my model Jessica who was still on crutches and wearing ankle brace after breaking her foot, you're such a trooper woman! ♥

Motherland Chronicles #34 - In the Secret Garden

Motherland Chronicles #34 - In the Secret Garden

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Hair: Kelsey Petersen
Makeup: Lindsey Rivera
Model: Kalli Keith
Photo Assistants: Andre Wijono, Tobias Kwan, Michelle Herbert
Dress: Michelle Hebert

We revamped motherlandchronicles.com! Do check it out! :D 

Shot this when I was in LA a while ago. I think the process was rather interesting, so once again I'll be sharing about the process from inspiration to final image! :D 

The start of making this shoot was rather stressful. I was in LA doing recording for the Motherland Chronicles' Kickstarter video, and Toby and I had been busy with finalizing our script the whole week, so I only got around to thinking about the shoot the day before it was happening.

At first I thought about shooting on location since I do a lot of studio work when I'm in NY. I'd looked around for potential places online and settled on one to scout, but when we got there, I found that I wasn't feeling inspired for it. So I scrapped the ideas I had in mind for the venue and began thinking about alternatives. The answer turned up with LA Flower Market. When I saw those marigolds, I was so elated I bought them all. :D

The rest of the day was spent planning out details about the concept like hair, makeup, etc. I'd already confirmed Kalli as my model and Michelle to provide her dress, so it was mostly a matter of how to style and fit the elements together. 

Hair:

My love for braids kind of exploded after I got my own hair done at Pennsic War a while ago:

So I kind of built upon that along with what we did for Ea, and came up with the hair in this shoot:

Temple Jewelry:

Also something that came from my time at Pennsic. Because Motherland Chronicles is inspired by the idea of Russia, I took a class at Pennsic about Russian fashion from the 10-13th century which was very interesting. One of the things that I really liked was the temple jewelry/kolts.

From Ancient jewelry headwear of Russian women on viola.bz

It's usually worn with or as part of a headdress, but with how detailed the hair was already, I didn't want to over-clutter or cover up the braids, so I pinned them individually into Kalli's hair instead.

Makeup:

Rather straightforward, the few times Lindsey has worked with me in LA has her set for exactly how I liked that painterly, rosy-cheeked, pre-raphaelite-looking girl. We referenced back to what she did for Porcelain: 

This remains one of my favorite pictures. ❤

The set:
 
I finalized the idea and built it in the morning of the shoot with Toby's help and Michelle and the rest assisting. When the it was completed, it felt as magical on set as it does in the photograph. It was beautiful. 

The smoke was the final touch needed to complete the image -- the element that made the scene magical. I worried for some time about how to properly execute the effect without a fog machine on hand, but thanks to Andre and some dry ice, we managed to make it happen. 

I'm somewhat inspired to do a series with this if time permits, but finding the perfect looks that would match from flowers to dress will be more difficult. We'll see how that goes. :D 

Overall it was a really fun shoot and the whole team worked very hard, so thank you everyone who helped out that day. ❤ 

To end it off, here's Toby's accompanying illustration from the same week: 

Motherland Chronicles #34 - Flowers by Tobias Kwan

Beautiful isn't it? I hope you enjoyed the post and thank you for reading. :D

Motherland Chronicles #17 - Calypso

Motherland Chronicles #17 - Calypso

Photography/Art: Zhang Jingna
Hair & Makeup: Anna Nenoiu @ Page One Management
Model: Kenley @ Elmer Olsen Model Management
Photo Assistant: Ben Wong
Choker and body chain from Harlequin Romantique

I'm in Toronto!

So originally I wasn't really sure what I was going to do for this week, but the morning of this shoot Jeff Simpson randomly messaged me to say someone commented on one of his paintings and noted how the character resembled me a little. It was something done after we hung out in Montreal a couple years back, it got me thinking about his work (which I love!) so I decided to attempt this week's picture in his style and even got some advice too. :D

And I finally got to use this majestic choker/body chain piece from Harlequin Romantique! I approached Julee at the beginning of Motherland Chronicles and invited her to collaborate. This was one of the few pieces designed specifically for the project and honestly, words cannot express how perfect this is. (You might remember week 2's Winterland Fairytales self portrait, the headpiece was by her too!)

And of course there's also my awesome Toronto team, the beautiful Kenley who agreed to stay and model for my personal work after a long day of location fashion shoot, and Anna Nenoiu's brilliant makeup, pure magic. And my agency pal Ben Wong for assisting!! Flying hair was all him.

And and! Boobies! I haven't done anything that shows nipples since Celosia (4 years), expect more nudity coming up for Motherland Chronicles to make up for all these years lost! :D