Dominique James, Photographer

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Midnight in Manhattan

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Midnight in Manhattan

Midnight in Manhattan (Photographs by Dominique James)

Geographically speaking, the Empire State Building is not the center of New York City. That distinction belongs to a little-known pastoral patch of grass in the lower portion of Central Park called Sheep Meadow.

But the art deco-designed Empire State Building, a 103-story skyscraper occupying a considerable city block that intersects Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street, with a full height of 1,454 feet—once the tallest building in the world—might as well be, the center of New York City.

As far as anyone in Manhattan is concerned, the Empire State Building is unquestionably the heart of New York City.

For most New Yorkers (and visitors alike), the Empire State Building is the one true compass on which to navigate the city without a map. From street level, those who are a little lost and wanting to geo-locate might simply look up to see where the Empire State Building is; and then, from high up the Observation Deck, on a clear day, one can visually map out the sprawling lay of the land for thousands of miles, not just the boroughs but across other states.

Movies such as An Affair To Remember, Love Affair, and Sleepless in Seattle, among many others, have established the Empire State Building as a major cultural icon.

And above all else, the Empire State Building is an office building.

Of its many notable tenants, Filipinos might find one to be of particular interest. The Filipino Reporter, a weekly newspaper founded on July 2, 1999 by Filipino newsman Luigi Andrei Eusebio, catering primarily to the Filipino-American community in New York City (the only ethnic newspaper that holds the distinction of being a regular member of the New York Press Club), has its office at the Empire State Building.

A compass, a cultural icon, an office, the heart of the city—very few buildings can claim to be all that, and more.

Yes, there is indeed so much more, so let’s add one bit: the Empire State Building is a veritable magnet to photographers.

Countless shutterbugs have been to the top of the Empire State Building to take pictures of the spectacular 360-degree view. Because of the ubiquity of the pictures taken from its perch, even those who have never been up the building, or in NYC for that matter, can have some imagined sense of what it might feel like to be up there. (Although of course, as with anything else, nothing really comes close to the experience of actually being there to see and experience it for one’s self.)

The Observatory Deck of the Empire State Building is open to the public from 8 AM to 2 PM. In 2008 alone, over 110 million people went up to marvel at the grand view all around down below—many of them with camera, of course.

I was one of them.

According to NASA, Manhattan’s bright city lights at night, bounded by New Jersey, Brooklyn and Queens, is visible from outer space. It glows a collective, bright amber.

Because of this bit of curiosity, instead of the usual and far more common daytime images of Manhattan’s sprawl, I decided I wanted to go up there (again) after dark to take pictures of the city down below, bathed in millions and millions of electrical pinpoints collectively battling darkness with valor. Armed with a compact camera, up I went on a chilly spring evening, determined to snap at whatever there is to see of the city at night.

Of course, I wasn’t disappointed. From that clear evening, close to midnight, I was able to take many, many pictures all around, and from it, a set of black-and-white landscape photos that has more in kinship with abstract paintings than realistic photographs.

Lacking the many telling details visible in daylight, and with no colors, one can only glean hints of the familiar shapes of the buildings and of the streets silhouetted in countless glimmering, shimmering lights. You are keenly aware of the city’s palpable existence down below, even if most of it is shrouded in darkness.

The black-and-white, abstract-looking pictures, stark in minimal shades of gray, informed only by specific arrangements of lights to suggest forms and structures, with most everything hidden in shadows, turned out to be a fascinating representation of New York City at night—a seeming state of incompleteness. Naturally and quite automatically, viewers cannot help but imaginatively fill in and map out the blanks of familiar nooks and crannies. Even if the individual frames of pictures were to be stitched to form one grand panorama of Manhattan in the dark, it would still appear incomplete, and one would still strive to imagine the personal, familiar blanks.

But there is another interesting way of looking at the incompleteness of each picture from this black-and-white photo set—for me, and for many others who have lived and called New York City home for quite some time, the experience of the place is somehow encapsulated in each of those largely incomplete photos—in the low-lying buildings, in the bustling city streets, in the city corners, in the patches of parks, in the soaring skyscrapers, and in the pinpoints of light everywhere, which, while appearing to be expansive, is actually well-contained and constrained in each of the finite frames. If there’s anything true about New York, it is a city unto each and every one’s own.

Pulling back a little, if we are to impose some sort of organizational structure to this set of photographs, we can divide them into two subsets.

The first obvious subset will have to be the almost vain attempt at photo-realism, where every image is a stark, clear-eyed impression of the sprawling urban landscape from a bird’s eye view. These are pictures that, although they are, almost aren’t.

The second, and perhaps less obvious subset, would have to be the painterly depiction of the views. These pictures, consciously taken with longer than usual exposure times, even deliberately moving the handheld camera in certain patterns or directions of motion while the digital sensor is being exposed, produced artful blurs that are somewhat impressionistic.

But despite the distinctiveness of the photographic approaches, styles and techniques, all the images, individually and as a set (or a subset), aims to invoke yet another facet of what New York City is all about—or whatever it might be—to the hopeful transients and transplants attempting to dig in and latch on to its granite foundation, to the wandering, wide-eyed tourists gawking at everything with undisguised awe, wonder, and curiosity, and to the jaded New Yorkers themselves who long ago have been blinded to everything around them.

For me personally, during the almost 4 years that I lived in New York City, and from out of the countless photographs I’ve taken of everything I’ve seen there, this set of black-and-white nightscapes is nothing but an open embrace of the ravishing, glittering bejeweled city that I’ve fallen madly in love with, which to this very day, I happen to be still madly in love with.

So, New York City, I love you … still.

Come and take a look at my set of “Midnight in Manhattan” black-and-white photographs at http://bit.ly/1nokw5c.

Also, if you haven’t already, please sign up (and do invite others to sign up as well) to my brief monthly photography email newsletter at http://eepurl.com/QBGCv. Thanks!

[Note: All photos from the official http://www.dominiquejames.com photography website are now directly available for download and print order for personal, editorial, and commercial use. Thanks!]

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Go West …

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USS Hornet (Photo by Dominique James)

USS Hornet (Photo by Dominique James)

I knew right away that I’d be staking a place in New York City when I moved to the United States in the fall of 2007. Part of the thrill of being an immigrant, of starting all over again, is that you can be who you want to be. I decided I want to be a New Yorker. At least, that was my plan.

But as you only all-too-well know, plans have a way of not happening as, well, planned.

Though I did live in New York for the better part of 5 years, I actually ended up traveling to many different places all over the continental United States. I traveled by plane, by train, by car, by boat, by bus.

Where did I go? Mostly, I went to places where I knew someone. Filipinos, after all, are really all over, in the US and in the world. With that as my sort-of-guide, off I went merrily gallivanting from place to place, spanning sea to shining sea.

The great state of California, which has the largest geographic concentration of Filipinos in the United States, happened to be one of those places. With a Filipino population of about 1.5 million (according to a 2010 census), it’s not entirely impossible for a Filipino American such as myself not to know someone.

And yes, it so happen that I know someone from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and actually, in most every where else in California—friends, associates, relations even! And along the way, I met even more Filipinos. (Filipinos love to get-together, to hang-out, and to party!)

I have so far traveled to California more than 3 times (one reason or the other), and I intend to keep going back every chance I get. In my trips, I’ve somewhat randomly snapped pictures of places where I’ve been to. I never had a firm photographic plan (not sure if I should regret this, remember what happens to plans?) or theme, for all the places I’ve gone to so far in California, that’s why my collection of pictures look eclectic at best. There’s really no storyline there if you’re looking for one, but rest assured, there’s a Filipino there, somewhere where I went. And  yes, I’ve got the pictures to prove it.

Come, take a look at my collection of West Coast photographs at http://bit.ly/1soVY2r

[Note: All photos from the official http://www.dominiquejames.com photography website are now directly available for download and print order for personal, editorial, and commercial use.]

30474

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30474

Gazebo By The Lake

In the fall of 2007, I migrated to the United States from the Philippines. I moved in with my family in the small town of Vidalia in Georgia.

My stay in Vidalia lasted only a couple of months. I went on to travel to several other American cities in both the East and the West coasts. Eventually, I settled in New York City.

By way of Interstate 16, Vidalia is nestled somewhere midway between Atlanta and Savannah, approximately three and two-hour drive each opposite way.

Vidalia’s zip code is 30474. It is one of two assigned to this somewhat sleepy American southern municipality. If you must know, the other is 30475.

Vidalia, the principal and largest city of a micropolitan area (as opposed to metropolitan area) in Toombs and Montgomery county, has a population of 10,971 living in a total land area of 17.4 square miles—that’s according to the year 2000 census, the latest available. It is serviced by one Wal-Mart superstore, open 24 hours, in a location rumored to be where the first sweet Vidalia onions were grown.

Yes, if there is one thing Vidalia is famous for, and appropriately recognized by the food channel and the cooking network, it is the sweet white onion. Vidalia’s sweet white onion is in fact guaranteed by an official trademark. From historical accounts, we have farmer Mose Coleman to thank for, who in the early 1930s, made the observation that the white onions he was growing in Vidalia was much sweeter than any grown elsewhere.

Each spring, around mid-April, in honor of Coleman’s discovery, the annual Vidalia Onion Festival is celebrated. This year, it will be its 37th—with a parade, a rock concert, a cooking contest, and several other onion-themed activities—all in sweet anticipation of the bountiful harvest of the state’s official vegetable. Of course, Vidalia is also very well known for pecan and tobacco, but somehow these two other crops have been eclipsed in popularity by the incredible sweetness of its white onions.

Compared to a lot of other American cities and towns, there isn’t that many pictures of Vidalia, and the ones that you will most likely come across are typically of obscure historical nature. Very, very few, if any at all, are pictures of contemporary Vidalia. It’s as if people just didn’t bother enough to take any picture at all for quite some time. There is a palpable gap.

And so, after returning from New York City where I lived for almost 4 years, I decided to undertake a personal project: to take pictures of Vidalia. I went around a few days merrily snapping away with a pocketable Leica, all the while doing my best to ignore the often curious stares of locals peering out of trucks, perhaps baffled by what it is exactly I’m doing, pointing and shooting at all directions and all angles. In any case, my primary goal was to give Vidalia its cache of contemporary images.

From this, I was able to produce a modest collection of color images of present-day Vidalia, my personal photographic ode to a city so named by Central of Georgia’s president, William M. Wadley, at the time when the town was first founded in the 1880s, in honor of his daughter, Vidalia Wadley.

The resulting collection of Vidalia photographs from my little excursion is by no means exhaustive. I don’t even have a picture of onions! There’s more to Vidalia than a few days worth of photo go-arounds in a single season by a single camera-toting individual. What I came up with is a glimpse of what and who she is. I’ve managed to capture only a facet, so to speak. Hopefully, Vidalia residents and visitors alike with cameras will be inspired to follow suit and take pictures in order to come up with a bigger, more complete picture. For sure, and in time, many fascinating, intriguing things will be revealed.

There is one song you may have never heard of that pays tribute to Vidalia—the city, not the daughter—a 1996 song by Sammy Kershaw entitled, what else but, Vidalia.

Hopefully, though not musical by any means like Kershaw’s tribute, but through a visual essay, I am able to pay tribute to Vidalia as well.

So, come and take a look at my pictures of Vidalia, here.

[Note: All photos from the Dominique James Photography website are now available for download and print order for personal, editorial, and commercial use.]

My “Hipstamatic Prints”

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BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

On Facebook, my friend Danny recently asked me a couple of interesting questions that I believe needs to be answered.

Here are Danny’s two questions: “Dominique, what in heaven’s name are Hipstmatic Prints? Where in the moon do you get them?”

For sure, these are interesting questions that I cannot ignore. These must be answered properly. And so, I aimed to answer in full and with clarity here.

This is my response to those two questions:

Danny, “Hipstamatic Prints” is the title of my digital photo albums here and here where I post daily all sorts of mostly artistically-inspired B&W photos on my Facebook. (By the way, I also have a similar online photo album on Facebook called “Pixelpipe Photos” here.)

Anyway, of course the matter of “artistic merit” is largely subjective, depending on each of the picture and also on who’s looking, among other things, but hopefully you’ll find a few that will prick your fancy.

Anyway, these photos have all been shot using the camera of my iPhone 4 (I’ve gone through all of the iPhone models since it became available) with an app (or application) called Hipstamatic.

The album’s name is not my own choosing. It is the album name automatically created by Hipstamatic when I linked (and authorized) this app to post to my Facebook all photos that I deem worthy or interesting of sharing. By linking, these pictures that I share are automatically and directly posted from the Hipstamatic app in the iPhone 4 to Facebook (either through WiFi if available or through the regular AT&T cellular network).

Hipstamatic, as you can imagine, is one of the most popular iPhone photography apps where images that has been shot are processed using different types of “films,” “lenses,” and even “flashes.” The combination of these films, lenses, and flashes creates enchanting, almost sometimes, otherworldly or unreal images that looks quite different but still familiar and the same from actual real objects or scenes we see that has been photographed. My objective is to show these objects or scenes or even people in a different but still familiar way. I thought it’s an interesting thing to do and a lot of my Facebook friends seem to “Like” it very much

I’ve been shooting all sorts of iPhone photos for more than 2 years now, and I’m happy to share them day after day here on Facebook with appreciative friends like you. If you like the photos, please press “Like.” And also feel free to comment. I read, and sometimes reply, to comments posted. In fact, I’ve had a great many thought-provoking, funny, interesting, serious, joking conversations with friends from all over the world on Facebook through these photos.

If you are interested, there are many fantastic resources available online about Hipstamatic, and also on iPhone photography in general.

For starters, more information about the Hipstamatic app, can be found here -http://hipstamatic.com/the_app.html.

Or, you can also check this out – http://hipstamatic.com/.

And then there’s this that you might find interesting – http://community.hipstamatic.com/.

Wikipedia, of course, has something on it too – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hipstamatic.

Then there’s a whole, thriving group about it on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/hipstamatic.

And not to be outdone, on Flickr as well – http://www.flickr.com/groups/hipstamatic/.

Then, there’s this controversial thing about a seasoned war photographer who recently won a major international award with nothing more than a Hipstamatic to create the pictures – http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/finding-the-right-tool-to-tell-a-war-story/.

And this is how and why he did it – http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/11/through-my-eye-not-hipstamatics/.

So that, Danny, in heaven’s name, is what my album “Hipstamatic Prints” and the Hipstamatic app is all about.

And where in the moon did you ask to actually get them? That’s a very good questions because, well, you can actually buy online a real limited edition, signed and numbered fine art photographer’s photographic print (that comes with a certificate of authenticity) from here – http://www.zatista.com/store/index/Dominique-James.

These frameable fine art photographic prints are available from as low as $49 each to as high as $10,000 each (shipping and handling not included). As you can see, whatever your budget, there’s one that’s suitable for you. And, you can choose from almost a hundred available fine art photographs. And the collection is growing.

You can frame and decorate your homes and offices with these awesome (if I may say so myself) fine art photographic prints.

These fine art prints, like any other fine art such as paintings and sculptures in museums and art galleries, are not only a beauty to behold, cherish and covet, but they do appreciate in value over time which makes them a very good and stable financial investment.

Anyway, Danny, thanks for asking. And feel free to ask more questions any time. It’s good to keep “conversations” like this going.

Beautiful Monday, beautiful art …

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Red Marks The Spot by Dominique James

"Red Marks The Spot," a fine art photograph by Dominique James featured on Zatista

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

I am guessing that for most people, Monday is not a favorite day. It is possible that one’s favorite day could be any other day of the week—Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, but rarely if at all, is it a Monday. If only to avoid the stress, tension and anxiety that accompanies jumping right into the first a pressure-filled week, a whole lot of people would probably want to skip Monday and move right ahead into Tuesday.

Of course week after week, Monday has to happen. There’s absolutely no escaping it, and different people do all sorts of things to make the most and the best out of it with the hope that the week starts out at least smoothly, if not right.

Sometimes though, Mondays can turn out to be more than just smoothly or right. It can actually turn out great. My Monday this week, for instance, turned out to be surprisingly awesome. Early in the morning, I got a very uplifting email from Christine Clark of Zatista. In her brief message, she wrote:

Periodically Zatista has a guest curator who picks their favorites from the site, and we pull them together in a nice feature. Our next guest curator is Robert Verdi, and he has chosen one of your pieces for his collection. Congratulations on being chosen.

It’s a very simple and straightforward message. But it’s one of those messages that Zatista artists don’t receive every day. Since I just woke up when I read it, I had to read it several times to make sure that I really understand what it meant. When I finally and fully absorbed the good news, I know that my week will be all right.

I joined Zatista, an online store, in December of 2009. To date, I have about a hundred fine art photographs available for sale. I have managed, so far, to attract a number of buyers and has made good sales.

Every once in a while, some of my works will be prominently featured in Zatista’s website. I always think it’s a big deal whenever any of my pictures are featured. This means that more potential buyers will be able to notice what I have to offer. But this is the first time that a guest curator has proclaimed one of my fine art photographs as a “favorite.”

Eleven industry insiders have so far been invited as Zatista’s guest curators. This includes prominent names such as: Michelle Adams, Sasha Adler, Laura Kirar, Abby Larson, Amy Preiser, John Robshaw, Kim Seybert, Jason Oliver Nixon, Elizabeth Bauer, Ryan Korban, and Anthony Cochran.

Robert Verdi, this week, is the twelfth to be invited. Verdi is the head of the very exciting Luxe Laboratory in New York.

According to Zatista, Robert Verdi “is a leading lifestyle expert, celebrity stylist and television personality. Verdi stands alone as the sole expert to bridge all-three major style categories: fashion, entertaining and home design. He is the go-to style guru for celebrities like Eva Longoria and Tony Parker, Bethenny Frankel, Kathy Griffin and Hugh Jackman. Famous for his wit and wisdom, Verdi has become one of the most highly recognizable faces in the world of fashion and design today.”

As a guest curator, he selected 6 favorite pieces from the roster of Zatista artists. Other than selecting my work, Verdi also chose the works of Nina Fuller, David Page, Chris Horner, and Justin Wheeler. And in an interview, he talked about his selections while sharing his bright ideas about art, design, photography, among other things.

Looking at Verdi’s choices and looking at the choices made by the previous guest curators, I cannot help but wonder how a work of art is chosen from among thousands and thousands. Zatista artists are never really told when, how and what goes on in a curatorial process such as this. I’m inclined to think that a whole lot of factors are involved, including pure luck. In any case, I’m very thankful that someone such as Robert Verdi decided to pluck out one of my pictures as one of his top picks.

For an artist such as myself, I am deeply humbled when someone of great esteem, impeccable taste and exquisite aesthetic perception such as Robert Verdi bestow approving appraisal of one of my works. In all humility, can only view such affirmation as an honor.

[Note: To view Robert Verdi’s selection, please click here. To read the entire Zatista interview with Verdi, go here. To check out Verdi’s website, Luxe Laboratory, visit here. For free professional advise and consultation on advertising and commercial photography and visual media design, contact Dominique James at dominiquejames@mac.com. Also, you can view and purchase the fine art photographs of Dominique James online at Zatista’s website. Thank you.]

A professional shoot for models and talents

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Model Caroline Heinle photographed by Dominique James. Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved. For authorized use only.BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

Have you ever been approached by a police officer to be told that you cannot do a photo shoot on a location you have selected because it’s a public park and that you needed a permit? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me recently. I didn’t think it would, but it did. Have I known that we needed a permit, I would have gotten one. That’s just how it’s supposed to be done. But because I thought there was no need for it, considering the very small size of the shooting production, of which we were only a handful, our little group was literally thrown out of the park—unceremoniously, almost. I was caught by surprise. I was baffled because we weren’t obstructing anything and we weren’t bothering anyone. We were in fact very careful and very conscious not to be too conspicuous. And, the fact is, we didn’t have any thing that resembled a major production setup—not one of those things that has hundreds of people all around, with parked cars, trucks, trailers and generators. There were only five of us during the shoot. But apparently, because the photo session we were conducting looked “professional” enough, we were firmly told that we needed to get a permit to be allowed to shoot. Without the permit, we cannot continue with the pictorial. Thinking back on what we were doing, I still couldn’t imagine that it would have merited a permit.

Being directly responsible for the shoot, no matter how small, I had to think, find a way, and act fast. For one thing, I didn’t want the people I was working with to get into trouble. Heck, I don’t want to get into trouble myself! I had to figure out a way to make sure that we get to do what we wanted to do without getting into trouble. The last thing my little group wanted was to stop shooting, but the last thing that the police officer wanted us to do was to stop shooting. Clearly, we were in a bind, but I wasn’t just about to give up, pack up and call it quits. That would have been unprofessional, and I didn’t want to end a shoot this way. I had to find a way.

The name of my model (and client) for this shoot is Caroline. Caroline wanted to come up with a professional portfolio. It wasn’t a photo shoot for a huge media or production company. We embarked on a simple project to produce a simple portfolio that Caroline can bring along and show around.

Caroline was about to make her big move. She made some plans, had things figured out, and was slowly ticking off one item at a time in her personal to-do list in order to move things along. She has her sights on a goal. She was very organized, methodical, and determined. And, she was also very beautiful. A mutual friend, who felt that we can work something out, introduced us to each other. Caroline and I hit it off well. We got to talk and exchange emails several time for about two weeks before we finally decided to schedule a meet for the pictorial.

Along the way, the many details of the shoot were ironed out. Though what we wanted to do for this pictorial was something simple and straightforward, it was quite surprising that we somehow found ourselves ruminating through a mountain of details. Usually, a typical pictorial involves figuring out what kind of images to produce, who to work with for the hair-and-makeup and wardrobe styling, where to shoot, and how many layouts to do. From experience, these details can be worked out quickly and easily. But what surprised me all the more is that I actually didn’t mind all the in-depth planning and discussions we were having. To my mind, the more we plan things out prior to the pictorial, the better it would be. For one thing, this will give us a chance to really be ready and to concentrate fully on what we wanted to do during the shoot, and we’d be able to minimize unpleasant surprises or snags. Of course, we were well aware that we couldn’t possibly be ever 100% ready for anything, but we tried nonetheless.

Because both Caroline and I wanted to make sure that we cover everything so that we can have a productive and creative session, we communicated constantly, sharing ideas and concepts. Personally, I was thankful that Caroline knew exactly what kind of images she wanted. This helped a lot because, along the way, we were able to refine what we wanted to achieve. And, it probably helped too that we somehow got caught in the excitement of what we were about to do. So, we simply let it grow. It sometimes help to start with a blank slate where both the photographer and the subject can thresh out details through a series of pre-production meetings, but in the case of Caroline, it was better to focus right away on what she wanted since she had to leave New York for Hollywood in the next few days. Besides, on her own, Caroline already had much time to consider the concept of the shoot. She just needed a photographer who can help her make it all happen.

On the day of the shoot, everything started smoothly—selecting the clothes, doing the hair-and-makeup, preparing all equipment. We breezed through the first two outfits with impeccable timing, moving along at a comfortable, steady pace. It helped that the weather was great. We were getting really good shots. But as we moved on to the third layout, that’s when a police officer unexpectedly came up to us to tell us that we have to stop shooting, pack our things and move away. Many unexpected things can happen in a shoot. I know this because I’ve been through countless pictorial sessions. But getting thrown out wasn’t one of the things I thought would ever happen. Life, as they say, is full of surprises.

At that moment, I didn’t quite know what to do except to comply. The first thing on my mind was the safety of those whom I was working with, but at the same time, I didn’t want to abruptly end the shoot and walk away empty-handed. I was determined to finish what we’ve started. That’s when an idea hit me.

As everyone was packing their stuff while the police officer was sternly looking at us, I figured that we’ll just move to a different nearby location, away from the constantly patrolled public park where we were started shooting. Having walked around the area a few times, I know that there was one particular spot where we can continue doing the shoot. I didn’t know if we were going to be stopped too, should an officer come along, but I had to give it a shot (so to speak).

With feigned confidence, and without really explaining what I had in mind, I asked everyone to gather their things. The only thing I told everyone was that we were moving to a different location. For one thing, I didn’t want them to lose their hope, with things ending badly.

I did my best to keep up the mood as I led our little group out of the park and into one of the streets across a multi-lane highway where I thought we can continue from where we left off. I can sense that a couple of the members of my team was becoming disappointed and confused, but I happily (and bravely) chatted on. As we arrived at the new location, an open street, I announced right there and then that it was on that exact spot where we will continue our work. Everyone was surprised but I simply told them that we have a job to do and we should get back to work to finish it. And so, right there and then, and without a fuss, everyone started to get right back to work as if nothing happened.

As we were all set for the third layout, a patrol car with two officers unexpectedly crawled its way slowly into the street where we were. My little group, fresh from the embarrassing and disappointing sting of being thrown out just a few minutes ago, was suddenly quiet, trying to keep a very low profile. You know the feeling when you wanted to just disappear? That was exactly what we were all feeling. Having been in New York for quite a while, I’ve seen what can happen when an officer stops to take notice, and instantly call for backup. In a matter of minutes, the area will be teeming with police cars, firetrucks, and an ambulance, with lights going on all at the same time. There’d be so many people gathering and yellow ribbons would have to be put up just to mark the perimeter off. It would be an instant crime scene!

But then, another unexpected thing happened! The patrol car didn’t stop. While the police officers glanced at us for a much longer time than usual, they simply drove past us without stopping. Can you just imagine our collective sigh of relief? That’s when we sensed, finally, in the new location, no one’s going to bother us for the rest of the shoot

And that was when the magic really started happening!

On this new location, a seemingly unassuming street, we were able to work our way to the end of the shoot. As a matter of fact, we were able to add a couple more layouts that during the planning stage we thought we wouldn’t be able to pull off. And the really nice thing is, probably because of the adrenalin rush for all the “excitement” that happened, we were able to finish on time. It turned out to be a really productive and creative shoot. Because of the new location, many other creative possibilities which were unavailable to us in the previous location simply opened up. We were able to do layouts that, while far different from what we originally thought, proved to be much better. The new location, with the many textures that portrayed different moods, depth and character, proved to be a blessing in disguise. We managed to create some really amazing images that was very much in line with our original concept. And, because we got inspired to try out other things in the new location, we were able to achieve something more.

Back to my studio a few hours later, as I was looking at the shots, I felt (oddly enough) glad that we were thrown out. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to create the many images we ended up making. A major part of it of course has something to do with the bunch of people I was working with—they had been the most unflappable professionals who continued to do what needed to be done despite the odds. What can I say? Nothing really shocks New Yorkers anymore.

As for Caroline, she got her pictures—another thing ticked off from her to-do list. And just as planned, she moved on to Hollywood to embark on an exciting new career in show business.

[Note: For inquiries and for information on professional photography assignments for editorial and/or advertising purposes, as well as for post-production digital image editing and enhancement, please send email to Dominique James at dominiquejames@mac.com or call 912-246-1131. For information on models and talents portfolio shoots, please click here. Thank you.]

Photographing and designing a new magazine cover

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This is the Spring 2009 cover of GP (Global Philippines) Magazine.

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

Popular Filipino actress and singer Stella Ruiz graces the cover of the new and exciting Spring 2009 issue of GP (Global Philippines) Magazine. Stella recently gave up her lucrative showbiz career in the Philippines to permanently move to the United States. For some time, she was initially based in the West Coast, but eventually, she settled in the East Coast. Despite her now more quite lifestyle, away from the glare of the limelight, and away from the intrigues, Stella is still quite well known among a number of Filipino communities here in the US from coast to coast. Her popularity has even led to several solo singing engagements. Stella is noted for her edgy rock, pop and ballad songs laced with a selection of all-time favorite standards. The first time I’ve photographed Stella was when we were still both in the Philippines, at the time when she was about to launch her musical career. Fast-forward to today, we worked again for the magazine cover shoot. The recent pictorial therefore felt like a comfortable reunion of sorts. The mood was light, breezy, and fun. Doing a four-layout pictorial was therefore easy and fun. Much of the success of the pictorial is owed to Stella’s personality. She was gregarious and talkative all throughout the session, making sure that everyone feels comfortable and relaxed. The cover photo shoot was held at the Hyatt Hotel at Exchange Place in Jersey City, New Jersey. The exact location was at one of the boardwalks of the famous Hudson River overlooking the much more famous Manhattan skyline that prominently showed one of the tallest buildings in the world, the Empire State Building. The production team for this shoot included fashion stylist Zaldy Labaco (whom I’ve worked with on a number of pictorials in Manila and who also recently migrated from the Philippines to the United States), hair and makeup artist Ryzelle Bayacal, and production assistant Don Cendana. Production of the cover pictorial was managed by GP Magazine’s publisher, Manny Agbanlog. This Spring 2009 cover of GP (Global Philippines) Magazine featuring Stella Ruiz marks a radical departure from the old magazine through a dramatic redesign, refocus and rebranding. On the inside, this magazine features: Romy Luz, Nonette Teodoro, Camille Villar, Dario Octaviano, Kim Bello, Ysa Langdon, Chris Boucher, Toff De Venecia, Karlo Miguel, and others. It also features Roberto Tomas, Kaye Cloutman, Alex Uy, Florante Aguilar, Ric Ickard, Perfecto De Castro, Angelito Agcaoili, Victor B. Velasco, Amina Aranaz-Alunan, Amos Manlangit, Rommel V. Manlangit, Ace Durano, Stanie Soriano, etc. The print edition of GP Magazine is mainly available in the East Coast (generally in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and other nearby states), and it can also be accessed online for free at GP Magazine Online. [Note: For inquiries and information on professional photography assignments for editorial and/or advertising purposes, as well as for professional post-production digital image editing and enhancement, please send email to Dominique James at dominiquejames@mac.com or call 912-246-1131. Thank you.]

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