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Part 7 of 50: An Unexpected Turn with Sara Liz

This is part seven in a series of blogs on my recent artistic adventures in Mexico.

Sara Liz at Todos Santos Inn
Sara Liz at Todos Santos Inn

A funny thing happened on the way to the shoot concept with Sara Liz. I’m going to write more later about how ZoeFest allowed me to stretch and experiment in a way that I haven’t had the opportunity to in some time, but for now, I’ll simply say I walked into all of my shoots in Todos Santos with an open mind and ready to be inspired in whatever way the muse du jour cared to lead.

Sara Liz is joyful. Sara Liz is exuberant. Sara Liz seems to view the world through her beautifully large wide open eyes in a way that makes you feel fortunate to be experiencing whatever it is that she happens to be experiencing in that specific moment.

When you are photographing Sara Liz, it’s less like work and more like play. She is also the Queen of the Photo Bomb, about which I will, again, explain more in another entry.

I say all of this not only to explain a bit about Sara Liz, but to give a little background on the unexpected conceptual turn that I found myself experiencing once we began our photoshoot.

My booking with Sara Liz was my third shoot of the day after Ella Rose and Carlotta and I was tired, but in the best kind of way. Back in my studio in Chicago, I’ve had the most lovely shoots between the hours of 10pm and 4am. It’s the time when the work or shoot of the day is finished and I can kick back with one of my model friends with a glass of wine and eventually the cameras come back out and we just play.

Sara Liz at Todos Santos Inn
Sara Liz at Todos Santos Inn

Our heads are too tired to over think anything. The daytime part of my brain has long since retired and the nighttime part of my brain is fresh and anxious to escape the dreamworld and create something in the real world. That’s usually when the unexpected turn happens.

Sara Liz and I began shooting around the fountain near the veranda at Todos Santos Inn. My daytime brain had decided to call it a day a bit early today and nighttime brain was called in a little earlier than usual. It is in these times when I stop thinking about the photographs I’m making. It’s a bit hard to explain, but it’s a bit like letting someone take your hand and allowing them to lead you somewhere you haven’t been before.

Sara Liz at Todos Santos Inn
Sara Liz at Todos Santos Inn

From the first release of the shutter, I could feel the images were going to be more about Sara, the person or maybe a character she was creating, rather than the more abstract concept of a traditional nude figure photograph. My nighttime brain told me to keep going, to continue this journey with my new collaborator without asking too many questions.

We moved to a nearby wall above the gardens where she perched and draped in beautiful ways. What was different is that she was engaging the camera with those big eyes of hers in a way that assumed a sort of gentle control, almost like when I’m viewing a beautiful piece of sculpture that in my imagination may come alive at any minute, possibly in a benign way or maybe something more menacing if I turn my back on it.

Unusual things to be thinking about during a photoshoot? Sure. But that’s exactly why I love when nighttime brain Billy makes an appearance. It’s like my second photographer, very much like me, but with a wonderfully skewed point of view. He’s definitely more the risk taker and explorer. A good partner to have.

Sara Liz and I moved into the library room at the Inn where a gorgeous old doorway opened out onto a small balcony. Lovely soft light was coming through the doorway into the room.

I began to imagine what thoughts were going through the mind of the character she was emoting. It was imposible not to be curious as to what was happening behind those eyes. Something a bit more cinematic than usual. Haunting.

Sara Liz at Todos Santos Inn
Sara Liz at Todos Santos Inn

We headed down below to the garden and found some lovely low angle rays of light navigating the leafy obstacle course. I positioned her so the light would fall only on her eyes in a sort of inverted mask.

Finally we head toward my room at the Inn. I had been paying attention to the light coming in the windows during various times of the day. It was late afternoon and as we approached, I noticed the sun had not quite made it to my windows yet.

However, when we opened the door, a thin shaft of brilliant light streaked across the steps up to the bed.

“Wow!”, we both said in unison as we hurried inside. The  light was moving. We knew we only had a few minutes.

I positioned Sara Liz on the corner of the bed, directly in the beam of light and turned on a small table lamp behind her to add some background to what would have otherwise been a black hole.

Once again a character emerged and her eyes began to tell a story. I wondered what she had just experienced, or what she was going to experience. It was like watching a movie.

Our little sun beam silently disappeared and we called it a wrap.

Sara Liz at Todos Santos Inn
Sara Liz at Todos Santos Inn

Part of the wonderfulness of ZoeFest is being able to make it up as you go. There is no right or wrong, except if you create nothing. That would be wrong. Certainly my time with Sara Liz was not exactly what I had imagined our shoot would be when I woke up that morning, but certainly more interesting than it might have been.

Sara Liz had taken my hand and led me on a little photographic journey that late afternoon in Todos Santos. And I would happily watch that movie again.

More to come.

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