Julia, a strong woman
Very strong images resulting from our last session with Julia.
The concept came about when Julia got in touch via one of my casting calls in social media – she was interested in getting herself in front of a camera as an act of self-defiance, wanting to challenge hers -and everyone else’s- ideas of beauty. We chatted about this and many other random topics over coffee, and the between-the-lines message became apparent: this was not to be an easy shoot, but Julia was willing to fight her demons and give it a go. This is something I admire – part of my job is to be aware that it is not always easy to be photographed. Sometimes the camera can be intimidating for some individuals, and the session an exercise of communication between two individuals who hardly know each other. I have gone through my fair share of situations where one has to overcome these initial hurdles, and this has taught me the lesson of always acknowledging the sitter as a person and not just a beauty face, someone who is giving me their time, their image, and often their feelings as part of our encounter.
So I told Julia: “How about we just try, and see what comes out? I won’t make promises of any specific results, but I’m willing to work with you on this and just experiment and have fun”. The goal for me was to keep it really simple: no pressure, no expectations, and hopefully an atmosphere which would allow Julia to relax and just see me, and not just the camera lens.
I decided to go with my home studio, just a comfy chair, and my trusty film camera. The point of shooting in film is not just that the results look beautiful -they do-, but also that it completely changes the way I shoot: each roll of film gives about 10 pictures in medium format. That is a small number, compared to the hundreds of pictures I might normally shoot in any given session. Thus, this medium forces you to observe much more, to slow down, and to only push the trigger when you’re sure you have something worth capturing. To be perfectly honest, we would still use my digital camera, but mostly as a way to overcome the fact that we can’t see what we’re shooting with film until much later. This was mostly a way for me to show Julia what it is that I was seeing, and this would allow me to work with her in what I wanted to capture. And once we had it, we would switch to ye good ol’ steam-powered film camera, and take the final frame with a loud ‘ca-chunk!’.
But I needed not to worry, Julia was fantastic and I found her to be a great subject. When she eventually relaxed and was able to work with me, she actually started offering suggestions of her own, and the flow was great. I didn’t want to make the images just about her obvious lack of hair, but also hopefully capture a bit about her defiant attitude, and those eyes of her. The peacock feather tattoo, she told me, has a meaning: in Christian symbology a peacock is the only bird who is beautiful, yet useless; that tattoo was her reminder not to become like that.