It’s always interesting, if not thrilling, to see how a theme for a shoot evolves. In my creative process, that’s, like, the icing on the cake. Not a constant, by the way, because there are some clients who come to me already with a fixed plan, something they’ve been mentally picturing and working on single-handedly for weeks or months or years, in which case I have to sidestep the whole icing on the cake thing and make a beeline right into the business of building their wardrobe and/or sourcing for props. Which is not a completely unfortunate thing, really—I mean, I wouldn’t say these kinds of situations are “stifling” or anything like that. As a matter of fact, they actually are ideal, especially when you’re pressed for time; and as long as you and your clients see eye to eye on this fixed plan of theirs, you’ll be fine. Still, nothing else comes close to the kind of excitement that rushes over me when a client comes to me with absolutely nothing, or with just a hint of something, a vague idea that they cannot wait to see me leaven, a creative void that they need me to fill. Not to say that I delight in others’ helplessness, but it feels good when people look to your skills as the missing piece of the puzzle. Like what I said in my profile for the Shutterfairy Photography blogsite (I’m about to graduate from apprentice to in-house stylist/associate photographer, by the way), starting out as a writer/editor has made storytelling a huge part of everything else I would end up pursuing. Helping my clients develop concepts for their photo sessions exercises my storytelling muscles.
When Jessa Yap and Vince dela Calzada came to me for help with their engagement photos, they had a whole bunch of ideas that had been swimming in their heads. And they were all great ideas—except they were very disparate ideas, and, to the untrained eye, if put together would look remarkably disjointed. In their mood board: Photos by Toronto-based whiz Matt Barnes of male models styled in old-school trailer park/trucker fashions (with a touch of daddy mac) and doing some dirt biking at the Gopher Dunes (Vince’s pick, because he liked, well, dirt bikes); another set of photos by the same photographer featuring a wild bunch of grownup club kids wearing neon, Pop Art-inspired swimwear and doing some pretty shady, amoral stuff aboard a yacht (Jessa’s pick, because she liked “multiple bursts of acid colors and punchy brights”); and then there were a cluster of other images sourced from various corners of the Interwebs, all with rocker boy and rocker girl themes (including one of local actress-turned-singer Anne Curtis wearing oversize flannels over a midriff-baring top and denim hotpants, and cradling an electric guitar over her shoulders, Atlas-style, presumably part of the promotional material used in her No Other Concert tour); even a couple of stills from the trailer of the 2011 remake of the 1984 musical-drama film Footloose. Looking at this collage of theirs drove me a little batty at first, but it was no one else’s job but mine to take all these various elements and whip them into something that made sense.
Of course, it didn’t take long for me to arrive at a concept that embraced everything in their board and that most effectively communicated their unique love story. It got them all giddy with excitement when I pronounced we were going to have to do a “’70s, ‘80s, ‘90s” theme! The ‘70s set was going to feature the motorcycle, but instead of a dirt bike I wanted something more heavyweight, something that resembled the cruisers or choppers from the late ‘60s/early ‘70s—I was particularly inspired by the road/biker movies from that era, especially Easy Riders starring Peter Fonda from 1969, The Rebel Rousers starring Cameron Mitchell and Jack Nicholson from 1970, even Mad Max starring Mel Gibson from 1979; all this and more I’d revisited and become obsessed with after seeing the Quentin Tarantino-executive-produced Hell Ride from 2008. Jessa got her “bursts of acid colors and punchy brights” via the ‘80s set, in which I made them wear neon workout outfits—I looked to my mom’s Jane Fonda aerobics videos from that era for inspiration, and that’s how I came up with ideas for the styling (leotards, tights and leg warmers for her), and instead of using a dance studio’s mirrored walls as a backdrop I opted for a graffiti wall. Finally, the ‘90s set was going to combine the rock/grunge elements that they wanted to incorporate (including Anne Curtis’s neo-grunge look from that one photo), as well as the auto repair shop backdrop/grease monkey feel from the Footloose remake.
But while I will take credit for developing the concept and providing some direction, I am not about to take credit for sourcing all these impossible props—that credit goes to Jessa, who spent four whole weeks (give or take a couple of days) gathering all the items. Sure, it was me who came up with a list, but it was her who went around town (and even placed calls to friends who were from out of town) to obtain and gather 90% of what was listed down, improvising where necessary, and even adding items that she figured I’d forgotten to write down (in no time our list grew from 3 pages to five)! Swear to God, she was so resourceful, so ingenious, and so obsessive-compulsive, it made me think, Hey, this girl could give me a run for my money! At one point she became aware of her obsessive-compulsive-ness that she had to apologize, “I bet you’re getting [annoyed] with the million follow-up [e-mails]! I’m sorry!” But there was no need for her to be sorry! In fact, I should be the one apologizing—you know, for dumping all that work on her!
Of course, while Jessa was a champ, Vince was quite the trouper, too. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed working with a groom-to-be as much as I did working with Vince. I remember telling Jessa midway through the shoot, “You’re a very lucky girl! Some grooms-to-be, it takes us a couple of days to convince them to put on a certain outfit! Yes, he never complained—even when I threw a pair of jonquil short shorts from Protacio his way (for the ‘80s set)! But what really impressed me was when we were putting together his outfit for the ‘70s/biker set—he was so involved. I had a very crazy, almost outlandish look in mind, inspired by one of the looks from the Axl Rose-inspired Takahiro Miyashita for Number (N)ine spring/summer 2006 collection: black skinny trousers tucked into big black boots, acid wash denim vest over a black long-sleeved shirt, and a bandana estilo, well, Axl Rose. The denim vest and black books I took care of, because aren’t those kinds of things my specialty (I made him wear my acid wash denim jacket with the sleeves cut off and with the insignia of the ‘70s horror punk band Misfits handpainted on the back—a prized possession, because I wore it to some of the most memorable rock shows I’ve been to in my life, including an Alice in Chains concert in Hollywood some three years ago, and because it never fails to get compliments whenever I’m in some grownup cool kid territory like, say, Brooklyn)? Everything else he looked for himself, including this very specific black long-sleeved henley shirt, the red bandana, and the biker belt, the latter he snatched from his dad’s closet, saying, “My dad was big on the ‘Hagibis look’ back in the day” (Hagibis is a local all-male sing-and-dance band who were popular back in the ‘70s for their campy songs and biker-inspired outfits). You gotta love him, right? Well, and you gotta love his dad, too!
It’s probably too early to tell, but I am just about ready to declare this one shoot right here my favorite for 2012. I mean, three totally different themes rolled into one? What a way to flex my creative muscles, right? These kinds of things, although a bit daunting, can be quite fun. Like putting together a mixtape for someone you are absolutely smitten with!
Speaking of mixtapes, here are the songs that Jessa and Vince picked, if they were to come up with mixtapes for each other:
Jessa’s mixtape for Vince:
- “Baby, I Love Your Way” by Peter Frampton (1975)
- “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees (1977)
- “We Are Man and Wife” by Michelle Featherstone
- “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest (1973)
- “Can’t Smile Without You” by Barry Manilow (1978)
- “Got to Get You into My Life” by Earth, Wind & Fire (1978)
- “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” by The Temptations (1971)
- “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! (1984)
- “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves (1985)
- “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper (1984)
- “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis (1996)
- “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer (1997)
- “As I Lay Me Down” is by Sophie B. Hawkins (1995)
- “Wonderwall” by Oasis (1995)
- “I Wouldn’t Be Here If I Didn’t Love You” by Belinda Carlisle (1996)
- “More Than Words” by Extreme (1990)
- “Love You Down” by INOJ (1997)
- “Get Here” by Oleta Adams (1990)
Vince’s mixtape for Jessa:
- “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” by Bryan Adams (1991)
- “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton (1977)
- “(They Long to Be) Close to You” by The Carpenters (1970)
- “Isn’t She Lovely?” by Stevie Wonder (1976)
- “Everything I Own” by Bread (1972)
- “More Today Than Yesterday” by Spiral Staircase (1969)
- “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” by Natalie Cole (1975)
- “Have I Told You Lately” by Rod Stewart (1993)
- “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel” by Tavares (1976)
- “I Should Be So Lucky” by Kylie Minogue (1987)
- “Best of My Love” by The Emotions (1977)
- “You Get What You Give” by the New Radicals (1998)
- “Follow You Down” by the Gin Blossoms (1996)
- “Someday We’ll Know” by the New Radicals (1999)
- “Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning)” by Vertical Horizon (2001)
Vince dela Calzada and Jessa Yap | Photographed and styled by Angelo Kangleon for Shutterfairy in Cebu City on February 19, 2012 | Main photographer: Malou Pages-Solomon for Shutterfairy | Hair and makeup by Ramil Solis | Special thanks to: Nacho Pangilinan | Jonquil cotton short shorts, Protacio | Flannel shirt, 21 Men | Black Dublin Sounds Studios tee, Urban Outfitters | Black workboots, Topman | Black long-sleeved henley, Penshoppe | “Misfits” acid wash denim vest, stylist’s own
In our mood board (see below) Top row, L-R: Photos from a dirt bike-themed shoot by Matt Barnes; looks from Number (N)ine’s Axl Rose-inspired spring/summer 2006 collection, photographed by Marcio Madeira for Vogue.com. Middle row, L-R: VHS box cover of an old school Jane Fonda workout video (image from Amazon.com); photo by Mariano Vivanco from a sportswear editorial (styled by Nicola Formichetti) in the November 2008 issue of Dazed & Confused; promotional poster of Anne Curtis’s No Other Concert tour. Bottom row: Photo from a Bret Easton Ellis-inspired shoot by Matt Barnes; still from the 2011 remake of 1984’s Footloose, starring Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough; still from the Quentin Tarantino-executive-produced Hell Ride.