Columbia Part 2 - A Quiet, Unifying Voice - Miss Nevada, Nasya Mancini Shoot - Amador County Photographer
If you read Part 1 of this blog post, you’d know we set out to create an image that would resound with Americans and encourage patriotism (yes, even in a time when people ask ‘Is patriotism ok today?).
Our goal with the main image was to create a feeling of competent, powerful leadership. Every American will respond to compassion. It doesn’t matter what the political affiliation is – every human wants to believe their leader cares what happens to them.
All I wanted was a big sky and a granite rock. On the El Dorado National Forest, that’s easy to find. It’s free. It’s ours. It’s public. Anyone with a car and a map can access a national forest within a couple hours.
So there we were, Miss Nevada, in a draping gown, on top of a big granite rock. On all sides of her was a drop of varying magnitudes, from a tumble into the brush to an actual fall into the reservoir. And she’s afraid of heights. Add sand and skimpy trails to the equation and a giant, heavy flag that CANNOT touch the ground. Oh yes, and 'Nasya, will you please look in the direction of the sun.?'
(By the way, we owe many thanks to the Marine Corps League Motherlode Detachment 1080, not for only fighting for our freedom, but for also letting us borrow their awe-inspiring flag. Jenny O. got chills the first time she saw it. It’s a true beauty and the image would not have happened without their kindness.)
We needed wind. I have never been to Bear River Reservoir Dam without it blowing a gale, but there we were and the air was dead as a doornail. We’d brought a leaf blower just in case, so Jenny stood inches from the fall into the water and blew. My mom managed a light and photographed other angles. Nasya’s mom, Lisa, observed all of this and offered positive feedback, but probably secretly hoped that her daughter wouldn’t take a nasty biff, or need stitches after a shoot with Kelly Curtis.
Here comes the honesty that most photographers, even me, don’t offer willingly. The main photo is a composite. It's two photos blended together in the editing phase. I could write an entire blog post on the ethics of compositing, but as long as we are truthful about it, we can do anything with imagery today.
It’s very important to note that the image is a composite. The symbolism of the goddess, the leadership, and the patriotism is imperative to get correct. I liken the image to the production of a play. It's art, a symbolic statement meant to provoke thought and awe at the American landscape and theory of justice, liberty, dreams and opportunity for all.
Anyways, I moped around for a couple days mourning the weather. High-pressure, no wind, no clouds, no drama. One of the hardest parts of a styled shoot is the scheduling. It was shooting day whether I liked it or not, so I accepted that to make the vision come true, I'd need to composite. I went back a couple days later and photographed the lovely clouds. (You can see an image below where I kept the sparse sky because it was a beautiful contrast to the movement, angle, and pose of Nasya.)
On my way to the location to set up a tent where Nasya could change wardrobes, I stopped in where Jenny was doing hair and makeup. Jenny was wearing her mask and doing one hell of a bold smokey-eye. She used charcoal instead of black to emphasize Nasya's eyes and did her skin high gloss with a natural lip. She used Featherlite Leather to tie up Nasya’s hair in a mohawk, to give the appearance of a helmet, but she left some down so we could have feminine movement in the wind.
As for wardrobe, we had a bolt of hand-me-down fabric, about seventy-five linear feet of sheer removed from my living room, and a dress bought at goodwill. We wrapped the sheer for the Columbia shot and went from there.
After the Columbia shot on the rock, we went down to the parking lot for some blue-hour photos. We spent about twenty-minutes making some pretty photos (with found items in nature) and called it a day.
One of the beautiful things about our shoot is that it was entirely non-commercial. Each of us participated out of mutual respect for one another and love for our country and sadness at our nation's turmoil.
During those last twenty minutes of shooting, I was overcome with the feeling that anyone could do a shoot like this and that was very powerful for me. I don't believe everyone in our country has the same opportunity for education, power, and riches, (Vote, Vote, Vote) but for taking a picture in nature, they do.
No, not everyone is Nasya Mancini and can become Miss Nevada, but she did compete for seven years to win her title. No, not everyone has Jenny O. doing their hair and makeup, but Jenny has worked her entire career to have the freedom to work complimentary on projects close to her heart. And no, not everyone has a fancy camera and cool editing software, but I have never taken a class on photography. I am entirely self-taught through online tutorials and you-tube.
Everyone has free access to public lands (or a spot with some green stuff), a piece of fabric, a smartphone, and editing apps. I would love to see what you come up with for your own concept shoot with your kids, your sister, your boyfriend, grandmother, for the people and sentiments close to your heart.