Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Flash, bang, wallop - What a picture!!

Ever since I was a teeny tiny baby I've been having my photo taken. My first public exposure was on the cover of a local newspaper when I appeared in my mum's arms, aged just a couple of weeks old, as she looked through our living room window. The title was 'Waiting For Daddy'; it won a competition and is still proudly displayed on my dad's wall. From there I went on to win various other competitions ... building towers with toy bricks, gazing soulfully into the camera over my hands, romping down Formby dunes in a polka dot swimsuit and, most embarrassingly, in the bath with my sister! My dad has always been a keen photographer (and member of the Royal Photographic Society) so as I child I got very used to posing and seeing my photo out there.

Then the teenage years kicked in. Suddenly I wasn't so at ease any more. My hair looked green on colour photos (thanks Dad! So who did I inherit my hair from then?), it hung rather than swung ... and what I saw on that photo somehow never matched what I wanted to - hoped to - see. And that self-consciousness stuck with me into adult life. Whilst I didn't actively avoid the camera I didn't seek it out. Every time I had a photo taken I managed to achieve some really weird facial expression. My outfits never looked quite as flattering as they'd seemed in the mirror. I wanted to be the me I saw in my head, not the me on that photograph ..

But when you're performing dance you end up inevitably having your photo taken more and more .. dancing, posing, chatting. And then those photos start to bob up in public places whether it's on Facebook or other parts of t'internet. And hey, guess what? I've got used to it again! My pictures are most certainly NOT always perfect. Those bizarre facial expressions still bob up with alarming frequency - I've decided I must have a very mobile and expressive face and have just resigned myself to that fact! Sometimes I may not be in the most flattering of poses (double chins r us!). Sometimes I may be having a bit of a costume malfunction. Sometimes I think - Did I REALLY wear that??? But on the whole, when I look at photos of myself I'm happy with what I see. I see me - as I am, as I see myself in my head, warts and all (I haven't actually got any warts, but you know what I mean!). If I'm doing something bizarre I can accept it for what it is --- a 2d representation of a fleeting moment in time. And that's what I want --- I want to see me. Yes, it's great to see me at my best, but that's the key - at MY best. It still needs to be me, posing as me, smiling as me .. not as some ideal that looks like someone else entirely!

So .. when Sakura set off last Sunday for their photoshoot in Liverpool with Ian Woodward - - we knew exactly what we wanted! We were very much of one (tribal) mind (as we are about most things, bar Slipknot). We dance Gypsy Caravan style because we love it - love the joy, light, colour, laughter, sense of connection. That's what we want to portray when we dance, and that's what we wanted to come across in our photos. Yes, it would be nice to get some beautiful, serene shots, but we also wanted to get across the naughty side of Sakura - the fun, friendship, sisterhood and sheer shenanigans that we get up to most of the time when we're together.

With all that in mind we did our homework! We talked and talked to one another and Ian about what we wanted to achieve. We found photos of other troupes and dancers that we loved  and shared them with him so that he had a good idea of the look we were after. We talked about the setting for our photos - we wanted open air, greenery and so on for many of the shots. We planned our outfits to the nth degree - we wanted colour and lots of it! With all this in mind, and more than a little help from Jan's lovely husband, Ian, in sorting out the ideal location, we were all set ... apart from ensuring that on the journey there we whipped ourselves up into the necessary state of giddiness that we felt was needed to get the photos we wanted ... oh, hang on. That would be our normal giddy state then? Ok!

And what a fabulous time was had by all! from the moment we arrived and Jan, whilst signing her model release form, asked Ian if he really thought she qualified as a competent adult, the tone was set! we swished and swashed, romped and cavorted (oh yes, Jan!), giggled and cackled, nipped and tussled and pretended to be Very Important People as we sashayed around Croxteth Hall. We felt totally relaxed with one another and with Ian and t'other Ian(Jans hubby) - and with the security guys and other assorted people who stopped to watch us. We peeped around doors, stalked among lilies, climbed into rickety ex-Chelsea Flower Show greenhouses, almost fondled water pumps and generally caused a bit of Sakura ruckus. And Ian did an amazing job of capturing it all! We got our serene shots, we got our tribal sister shots and yes, we got our fun, devilish shots too! Tribal Jane (our mascot) has been quiet lately but decided she ought to come along to keep order. She failed miserably as far as that was concerned, but did manage to get into a few photos. Go, TJ!!!

We are both absolutely over the moon with the results! They really are exactly what we wanted and Ian has done a brilliant job of portraying our Sakura spirit. It has been so difficult to pick out our favourites because we love so many! Some of our favourites show us relaxed, looking almost, dare we say it, pretty ... others show us fooling about and yes, the faces on those are real 'fooling about faces' - and that's what we wanted too! Because that's how we are in 'real life', that's how we feel when we dance. That's us!!!

We even managed to get a rather arty shot, albeit unintentionally - how do you like Samuel Luke Fildes' 'An Al Fresco Toilette' - Sakura style?!


So, with all that in mind, how exactly did we end up with such fabulous photos? This is what worked for us ..... we aren't exactly the world's most experienced models, but some of this might just help you!
1) Use a photographer whose work you like and who you get along with and can be yourself with (we are lucky to have a couple such folk here in North West England!)  That photographer/model relationship is so important!
2) Be really clear about the image you want to portray in your photos (we have a really strong sense of identity of ourselves as dancers and that's what we wanted to come across!)
3) Be realistic about that image (Let's face it - I was never going to look like Rachel Brice now was I?!)
4) TALK! Before, during and after the shoot. Talk to one another if you're in a troupe, talk to your photographer. Share examples of photos/styles you like ... make sure you all know exactly what it is you're after, from both sides!
5) Choose your location and costuming carefully so they fit the image you want to portray
6) Be flexible and open to different ideas -- we had our own thoughts, but Ian had some great ideas too and they all worked! It's a two way thing!
7) Laugh! Relax! Have fun! We had one another to play off ... if you feel really nervous it might be worth taking a friend along who helps you to feel more laid back!

 8) Finally - when you get those photos through (squeal!) look at them through the eyes of love! Be kind to yourself! Don't get a magnifying glass out on those wrinkles, don't scour them for that stray grey hair, don't lament the fact that you aren't supermodel thin! What you see there is YOU, you in all your shining glory, just as you are, your own unique self! And you are beautiful!!
Huge, huge, HUGE thanks go to Ian Woodward for sharing his talent with us so wonderfully - visit his site, The Hooded Lens, here to see more shots of us and get a taste of his other work! Thank you to Jan's husband, Ian, for arranging the location for us, guarding the various belongings that we left strewed gaily around the walled garden and for the coffee. Thank you to Tribal Jane for deigning to make a guest appearance, to the security staff for helping out in various ways and to the audience member who waved and shouted 'You're beautiful' to us as we sat on the hall steps!
And mega huge thank-yous to one another - to us Sakura sisters - who had such good times and will continue to dance on as our photos portray - in love, light, joy, colour and sisterhood. Tribal Rocks!
Until next time, kick up your heels, shake a leg and shimmy on! Happy dancing!


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