Cúpula-Tierra de Fuego

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

Let me start off by saying how amazing this experience was. I do have some things to say that might contradict that, but they are for my own exploration, and in no way mean to reflect on anyone involved. We met some amazing souls, and had an amazing time. I remain in complete gratitude for everything, but creatively there are obvious observations that relate to product and how I work, which always seems to confuse a lot of people.

The main players involved were Bianca Banka, fire goddess extraordinaire, Cain Motter, the Demi-god, Calvin Pritchard, the belting-poetic Aussie, and my wife, all around mom goddess, who was really just excited to play with fire. We had sent Bianca a message a while back about doing a tribal fire thing around a bonfire, and she was all for it.

In all of my searching for local people to shoot, I had surreally never found Bianca, so my wife pointed her out to me. What we initially talked about didn't really happen, but that all goes with the way I do things. In talking about a place to do this, she mentioned a friend who had some property, and locked that in. Little did we know that the friend was Cain the Demi-god.

We arrived an hour early, which turned out to be like four hours early, and got the tour from this amazing soul, who played music for us, showed us around his art, and spit fire for the girls. Ero latched onto him and demanded to hold his hand, and Cain graciously led her around and entertained the children, because that's what Demi-gods do.

The first to really arrive was Calvin, who immediately broke a string on his guitar, so played the whole night with five. I absolutely loved his music, but it wasn't really dancing around a fire kinda of music, not that it wasn't, because those dancing around the fire continued to, but it wasn't like tribal dance around a fire music, which isn't really fair because I'm pretty confident he would have been very capable beating on a drum, but no one asked him to, because it was what it was, and that's how I work.

I would like to mention that we went into this knowing none of these people, and I'm pretty confident my readers know how I do with strangers. I would also like to mention that the original music was supposed to be Jet Dread Stone, which adds much more depth to what "went wrong" and is more testament to how I work.

Bianca sent a message days prior asking if we could also help shoot a music video for the band; sure; then I got a message from Kiana, who was apparently pregnant and due in a week, and really wanted a specific shot for their video of her pregnant, then also asked me if I could run a 16mm Bolex; sure; I was so excited to be helping them with their time sensitive project that I put what I wanted to accomplish on the shelf. The day before, she said they weren't doing the video, and I started to talk her into it, understanding the importance and immediacy of this particular case.

She didn't respond, but that was only because she went into labor, which was likely due to the fact that I was involved.

We had no phone reception at the property, so we had to keep packing up the kids and driving out a bit to find out what was happening. All but one of the people we invited backed out, and the one showed up at like midnight. We imagined the weather would be warmer at the end of May in the desert, but it was cold and windy. Cain helped us dislodge rocks from the mountainside to keep our tent from blowing away.

The main character was significantly late because she was spending time with her visiting sister, which I will always be all for. I never want to get in the way of family, and always do what I can to make mine priority.

When Bianca did show up, our kids started flipping a bit in the tent, so my wife threw them in the car and drove them around so they'd just fall asleep. When she did get back we started the whole process of her getting used to actually playing with the fire, which consisted of a lot of awkward and super concentrated faces.

I just got into shooting what was happening, like I do, but the half a dozen people who I saw as participants, upon further review, really looked more like observers which the dancers were entertaining, looking amused or not amused, randomly on their phones or recording what was happening... in frame.

Not really the vibe I was going for, and I was too focused on capturing these movements to even notice. Those observers may have very well been participants, but I never know how comfortable people are in their skin, and honestly didn't really know for sure how comfortable Bianca would be jumping into it, especially with people observing, so I just captured it all as it happened, not expecting anything to be more or less than it was, and took way too many photographs in regards to how things turned out.

She obviously turned out being completely comfortable with whatever, which made everything even more beautiful. I'm sure my wife just jumping into it made everything a little easier. There was also another photographer there who asked if he could shoot BTS, but by the end of the night was directing poses, which I was fine with, but goes against how I work.

He didn't "take it over", like against everyone's will, but he did it his way to get what he wanted to get, which is how a lot of people work on both sides of the camera. At that point we were all just having a good time, and he did get some shots of me shooting, which never happens. The poses he was directing did make for some good shots, but then what? I have a bunch of photographs of the same pose, with the only difference being the dynamic of the fire. I got great shots of them organically moving around the fire and interacting, then the poses. Again, that's just how some people work; I don't.

I appreciate the poses in that it helped concentrate the action for a bit, but choreograph a dance, not a pose. I learned photography shooting live dance concerts with a Minolta SRT-201, and shot in that environment for over a decade; hit it; I got it; what's next? I could also say that my approach frustrates those who need to set things up, but I am yet to not capture anything significant by just letting the universe do what it does and being there to document it. Recently I've read a number of posts about BTS photographers sneaking in and getting shots they weren't paying for, even listed as a model boundary, but I want to be clear that this is not what I'm talking about.

Permission was asked and granted, and I am quite happy that he got some great shots. I am all for everyone getting something out of it, and feel like I failed if everyone didn't. He was a super nice guy, and a great photographer, there's just the obvious differences in approach. Aside from the Teru Teru Bozu anomaly, I just let things happen and get what I'm supposed to. I consider everyone we met there a friend and a resource, and we look forward to meeting up again with all of them.

Not long ago I hated everything, because everything can always be better, but I can now genuinely say that everything was exactly how it was supposed to be, regardless of plans and improvs. We need to do it again, with more participants and less observers. These photos don't really do the night justice, but I have plenty more to say, so...

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