Why We Create: Carmen Lilly, fashion stylist.  @stylecarmen

I met Carmen when I was the house photographer for BET’s 106 & Park.  She was the stylist for Rocsi Diaz, who is now a host on Extra.  I used to watch Carmen use her phone to photograph Rocsi’s look of the day during commercial breaks on set.  It seemed to take her forever to get it done and the photographs weren’t very good.  While the iPhone camera is indeed amazing in most situations, it failed at capturing the correct white balance in the mixed lighting setup at BET.  So I offered to take the look of the day images for Carmen.  I felt BET should have these images as part of their daily take anyway.  

Carmen left BET about a year before I did, but we always stayed in touch. We’ve done a few shoots at my studio.  You can find a goth shoot we did if you scroll to my previous posts from the past few months.  Carmen is an amazing stylist with true vision.  Like me, she lives in Brooklyn with her spouse.  She has a daughter who is about 5 years younger than mine, and when I see her, it makes me miss the days when I could just pick up my daughter (literally) and carry her with me wherever I wanted to go.  (These days it’s more like, “Do you want to come with me into the city?”)

This video is part of a series I’m doing called, “Why We Create”. I love the combination of stills and video but it takes forever to shoot the content and even longer to do the edit on the computer.  The images of Carmen and her daughter run for maybe 10 seconds in the video, but they took me hours to shoot.  But I’m choosing to make this video series.  Can’t really complain about the workload 😉

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Model: Divani IG: @theedivani 

Hair: Ashley @alstyling

I’ve been doing model tests at my studio every Monday for the past couple of months.  It’s a creative endeavor with no real endgame.  Usually, I don’t know how I’m going to shoot the model(s) until I get to the studio and meet her in person.  I’ve been experimenting with light, props, wardrobe, posing and anything I can else that comes to mind at that moment.  Sometimes I shoot with a full team -hair, makeup, styling and nail tech.  Other times it’s just me and the model.  It’s about being creative. It’s not about seeing how many people I can bring into my studio for a shoot.

I created a hashtag on Instagram where all these images are grouped. It’s #ModelTestMonday. I’m curious to see how many different shots I can create over the course of the next 6 months or so.

Los Scandalous.  

My favorite city.  I shot these images of Kimera Morrell on a rooftop in downtown Los Angeles.  She’s an ex New Jersey resident whom I’ve shot several times in my studio.  

We didn’t have permission to be here and our shoot took about 4 hours.  During that period, not one person came up to use the roof nor did anyone come up to tell us to leave.  Things would be different in NYC.  Any location with cool backgrounds and great lighting would have dozens of photographers setting up camp daily.

All images were shot on the Leica M9 and Leica M240 cameras.  The M9 is such a great camera, that it is still the first camera I reach for when the light is good.  Using it is much like using the M240, even though the M240 is a more advanced camera.  I give Leica a lot of credit for creating a camera like the M9 that is still worthwhile even when its superior successor is released.  

LOS SCANDALOS

I’m back from LA -one of my favorite places.  Actually I’m back from both San Diego and LA.  I went to SD to photograph a great artist named Michael “Monstro” Amorillo.  He’s currently working on a children’s book about a sea monster who can’t swim.  I’ll post some images of Michael in a future post.

Los Angeles was the main destination.  And the main reason for the trip was to train BJJ at 10th Planet.  The vibe there is so cool, and the head instructor, Eddie Bravo, is the closest thing to a rock star that you’ll find on a jiu jitsu mat.  I always feel like I’m home when I’m training there.  I put my daughter into classes at the Gracie Academy in Torrance.  The quality of instruction there is second to none and she really feels comfortable there. I  wish we had a kids jiu jitsu program of that quality here in NYC.  I might just have to start my own…

We also made a stop at the Leica gallery.  Nots sure why.  I own 2 of their bodies and several lenses. Not much left for me to buy from them at this point.  But there is that Monochrom -an $8,000 camera that shoots black and white only.  My wife was looking at an exhibit of black and white portraits shot with shallow depth of field.  She asked why I never shot her that way.  I told her, I don’t own a Monochrom and maybe she should get me one 😉

Knowing that wasn’t likely to happen, I asked to borrow the camera from the gallery for a few minutes.  I created the B&W shots you see here a few minutes later.  

Nikki

I met Nikki at the NY Open, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament I was shooting for the IBJJF a few months ago.  In the photo below, she is the one who is standing.

Despite the fact that she was trying to choke someone out when I met her, I knew she would be able to pull off a delicate beauty shot in my studio.  I reached out to her a few weeks later and she told me that she had never done any sort of modeling at all.  While I enjoy the expediency at which an agency model can complete a shoot, I also enjoy the experience of shooting an inexperienced model who doesn’t have any preconceived notions about what poses work for her and what poses don’t work.

I expected that she’s be a bit nervous coming into the shoot, but I knew the atmosphere in my studio -(non stop videos courtesy of Vevo on Apple TV), and the team I work with, would erase that pretty quickly.  

The goal was to make her hair as large and busy as possible and still convey a feeling of sensuality even though we would only see part of her face.  Needless to say, Nikki pulled it off.

Photographer: John Ricard @johnricard

Model: Nikki Mak IG@nikki_mak21

Nails: Shakinya IG@sohoxshakii

Hair and Makeup: Ashley Lee IG @Alstyling 

August Alsina for Urban Ink Magazine.  

Beauty Test Shoot with Ella and Kylie

Model: @kyealexis | Model: @banella | Fashion Stylist: @desyreenicole | Nails @tiana_hardy | Makeup: @beautyqueensandco | Hair: @alstyling

The model in the first 2 images, Ella, wasn’t originally part of this shoot.  She was only there as a friend of the stylist.  When one of the agency models cancelled at the last minute, I drafted her into the shoot.  She had never done a shoot before and was understandably nervous. I explained to her that she needs to accept the fact that she belongs here in front of my camera.  Often you see a model’s comp card and decide to book her.  When she arrives, she’s not what you expected and you’re only shooting her out of obligation.  If someone drafts you for a shoot right there on the spot and you aren’t even a model, then you have to appreciate the reality that you do indeed belong there and you’re not being photographed out of some sense of obligation.

The second model, Kylie is from Wilhelmina (Miami).  As you can see from the final image, she’s packed and ready to go South.

I’ve been trying to add a manicurist to all my tests lately.  Nails have become a big thing over the past couple of years.  Also trying to experiment a bit more with color.  For the past year or so, I’ve done most of my studio work on white seamless.  Channeling my inner Avedon, I suppose…  But lately I’ve been going back to a little color in my lighting.  Still can’t seem to make myself pull out a roll of pink or red or blue seamless from the closet though.