Photo Blog

Studio updates.

PORTRAIT 028 - DAN HASHEMI

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: 

When I first launched my portrait series in February, Dan Hashemi was one of the first people to reach out to me to book a session. I remember that initial conversation because Dan had a terrible fever and really wasn't feeling well. I told him it was okay with me to reschedule our call, but he was adamant that we continue with the meeting. His reasoning was simple, but deep. He told me one of his resolutions for 2017 was to honor his commitments more than in previous year. Although he shared this thought very casually, in-passing and neither of us made a big deal about it - those words resonated with me. 

A few hours after our conversation Dan ended up in the hospital due to that fever. The flu can be very dangerous. I remember thinking how committed Dan was to his resolution. I respected that. I also remember thinking that something inside of Dan was unwilling to postpone our call. Something inside of him was fighting hard to be set free. 

Fast forward to the day before our shoot. I get an email from Dan saying he has a really bad neck pain and that he's not sure he will be able make the shoot. Normally, I would of suggested rescheduling. Portraits are meant to be a boatload of fun and need to be really playful. The last thing I wanted is someone to be in pain during our session. I was about to go into another shoot and did not have time to fully reply. The last thing I texted Dan was that I will leave it up to him to decide if he was able to make it. 

At the end of my shoot that night, I reached for my phone to finally reply to Dan. I remember getting this feeling that it was really important for Dan to show up. I made a decision to text Dan and tell him that if his neck was still hurting, we can reschedule, but that he should still come over tomorrow and we can just hang out as friends. No photos, just catching up. I knew he had a legit neck issue, but I also knew that the mind is a very powerful tool. Something in Dan's mind was resistant to having his portrait taken. In my opinion that (mental) resistance was now backed up against a wall due to Dan's NYE resolution, so it had no choice but to manifest physically in Dan's body. The neck being a clever location for that resistance to travel to, considering we were scheduled to shoot portraits the next day. 

Before I could text Dan about my idea of just hanging out, he messaged me saying, let's do this! He fought through the resistance and doubled down on his resolution. I instantly had a smile on my face, as I read that message and knew he made the right decision. 

The moment his mental blockage realized that Dan wasn't messing around it began to release the tension in his neck. He also treated his neck pain with heat packs and herbal teas throughout the night, which I'm sure helped as well, but in my head I like to believe the release was mostly due to his resolve. The resistance knew Dan was serious and had no choice but to concede. 

The next day Dan showed up and honestly we had one of the most fun shoots of my life. We laughed so hard that we both cried. My abs (yes, I still have abs somewhere in there) were on fire. 

I never told Dan this, but he inspired me to adopt his NYE resolution for myself.

Imagine the possibilities, if each year we showed up a little bit more than the last. 

ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT:

Sometimes resistance is a really good indicator of a breakthrough ready to happen. 

Darius BasharComment
PORTRAIT 026 - ANDREA "RAVEN" SAMPSON

 

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: 

I remember the first time I met Andrea. It was at a TEDxToronto programming meeting in 2013. I remember her intelligence and strength filling up the room. It was undeniable and sometimes even intimidating.

It took 3 more years until our hearts would officially meet, on a hot summer's day, in a magical cabin full of friends. 

It's a profound experience to really see someone. It can be terrifying and at the same time there is nothing more liberating. It bonds you forever. It's that moment when you shed body, ego and all notions of self. Then, all at once you see the Universe in their eyes and you see yourself in the Universe.

When I think back at our shoot, I remember witnessing the battle between Andrea's mind and heart. This struggle comes up during every single shoot, but Andrea's was unique in that her sharply tune mind was working overtime to get ahead of me. Anticipating what I was about to ask and doing it before I could even finished my sentence. This skill can be very helpful in our lives and careers. It allows us to impress people and move quickly through our days. Here's the thing, moving quickly is meaningless to a timeless soul. 

I needed Andrea to rest her mind, so that our hearts could finally play.

The mind is like a loving, but overbearing parent. It's afraid that if it lets go and allows us to play in the world, we might get hurt, so it uses all sorts of tricks to protect us, but doesn't realize how much it's actually holding us back. 

As the shoot continued, Andrea's mind eventually tired out and like an over worked parent finally gave-in.  "Okay darling, go play. I know you're safe here and I know you'll be okay." That's what I imagined Andrea's mind said to her heart.

Then, it happened again. I got to see the Universe in Raven's eyes and it was truly beautiful. 

ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT:

Really smart people require more work to rest their minds. Don't give up on them or yourself. Be patient. Be loving, but also be tenacious. 

Darius BasharComment
PORTRAIT #025 - NICK KINDLER

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: 

Things started slower than usual during Nick's shoot. Sometimes this happens. My style of shooting portraits is not based on time, but rather energy and flow. With my fashion photography and commercial work, Time is such a constant and intimidating presence. When everyone on set is getting paid by the hour, it has to be. Letting go of time during larger fashion shoots, could be a very costly decision. 

With portraits, I cherish that I can create a space and experience that intentionally lets go of time. As adults we have been trained to be masters of time. This is a skill that can be very helpful in our careers and day-to-day lives. My portraits are an invitation to temporarily substitute time with play. I believe both can't simultaneously co-exist. When we truly let go and play, time becomes irrelevant. This is because Time is a construct of the mind, whereas Play belongs to the heart. 

I remember getting a sense from Nick early on, that he was a bit concerned that we weren't moving as fast as he'd like. He wasn't rude or anything close to that. He was actually very kind and patient. He didn't directly mention it, but my spidey senses were going off that he was very aware of time. I could of picked up the pace, but my heart knew we weren't there yet. So we continued to explore and connect together. We listened to music, talked about his 16 year son and listened to some 90's hip hop and laughed. Pretty much the opposite of picking up the pace. :)

Then there was this moment towards the end of the shoot, when Nick suggested grabbing some photos with his jacket. The very moment he put the jacket on, I swear I felt like we both travelled 20+ years back in time. He instantly started channelling some new and very playful emotions. I was loving every moment.

ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT:

From now on I'm going to invite people to join me in play and take off their watches and turn off their phones. Not everyone will take me up on this invitation, but for those who do...

Darius BasharComment
Portrait 024 - Kristin "Sunshine" Dorsey

MODEL: Kristin "Sunshine" Dorsey

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: 

When Kristin showed up at my place, the first thing she told me was that she nearly cancelled our shoot. She was having an emotional day (as we all do, at some point) and wasn't sure if she'd be up for photos. I remember instinctively feeling grateful that she was comfortable enough to shared that honest sentiment with me. It allowed us to connect deeper, as we quickly dove past the surface small talk. My heart told me there were emotions that were fighting to shine through Kristin and also that her mind was trying hard to push those sincere emotions back down. This tension between the mind and the heart is familiar to all of us. We need both the mind and the heart to survive, but we also need to know when to lead with our hearts, if we want to thrive.

My goal is to create a safe space for people to give their minds a rest and allow their hearts to play. The truth is that everyone starts our session in their heads. That's totally fine - I prefer it. But eventually the mind bows out and that's when the magic happens. At first it's just a single "heart photo" that sneaks through, then slowly the ratio grows and almost always by the end, it's a totally reversal. It's as if the mind just gives up and finally allows our hearts to play together.

That moment when Kristin and I began to really connect was very special to me. We both got to really see each other. Then we got to see ourselves, in the other. She told me stories about growing up in California and summer nights as a teenager, driving through the streets. I could feel the wind, I could hear the sounds. I watched as Kristin time travelled to those very real moments and eventually I joined her. 

It was a little vacation for both of us. 

ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT:

When people walk in with their emotions bubbling to the surface, this is an opportunity to create something special together. 

Darius BasharComment
PORTRAIT #015 - ANDREW "DUCK HUNT" PEEK

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT

I've known Andrew for almost 10 years, but sometimes it feels like we've always known each other.

For 5 of those years, Andrew and I lived together. Those were honestly my all-time favourite years. A week before Andrew came in for his portrait, I told him that I was going to be moving out. That was a tough conversation. Even now, I get emotional thinking about it. We were both very sad, but also knew this day was coming.

So when Andrew walked-in, the following Wednesday evening, to what was (eventually) going to be my new home, the energy was already very tender. I've seen so many colours of Andrew Peek over the years, so I really didn't know what to expect.

Andrew loves talking about big and audacious ideas and I love hearing about all of them. We have a history of jumping into conversations that soar above the clouds. But something was different that night. We both gravitated towards a different emotional altitude. Throughout I remember feeling very grounded. We spoke less than we normally would, but the whole time I felt really connected to Andrew, as if our souls were doing all the talking.

About halfway through, I spontaneously decided to experiment and asked Andrew to think about specific people in his life. I won't get into the details, as they were private, but I sat and watched, as my brother bared his soul and held nothing back. It was beautiful, it was tender and honestly it was really inspiring.

ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT

Life has many colours, but so many of us choose to live in black and white. These portrait sessions are an opportunity for people to let some of those dormant colours, come out to play.

And no, the irony is not lost on me. :)

PORTRAIT #014 - FRANK PAULO

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT

My process for these write-ups is fairly simple. I finish editing the photos, then I sit in front of the computer (usually in the mornings) and close my eyes and transport back in time, to the day of the shoot. Usually its been at least a few weeks since the shoot. This is helpful because only the truly memorable moments remain in my mind. There are typically several that I reflect on, but almost always there is one memory in particular that finds me. All I do is make space for it. Then, I sort of let go.

Writing has always been very difficult for me, I later came to realize this was partially due to being dyslexic. The other, and probably larger part, was due to being terrified of what people would think - if I let them in. I've come to realize this is exactly what everyone that sits in front of my camera experiences. If they let go and let the "real" them shine through, people might judge them. When you see it in writing, you can't help but realize how stupid that sounds. But still, it can be scary. The truth is, I'm still sort of terrified every time I share one of these write-ups (and even the photos). But everyday I do, I get a little more confident, but also I care less and by care I mean overthink and over criticize less. Again, like my portraits, the more photos I shoot during a session, the less people are in their heads. They eventually stop paying attention to that voice in their head and let go.  

So back to Frank and our time together. When I close my eyes and reflect on our portrait session, the memory that strikes me the most, actually didn't happen on the day of the shoot. It happened two weeks prior, when Frank texted me "Hey dude! You still need recruits for your b&w portrait series?". Nothing special about that text...unless you know Frank. He's one of the sweetest guys I know. Honest, kind and super reliable, but he can also be shy and fairly private. I've know him for almost 5 years, but it took Frank a while to open up and be really comfortable.

The other interesting part of the story is that Frank was my landlord until very recently -  that's how we meet 5 years ago. You hear these horror stories about terrible landlords. Well, Frank was the exact opposite of all those stories. I have so much love for the dude. Over the years he would stop by every once and awhile and he'd ask "what are you working on these days? Anything good?". I'd invite him in and tell him about whatever project I was working on at the time. He genuinely cared. I really enjoyed our talks, especially when the wine came out. So, one day in November I ran into Frank in the stairs and he asked me that same question "what are you working on these day?". I pulled out my phone and started to show him the early pictures of the first few portraits. No reaction. I told him about what the project was about. Still no reaction. I asked him if he was "maybe... possibly... sort of interested to be a model? " Blank face. Then after a long pause he respectfully declined. Frank being Frank, he still wanted to help, but was clearly not comfortable being the one in front of the camera. So he started listing off names of friends that might be interested. I can't say I was surprised. Like I said, Frank can be a little shy. No harm in asking though. 

I thought that was going to be the end of it. I would've bet money on it. But low and behold, two weeks later, on a Sunday morning, I get a text message and before I know it I've booked my dear friend Frank for a portrait. What a great surprise. 

ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT

The lesson was very clear to me. Everyone wants to be seen. That's my favourite part of this portrait project. If I do my job right, I get to bring people out of their shells (we all have them!) and show them how truly beautiful they are both inside and out. I can hear the haters barking about how cheesy that sounds, but fuck it's true. We are - all of us - beautiful.

PORTRAIT #009 - STEVE "CROCKETT" BALLANTYNE

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: 

As soon as Steve got to my place he admitted to me that he was a little nervous. I was a bit surprised because in my eyes he's a total stud. Always full of confidence and charisma. The truth is virtually everyone I work with (even seasoned top models) are a bit nervous at first. This is normal and usually a good sign when someone is willing to admit it to me, as it means there emotions are closer to the surface and that they trust me enough to be honest about their feelings. It's my job to get the model out of their head. I find the best way to do this is to have a sincere conversation with them. With Steve, this was easy. He shared so many amazing stories and I genuinely had a blast. Two stories in particular left a real impression on me. One was about the moment Steve and his business partners realized they had a legit business. Such an epic story! The second was when Steve opened up and started talking about his new lady. It was amazing to see Steve light up when he spoke about his girlfriend Negin. I swear I could see love radiate from his eyes and his face. It was beautiful to witness. 

ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT:

Steve being the thoughtful guy he is, brought a bottle of wine for us to share during our shoot. I love a glass of wine every once and awhile and I was very thankful. The lesson; a glass or two of wine is one thing, but add a little whisky to the equation and it's a totally different experience. We each had 2 drinks of whisky, so nothing crazy, but still it was not the best idea. What the hard alcohol did was create a barrier between me and my senses and for portrait photography I need to be as close to my sense and emotions as I can be, otherwise something will be missed. Thankfully the whisky only came out towards the very end of the shoot. I'm going to stick to coffee and wine from now on. 

Portrait 008 - Gloria Chik

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: 

There's a good chance you know Gloria, or at least have read or seen some of her work. It's hard to describe what she does, but at the core she's a creative storyteller. I've been following her work for years and have a great deal of respect for her talent. So much of her work appeals to me, including her photography.

The other part of the story, that is important to mention, is that over the years Gloria and I would occasionally go for these epic coffee dates. These session were raw and real. We'd sit or walk for hours. For me it was very therapeutic and much needed. I always left those sessions feeling a little vulnerable - but also a lot lighter. I can't say for sure, but I think she really enjoyed our yearly chats as well. So when I booked Gloria in for a portrait, I had an expectation that since we both knew each other and were fans of each other's work, that we'd agree on most creative decisions.

The shoot was a blast, she was great to work with and we got lots of awesome photos. But when we got to the review session at the end, I was surprised that we rarely agreed on the photos we liked. This was the first time I encountered something like this. It was confusing because most of her favourite photos were not appealing to me as strongly as they were for her. Not to say they were bad photos, just that she had a very specific style that she gravitated towards. It wasn't' a big deal, but it did surprised me and made me reflect on what I could learn from that experience, for future shoots. 

ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT:

There is no right or wrong in photography. Everyone has their own aesthetic sensibilities and taste. This can be a frustrating discovery, but it can also be a liberating one. The human brain seeks closure. The human heart seeks certainty and conviction. But the soul is wiser than both. It transcends binary human constructs such as right and wrong. When I realized both Gloria and I could be "right", I had to also accept that there is no objectively perfect photograph. At that moment I felt untethered and free. The feeling was fleeting, but it planted a seed inside me. It made me realize that trying to get to a place, where everyone felt the same way about my work, is a terrible trajectory. I can't control any of that. So now, I had to find a better plan - one that relied less on the external world. 

Darius BasharComment
Design Everything
Design your home. 

Design your business cards.

Design your work space.

Design your time and schedule.

Design your sexual identity.

Design your purpose.
Darius BasharComment
The Medium is (still) The Message

I am facebook. I am instagram. I am netflix. The content is irrelevant. With each new medium, I have agreed to enter a new reality, which will drastically reshape my brain. It's best to imagine this as a physical entity, for each medium's impact is not restricted to digital interactions only. It actually psychologically re-jigs our brains and changes who we are and eventually what we value. 

The content (aka the message) is never as important or impactful as (agreeing to join) the medium. 

The fact that you are an instagram users is more important than any actual message you could receive or could create through instagram. The medium is the point. Not the message. 

 

Darius BasharComment
Portrait #004 - Turtle

Portrait 004 had a few lessons that have helped a great deal with future shoots. The most important lesson was that a happy model does not necessarily guarantee you happy (looking) photos. 

If you know Turtle (AKA Faramarz Hashemi), you know that he's one of the most optimistic, happy dudes on the planet. He's always saying something nice about people or telling you an epic story about some incredible synchronistic adventure. 2 mins alone with him and you'll be able to see the magic that exists throughout the Universe. 

Something very interesting happened during our shoot. I'd be talking with him and that loveable Turtle that I knew would be totally present, but the moment I'd bring the camera up to my face, he'd immediately (and subconsciously) default to a very sombre and subdued pose. This happens a lot, especially with non-actors and non-models. It's very typical. They have no idea they are doing it. The moment you bring your camera down they usually revert back to their normal selves. It's such a fascinating phenomenon to witness. It can also be super frustrating if you can't work around it. The solution is simple. You need to get them out of their head. I've found this is best accomplished through a strategic mixture of Confidence + Distraction + Flow

a) CONFIDENCE: You need to find authentic moments and actionable feedback to sprinkle in as early as possible to get them feeling confident. The key is not to over praise them. If you tell them every shot is "great" then they will eventually become numb to your encouragement and lose trust in you. 

b) DISTRACT: Give them activities to do that will get them out of their own head (genuinely engage them in conversation, get them to pick the playlist, have them tell you a story, make them laugh, etc)

c) FLOW: Sometimes even if people are taking bad photos, I'll just keep shooting and progressively get faster and faster. The idea is to shoot faster than that little voice in their heads can speak. You need to pace yourself with this and make sure your not tiring them out. Each person will have a different ideal flow speed. It's your job to find it and push them to their limits, without exhausting them too early. 

Darius BasharComment
Portrait #003 - Pacman

For Portrait #3 I experimented with asking my collaborator (AKA the person I'm taking photos of) to think about different people in his life and key moments in his past that were filled with emotion. Not sure where I got this idea, might have been film school, but the results were not what I expected. Surprisingly the darker topics actually produced softer facial expressions and vice versa for the happier topics. 

The other lesson for this shoot was that as a photographer you need to make a decision early about your shooting style, regarding authenticity. There are lots of tricks and tips that allow you to get a specific look out of a model. For example, you can get a deeper person to look light and friendly by cracking some jokes or posing them in certain angles. This is great for headshots, which in general are intended to be utilized as a promotional tool for your clients (eg. actors headshots, LinkedIn profile photos, etc). 

Personally, I believe portrait photography serves a different purpose. For me, I am willing to forego standard poses in order to chase what I believe to be the true personality of the person in front of my camera. That's why I take my time and strive to have genuine conversation with each person. Being in front of a camera, especially this type of in-your-face studio lighting is very intimidating. It takes time for people to feel comfortable and for us to build trust. That can't be rushed,

The other lesson I learned is that for this to be an honest conversation it needs to go both ways. I can't ask people to open up and be vulnerable, if I'm not willing to take that same plunge and get raw with them. This part can be scary, but if it comes from a sincere place it can also be cathartic and allow you and the person in front of your camera to have a genuine connection. 

With Pacman (AKA Ryan Pakyam) it was quickly obvious to me that he had a unique mixture in his personality of strength and tenderness. If you know the guy, which I am lucky to say I do, you know he is one of the kindest dudes you will meet. If there's a way for him to make your life easier, he's there in a heartbeat. He isn't the loudest guy in the room, put his presence is always felt and appreciated. The other thing that caught my interest about Pacman was this deeper reflective energy that kept coming through in the photos. When you look into his eyes you get a sense that there are many untold stories and that this is a brother with great depth

Thank you Pacman for your patience and for your support!

Pacman_pic_3.jpg
Pacman_Test0015-1.jpg
Darius BasharComment
Portrait #002 - Melissa

I love the high contrast look of a beauty dish with a grid. There is something magical about the deep shadows and rich highlights. But it takes some work to maneuver the lights, camera and the posing angles to find a way to soften the intensity of this particular lighting style. 

It helps when your model looks like she belongs in a film noir. Really works with this aesthetic. 

Had a great time shooting with the enchanting, Melissa Way. Can't wait till our next shoot! 

 

Darius BasharComment