Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Terrifying Shoot for Dancers Among Us

This is a story about the scariest shoot I have ever done.

In April, as I was winding down shooting for Dancers Among Us, Luke McCollum hired me for headshots and dance promo shots. Turns out Luke had recently finished performing with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. He is a beautiful dancer.

I couldn't let such a talented dancer leave without attempting a shot for my book. But over the years I've used every conceivable location around my studio. There was nowhere left to shoot. Unless Luke was as crazy as I am...

Apparently he is. When I suggested a shot hanging off my third floor fire escape, he didn't blink. I almost wanted him to say no, because the idea terrified me. But once it was in my head, I couldn't shake it.

If we were going to do something this nuts, we had to find a great scenario to justify it. Fortunately, my studio had just been painted- rollers and extra paint were still lying around. Luke had no problem covering himself with paint and throwing on some extra clothes from his suitcase.

Luckily, my neighbor was home and I got access to her fire escape for the best perspective. I watched as Luke climbed on to the railing. 

"Let's start easy and see how you feel," I said through the cell phone we were using to communicate. He held on tight and struck his first pose.

Once he felt comfortable, he leaned back a little farther. My heart was pounding so much I couldn't keep the camera straight. 

We took a break. I ran into my studio to show him the shots. We realized that we had the potential for a very special image, and we had to push the limits. Luke needed to release his leg and separate his body more from the fire escape.

"One more time," I said emphatically. "Let's get this before you die."

"If I fall, tell me that you got the shot before I hit the ground," he laughed. I couldn't tell if he was serious.

He tried a few more poses. It was surreal to watch- truly terrifying.

"OH MY GOD!" I yelled, abandoning my cell phone. "We got it! It's a wrap."

I was thrilled. We dodged a major catastrophe, and I had a beautiful photo for my book. I went back to my studio to celebrate. We reviewed the images together. My heart sank when I noticed an unfortunate oversight.

"We need paint on your pants. It doesn't make sense that your pants are clean. I hate that I'm saying this, but it's true."

"That's okay," he said. "I can get my leg higher and my body further out. Let me try some more poses and scream when you like one."

I screamed really loud when I saw this one--

When I forwarded this image to the creative director at Workman Publishing, her reaction was swift-

"You seriously HAVE to stop doing this. Someone is going to get killed. On a related point, do you have liability insurance?"