Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Floundering Through a Dancers Among Us Shoot, Rescued by a Hot Dog

I was on a high after completing the first exciting Dancers Among Us shoot of the day last Wednesday with Marcella Guarino, the helicopter, and the aircraft carrier. With ZDF German Television still in tow, I headed to Union Square to photograph another dancer among us, Jermaine Terry from Alvin Ailey. We had a bit of time to kill before our 2pm shoot in Lincoln Center, and I thought the Union Square Greenmarket would be a nice backdrop.

Well, we never made it to the market. Instead my attention was grabbed by the new Andy Warhol monument on Broadway.

Photo by Geoff Legg

Outdoor art installations and statues are very common in NYC, yet there is not a single Dancers Among Us photograph incorporating one. Andy Warhol seemed like the perfect premier subject.

But I didn't have the faintest idea on how to incorporate him. Nothing. Not even a germ of an idea. So, I climbed up next to Andy and attempted to figure out a pose myself.

Photo by Geoff Legg

And that is when I heard the very distinct whistle of the NYPD (how I am familiar with it, I do not know). I looked over and was waved off the statue. Normally I would take that as a signal that there is some law I'm breaking, and perhaps I should think of another idea... but this is Andy Warhol! He wouldn't have walked away, right?

So, we couldn't rehearse- we had to come up with an idea and quickly implement it. There is a quote I like to repeat like a mantra in these situations:

It is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

I was still at loss for an idea and feeling pressured for time. The oppressive heat wasn't helping much either. I was definitely on the cusp of a photographer's block, so I just kept talking incessantly. Maybe something would eventually stick...

"How about pretending you're a tourist, and you have your arm around Andy? Or what if you are mimicking Andy's pose? Okay, let's get Jermaine a camera and shopping bag... Okay, the camera looks really silly..."

Then I remembered my grandmother, Mercedes Matter. She was an accomplished artist and hater of Andy Warhol. She would rail against the commercialization of art- "And that awful Andy Warhol and his absurd soup cans! That has nothing to do with art!"

Light bulb. Hot Dog Bean Soup! Perfect.

Jermaine would jump off the top of the statue, split his legs while holding Andy's shoulder and eating a hot dog, then effortlessly land 8 feet below as Geoff is eating another hot dog in the background- all before we get arrested.

Amazing! This is the benefit of working with the most exceptional dancers in the world- they only need a few takes to get the perfect shot. I reviewed the photos and loved them, minus one detail- his shorts were blending into the background. If only he had lighter colored shorts. I looked around. Everyone was wearing dark shorts except... me!

Got it in one take! And no handcuffs. Thanks for the inspiration Grandma.

And when I say I was talking incessantly, I am not exaggerating. Check out this video by Travis Francis to see what a floundering photographer looks like. The woman I keep asking to rescue me is Jennifer Jones, star of many Dancers Among Us photos and a friend of Jermaine. The two came up with the final dance pose together (must give credit where it's due!).

If you were worried about the whistle of the NYPD as much as I was during this shoot, just wait until tomorrow's post when I tell you what the police had to say about doing a cannonball in the Lincoln Center fountain.