All posts in Portrait Studies

Boshia Saturdays

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Paying someone a genuine compliment is a surprisingly demanding task. First, you must have the emotional capacity to acknowledge good qualities in said person. Second, you must frame it in a way that sounds well-meaning, not facetious or patronizing. Third, you must have the conviction (and self confidence) to look someone in the eye and tell them that you acknowledge their good qualities – without totally creeping them out.

I’m not talking about topical compliments, like “Hey, I like your scarf,” or even “Hey, you’re beautiful.” I’m talking about hard-hitting remarks, like “You have a calmness about you that inspires others.” Boshia is one of those rare human beings that pulls this off on a regular basis with remarkable elegance. We took a walk with her one Saturday morning in her neighborhood to talk about her ongoing projects and to generally bask in her lovely presence. Enjoy.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Poetry In Motion

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This post is long overdue. Alex and I visited West Cornwall last fall to experience New England autumn in all its glory. We stayed in a 3-story Victorian house situated on a 130-year old stone foundation behind a charming A-frame post office. One of the bedrooms had a small nook where the sun poured in at all hours of the day. We decided to shoot there one late afternoon and see what we come up with.

My last shoot with Alex depicted a fiercely independent woman who is as strong as she is endearing. For this shoot, we went with a slightly different approach – one that brings out her soft, delicate features and honors her selfless and tender personality. Enjoy.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Fields Magazine: Paola Mathe of Fanm Djanm

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Last month I had the opportunity to meet and shoot with Paola Mathe of Fanm Djanm on assignment for Fields Magazine. Fanm Djanm – meaning “strong woman” in Haitian Kreyol – is a thriving headwrap boutique inspired by African and Asian textiles. Each piece is handcrafted in NYC and serves as a wearable motif of quiet independence and cultural awareness.

Paola and I met up at her East Harlem studio and draped her in a dazzling array of fabrics to capture her eclectic spirit. Stay tuned for the entire feature on the Fields Magazine website.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Shadow Play II with Boshia

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Ivory, obsidian, gold. Imminent shadows curtailed by flecks of shimmering white. Gilded metal plates and prayer beads. Her hands reach for the light.

For this shadow play session, we draped the stunning Boshia with an assortment of tapestries and fine furs to capture her eclectic spirit. As she closed her eyes in prayer, the waning sun filtered in through the window casting a gentle light on her delicate features. The earthy aroma of white sage enveloped us as the smudge stick burned silently in the corner. Thank you, Boshia, for allowing me to capture this tender moment.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Portrait Studies: Tanya

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Throughout human history, hair has signified much more than unruly strands of protein filaments. Native Americans have called it an “extension of one’s thoughts.” Devout Buddhists have believed that they signify worldly desires. Massai and Zulu tribes have considered it a way to communicate with the Divine Being, as it is the most elevated part of one’s body.

Naturally, the shaving of one’s head is a deep intimation of these cultural signifiers. In many cultures, it is a dichotomous act that connotes both liberation and repentance. In Tanya’s case, it signifies rebirth – and it is a quiet tribute to the loved ones that she lost last year.

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tanya-10Needless to say, I was deeply honored when Tanya asked me to document this pivotal moment in her life. To mark her 40th birthday (yep, you read that right), Tanya invited me over to her apartment in Bedstuy and we spent the morning shooting as she leaned over her bathroom sink with the razor set on high. Her facial expressions fluctuated between varying states of excitement and perplexity as swathes of hair fell onto her tiled floors. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she laughed as subtle striations began to emerge beneath the humming razor blade.

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tanya-3The toughest cities have the tenderest of hearts. Though Tanya and I have only met up a handful of times in the past, she was nothing short of honest and disarming as she recounted the events of the year and showed me a small shrine that she had dedicated to her loved ones. Grief can easily harden one’s soul into impermeable obscurity – but evidently Tanya took an alternative route, a route that I am not entirely sure I would have had the courage to take.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.