Even though many locals of Louisville, Kentucky dislike the tourist atmosphere of 4th Street Live, I’ve always been one to have an absolute blast in clubs like Angel’s Rockbar and Hotel(now Mosaic). For those that have no clue what I’m speaking of, 4th Street Live is a mall of clubs and restaurants, like the comedy club The Improv and restaurants like the Hard Rock Cafe. Try and go down there on Derby or New Years and it’s shoulder to shoulder.
Ever since I started photography, I sought an interest in shooting in the club Angel’s Rockbar. It’s a “rock” club that has contemporary seating, great lines and an ultramodern VIP section. When “GAGA - A Portrait Series” came around, I knew Rockbar had “The Edge Of Glory” written all over it. Even though “The Edge Of Glory” video took place mostly in a fire escape, I could draw from several other videos like “Marry The Night” and “Pokerface”. Conveniently enough, a longtime friend of mine, Andy Paul, ran the VIP area for Angel’s Rockbar, within a few conversations and calls, I had the place locked.
Sarah Klensch was one of the first models I signed on. January 3rd, 2012 I received a message on Model Mayhem inquiring about my work. Browsing through her portfolio, I noticed she had worked with friend and photographer Lana Wilson. After some quick conversation and a couple weeks passing, I asked her to be apart of the series.
Scheduling “Edge” was hell. I felt bad for Sarah when we had to re-schedule her shoot and bump her on several occasions. I had to work with Andy on the dates and since Angel’s Rockbar was corporately operated, things had to be by the book. When I was finally able to lock down a date with Micah and Sarah, it would be the day after the one of the biggest games in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Louisville vs. Kentucky. Rockbar was a no go.
So… plan B. But, I had no plan B. I racked my brain and came up with several ideas. Made the calls and most of the ideas fell through. However, I was able to land the Melwood Arts Center, thanks to a friend who would let me use his studios name for permission. The entire shoot would take place outside and on the buildings roof.
Day of shoot. I awoke to thunderstorms and the shoot had to be cancelled. I didn’t feel safe directing a model in heels up a wet fire escape and on a roof with possible lighting. In the back of my mind I thought, will “The Edge Of Glory” ever see the light of day?
By Tuesday we had managed to clear our schedules and book the shoot for the following weekend. This time at our original location Angel’s Rockbar. It was finally happening the way we had imagined and “Edge” was to become the final song in the entire series, which I felt was fitting.
During our shopping escapade at the downtown thrift store for “Love Game” we managed to pick up a few pieces for “Edge” which I couldn't of been more happy about. Black bathing suit and gold chain belt. We would gather inspiration from the “Marry The Night” video and use a bedazzled jean jacket to complete the outfit. Our vision was finally coming together and I was excited to share with Sarah what we had in store.
Friday, I decided to take some of my tax return and hit Wal-Mart for some items that I’ve been needing for sometime. Duct tape, a high-velocity fan, extension cord reels, and emergency blankets. Yes, emergency blankets. Hold that thought, we will return to this later.
Saturday, I was feeling great about the shoot. Location was locked in, Sarah and Micah were on the way and even though it was raining, I didn’t have to worry about the weather.
The hair/makeup transformation would begin and by the time of completion it quickly became my favorite from the entire series. Micah brought it to my attention that I’ve made that statement after every look is complete, but this time it was different. Sarah actually looked like Lady Gaga herself. The mint lipstick just brought everything together. I never knew I would get so excited over a woman’s makeup, guess its all part of the natural progression into the world of fashion.
We loaded up the car and headed down to 4th Street Live. We were a bit early so I decided to start at the top of the 4th street parking garage which I had scouted the night before. The rain has seized and the overcast sky would be perfect for the ominous "New York City" feel.
Sarah had little experience in modeling and hadn't done much in the field of high fashion. This was new ground, but once her groove was found, she popped off poses and fierce expressions that require some serious talent. She held poses and followed direction with pause. She was brave enough to sit on the side of a 12 story parking garage if that says anything about her will. It was refreshing to work with new talent and it truly felt like a team. Micah had been a great assistant in posing the models throughout the process. We had to think like the fashion icon and a normal question asked would be “What would GAGA do?”.
Once nailed the set on the top of the garage we headed back inside to Rockbar. When I first arrived I was a bit overwhelmed, but I had visited Rockbar the night before to plan out my sets, so I was prepared. We started in the long red staircase.
Because there was no break in the steps lighting the staircase sets properly was tough. I had trouble working in my light and after 10 minutes of shooting I still wasn't happy. But like Sarah, I had to find my groove. I pulled off my strobe transmitter, I relied on the natural chandelier light. I had to crank my cameras ISO, but the results we’re finally there. I eventually used a diffused speedlight for just the right amount of fill light where I could see dramatic results.
We banged out the staircase steps and moved upstairs to the long wall of white couches and then to the VIP cabana’s draped in red curtains. Since the birth of the “GAGA - A Portrait Series”, one image had stuck in my head, I didn’t know what song it would be for nor did I really care, I just needed to capture it. That being, a bright kicker light through the red curtains and the model standing with a fist in the air. My first vision was to create a silhouette, but after I had setup all my lights, the image was too awesome to change. About 10 minutes into the set I asked Sarah to raise her hand in a fist and output a powerful and solemn expression. That capture was to become the last image in the entire series, displaying prestige and beautiful confidence.
Back to the emergency blanket. I wanted to shoot against something bright, shimmery and silver. My first instinct was to look for backdrops for studio use, but then I randomly thought of my old wilderness survival books, insert the $3 emergency blanket. Once crumbled up, the foil texture would throw reflect light everywhere. So for the last set, we hung up the blanket on the large white couch and I had Sarah step 10 feet in front of it. I sprayed a ABR800 ringflash on full power to the side of the blanket and a beauty dish 45 degrees camera right. Results were almost there. I turned my 70-200 lens to 155mm and stood way back. Snapped the shot, within several captures we had it. The emergency blanket gleamed almost like a wall of sparkling lights and I was a happy man.
Just like that, we wrapped the entire portrait series.
I have so many people to thank, it deserves its own wrap-up blog post, which I will be posting within the next couple of weeks when this entire project comes full circle.
After leaving Rockbar, we arrived back to my home, I gave Micah a hug and cracked a Stella Artois in celebration. I sat down to edit the images from the day and thought to myself, well, what’s next?