“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”
So wrote the celebrated American travel writer and fictionist Paul Theroux in The Washington Post (date unknown), in an effort to debunk the myth that the act of traveling was a sophisticated one—having journeyed through Asia by train for four or so months, and having lived to tell of it in his Dickensian account The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia (1975), he was exactly in the position to dispense pragmatic advice on the matter, to put it on record that the act of traveling per se could sometimes turn out to be downright unpleasant, and that the whole thing was only delightful after the fact, when it was time to look back on it.
As a stylist, however, my worldview is somewhat limited to the business of image and image-making, and so I have a different way of interpreting that statement (which many now consider to be an adage)—I read it, and, to me, with apologies to Theroux, it means that travel was only chic back in the day. (Retrospect: Consideration of past times.) I mean, think Jackie Kennedy cruising down Lake Pichola in Udaipur, India (March of 1962) in an apricot silk zibeline dress with bow detail by Oleg Cassini, with white gloves and a three-tier pearl necklace; or, visiting the Parthenon in Athens (June of 1961) in a denim-blue linen sheath by Norman Norell, with a singular statement brooch on her left shoulder and, well, her signature pearl necklace. Who does that anymore? I look at all these modern celebrities’ travel/vacation photos, and, I don’t know, they’re just blah. I still cannot for the life of me figure out, say, that photo of Elton John at a beach in Nice, France, in which he’s wearing a swine-print T-shirt, hibiscus-print surf jams, and Adidas Superstars! Then again, maybe I’m just jaded. Or, perhaps I’m just partial to what elegance stood for in the past versus what it stands for now?
Not everyone, of course, is going to agree with me on that, and not all of those who do are going to want to demonstrate the idea with me—but I was lucky enough to have found two people who not only shared the same view as I did on the matter, but who were also willing to translate it into pictures!
When Sheryl Guzman and Rey Dauz told me that the overall theme they wanted for their engagement photo sitting was “vintage travel,” I was so psyched I almost fell off of my chair! I remember sending a text message to Malou Pages (of Shutterfairy, who was going to be the main photographer) that “You are going to love this!” I didn’t know what inspired the couple to come up with the concept, and didn’t even care to ask. Perhaps it was a compromise of sorts? Like, of Sheryl’s love of all things vintage and Rey’s love of travel, maybe? Who knew? All I knew was that it was unique, it didn’t make me want to roll my eyes and think, Paging Captain Obvious!, and it got me excited thinking that, again, I had been blessed with clients who were on the same page as I was!
If you’re still not convinced that the stars aligned nicely for me (and them!) that day of our first meeting, consider this: When Sheryl opened her mouth to tell me about how the fiancé had discovered a couple of spots in Bogo and Medellin (some 3 ½ hours north of Cebu City) where there were rail tracks and old locomotive parts scattered everywhere (albeit in various states of decrepitude, once part of an extensive private railway system that belonged to a local sugar milling company), I looked inside my duffel bag and saw that I happened to be toting my copy of the February 2010 issue of American Vogue, which contained a portfolio by Annie Leibovitz called “Brief Encounter,” starring Diddy and the model Natalia Vodianova as passengers on a train, inspired by Diddy’s latest album Last Train to Paris! I showed her the spread, and she, too, fell in love with the ingenious mix of elements of ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s fashion—from post-WWII peplum jackets and pencil skirts to Mad Men-style wool tweed coats/suits—all in moody, earthy colors. Without a minute’s delay, she asked me to tack the whole thing against our mood board.
Of course, that only covered the land travel part of it. We still had to work on a sea travel set, and an air travel set. Sea travel, easy as 1-2-3—I mean, wasn’t nautical sort of like my specialty, after having mastered it during my second solo shoot some 7 months back? When Sheryl said she wanted this particular set to be shot at a wharf, or, if possible, aboard a yacht, I convinced her to think Diana, Princess of Wales, on holiday with Dodi Fayed in the French/Italian Riviera aboard the Jonikal. Not exactly vintage, yes, but classic. She agreed, so immediately I mentally updated my board with that one photo of the Princess in un maillot de bain une pièce turquoise. For the air travel set, though, we were kind of torn: I wanted to reference Amelia Earhart, something I’d been wanting to do for a long time now, but she was kind of partial towards the PanAm stewardess look, or something that was inspired by it—“Kind of like one of the outfits [that the model Cielo Ramirez wore] in the Shandar Shoes catalog,” she cited. I told her it was me who’d photographed the Shandar catalog (and my friend Meyen Baguio who’d styled it), and I wasn’t really in the mood to reuse something that had been done very recently. She countered that Amelia Earhart wasn’t really someone she looked up to sartorially. We made a deal to include both in the mood board, and just deliberate on the days leading to the shoot.
On the topic of scheduling, we decided to break the whole thing into two sessions—I seemed to know it would be quite a stretch to leave for Bogo/Medellin for the train set, and then drive back to city for the two other sets. And because we wanted to make the three-hour ride up north on day one to be worth it, we decided to squeeze two bonus sets into the agenda: a garden tea set and an outdoor vanity table set. At first Sheryl and Rey couldn’t place how these fit into the travel theme, but I convinced them by saying, “Think of it as recreating a place that’s your own world,” repurposing a line from a Gwen Stefani song. They liked it, of course. (Haven’t you heard? As far as sales pitches go, mine are pretty legendary. Ha.)
Only slightly more enjoyable than putting the mood board together was getting to work in sourcing the items. Finally, here were clients who gave their one hundred percent when it came to this department, instead of, you know, sitting back and watching me do all the dirty work! I tell you, nothing whets my creative appetite more than clients who put enthusiasm and effort into the behind-the-scenes work. Sheryl was particularly diligent, and, when the going got a little tough, very tenacious. I gave her a list of 50 things to prepare or look for, she came back to me with a hundred things—swear to God, it was as if she’d been born with a to-do list in her hands! When I asked her to meet me two weeks before the shoot so she could show me the clothes she’d been able to dig up, imagine my surprise when I saw three huge suitcases! Such a cowgirl, too—some people flinch at the idea of going to the thrift stores/flea market, but when I asked Sheryl to come with me so we could shop for the items that weren’t already in her closet she was totally down for it!
I loved the looks we were able to put together for Sheryl. For the daytime train/railroad set we picked a ‘60s-style brown and ivory wool tweed crop jacket, over a beige sheath dress, some pearls, and a pair of ‘40s-style bistre fringe T-bar sandals (we’d considered gloves, but decided against it the last minute ‘cause we didn’t want the whole look to be too era-specific). For the nighttime train/railroad set, a barn red sheath dress and a slightly oversize camel trench coat, with nude pumps. For the boating/shipyard set, because we couldn’t find a turquoise maillot à la Princess Diana, we settled for this gorgeous halterneck romper—which looked like a ‘50s-style bathing suit from afar—in beige, copper and black brocade, something that Sheryl’s friend Sol Congmon had unearthed (in her mom’s closet, perhaps), plus a wide-brimmed straw hat and black spectator pumps (people are gonna argue that beige, copper and black make up an unlikely palette for a nautical-inspired look, but I’m going to disabuse you of that notion: think the Princess lounging in Barbuda in April of 1997 in a black sleeveless top and khaki cigarette pants, or, better yet, think Chanel’s cruise 2012 collection, in which beige and black were the predominant colors!). For the plane/hangar set, I was able to talk Sheryl into going for the Amelia Earhart-inspired look after all—it was a great excuse for her to infuse some pants and a pair of knee-high boots into her otherwise all-dress wardrobe, and plus I figured a kickass olive, hunter green and black L.A.M.B. by Gwen Stefani bomber jacket did not deserve to be punished just ‘cause a certain cultural behemoth wasn’t exactly on the list of heroines she looked up to (she would end up loving the resulting pictures, of course!). For the afternoon tea set, I had her wear a ‘70s-style chestnut tie-neck secretary dress that I’d snatched from The Fab Grab—at first I thought it was too, um, old-looking, but once Sheryl slipped it on it just lost its grandmotherly connotations. Finally, for the outdoor vanity set, I wanted something that looked regal and effortless at the same time—I was in love with the idea of an updated tea gown—and after fittings here and there Sheryl and I finally agreed to settle on this delectable cosmic latte draped silk tulle gala gown that was on display in the designer Protacio Empaces Jr.’s shop window—it was just too perfect for words!
As for the props, I’d thought we’d already had too much on our list, but, as it turned out, for a guy like Rey, too much was never enough—on our first day of shooting we had to commission a second pickup truck to help carry all our stuff! Unbeknownst to me, Rey had spent days digging through his parents’ old stuff for articles which he deemed still retained their cool quotient—vinyl records, an antique-looking typewriter, even dusty old paperbacks! Everything looked so carefully curated, it led me to believe it was him who put the “vintage” in “vintage travel,” after all, and it was Sheryl who put the “travel!” I particularly loved how the vintage cameras that he brought with him—circa mid-‘60s Yashicas—added a nice touch to the afternoon tea set, giving it a kind of “tourister” feel. Oh, and did I mention he also brought his Yamaha Vino on the second day, and so we had to make room for an extra set? At the sight of it my mind was flooded with scenes from The Talented Mr. Ripley, and images from this one spread in the September 2010 American Vogue called “My Generation” that featured Vodianova in ‘60s-style scooter girl looks and something that looked like a Vespa. Thank God Sheryl was ready with an extra dress in the shape of a ‘50s-style black-and-white polka-dot halterneck full-skirt number—it was just what a scooter set needed!
I loved that it was a big crew that I got to work with on this project—totally discredits the tired old rule that “the more people you’re working with, the less focused you become” (I wrote about this in a previous post). Aside from Malou and I, there was Paul Calo of Calography, and, boy, was I glad he was there because from him I got the much needed push for me to try my hand at strobing, something I’d thought I was never going to get around doing in my first year of taking pictures (I didn’t get a chance to take photos during the evening train/railroad set because I was saddled with the unglamorous task of holding up one of the Speedlights, but Paul made sure I didn’t miss the chance of taking a couple of shots during the plane/hangar set). We also had the videographer Marlowe Guinto with us, whose heavy-duty equipment were all over the place, but that was alright because I also got to learn a lot of things from him, like different angles I’d never thought were possible, panning, and the value of always moving around. And, of course, always a pleasure to work with the ever-effervescent makeup artist Ramil Solis—not only was he indulgent of my whims to change Sheryl’s hairstyle every two or so hours, he (and his assistants) also helped keep things light by making us laugh.
But the real joy to work with, of course, were our subjects. I kept telling Malou, “Don’t you wish all our couples were like them?” Not only were they game, inventive, and very involved in every aspect of the shoot, and not only did they have impeccable taste, they were also very patient, allowed us to take our sweet time, and were very attentive to our needs. Of course, it was a plus, too, that they both had killer good looks and that they knew how to make love to the camera (Sheryl was particularly good in this department, being an erstwhile model and all). And their chemistry? Amazing doesn’t even begin to cut it. We didn’t have to tell them, say, how to look at each other—they just clicked, and all we had to do was, well, click, click, click! Even off camera they were very sweet—every exchange of words was punctuated with “Sweetheart”—it was as if they’d only met yesterday.
I couldn’t make it to their wedding, but once I saw Malou’s photos and Marlowe’s video, I was, like, Wow. Rey looked dashing in a two-tone beige-and-black tuxedo suit by Edwin Ao, and Sheryl emerged as sort of a throwback to the era of the Grace Kelly bridal style, what with her satin chalice and Chantilly lace long-sleeved serpentina dress by, well, Protacio Empaces, Jr., and her hair sleeked back into a delicate chignon. Of course, in classic Rey fashion, he arrived at the chapel in a vintage-looking big bike, and after the ceremony whisked his bride away in a circa ‘70s Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet. As if all this eye candy wasn’t enough, the couple surprised themselves by exchanging vows that were equally sugary. “From the moment I first saw you,” Rey recited breathlessly, “I knew you were the one I wanted to share my life with… Because of you, I have learned to live, laugh and love again.” To which Sheryl replied, “The wait is finally over, as [God] has given me just what I’ve been looking for: A precious gift that never gets tired of giving; a man who puts God on top of everything; my high school crush who now defines my forever…”
Something gives me the feeling that this is not the end, but only the beginning of one very exciting journey for them, and that wherever life leads them—whether it be via train, boat, plane, or, well, scooter—it is always going to end in whispering words of forever…and then a new journey begins. After all, as a friend puts it, love, like travel, “is a vicious circle,” really. To borrow a line from the music writer Michael Shapiro’s review of The B-52s’ “Roam,” the quintessential paean to the art of “busting boundaries:” every “trip begins—and, in the best cases, ends—‘with a kiss.’”
Rey Dauz and Sheryl Guzman | Photographed and styled by Angelo Kangleon for Shutterfairy in Bogo and Medellin, Cebu, on October 30, 2011, and in Liloan, Cebu, and Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan, on November 6, 2011 | Main photographers: Malou Pages-Solomon for Shutterfairy, Paul Armand Calo for Calography (click here to view Malou’s photos, and here for Pauls’s) | Hair and makeup by Ramil Solis (to book Ramil, click here) | Hair and makeup assistant: Hyatt Ortega | Special thanks to Sol Congmon, Gayle Urgello and the staff of Busay Air | Cosmic latte draped silk tulle gala gown, Protacio Empaces, Jr. | ‘70s-style chestnut tie-front secretary dress, The Fab Grab | Olive, hunter green and black bomber jacket, L.A.M.B. by Gwen Stefani | Black cigarette pants, Protacio Empaces, Jr. | Two-tone bole and desert sand safari jacket, Edwin Ao | Bole felt pants, Edwin Ao | Antique wooden suitcases, Casa Mella
In my mood board (see below) Clockwise from top left: Diddy and Natalia Vodianova photographed by Annie Liebovitz for the February 2010 issue of American Vogue; Diana, Princess of Wales, lounging in Barbuda (April 1997), photo from the August 23, 1999, issue of PEOPLE; Diana and Dodi Fayed aboard the Jonikal, circa July/August 1997, photo from lisawallerrogers.wordpress.com; a look from the Chanel cruise 2012 runway on model Natasha Poly; Natalia Vodianova photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for the September 2011 issue of American Vogue; I was obsessed about nude-colored turn-of-the-century tea dresses for a while, like these ones by Jacques Doucet (silk and linen, circa 1907) and Liberty of London (silk, circa 1885), photos from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Website; looks from Hermès’s aviatrix-inspired fall 2009 ready-to-wear collection, on models Constance Jablonski and Raquel Zimmerman, photographed by Monica Feudi and Gianni Pucci; Angelika Kocheva photographed by Giuliano Bekor for an Amelia Earhart-inspired fashion spread in the October 2009 issue of Marie Claire Romania.