How I started shooting high end Brazilian fashion photography
Today is the day I start my first lesson in high end Brazilian fashion photography. I walk into the Contemporâneo showroom mansion and am greeted with excited Portuguese-accented yelling.
“The American photographer is here! The American photographer is here!”
“Hi, you must be the American photographer. So nice to meet you. Come in, come in!”
I am ushered into a grandiose entryway. All around me the fashion industry buzzes -- the sound of clicking heels and excited chatting echoing off the cool marble floor. I am here for my first ever fashion shoot and I have no idea what I am doing.
The mansion itself is gorgeous -- a classic example of neo-colonial Brazilian architecture with white stucco exterior, wrought iron, fine detailing and classical columns. Each room repurposed to serve the showroom and every detail is perfectly completed. It is a building boasting all the appeals of the old country while bursting with the pulse of modern fashion. I follow my gracious host into the main dining room. It now serves as the office, where computers and paperwork crowd each other for attention along a long wooden tabletop.
I am shooting today with Clarissa, the social editor at Harper’s Bazaar Brasil. She and I met my fifth day in Brazil. We met through Norton, whose company built the website for her personal fashion blog. Like most Brazilians I’ve met, she has a laid back, fun loving attitude - her time in the world of high fashion gracing her with an air of class. Although, she wavers a bit on the crazy side, attracted towards the twisted and weird. Let's see what today brings.
This is could be bigger than I thought
Clarissa put together today’s shoot for her blog to tie in with a party thrown by Site RG. Site RG is a website ran by Carta Editoral, the same company in charge of Haper’s Bazaar Brasil. RG is one of the most read websites in Brasil, boasting to be “the culture and style thermometer of Brazil and the world, keeping readers tuned in to what is current and interesting in art, entertainment, behavior, ideas and everything that is fashion.” Along with putting the shoot on her blog, she wants to pitch the photos to her bosses to get it published on Site RG. You know, nothing like walking into your first ever fashion shoot and potentially having it on one of Brasil’s premier and most read fashion sites. As if I wasn’t nervous enough.
I start unpacking my gear onto the couch on the left side of the room and lining everything up for the shoot. The pool we will use lies before me beyond the wall of 12-foot tall accordion glass doors. It is too hot outside to open them up, but if necessary they allow the entire room to open up to the pool. The water is an exotic green, contrasting with the bright white walls surrounding it.
Being here is so cool, but also a little overwhelming. One question after another fires my way from every direction as I check my camera over.
“Would you like anything to eat or drink? Do you need any props? Will the pool be ok? Do you need anyone to hold anything for you? Where in the states are you from? How do you like Brasil so far? How long have you been in photography? Are you sure you don’t want any food?”
It is strange to see people running around acting like I am a big deal. I am the “American photographer” here, flown in from Seattle to shoot with a woman from Harper’s Bazaar. Everyone is so anxious to meet me and have a little bit of my attention. If only they knew it was my first time.
And so it begins
Clarissa comes strutting into the room decked out in a fashionable cover up and heels. We do the standard double kiss hello.
“Oh I am so glad you are here! Good to see you again. Isn’t this place amazing!? Did you get anything to drink? Have you had a chance to walk around yet? Did you meet everyone? Here, come on, let’s go pick out some things for the shoot.”
We step through the large doorway beyond the couch and down two marble steps into the show room. Lights, mirrors, designer sunglasses and bags surround us. We walk through the space together, pausing only for Clarrissa to ask my opinion on different items. Assistants swirl about too, chatting with Clarissa in Portuguese about the brands and products she tries on. We settle on three different pairs of sunglasses and match them with two bags. We are all swagged out now. Brazilian fashion photography at its finest.
Into the bright light
The shoot starts just after noon. The sun is high and the light is bright. There are two trees off to one side of the pool, but other than that, there is little shade. The hard light will be a challenge, but also important for the looks I want to capture. Clarissa and I are the only ones out at the pool and shooting starts out slow. We are feeling each other out, understanding how each likes to work, and working on achieving a comfort level with the camera. We shoot all around the pool – against a rock wall, inside a changing room, in the shade of the trees. I’m doing everything I can to make Clarissa feel loose and comfortable. I am also working to find my groove. Clarissa changes outfits a couple times. I decide to move us up to a balcony overlooking the pool.
Somewhere in the midst of shooting on the balcony we find it -- she is feeling comfortable and I inhabit my role as photographer. With each click of the shutter, my nerves dissipate and my confidence grows. I can feel my creativity bubbling to the surface. I decide we need to shoot Clarissa in the pool from the same balcony. I start directing assistants to move pool floaties around and clean up the pool. I have people hold reflectors to direct light. I tell Clarissa exactly where I want her and where to look. Welcome to Brazilian fashion photography Josh.
I am running the shoot like a god damn pro.
I suggest moving a couch out to the pool edge and shoot Clarissa sprawled out on it. We explore the mansion and shoot in a stairway leading to the attic. We shoot in a bathroom with a funky balcony and so many mirrors it is hard for me to stay out of the shot. I find an attic storage space with great light. We shoot in an elevator with a metal gate door. I pull a chair out into the middle of the grand entryway to take advantage of afternoon light flooding through the large front doors. The more we shoot the more ideas I have.
Before I know it, it is four o’clock. Both Clarissa and I are tired, but happy with how the day went. We make our way back into the dining room/office and I start packing up my gear. This time I don’t turn down an offering of food and spend the next 20 minutes hanging out, munching on cucumbers, a sandwich and abacaxi (pineapple). By now it is the end of everyone’s day and they have all made their way in to chat with Clarissa and I. What a remarkable way to end my first day as a fashion photographer. I think I could get used to the Brazilian fashion photography thing. I can’t believe some of the shots I got. I am anxious to get home to get these bad boys up on the computer. I have a good feeling about them.
See the final shots here: Site RG poolside fashion shoot.