Toky Photography

The Furniture Maker (Behind the Scenes) Part 1 (of 3)

Posted in Ali Rahimi, Exhibit, Fashion Show, models, Outtakes, Peeps, Toky Photography, whyrHymer by tokyphotography on October 2, 2009

So much talk and planning for my “The Furniture Maker” show got me thinking about how that whole project came about. Here is a condensed of the logistics story of it (more on the artistic meaning of it on part 3).


"Dry Run"

Back in August of 2006 I was in “need” of more girls for my portfolio. My friend Scott suggested I photograph his friend Cynthia. Immediately after seeing a photo of her I thought she was perfect to be an addition to my portfolio. We set it up and she came to my friends Brandon and Sundeep’s house. Brandon is in fact a real life “Furniture Maker” and Sundeep is an incredibly talented makeup artist. Cynthia brought a bunch of her clothes. Sundeep did Cynthia’s hair and makeup and I took a bunch of great shots of her. Some beauty and some headshot style. Before we were done I asked Cynthia about going downstairs to Brandon’s furniture making shop to shoot something a bit more interesting. I had dreamed about this idea about a guy making pieces of art that looked like humans. I really didn’t know where to go with it, but this was a great way to experiment with it.

These shots are the result of that shoot.

Once I saw the results my original vision took more shape. I knew I was going in the right direction but I wasn’t quite there yet.

The shot that started it all

The shot that started it all

Coincidentally and totally randomly I had met the most awesome fashion designer a few weeks before. Ali Rahimi. Walking on the street one day, the display at his store stopped me on my tracks and I had to write down his name and Google him later. I emailed him and never expected a response but I got a note back from him letting me know I could stop by and meet him anytime. Now, anyone that knows me knows that I don’t just go ahead meeting people but I “knew” I had to meet him so I took him up on the offer and went to see him. I fell in love with him, his partner John and every single one of his dresses. The documentary about Valentino says at one point that he (Valentino) is the last true couturier… ummm, I think that would be Ali. His stuff is up there with the top of the tops. Every single one of his dresses is a carefully, beautiful crafted piece of art.

Set for the cut "Wedding" shot

Set for the cut "Wedding" shot

One of the things that I noticed about Ali’s designs was the textures, the “elements” that are a part of them. The dress that looked like metal, the dress that looked like wood, the dressed that looked like a leaf… and so on.

After that shoot with Cynthia it hit me that we are all inspired by all the things around us. We live in the same point of time and space that this reality presents us so we might be inspired by the same elements or events and transmute it on our mediums of expression. That’s when I saw the similarities in Brandon’s Furniture and Ali’s dresses. I knew that I had to make a story about this.

Amber standing in...

Amber standing in...

Cynthia became our friend right away so a few days later we gathered for dinner and Scott came too. That’s when I told him my idea and in true Scott Butler fashion he took it to the next level immediately. A notebook came out, pencil, sketches, story line, setups, etc… I like to do things fast and trust they will come along. And they do! But Scott likes to sketch, research for accuracy, cast the right people, etc… so together we came up with having the story of the making of the humans follow the process that Brandon does to build an actual piece of furniture. The inspiration, the wood shaving, the carving, welding, polishing and whatever other steps are necessary according to the piece.

Scott created a book with all the textures, the models we cast, the setups, locations, etc… we presented to Ali and he was immediately on board. (How can he resists us?)

So our first official shoot… was a mistake. It didn’t work. For some reason, mainly because availability I decided to shoot the last shot of the series first. So the last ‘human’ was wearing a wedding dress. It’s really not that I thought that he would marry one of his creations but I thought it would be a subtle way of letting the viewer know how close he felt to them after they were completed. The problem was, that there was nothing subtle about it. It was just too much and it made the story creepy. And as interesting as it might have been for some, I did not want the story to be creepy. I wanted it to walk the fine line between interesting and (a bit) disturbing… but not plain creepy.

Getting ready

Getting ready

Seeing those shots solidified the direction I wanted to take and it was smooth sailing after that.

We photographed the polishing shot next. That one my favorite shots of the whole series. For those of you who don’t know the model in that shot is Sundeep, our makeup artist who did the makeup and also the real life wife of the Furniture Maker, so that shot had all the chemistry needed. I mean, as much as you would need for an almost finished piece and the artist that created it. On that shoot we did a second setup with different hair and different makeup. But we quickly realized that this was not the kind of project that we needed to have options to choose from later. We just needed to build the shot, add and remove elements until the perfect shot would pop on the computer screen and then just go “okay then, that’s the shot, it’s wrap”.

Testing the hand position

Testing the hand position

Our next shot was our carving shot. I love love love the hair style done by the amazing Nico (he designed the hair for the whole series, and is the most enthusiastic hairstylist I know). The eyelashes that Sundeep put on Jen were handmade by Sundeep out of cardboard! AMAZING what passionate folks do when you let them be creative. Also an interesting fact about that shot is that the original dress didn’t have the tulle part at the bottom. Ali added that specially for us, by Scott’s request because he felt that the dress needed to take more space. Also, another tidbit is that Scott is never satisfied, so half of the train of the dress that you see on the shot was digitally added later to make it even bigger. And one last tidbit from that shot is that the shot you are looking in the final series is a composite of 7 different images! and 7 hours of retouching at a booth at Denny’s with Scott over my shoulder telling me ‘move this to the right, too much, go left, more, there, perfect!’ (so much for the perfect shot at the end of the actual shoot!) hahaha.

(end or part 1… part 2 coming tomorrow)

(ps… I’m Mexican so my grammar is not the best, BUT I TRY!)


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