It’s been a busy June for me, and I’m glad I found time to post something before a huge backlog builds up. The events June alone should be enough for two to three entries, but most of those are more on ideas rather than reports. So I’ll start with the pictures I took.
Shooting Cynthia Alexander: Comfort in strangeness
Aldus let me tag along with him in his interview with Cynthia Alexander. It was on the first leg of her farewell bar tour, and the venue was Conspiracy. We arrived early, professionals that we are, and a sense of deja vu was in Conspiracy—there were familiar faces, the place brimming with people compared to the scant numbers of the previous week when I haunted the place, and the vibe was reminiscent of the last broadcast day of NU 107. The air was filled with anticipation laced with nostalgia and urgency. It was a sold out show, not because of the limited real estate of the performance area, but because of basic economics: the demand was high for a finite and dwindling supply of a good. And that good is the presence of one of the most unique artists the Filipino music industry has ever heard.
Unlike NU 107’s last broadcast, this was more of a despedida party than a wake or a funeral. A plethora of adieus have been written since the announcement of her departure to greener pastures abroad—as well as resentful fists shaken to the heavens that is the local music industry—which only points out how very very belated this entry is. One of those adieus, of course, is Aldus’s article, and I’m considering my participation in that as a proper goodbye to a revered musician, in a classic coattail-riding fashion. And from this point I digress to writing about shooting Cynthia Alexander, who I’m afraid I won’t have the chance to shoot again. Ever.
First off, I sincerely miss my Sigma 30mm f1.4, which was unfortunately attached to Fiddy when we parted ways, along with my Yongnuo YN560 flash gun. I only had my Tamron zoom lens and the Nifty Fifty on the 7D at that time. It’s unfortunate that Aldus and I weren’t able to find a well-lighted place for the interview because of the multitudes in Conspiracy. We ended up in a particularly dark corner near the kitchen entrance, where the reach of the mellow house lights seem to bend away from it. I had to make most of the situation. I summoned the Nifty Fifty, cranked up the ISO, and told myself that the most important things to watch out is to find a subject’s good angle, wait for the that magic moment and snap at it while it happens.
This was the first and last time I’m going to shoot Cynthia Alexander. What’s extra special is that it’s for an interview rather than a performance. I’ve only shot for an interview once before, and I approached this shoot as if it is a performance. If we are going to be a bit loose about the definition of ‘performance’, we will have to consider how an interviewee reacts to the questions from the interviewer as such. As I’ve said, Conspiracy was flooded with people that night, and this flood comes with the noise of fans anxious to be such fortunate audience of a departing star. I cannot hear a single question, nor can I make out an audible answer between Aldus and Cynthia.
Considering this as a performance, my shots should be timed, and the subject’s reactions anticipated. Being deaf at that moment, I can’t even take cues when a question has just been phrased, or if the question would plainly elicit specific reactions like delight, dismay, ponderance, or puzzlement. Without such cues, I relied on instinct. If ever I try my hand on nature photography, focusing on wild beasts, this may be my referential experience for it. I was constantly on my toes for every movement and pause she made. I was no mere observer and documenter—that night I was a stalker. Okay, that sounded creepy, but I was on a mission that night against the adversity of darkness, claustrophobia, and cacophony.
I told my experience in this shoot to some people and they say it holds true what I have seen myself, that you’ll get your great shots from the latter parts of the interview when the interviewee has warmed and cozied up with the interviewer. While it might be true in this present case, I don’t think any photographer should discount the possibility of an interviewer who can swiftly and deftly establish rapport with his subject through hypnotism, with a maxed out charisma stat, or just being a really nice person.
In conclusion, I would like to wax sentimental: the concept of the “Kodak moment” was introduced to me as a kid, such that every picture taken technically is a unique moment captured, never to be replicated. It is very much so what anyone brandishing a camera has in mind, that is to take a picture because the moment will last longer. But what if you are confronted with that idea head on? This, most probably, will be the last time I take a picture of Cynthia Alexander, and confronted with that idea, I took pictures with a sense of urgency and aimed for posterity. I lost an aunt a while back, and in her wake I realized I never took a portrait of her, only pictures of her with other family members from the last family reunion. Should every photo you take be considered the last of that confluence of subject, moment, place, and situation? Of course it is exactly that, with subjectively varying degrees for every factor. All you need is to act accordingly.