Here’s the first shoot I did in California (actually, I should say “first and second,” because this one right here was like two shoots rolled into one—we did two sets on very different occasions).
Hadji and I, we go way back—we were classmates back in high school (in Ormoc) and college (Cebu Doctors’)—and he’s one of the few people that I make it a point to see whenever I am in L.A. because he rarely comes home (actually, I do not think he’s ever visited home since moving to the States almost a decade ago). I first met his wife Marie Antonette—or Yang, as she is fondly called by those close to her—in the summer of 2009, and at the time they only had one child, Iya, although they also had a bunch of puppies that they considered family (both of them are avid dog lovers).
Flash forward to 2011 and they welcomed another baby to the family. My heart ballooned when I met baby Nio for the first time—most babies don’t like me or are frightened by me on first meeting, but this little one right here proved to be quite the opposite, tugging at my pant leg, grinning from ear to ear, begging to be carried! Such a sweetheart! It’s insane that my friends won’t stop making adorable babies!
It was Yang’s idea to have a photo shoot. Initially she only wanted me to take photos of the kids—plans of throwing them a joint birthday party this August (Iya’s 4th and Nio’s first) were in the works, and the theme she and Hadji had in mind for this shindig was vintage circus/carnival, and so she wanted a styled sitting for the little ones so she could use the photos for the invites, thank you cards, etc. It was me who suggested: why not include the mom and dad in the pictures to make it a family session? The truth is that the idea of photographing kids alone frightened me—this was something I’d never done before, and so I just had to ask for adults to be in the picture. Thankfully, Yang said yes.
This was California, after all, so we decided to do the first set on a beach. So many to choose from, but thank God Yang’s first choice was Santa Monica—made perfect sense, because wasn’t our theme circus/carnival, and wasn’t the Santa Monica Pier home to Pacific Park, which carried that one regal ferris wheel and a roller coaster? What could possibly be more carnival than that? Shrewd that Yang chose a pared-down palette for their outfits, too—black, white and pink—because our backdrop was already colorful enough.
For the second set, which was going to feature the more colorful outfits (the vintage circus palette of red, blue and yellow), we wanted some greenery, so they chose Lake Balboa, which was only a 10-minute drive from their new home in Van Nuys. We picked a pretty little spot right by the lake, to ensure Iya wouldn’t complain about the heat. This was the tail end of spring, and summer was rearing its head, so it was starting to get real sweltering. “It’s really stunning here when it’s early spring, ‘cause that’s when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom,” they told me. But the place was still gorgeous even without all the flowers. I mean, who needs cherry blossoms when you had beautiful lighting in every corner? I had so much fun playing with flares! Besides, the pink wouldn’t have very gone very well with the red, blue and yellow. Just saying.
Loved the clothes that we were able to put together for this shoot. Not about to take credit for the styling, though, because, really, all I did was dispense a little style advise here and there (like, what color tank top would go well with Iya’s red, blue and yellow tiered skirt, etc.). A huge fan of everything handmade and vintage, it was Yang who really called the shots and who got down and dirty plotting their outfits, with most of the items sourced from Etsy, which was her obsession du jour (I think it’s all she ever looks at on her phone and on her iPad!). I particularly loved the tuxedo tee on Hadji for the first set, and the matching onesie on Nio. Needless to say, I liked both of Iya’s tightrope walker-inspired costumes—I couldn’t stop taking photos of her in them, even when it was break time!
Ah, here I am again spending too much time talking about the clothes. Did you know that someone actually left a comment on one of my previous blog post a few days ago saying, “You’re always talking about the clothes—talk about photography for once!” You didn’t get to see that comment because I chose to never let it see the light of day, but allow me this opportunity to counter: Of course, I am supposed to talk about clothes—please remember that I was, am, and always will be a stylist first! Clothes are an important part of my body of work, because, like props, they help tell a story. Another reason I will always care about what people choose to put on their backs is their transforming power—and by transforming I mean not just in the physical aspect but also in the emotional. Consider this: As we were getting ready to leave for the beach to do the first set, Iya was in such a foul mood that she wouldn’t stop crying, and even on the 30-minute drive to Santa Monica she wouldn’t stop pouting—and then we got to the beach, and when we handed her her tightrope walker costume and her Mary Jane tap shoes (yes, she wants to grow up to be a tap dancer), her face lit up, and suddenly she was in a very, very good mood. Please think about this little anecdote every time you feel clothes—or the idea of dressing up—are not important to you.
Anyways, backpedaling to the story: My sister, who tagged along with me to these sessions, asked me which set I liked best. I was tempted to say, “The second set, of course!” I mean, who doesn’t love bright colors? And pretty little props? Yang even bought a hanging circus canopy tent for the occasion, and I somehow managed to incorporate Iya’s copy of Dr. Seuss’s seminal Oh, the Places You’ll Go! in some of the pictures (my grownup cool kid idol Carlos Concepcion would approve). Not to mention we had a special guest star during that set in the form of the family pug Mrs. Noodles (let me tell you now, the only thing more challenging than photographing children is photographing a hyperactive dog)! So, yeah, the second set should be my favorite, right? But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I immensely enjoyed the one that we did in Santa Monica.
If you’ve been a follower of this little blog of mine you will know that the Santa Monica Pier (along with lookout at Laguna Beach’s Brown’s Park and the Ladies Pavilion in Central Park West) is one of my favorite places in the whole world. And not because this was where Spencer Pratt proposed to Heidi Montag, OK (just had to put that out there)? I will never get tired telling this story: When I first visited the place in the summer of 2009, there was this amazingly talented singer-songwriter named Terry Prince who performed there—not a legit concert or anything; he was just there playing for passers-by. He had such an incredible voice, and his songs were pure poetry. The song that he sang when we spotted him was called “Imagine Love,” and it goes a little something like this: “Imagine love/ Imagine heaven here on earth…” It was when he sang these lines that I looked around me, and without a moment’s hesitation I told my sister, “I don’t need to imagine heaven here on earth—I am already standing on it!” Always I’d been smitten with California, but that day at the Santa Monica Pier was the first time I fell absolutely head over heels.
Thank you, Hadji and Yang, for giving me this opportunity to take pictures of your beautiful family! Iya and Nio are too young to realize this now, of course, but I hope one day they will wake up and think of how lucky they are to be growing up in such an incredible place! No need to wait for the carnival to come to town, because it’s just right there—and it’s right on the beach, too!
Hadji and Marie Antonette Dedace and their children Isabella Andrea and Nio Anton | Photographed by Angelo Kangleon for Shutterfairy in Santa Monica, CA, on April 30, 2012, and in Van Nuys, CA, on May 19, 2012 | Hair and makeup by Mayce Aparis Arradaza