|zang toi photoshoot makeup by me|
When I first started in fashion I would send out my photos to anyone and everyone who I thought would be kind enough to impart some of their wisdom upon me. In a 6 month period I’d send out over 1000 emails with my precious photos attached hoping for some guidance. Out of over 1000 emails I received about .2% return on my investment of time. I even got a response from Michael Jackson makeup artist—(rest in peace Michael). Most of them saying—good work just keep doing what you’re doing. HUH?—keep doing what I’m doing— hhhmmmm I’m perplexed--I don’t have a clue what I am doing I'm a newbie. At least I know I’m doing something right—right?
Until one day I actually got a meeting with a photographer I admired. I met him at a restaurant down in Battery Park City—I was working a regular job at the time I was in transition from film to fashion. I proudly presented pics I had-(not in a portfolio either). I was so thrilled to have someone there to finally talk to about my new venture. I started out with a few pics of the only produced photo shoot I had done at the time. --- Wooooo I was nervous people. He looked at my favorite one—and said point-blank. “I don’t like that” I was shocked—crushed and embarrassed. What? How could he not like it? It was my crowning glory—a beauty shot to rival all beauty shots. OMG I can’t do makeup—I must suck—I thought to myself. I was ready to turn tail and run. BUT then something said—go on DeShawn get bold—ask him why. So I did, all the time waiting for the fatal blow of—“your makeup really sucks.” His reply was—I don’t like the fact I can see up her nose. HUH? What? —You don’t like the shot because of the angle? BUT I’m here for a review of makeup? My actual reply was –Ohhhhhh? He said -- I can see you’re makeup is great but man I hate those up the nose shots. It stopped him cold. He gave me some pointers on what I can do on my next few shoots, and when I had those done—give him a call. Now that was something I could totally understand. Though I appreciated the encouraging words from previous artists, he gave me somethings to work on (like attention to backgrounds, model positions, stray hairs, retouching and yes the up-your-nose angle)– Thats what I call my homework. I love homework. Had I not asked him why I would have perhaps left the business—and second-guessed my whole career change.
One day while assisting Sharon Gualt on all things a David LaChapelle shoot, really not too far after my meeting with the photographer previously mentioned—yes another long story J. It was lunchtime and I found myself a seat away from David—shine the light on me. I was eavesdropping, David was going on and on about certain magazines that were left on the table. He’d flip through them and then commented on them being SH…--well let’s just say he didn’t like them. Earlier I had looked through those same magazines dreaming of the day I would be in there and thinking everything was just fabulous. So I couldn’t understand what was so wrong.
Me being a total newbie (I was less then 5 months in fashion) I dared ask a question to him (not something I’d recommend). He replied rather sternly—as he picked up one of the magazines and said to me— LOOK, that lighting is horrible, he flipped a few pages, LOOK at this model she has no real expression, and on and on. YOU’VE GOT TO LEARN WHAT IS A GOOD PHOTO! He then slammed the magazines down and in only a DLC way he left the table without a word. I almost peed in my pants-LOL. In that 2 minute conversation and a rare DLC act of kindness to a newbie (well sort of), as well as the brutally honest photographer before him— I received some of the most valuable lessons I ever have in this business.
Those life’s lessons I never ever forgot and I keep with me everyday. I am so grateful to have them. I share them with you:
- It’s not all about your makeup
- You must pay attention to every detail in the photo
- You must pay attention to every detail in your photo shoots
- You must surround yourself with the most excellent team you can
- You must learn as much as you can about other details other then makeup
- Remember when seeking advice the critics are drawn to what it is they do first—and then look at the peripherals later i.e. makeup artists always look at makeup first etc.
- Never take anything personally
- Don’t be afraid to ask a question—well unless its to David LaChapelle
I continue to do my homework—study greats, arts, photography makeup etc. I’m sure some of you are wondering if I ever shot with that photographer—the answer is no. BUT years later I got a call while on set working on a fashion editorial for Ocean Drive magazine. It was the photographer who didn’t like my up-your-nose shot—asking me if I was available for a shoot with him. I wasn’t I was booked--BUT I thanked him for being so honest with me that day. I told him I never forgot him and was grateful for everything.
Ahhhh a life lesson—don’t you love them?