an ongoing challenge to keep creating and to capture unique energy and beauty of a person through the web camera in times of social distancing. Everyone is welcome to become a part of the series.
* all shots are raw images,
* all shots are raw images,
this series is featured on Newest Americans website in Stories From The Pandemic. Read post 1 and post 2.
featuring Zoe Papianni
Photoshoot with Zoe was full of new inventions and discoveries. At first, I used pieces of shiny emergency blanket to create a highlight effect. Then I thought of cutting pieces of shiny foil to create a more spontaneous-looking composition rather than using big blocks. When I cut the pieces, I realized it would take so much time and patience (that I don’t have) to tape them to my screen. So I simply flipped my laptop. This quick solution allowed me to freely experiment with placement of any physical items on the screen, changing my perspective in literal and figurative sense. The photoshoot came out magical with a sprinkle of hand-made confetti, creating an atmosphere of fantasy.
featuring Cassandra Stuart
One of the brightest photoshoots happened with Cassandra. From the beginning she said “I came in prepared with my makeup done!” I laughed and we started. These photos really gave me a sense of a fashion show. Cassandra turned the lights off in her room and put on a TV with the neon lights changing every second. Since it kept switching, I had to act quick, changing the tapes, sticky notes, backgrounds on my side, responding to the colors. I kept clicking my camera, not really focusing on the individual shots, looking forward to seeing the colors pop and react to each other. When I looked at the photos later, while carefully examining them, I quickly realized that the composition, poses, physical and virtual elements work together so wonderfully. We truly created an energetic atmosphere of a party with the colorful & complex environment in contrast to being physically isolated in our separate homes.
In the middle of our photoshoot the light went out in my house, and shuttr.slap suggested we end it there, but I really wanted to see how we can turn this situation around. So I called him through Instagram instead on my phone, and we kept going! Because the dimensions of the mobile screen are smaller than on the laptop, I decided to use staples and 3D glasses as collage elements by placing them directly on my phone. shuttr.slap is also a film photographer and an owner of cassettes, so I used some of my film and a cassette that I found to represent that. At one point, shuttr.slap played some music for me, demonstrating his true personality. I found myself smiling and getting lost in the beautiful sounds, fully immersed in the music. This photoshoot taught me to embrace the accidents and take them as an opportunity for a change and new solutions.
The second time we decided to do the polar opposite - bright daylight instead of nighttime. Christopher brought his dog for this photoshoot, so the photos came out naturally dynamic and captured very raw emotional connection between the owner and the pet. Because Christopher was outside, I decided to go with green color as a part of the background and added some scanned personal drawings to create a collage-like composition. I also used a book by Stefan Sagmeister “Made You Look” to contrast the peaceful atmosphere and create a feeling of suspense between the actual model scene and the book cover. It was challenging and fun to attempt to capture both of the models in focus and in sync.
Me and Christopher barely interacted with each other before this photoshoot, so I was excited, nervous and fascinated. We talked about everything and nothing during the shoot. Right when we started, we faced technical difficulties - the sound wasn’t working - so we decided to start a Facetime call at the same time (present in the background). Similarly to portrait series with Moss, I decided to make laptop background a part of the composition. I put up some film photos that I took, the familiar tape and a sticky note with some of the words from our conversation. For a few shots I included a view around my laptop with a jar and parts of the table, creating a moody bar-like setting.
featuring Moss Neammanee
This photoshoot was more experimental than usual. Instead of just placing physical elements on top of the screen, I incorporated desktop background as a part of the composition. During the shoot, I screenshotted Moss and then used that photo as a part of the composition. I also included our chat and my drawings as a part of the background. Throughout the photoshoot, I was running around my room, looking for things to incorporate into the photo, while Moss was striking beautiful poses. I really enjoyed the creative flow, reacting to Moss’s outfit and highlighting the stripe pattern, playing with color combinations and combining various textures.
featuring Emmanuel Amoakohene
Before the photoshoot Emmanuel and I had a long conversation about handling the pandemic and our uncertainties with our future career paths. After an hour of talking, Emmanuel asked me how do I take the photos so discretely, and I said I haven’t been taking any yet, I was so engaged in the conversation there was no way I could focus on anything other than listening and thinking. Then we went straight to it. Despite us starting late at night, we both felt energized and engaged in the photoshoot. Emmanuel was experimenting with the dramatic light effect, while I was playing with tape and red flash. This was also the first time I didn’t use a full screen zoom video, making is smaller, closer in size to my physical elements. When discussing the photoshoot afterwards, Emmanuel highlighted one of the photos with an overpowering orange as the one capturing his personality, “as a state of existing and not existing simultaneously.” I once again realized that out of these experiments come some surprising and beautiful discoveries. I discovered that these photoshoots are a way to reconnect, support and highlight the energy of the model.
featuring Adwoa Adomako
It was so fun and easy to shoot with Adwoa Adomako. Every time I would get excited about another great photo being captured, Adwoa would reflect the same response back. One of the most intriguing and interesting things that I noticed during all these shoots is the environments that models are in. Some people want their room become the main focus while others just choose a monotone surface as a backdrop. I’m always curious where people will decide to display themselves. While we were shooting, Adwoa showed me around her room and asked me where she should place herself. While I usually gravitate to simpler backgrounds to emphasize the model, Adwoa was willing to experiment with the surroundings. She also came to the shoot prepared with a phone stand, light source, and confident poses. It was so simple to just keep clicking capturing her essence.
featuring Dalia Abdalla
Even before the shoot Dalia Abdalla and I spoke about cellophane paper as the tool that we both used in our creative process. She suggested to use that as a connector piece between us, and that’s when I realized that it makes sense for both of us to be in the shot. The two screens, a setup of the camera on remote control, acting as both photographer and a model were all a great challenge. We took this opportunity to play around, use our sense of humor and acting skills. For one of the shot, Dalia emphasized our current pandemic situation by pretending to be in a “quarantine box”. We found a way to connect visually despite the isolation, highlighting the closeness with a piece of red cellophane paper.
featuring Donald Portillo
Donald Portillo was the only person so far to go outside for the photoshoot. The sun was setting, challenging us to come up with light alternatives on the spot. We used sky as a backdrop, later the headlights and lamp posts to create dramatic lighting. While he was walking, I would notice glimpses of light hitting his face and would tell him to freeze. It was a fun experience with an ever-changing environment.
featuring Jahi Lendor
One of the few daylight photoshots happened with Jahi Lendor. We decided to take advantage of this time and implement elements that would not work the same during the night light. I barely used any props for this photoshoot due to the already rich setup that Jahi created. I implemented a sheet of plastic for the first time, as a texture element, highlighting a feeling of separation in the pandemic. Black & yellow tapes were used inspired by Jahi’s campaign “Black Boom, Black Bloom”. Throughout the process he was actively moving, changing, posing, coming up with different compositions and bringing in new props. It was one of the most dynamic photoshoots. I quickly found myself just pushing the shutter speed button to capture Jahi in action.
featuring Kelly Llumiquinga
Kelly Llumiquinga pushed me even further. When I entered, I got a strong sense of pink theme, so I instantly grabbed anything pink I could spot. One of the items that I haven’t used before was tissue paper. It created a static TV effect, that made the image “softer”. I also used a few flower petals to emphasize the idea of delicacy and beauty.
featuring Tahiry Cumbicus
A photoshoot with Tahiry Cumbicus truly inspired me to experiment even more. Influenced by Tahiry’s collage approach to her work, I decided to implement the same technique into the shoot. While I was moving elements on my screen, Tahiry was changing poses or staying still, waiting for me to change the composition. I really enjoyed using a net as one of the props; it highlighted a sense of separation that we are currently feeling in the pandemic.
featuring Evelyne Rendon
Evelyne Rendon and I entered the call somewhat late at night, tired, but both excited to create something beautiful together. This photoshoot was more conversational. We talked about our possible future career paths, stressed out together about it, laughed it out and kept shooting photos through it all. Evelyne brought an interesting three dimensional shape as one of the props, and I used square pieces of colorful acrylic glass. It was very fun to see coincidence of Evelyne aligning to the pieces of acrylics that were taped spontaneously on the screen. We both left the photoshoot fully exhausted, but happy, looking over the photos together, laughing from bad shots and admiring geometric alignments.
featuring Shaneen Johnson
A photoshoot with Shaneen Johnson once again expanded my limits of experimentation through the web camera. This time I used a three dimensional object as a prop - a wine glass with cranberry juice in it. Shaneen came to a photoshoot with red scarf and red gloves, immediately setting up a mood. I once again used the red piece of headlight to create an intense contrast between black and red. When I showed Shaneen previous shots, she pointed out that they all have a unique established personality to them, and that’s because every person comes to the photoshoot with a different mood and thoughts. She made me realize that these qualities set up the whole photoshoot and we both let that guide the entire process. It was so fun to experiment with the way model and the object interacted without being physically present in the same space.
featuring Kathleen Reyes
Kathleen Reyes is one of the models who I have never interacted in-person photoshoot. She really enjoyed her room being part of the background setting. I experimented more with the placement of the colored papers, creating fun compositions and effects. After seeing her photos, she texted me with the kindest message “it feels so soft and authentic since its taken from my room! I never seen my room in that light/angle, I feel like it captured who I am as a person.” This response made me feel so happy to know that these photos can represent someone’s personality and their home. It expanded my thoughts on possibilities of photography, how deep it can really go and what role it plays for each individual who comes in touch with it.
featuring Kevin Cristancho
A most spontaneous shoot happened with Kevin Cristancho. The whole time chatting and laughing made it challenging to capture those perfect moments of thought processing seriousness. We entered a space of playful experimentation. We used icons that popped on the screen, colored papers as graphic elements and Kevin helped me by creating colored backgrounds that would change the hue of his complexion. My favorite part of this session was capturing his range of emotions and making him sometimes repeat his poses and expressions, testing his acting skills.
featuring Gisela Ochoa
Photographing Gisela Ochoa was easy and smooth, much like her personality. She has been my model for over 2 years, a part of all my experiments. When we started, like with everyone else, I had no specific plans for this photoshoot. I was open to her ideas, and engaging with her environment. Right away she suggested using plants as props. Because of the dark background, her placement, modeling and colored filters, it really felt like I was photographing her in the wild. We played with different angles and backgrounds. Gisela was moving from her chair to underneath her table and jumped outside her window. It was surreal seeing her room become so different with each setting and see Gisela changing within it.
featuring Roshani Pise
All previous models that I had during these zoom photoshoots I had captured with my camera in person in the past. Roshani Pise was my first trial in working with a model I had not worked with before — not really knowing how she would like to present herself and be seen through the camera. This was challenging for me — establishing trust between us through the screen. But Roshani surprised me with her approach, resulting in unexpected and intriguing shots. She was not really interested in close-up portraits. She posed offering full body shots and shots of just her hands. She also interacted with her dog Ceasar, challenging me to capture a still and clear moment between the two. She was happy with the shots and texted “Only you’re allowed to take pics of me,” once again, making me feel grateful to be able to collaborate with such creative friends, who enjoy this process as much as I do.
feauturing Marylin R Gomes
Marylin Gomes marks the beginning of the zoom-in-the-dark shoots. Marylin always encourages me to experiment. This time I used flash and colored paper as a filter on top. I had not cleaned my computer screen in a while which resulted in a muddy-like texture in the reflection from the flash. While on the session I would send her a snapshot taken from my phone to show her the outcome. Marylin thought they felt eerie and we decided to work on a poster series with them (still in the works). Due to our constant exchange, this shoot felt dynamic. We were connected through constant movement, adjusting, and trying again and again to get that perfect shot.
featuring Salma Shahin
Salma Shahin was my next model. Because she called me from her phone, the dimensions of the screen created a frame within a frame effect that I welcomed. Usually during photoshoots, I use colored cellophane paper as a lense filter for vibrant and moody portraits that speak to the character and essence of the model. In Salma’s case, I quickly realized that I did not need any “filters”. Her space, attire and energy all synced together so harmoniously, that I barely used any props. This shoot was very calm and comfortable. It felt like I was in Salma’s room, personally captured by her spirited essence. She later wrote to me “thank you for always making me feel beautiful,” which made the feeling of accomplishment take a new meaning. During the quarantine, I struggled (and still do!) with forgiving myself for not always being (or feeling) productive. Sometimes, these photoshoots serve as an escape from the mundane and they make me feel useful. And with feedback like Salma’s, I feel a responsibility in my role as a photographer. And that’s what keeps me going.
featuring Ronald Solano
The next zoom photoshoot happened much later, after managing my last, and very busy, semester of college. This time I took photos of Ronald Solano, one of the first models to ever pose for my portrait work. This shoot made me realize how close of a collaboration we experience as model-and-photographer, especially through the web cam. My job is to capture what the model has constructed as their composition. I don’t control their environment, their light, their backgrounds; I can only control what I capture on my computer screen. With this realization, I started experimenting with colored papers as graphic elements that interact with the model. I also realized that trust must be established — model controls the setting while photographer captures and interacts with all the visual elements — which feels more collaborative than normal portrait photoshoots. A few days later, we switched positions, and Ronald took photos of me through zoom. It was magical and it inspired me to take self portraits again, after a long time. These experiences have made me appreciate my work as a photographer in a whole new way, to allow people to see themselves from a different angle and see their beauty. And to be on the other end (as a model) as someone else is trying to capture my “other” angle, helped me connect with people in a whole new way.
featuring Natalia Ziarno
As a photographer who enjoys capturing every - day moments and familiar people, quarantine paused my portraiture activity and forced my camera to rest on the highest shelf for a few weeks. Towards April, during one of my zoom calls with classmates, a friend Ronald Solano shared photos captured by Tim Dunk through FaceTime, which felt natural and real. Inspired by his work, I initiated a portrait session through zoom for the first time with Natalia Ziarno, during her birthday. Bad internet connection kept making it difficult to capture a good shot, until I started to embrace those screen glitches — internet connection is unstable — and included them as part of the experience. Before this pandemic, I used to take everyday objects that I would find on streets as my photo props. For this shoot I used an old piece of broken headlight in front of the lens.