Joy and I have known each other since last November, when I photographed the National Taiwan University EMBA triathlon club at a race in Taidong. Although still an undergraduate at NTU, she was assisting some club members with their swimming, and like many of the team members she participated in her first Olympic-distance triathlon that day.
We’d long discussed arranging some portrait sessions, and after many attempts to clear our schedules finally got together in May for an outdoor session. Apart from a few rough ideas we went into that first session just looking to see how it would go, and I used film cameras for most of the images. Joy’s mom came along for moral support and wardrobe and styling assistance, and my assistant Dennis helped with reflectors and lighting. It went well, but I’ll be sharing some of the results from that session another time.
Making Lemonade ｜ 就地取材，隨機應變
Joy and I were both inspired by the first collaboration and quickly arranged to try something more urban the following week. I immediately described to her a concept I had in mind that I had worked on around five years ago, and had wanted to revisit in a fresh way. She liked the idea, and with that in mind Joy, her mom and me met in the mid afternoon on a weekday in mid-May.
Right at the appointed time it started pouring rain. We knew that unless we waited a long time we might not be able to shoot at the planned location, so instead of just sitting around I suggested that we look around the CKS Memorial Hall for something to use.
The first location, inside the station but outside the train platform area, was great… until a security guard shooed us away.
Next, we decided to poke our heads above the surface and look around. We got as far as a few meters from the station exit when the rain intensified to deluge level. As puddles began to form and our clothes became soaked we hurried back into the station. Right there, at the top of the escalator, I looked back at the scene and said to Joy and her mom, “This spot will do. Let’s try something here. In fact, this will only work in the pouring rain!”
I quickly set my gear down in a dry place, got it out, and began setting up, instructing Joy to think about a few yoga poses to make and her mom to stand by as a VAL (voice-activated light stand). Since we were in a public place, with people hurrying to get out of the rain and others gathering under the overhang waiting for the rain to abate, we managed to capture this humorous juxtaposition during a lighting test:
With lights all tested an a large audience watching, Joy stepped out into the rain while I focused from under the shelter of the station entrance and her mother stepped out to provide a light. Within two short minutes we managed to make these two dynamic images:
I’d considered having Joy pose in the rain without an umbrella, but I liked these two images enough and decided to wrap up at this crowded spot. The rain was like a gift, crucial to the success of the images, and before too long it subsided. We still had plenty of time, so we took our gear and moved next door to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei’s version of Red Square in Moscow or Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
This is where I decided to try the concept we’d originally planned for the day, which involved Joy holding a yoga pose, static and graceful while others passed by. I thought symmetry and balance would work well, so she posed in front of the National Concert Hall. The sky was pure gray, and I was actually wishing for more rain here to add some interest both in the air and so that the passers-by would be holding colorful umbrellas. But alas, it was only drizzling, and there were few people out and about on the square.
I set up the shot, Joy posed, Joy’s mom held the light, and we got this shot:
Problem solving and accepting gifts
It is often said that photographers are psychologists, fashion consultants, and all sorts of things, but most commonly we’re described as “problem solvers.” On this particular day we had no absolute mandate for a particular type of image, so perhaps what we did was more like recognizing and accepting gifts than solving problems. The weather gave us rain, so we used the rain as a key element in a sequence of images, and determined our second location out of geographical expedience.
Using the elements that present themselves to me and my subjects, and working around potential issues together, is one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of photography for me.
Hope you enjoyed the images. More to come… always more to come.