The Importance of Test Shoots

I moved back to Los Angeles in the summer of 2013, high tailing it out of NYC on a quest to save my sanity. My crazy ex-husband just couldn’t stop seeking pleasure in trying to hurt me. Meh. Shitty things happen to good people and this isn’t a diary entry. But moving back to LA really sucked. I had a nice pad right in the middle of hip, cute little Williamsburg. I was shooting pretty decent stuff and working regularly. But it came down to either I save my sanity or I keep working. My sanity won.

A year later, wouldn’t you fucking know it, I met someone and ended up staying in NYC most of the last quarter of the year. I fell in love with the city on such a deep level that I would actually get choked up at JFK as I waited to board my JetBlue flight back to LAX. When one jaunt back to LA had me only staying a week before I flew back to NYC again, I decided that I am going to move BACK. That’s right. I moved my furniture, my office, my EQ and my dog alllll the way to LA only to turn around and decide to move everything and the dog alllll the way back to NYC.

LA to me is a dead zone to shoot in. Maybe I’m just too old to put up with the gaminess here but the models are kinda’ meh, the teams are kinda’ meh, the whole “fashion industry” here is just kinda’, yeah, meh. Two weeks ago, in an absolute fit of “I HAVE to shoot something or I’m going to die” moment, I decided to test. Fuck it.

I sent out a few emails to some of the local modeling agencies. After getting a few replies with all kinds of crazy requests like “can you pick the model up, she doesn’t have a car” and “she can only shoot on Sundays because she goes to school” and “can she shoot from 9 AM to noon because she has volleyball practice in the afternoon” I reached out to Wendy at Fenton Moon in NYC and asked her if she happens to have one of her girls in LA at the moment. 15 minutes later she replied with a package. And THAT’S why I love NYC.

Okay, so I take back what I said about the teams being meh here. Not everyone is meh. I met up with makeup artist Agnieszka Jakubowski (Aga) last Fall who had moved from NYC to LA and was as frustrated as I was. So I hit her up to do this test. David Harrington is sort of in the same boat. I mean, that’s what LA is to me. You’re either really talented but really stifled or you’re not so gifted but your ego is out the roof. Aga and David are of the former category.

We shot this test in two parts over one week. Day one was shot in a makeshift studio in my living room and then we headed to DTLA so I could get some street reportage style shots. Day two was shot in a studio in DTLA because I can’t stand shooting in makeshift living room set-ups, I guess.

Our model Keila doesn’t have bangs. But after David looked at her pictures, he bought some human hair ones to clip into her hair. We had this whole Chelsea Girl theme going so I thought the story would look really good in black and white giving it that ‘70’s thing.

In my makeshift living room studio and in the studio in DTLA I used one Profoto beauty dish placed pretty close to Keila’s face. I shot with my Nikon D800 and my 85mm 1.4 Nikkor lens. On the street scenes I shot with my 24mm 2.8 Nikkor lens. On the stairways, street and rooftop I used only available light and pushed my ISO to 1000. I like grain.

Originally I thought that I might submit this story somewhere, but I don’t think the styling is strong enough and honestly it was just a way for me to put a camera to my eye and shoot something. Incidentally, there was no stylist, just clothes from Keila’s and my closets. That’s my leather jacket with her Alice and Olivia Dress. That’s my Saint Laurent Sweater with her Louboutin boots. Mish mash styling. Whatever, it wasn’t about the submissions or the magazines or making some huge statement. Just a couple of mis-planted, trans-planted artists dying to make something. One thing for sure, it’s saving my sanity NOW because I’m bored as fuck in this town.

Melissa Rodwell