Motherland Chronicles #32 - Ea

Motherland Chronicles #32 - Ea

Ea means fire. Inspired by Suemi Jun's paintings. ♥  

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Hair: Junya Nakashima
Makeup: Viktorija Bowers
Model: Germaine Persinger
Photo Assistants: Ngoc Vu, Ernie Chang, Tiffany Liu

Headpiece: Harlequin Romantique

Backdrop: Savage Verona Hand Painted Muslin

Not often do I get to pinpoint specific inspirations for a piece of work. But I think this one is a little more deliberate than usual and is a rather good example. In this post I'll go over my process from inspiration to final image.

A little while ago, as I was musing about the lack of high fantasy anime/manga works in recent years, I started looking through Suemi Jun's works again.

Being one of my favorite Japanese artists besides Yoshitaka Amano, I thought, since I'm doing all these Amano-inspired pieces, why not explore something from other artists I love too? (Or in which I couldn't get Suemi Jun's works out of my mind for a couple of weeks.)

I first saw Suemi Jun's artbooks Gen and Haku at Kinokuniya in Singapore some 10-11 years ago. I fell in love with these covers:

They're so beautiful aren't they? ;_;

And thanks to the wonders of internet, I found this amazing collection of scans from Gen, making me wish I had brought the books with me to NY instead of leaving them back in Singapore.

So works re-discovered, I started thinking about how to put a shoot together.

I spent a few days looking at his paintings and then stopped completely, to think up the concept based on impressions his work left in my mind. Based around that, I gave directions to my hair and makeup team on the look to create. 

Then came the clothing and accessories. Fortunately, I'd already had them loaned to me so I didn't have to go searching. All that was left was just getting smoke and a backdrop for the mood I wanted for the picture.

For smoke I rented a fog machine. With it, I could achieve what Jun sometimes does in his paintings, where the edges of his characters' clothes and hair faded off to the background in loose strokes, as if there was fog or fire.

To compliment and complete that effect, I used the Savage Verona muslin backdrop to recreate the rich browns and reds Jun often uses in his backgrounds.

Featuring the Savage Verona Muslin backdrop

At this, I know some of you probably think the smoke and backdrops are unnecessary details. I get that. I know there's a lot that can be done in Photoshop, but I really like being able to direct each element in a shoot. It makes me feel as if I'm creating fantasy in real life. That authenticity and experience is something I don't quite want to lose to digital manipulations, and is an aspect of photography that I deeply enjoy.

But because of that we ended up spending the whole afternoon on just the one shot in order for me to get the smoke, wind and hair placements just right. T_T;;

And even though I shot it warmly, I couldn't resist going with my usual greenish tones during processing at first. I did go back to reds and browns for tones eventually though. 

Work-in-process thumbnails:

This is probably my new personal high for the number of states a photo has gone through before reaching the end result. Just look at how many times I fooled myself into thinking that it was the 'final' (starting at end of first row), so sad. T_T;;;

But still, I know all the minute changes were necessary and paid off, just hope that it won't be like this every week because sleep is sometimes really good to have too. .___.

Motherland Chronicles #31 - Book of Roses

Motherland Chronicles #31 - Book of Roses

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Styling: Phuong My
Hair: Junya Nakashima
Makeup: Viktorija Bowers
Model: Germaine Persinger
Photo Assistants: Ngoc Vu, Ernie Chang, Tiffany Liu

Dress: Phuong My
Earrings: Harlequin Romantique

This was part of a shoot where I got overly ambitious and tried to do 3 completely different shots for Motherland Chronicles, when I usually do only 1 or 2.

I had the concepts and clothes all planned out, and even an order as to how I'll be posting the shots, only to realize on morning of shoot that the very first look was missing its dress, because I had forgotten to confirm with the designer I was borrowing from as I was super busy shooting the days before. I was so sad. T_T;;;

But!! I got to do braids and pearls, and books and flying petals, which is like all my favorite things combined. So not all is lost.

And my team has levelled up to professional petal-throwers. Which is rather awesome.

Here's a couple behind-the-scenes:

I like this shot a lot because it feels kind of poetic. But rather unintentionally, I realized later that it's a perfect a side by side comparison between a seamless paper backdrop and the Savage Black/White Collapsible.

Because the collapsible is made from light-absorbing fabric, it gives a much cleaner black background than the regular seamless paper backdrops which reflect light. It's also mobile and easy to set up since it folds and unfolds like a large reflector. Pretty handy. :D

Viktorija touching up makeup and Junya the hair. I love braids. ♥

Reviewing photos~

Going to L.A. this Thursday for more Motherland stuff! Can't wait to show you what we're working on. :D

Motherland Chronicles #29 - Lyle

Motherland Chronicles #29 - Lyle

Photography: Zhang Jingna

Hair: Junya Nakashima

Makeup: Yuui

Model: Denys Yakovenko

Photo Assistants: Ngoc Vu, Ernie Chang

Etched gorget armor by ArmStreet

Choker and circlet by Harlequin Romantique

First guy for personal work in 3 years! Dedicated to my love for 80's and 90's Japanese fantasy anime, or maybe just mostly Amano's work. Also may or may not have been thinking about Laurent from Captive Prince by S.U. Pacat a lot? The possibilities are endless. :D

So happy I finally got to shoot a piece of armor from ArmStreet! Thank you Misha for lending me this beautiful gorget. 

Motherland Chronicles #26-28 - The Three Graces

Motherland Chronicles #26-28 - The Three Graces 

Mini-series, featuring masks handcrafted in Venice by Casin dei Nobili for Motherland Chronicles.

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Masks by Casin dei Nobili 
Hair: Junya Nakashima
Makeup: Viktorija Bowers
Model: Germaine Persinger
Photo Assistants: Ngoc Vu, Ernie Chang, Tiffany Liu

A little behind on posts as we're busy working on the artbook promo video. I'm also trying to finish up a behind-the-scenes post for this, stay tuned! :D

Motherland Chronicles #25 - Raven Girl

Motherland Chronicles #25 - Raven Girl

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Hair: Junya Nakashima
Makeup: Gregg Brockington
Model: Germaine Persinger
Photo Assistants: Ngoc Vu, Ernie Chang

Feather dress from Xiaolin by Julia Chew
Necklace by Harlequin Romantique
Backdrop from Savage Universal

Blog photo credits:
Work-in-progress of dress provided by Julia Chew 
Behind-the-scenes by Ernie Chang

At the beginning of Motherland Chronicles I made a few posts calling for designers and models to collaborate with on the project. Julia was one of a number of very talented people who reached out (and she's only 18!), offering her collection for me to shoot if I wanted. 

Amidst her designs there was a feather top that I was immediately in love with, and so I asked if she would be open to customizing something exclusively for the project... and she said yes! 

I went over her designs and pointed out things I liked from her existing pieces, then sent some references and suggestions on what would look good for what I had in mind for the photo. She came back to me with a sketch of the design and her plan for the dress in terms of materials a couple days later.

And then it was madness in getting the dress done.

1000+ feathers and a few months later it arrived in my mail.

The finished feather dress

It took me another 2 months before I found Germaine to model for the picture. 

And then of course because my shoots can never be completely smooth-sailing, Germaine fainted on set. Ahahahaha. /shot

Look at all that pretty curls before we fluffed it :D

So I shoot in my apartment and use the living room as a home studio. Because of how much I was travelling I thought perhaps I wouldn't be shooting as much at in NY this summer, and it'd be fine if we don't buy an AC cuz Motherland pictures are always single shots and don't take very long. 

Junya's probably thinking, "Jingna stop asking me to do 50 options and make up your mind!"

And so of course once I was on set I only focused on the shoot only and kind of forgot to feed everyone food and water. :( Plus the dress had a corset bodice underneath so it must have been pretty tight on top of being really warm in the studio with no AC.

Towards the end of the shoot Germaine was like "Um can I have some water..." and then before any of us could react she started to lean back looking like she was going to sit down, but promptly went supine on the floor like sleeping beauty in all her gorgeousness and head of hair. 

We were like omg omg oh crap are you okay!? And she was out for a little bit longer than I expected so I panicked a little for those very long, stretched seconds (it was maybe 5-10 seconds, but I'd thought she'd immediately come to). 

When she regained consciousness she looked a bit lost and asked "Oh hi was I out for long?" and after the phew and water we all started laughing and commenting on how gracefully she fell hahaha. 

I bought an AC immediately after that. :( 

Goethe's Sämmtliche Werke! ♥
I like adjusting details on set personally to get things perfect. And Harlequin Romantique necklace! ♥

All in all besides the incident it was a great shoot and I really enjoyed working on the picture. I'm super happy and can't gush enough about Julia's dress, the necklace from Harlequin Romantique (which I used as headpiece for MLC #2), the Monsoon collapsible backdrop from Savage Universal (used in MLC #12, #18, #21 and a few others), and the Goethe book I bought in Toronto a few years ago, which I just knew would come in as a beautiful piece of prop one day. Ahh it's perfect.

Toby's picture of the week also features Raven Girl telling a giant baby (and I mean GIANT) stories from the Goethe book. But creepy picture is creepy.
 

In other news, we're hitting the half year mark for Motherland Chronicles next week! Can you believe it!? I can't believe we lasted this long. Like, seriously, I've never been so consistent in my life (besides air rifle practice and my time in primary school, probably). 

I kind of want to do something uber special for it but unfortunately I'm going to Pennsic and even with a new shoot I might not have time to retouch the picture in time. :( 

Sigh so many sad faces in a blog post, but you can tell I'm pretty darn happy right? I can't wait to get Kickstarter for the book going. If only I can find the time to sit down and look through our video footage sighhh. Well soon, we're almost done designing the MLC logo!! :D 

And! Half year (almost)! Hooray!!