Fashion Photo Project 01: Ethnic Melancholy

As you might read from my previous post about shooting girls, many times I feel disappointed when looking at those model photos exposing the physical sexiness but lack of conceptual meaning and distinctive atmosphere. Rather than being angry or putting the blame on them (either the photos or the photographers), I think it is far better to make one of my own—one that doesn’t expose girls in any degrading way and doesn’t violate their true beauty.

The first “victim” was Vinawinanti, my friend in college. We have been friends for years, and I have also once captured her photos, so it was easy to work together. The only problem was—if ever considered a problem—that Vina had just cut off her hair, leaving her head almost totally plain with only very short pieces of hair. Perhaps the social conception saying that hair is the crown of a woman is not really true, but it did leave us confused for a while, thinking about how to expose the natural beauty when she looked a lot like a guy.

Talking about the concept, the first thing came to our minds was that dark-themed concept would suit her and best expose her appearance while also reveal her unique personality. At first, I suggested gothic-metal concept, but Vina proposed an idea that then turned to be far better (this showed that both the photographer and the model have the equal right to express ideas!). Perhaps realizing my affection to traditional culture—which might be well represented by my engagement in Balinese dancing and ethnic-themed collection of stuffs, she suggested that we take ethnic-themed photos.

After having more serious talk, we eventually agreed to make dark-ethnical photos. For references,  I study some professional fashion photography works, including Gde Wira Brahmana‘s, a fashion photographer I have known during my work in a photography magazine. Indonesian legendary singer Chrisye’s music video entitled “Surya Tenggelam” also became one of the main references on the atmosphere I desired.

The shooting session was done in my own bedroom, with my batik clothes as the wardrobe and my red-and-black wall as the background (I painted the wall myself last year). I learned to do the make-up as much as I could. For the lighting, I had decided from the very start that I would use available light, so I asked Vina to come around between 1 and 5 pm.

The afternoon sunlight was amazing. It created soft, natural light. Luckily my room had a large window on one side of the wall while the door is on the opposite side, allowing the light to fill the room with beautiful layer. To create the dark atmosphere, I intentionally posed her in ways that the sunlight would fall not directly to her face but more on her shoulders.

The photos were quite satisfying, at least to her and me. Certainly, many things need to be improved (the wardrobe and the make-up, for example), but it was a fun learning. Moreover, Vina said she really loves the photos, and that was such an honor for me.  🙂

More information

Camera: Canon EOS 500D with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (kit)

Lighting: side lighting using available light

Wardrobe: batik clothes. Blue turns out to be a perfect match for the red-and black wall and the sunlight.


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