The Photoshoot

Ayi and Jill
Ayi and Jill, shot with a vintage Seagull 4A twin lens reflex camera with Fuji Superia 100 medium format film

I met Ayi through Multiply. She was a gorgeous self-proclaimed camwhore, of the nicer and tamer sort. We had a common friend, were both added on a Yahoo Messenger conference, where I told her I wanted to shoot photos of her. She loved the idea, but wouldn’t think her boyfriend would agree.

All that happened a few months ago, and I’ve kept in touch with her via online chats. I stopped pestering her about the shoot, but she mentioned one time that she finally gave up on her relationship, and I had to ask if it was now possible to proceed with the photoshoot. I remember her giving a hint of hesitation, but she did oblige. After that confirmation, and ironing out details, the day of the shoot was set. This being the first time we’d meet, I also did ask her to bring someone, and if that someone could possibly be Jill, her lovely best friend.

We met at that posh mall in Cubao. She wore a sando and capri pants. She had milky white skin, and golden hair. Angelic talaga. Even my thought-bursts shortened. I forget the first words she spoke, but the voice that came out had a reassuring tone that nailed the coffin my smitten self was encased in. No, this isn’t me falling in love at first sight. This is me realizing that my hunch was right, and that all the effort I put into wooing her for a shoot was all worth it.

See, this is my first ‘self-produced‘ photoshoot. I’ve told a few people about it, and some showed interest and wanted to tag along, but that didn’t feel right. This is my personal project, and, in a way, I didn’t want to share the photographic joy with anyone else.

We met Jill at UP Diliman, and this was when the clouds started to give off that scary dark grey hue. I told them I had a backup plan just in case, but Jill was exclaiming how wonderful it must be to shoot in the rain. My setup involved digital and film cameras, and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the gear. This was early in the afternoon, and besides the effort of being friendly and accommodating to the girls, I was dead-nervous and unsure of what needs to get done: how to shoot the pictures.

Jill and Ayi

I had the ladies dress up with clothes they picked, got on an Ikot jeep, and went to the UP Film Center to start. There was really nothing I could ask for by that time. The models were made up, my gear was set and ready: I wasn’t, but I did shoot. Oh it was awkward, nothing came out of the camera LCD that can blow me away. We transferred to the lagoon area when the weather cleared up, and thats when I decided to proceed with what was a backup plan, and now the second part of the shoot.

About a week before all this, I asked Jay Javier if I could use his studio. He confirmed, as long as there are no shoot conflicts. Here’s the gist: I have never shot at a studio, I wouldn’t know how to work the lights, acquire the proper settings, etc., and that’s the main reason why the idea of shooting at Jay’s was a very attractive option. I consider Jay as a mentor, and as someone who was always generous with his know-how. Besides, part of the reason I am doing the photoshoot is for a project of our rangefinder camera/classic photography group, and I was planning to use medium format film as well.

We caught Jay fixing a Leica camera, and he had that familiar, teasing grin again flashing at me when I introduced him to the girls. I gladly showed Ayi and Jill the framed photos of local celebrities, and the band posters, all shot by Jay. We rested a bit, as we were also waiting for Jay’s assistant to set the lights. I was feeling a lot more confident then.

Preparing
Preparing for the studio shoot

Ayi and Jill had a costume change from the black-and-white party outfits to cute babydoll dresses. A few snapshots on digital started the shoot, then I shifted to film. Armed with my Seagull 4A twin lens reflex camera, appended with a bracket to trigger the studio strobe, I probably filled 4 rolls of medium format film. I had a few blanks due to technical difficulties, but I had another good hunch that the shots must look good. Yes, I had focusing issues, the viewfinder was dark at the corners, but this was a limitation that had to be dealt with.

The last part of the shoot had the two girls goofing of, doing a variation of what they’d most probably do with their cameraphones. This was obviously when the true-portraiture part of the shoot started.

Ayi and Jill

Ayi and Jill

We were done about early evening, and we were tired. I treated them to that priest-run Italian restaurant nearby, and chatted with them some more. Jill exclaimed how she really wants to be a model, while Ayi kept to herself most of the time, and was probably worried since she had curfew. The three pasta dishes was barely touched -oh, I finished mine, but for the prawns- though we finished the pizza.

Jill got off the cab first around the north part of Quezon City to get a bus, while I decided to accompany Ayi to the FX terminal back in Cubao. My bus ride was waiting a few blocks away, and I really felt a need to give her a proper sendoff.

The digital photos were fine, the goofy shots were winners. The outdoor shoot photos left a lot to be desired though, but there was a salvageable handful. About a week passed before I had the time to have the film shots developed, but here was the surprise: a good chunk of that output I just couldn’t take my eyes off of. Oh, if only we had a better pillow prop.

Ayi
Ayi

Jill
Jill

I was able to assemble a photo slideshow for our camera group project, which I thought was received well enough during our studio screening. I felt the delight from Ayi on the shared chat window we were in when I showed her the photos, which she eventually used for her Friendster and Multiply profiles. Pretty much, that reaction should be the sort of appreciation I should be satisfied with already.

Lesson learned: I had a hunch, I acted on it, and now I’m less restless with every living day.

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View the rest of the photos here.

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