First off, many thanks to Mark for providing this forum. Lots of wonderful work here, and I’m very honored to be included.
I have photographed a lot in Beijing, working a great deal over the last several years for the Beijing Cultural Commission. They are an interesting client, nice people, but their strong suit is perhaps not planning.
So I showed up about three or four years ago, on my yearly sojourn to the Chinese capital, traveling light, prepared to do the usual street style shooting. And they threw me an amazing, full-blown, all out fashion shoot. It was wonderful news, except for the fact that I was massively unprepared.
I took myself off to Wukesong Camera Market, which is a gaggle of maybe a hundred or more camera kiosks, selling mostly knock off stuff. I bought a beauty dish, a couple of stands, an umbrella, and other related knick-knacks. It was going to be seat of the pants, all the way.
Luckily, I had some basics. Cameras, a few lenses, a couple Speedlights. And the client had one big, battery operated flash. Thus equipped, we went after it.
I say “we” because any fashion shoot is a flock of people. Hair stylists, makeup artists, clothes stylists, drivers, assistants, location managers—all fussing about, doing their thing. I had a couple of very fun, hard-working assistants, who came complete with a good attitude, a ready smile, and virtually no English. Seeing as my Chinese is non-existent except for a few pleasantries, we were in for a couple of weeks of smiling and nodding, and laughing.
The Cultural Commission has juice, so they got us into places like The Temple of Heaven early, before the opening bell. Thank goodness for that, as monuments like this are overrun with visitors right away in the early morning.
We had good morning light, and, most importantly, in the city of smog, blue skies, and a more than mild breeze. The model came out in a magnificent gown, intricately patterned in the manner of historically significant Chinese paintings. Seeing the gown, it was a natural move to light simply, and try throwing the garment into the wind. No wind machine, here, just a lucky, fitful breeze.
Every once in a while, things just line up. The beauty dish hit her, the gown hit the wind, a frame materialized up there on the steps of the Temple of Heaven. One of the arrangers gave me his business card that morning. It said, “Manager, Temple of Heaven.” I always thought that would be a really cool business card to have.
The assignment was welcome, but unexpected, and so was this photograph. Sometimes things break in your favor, a split second, a favorable breeze, a good expression, a bit of luck, and you have just one frame.
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