Now that I've moved permanently to the Netherlands, I've increasingly discovered a wonderful network of great local photographers. One of them is Robin de Goede who is based in den Haag (The Hague). Hooking up on Model Mayhem during the summer, we became friends on Facebook and began corresponding and chasing each other for doing a shoot together. After months of either one of us traveling to Japan in different times, we decided on 14 December 2011.
Armed with a degree from the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Robin is not just a photographer but also an artist. He has produced quite a few beautiful drawings as seen in his website, whilst gradually progressing into photography to develop his talents. Like his artwork, his photography work clearly reflects profound appreciation of places, objects and people whilst managing to touch our minds and emotions. Not surprising!
Also not surprising Robin's fascination for tatoos. And we're not talking about the small odd one on the arm but an extensive masterpiece on practically the whole body! Over the years, Robin has come to know quite a few good tattoo artists and spends time in Japan every year, photographing this body art, even getting acquainted with the Yakuza who are famous for their elaborate tatoos. Thus, when I saw his images, I was not sure how to react when he offered to work with me! If he were brave enough to hang out with the Yakuza, one can only imagine that he must be a pretty scary guy, right? Wrong!
When Robin picked me up from Den Haag HS station, he was quite the opposite of what I had imagined. So mild-mannered with a kind face and speaking with a gentletone of voice despite his muscular build that you'd find it hard to believe he's also a bouncer at a local nightclub! Having a keen interest in Japanese culture, Robin adapts a more "zen" approach towards dealing with trouble makers, he told me. It was a five minute or so walk to his apartment in which he converted his living room into a studio.... equipped with a tatami mat!!
Over coffee, he showed me his work and shared his experience during his Japan trip. Many were fascinating, others were quite sad as he showed me some photos during his trip to tsunami-stricken Fukushima as a volunteer. The photos of the orphaned children nearly brought tears in my eyes. Had I not been there for a photoshoot, I think I would've burst out crying. On a more happier scale, the photos he took of the Yakuza in tatoos were fascinating. Am not so keen on tatoos myself but the patterns were just amazing.
Robin is involved in a sort of project on nude women he calls "Anomie". Anomie is a sociological term used to describe lack of social norms or breakdown between individual and social norms. Thus, the concept of nudity being a disconnection from what is expected from "normal" society. Quite profound! I was more than happy to volunteer. His work of nude women was quite unique, even abstract I must say. He focuses on the eyes of the model rather than the body. Or focuses on one part of the body. The use of various lenses such as wide angled ones and capturing the subject from unusual angles make the images look quite surreal. I couldn't wait to become involved!
We began with a warm-up shoot. I brought over with me a green kimono which I had purchased at a charity shop when I was last in Japan. Slipped it on and as I'm rather clueless about how to properly fasten it all on properly with an Obi, I disguised my embarrassing ignorance and just let it hang open while I sat demurely on the tatami mat. Gradually, I lay down on the mat. I decided that as it's an "anomie" theme, I am not to smile or pout (who the hell pouts wearing a kimono anyway!) but look quite subservient and vulnerable. Thought it would also be "cute" to add that doe-eyed vacant but frightened stare for a more "manga" effect without looking silly!
Then off went the Kimono and we moved to nudes. From the charity shop in Japan, I also bought an assortment of Japanese-silk strips of cloths which were scraps produced during the making of various Kimono. I had the idea to scatter it all over my nude body whilst lying down on the tatami. Robin himself had this cool idea of wetting my hair with a water spray and making my hair all stringy and randomly settling on my face,. Then I had my body oiled with baby oil for the extra sheen. First thing that came to mind for this look was being swept by a vicious rain storm which in Japanese is known as Arashi (嵐).
I like experimenting with props too. Great way to add some vavavoom to nude images! Robin produced a small round convexed mirror he put on the floor for me to look into while I am kneeling on the mat. This time I wanted to add a little humour in it by making faces to the mirror. And I love the scary one Robin produced in which I am going nuts, tearing my hair out!
Next, Robin placed another mirror on the floor. It was a rectangle one on which I was to stand on the sides of it with my legs apart! However, there is a logo or printed pattern in the middle of the mirror so my "bits" are concealed. Then we used a mini Noh mask (Japanese theatrical mask). I sat on the tatami with my legs apart but having the mask in front of me so you can't see. The sky's the limit when it comes to props! The next time I shoot with him, I would like to bring along some simple Japanese ornament or object. In fact for a while, I did regret bringing along a Hello Kitty soft toy, thinking it would be quite Japanese... clutching it like a lost child.
We called it a day, but we were both happy with the shoot. It was very relaxed, no rushing and I got to also see the results on screen. They were beautiful! As Robin is a skilled photographer, not much editing was necessary except for the odd cropping. He even holds the record for turning all the images around and sending them to me the very next day! Unfortunately I was very busy those weeks and couldn't share them sooner. I am in the middle of uploading them on Flickr and will be adding much more as soon as possible.
Thank you so much, Robin, for this enjoyable shoot. I would definitely like to work with you again when I'm back from Japan in mid-March. By then, we'll have more inspiration when I'm freshly back from there. Look forward to it!!