This whole post is being written to justify that headline…don’t be shocked by it – William Randolph Hearst used to start wars to sell newspapers so one little post is not that bad. Besides, you get to look at girls.
The ladies posed for me in 2009 so that I could have a new electronic exhibition for the WAMED markets here in Perth. The Western Australian Middle Eastern Dance association holds a three or four day festival around the start of June each year. There are numerous shows at nightclubs and halls for belly dancing of various sorts – which I never get invited to – and a big open market and dance show on a Monday that I do get into. I provide a photo exhibition in the foyer of the hall where they hold the markets and I get to photograph the show inside. It is a lot of fun.
Over the years my exhibitions have progressed from the big 12 x 16 paper prints on matt board to a slide show on a computer screen with music accompaniment. The initial print exhibitions were colourful but the mounting and hanging of the prints was a nightmare – the specially constructed frames and stands were hard to transport and the matted prints warped and fell off the racks regularly. I tried a number of solutions over 4 years but really only felt happy when the display could be automated on an iMac. Of course it is not as big, but it is every bit as colourful, and the sound can be whatever I choose for each image.
Don’t get me wrong – it is not son et lumiere stuff – it is just an iMac slide show, but I get a lot of lookers and they take my professional cards away as advertising.
Over the years it also progressed from just basic belly dance poses for various troupes to themed exhibitions. I remember ” My Fair Ladies “, ” Notorious Women “, ” Goddesses “, ” Art Deco” , and ” Art Nouveau “, as well as an individual tribute to one dancer called ” Bunz In Your Face “. Miss Bunz and I are proud of that one…
Here’s a few from 2009 – ” Art Nouveau ”
Of course these are images derived from the Art Nouveau period but that was the idea. Costuming for a lot of this was easy as Mucha seemed to favour ladies who were wrapped in flowing robes – bedsheets are a pretty good substitute. Please do not ask for sewing patterns as most of these gowns are formed with terry clips and gaffer tape round the back where you can’t see it. Of course there was a scramble for jewellery but there is a pretty good supply of costume stuff at the studio and the ladies I know all seem to have chests of dance jewellery anyway.
I must say the key to getting good images in this genre is getting the right model. There was a litheness and grace about the period illustrations that really characterises them, and you need to find bodies and faces that can approximate it. The languid eye of the 1890’s is sometimes found today – there is also a relationship between the nose and upper lip – a sort of shortness and upturn – that is seen in many western European and American illustrations such as those of Mucha and Gibson. Once you see it, you never forget it.
One thing that is necessary is hair – all the period illustrations have masses of it up or down. If it is not on the face you find, you’ll have to resort to a wig.
What is on the cards for this year? Another monograph on a single dancer, I think. I have a decade of one particular dancer and figure model and I think that it will be enchanting. I am not sure what music will accompany it as the lady in question is also a presented at a radio station – perhaps I should let her burn her own CD of favourites to accompany her images.
Note about the WAMED. I have jokingly referred to it in the past as the WACPOTMED association ( Western Australian Certain Parts Of The Middle East Dance association ) as there seems to be a significant part of the Middle East that never seems to get a show on stage. I can’t remember ever seeing anyone dance a hora at any of the venues, as colourful and entertaining as that might be. Perhaps that will change – I noted recently that KULCHA, a local night club and social stage venue, had a couple of nights of a klesma band from London. We can only hope.