A couple of weeks ago I was invited to do a drum solo for a dancer in a place I haven't been to before. All I knew is that they served tea and had boardgames. I seemed like a fun combination. As I walked into the Bampot Bohemian House of Tea & Board Games I knew it would be the perfect place to shoot the a photo in 'The Orientalist' series. With beautiful decoration and a number of art works from local artists on the walls, as well as a fantastic selection of teas from all over the world, I felt the space embodied some of the key elements of my drive in this project: the fusion of cultures, the respect for tradition and at the same time the invitation to create new things.
The owner and staff were very supportive of the project and allowed me to shoot some of the photos of my series there. The following day I went there to have some tea and take some photos of a number of potential spaces I could shoot. I also took some time to sketch some of the scenes that would take place there, as well as some other ones that would be related, even if shot at other spaces.
I wanted to do the first group shot involving both dancers and musicians. I chose to portray Anuka Bellydance as the featured dancer for this scene and the talented duo Zephyr, with Demetrios Petsalakis on oud and Jaash S on darbuka. I also wanted to have another dancer in the scene Stephania Woloshyn, who will appear on another photograph as the featured dancer. Timing was a bit of an issue in this case, since both Stephania and Jaash are members of the Lemon Bucket Orkestra and they were about to go on tour in just a few days. That posed some logistic challenges but we were able to make it work. The selection of wardrobe for this scene was quite straight forward, since both dancers and musicians had the kind of garments I wanted. One of the elements I was really excited to introduce was shisha, a kind of water pipe commonly depicted in Orientalist paintings, as well as a clay darbuka Jaash had recently brought from Turkey.
In terms of lighting, I envisioned an afternoon feel, with the Sun blasting from the window behind the subjects. I will discuss the technical elements of the shoots in later posts, but I wanted to point out that the use of lighting in paintings prior to the invention of photography tended to attempt a very naturalistic feel. Although I am using that kind of lighting in this series, I felt I should introduce some elements of lighting that are characteristic of photography, namely the over-exposing of backgrounds, as you can see in the character study bellow.
Another fun and unexpected element of this first shoot with musicians was the fact that they started playing some songs to get into the mood of the scene. That helped the dancer to find inspiring poses and I feel it added to the atmosphere of the photo in a whole. In fact, the musicians and dancer established a partnership and came back to the venue a few days later to perform an intimate set for the patrons, which you can see on the video here: