The Paris I Like: Michael Higgins Publishes Two Projects in Moevir Magazine
One of the quirks of fashion shoots is that, in spite of the fact that many of the final images feature sunny days and ostensibly pleasant weather, it's usually quite cold outside. Fortunately, as Michael Higgins knows, when you’re working with dancers, you’re not going to get many complaints from them. The Los Angeles-based photographer recently completed two assignments in Paris, successfully submitting both to fashion magazine Moevir. The first came last April, and, as you can imagine, it was not warm out.
We shot dancer and actress Audrey Hamm on the street. Of course, April being April, it was cold! About mid-40’s Fahrenheit, so working with a dancer in a leotard or tights makes for quick shooting! I so love shooting dancers — they are the most uncomplaining, tough-it-out subjects, bar none. So, when I saw that Moevir was looking for a dance/Paris story, I knew it was the perfect fit for us.
Part of the reason that Michael knows what he’s getting from dancers is because he was one himself. For more than two decades, in fact. This means that quick shoots aren’t necessarily hectic or rushed, they’re just more efficient than if done by someone not familiar with dance.
As a professional dancer for 25 years, I’ve been there, so knowing how to pose and how to do it quickly comes secondhand. The trick to shooting this kind of element is that you need to shoot fast and accurately and keep the good vibe going!
How we do it: we talk about the pose I want her to do, take the jacket off, shoot three frames, and put the jacket back on. Then, we repeat this process. Keeping my dancers warm is paramount. Not only for the attitude, but also because body flexibility requires warmth. So, jacket on > jacket off.
Not one to shy away from puns, Michael understands the unique advantage he holds when it comes to completing dance-based work in the world of photography. It doesn’t take long for the Angeleno to gain his subject’s trust because he knows the vernacular to communicate clearly about specific poses and shots. Sure beats trying to reference a mood board pre-shoot.
I have a leg up (sorry, had to!) on other dance photographers because I’ve been there. I know what the hell I’m talking about — I know the dance language and how to initiate a move in order to get a pose. You can look at a mood board, but unless you know movement, you will not know how to capture it or help the dancer prep for it. We don’t have mirrors in the studio or on location, so the photographer has to know. The photographer is the mirror. ‘Nuff said.
Though Michael didn’t face the same weather-related challenges for his August shoot for Moevir, he still had plenty of hoops to jump through to complete it. For starters, that’s the one month of the year when most people in Europe are vacationing.
August is notoriously bad for anything work-wise in Europe, as everyone is on holiday. And that proved to be 100% true for us! It was also super difficult finding a photo rental house that was open where we could rent equipment. Plus, finding a model that fit our aesthetic proved so hard! No one was in town. We contacted so many models that were on holiday or coming back the day after I was leaving. No kidding!
But in the end, we found the most perfect model, Shanaelle Boa, and were able to arrange the necessary equipment for the shoot. I had Moevir in mind when we submitted to them and we were accepted.
Inspired by the aesthetics of a pair of Parisian fashion designers and his own favorite spots in The City Of Lights, Michael created a stunning collection of shots that Moevir was all too happy to run with and publish.
I wanted to show the Paris I like. The kind of places where I had walked and spent time. I wanted to put together a cohesive story incorporating these places and the styles of Emmanuelle Julliard and Jeac-Paris.
Though Michael says he’s still working on figuring out all of the places in Paris he likes to be around and shoot in (there’s obviously a lot to choose from), it’s clear the freelancer has an eye for one of the world’s great cities. The former dancer has taken his unyielding work ethic — forged over years and years of experience in that field — and successfully transferred it to his photographic endeavors. So, be it dealing with the threat of inclement weather, scrambling last-minute to lock down talent, or finding publications to submit his top-notch work to, rest assured Michael is going to figure out a way to get it done. It’s what he knows after beginning his career in dance and is a big part of why he loves working with dancers, even as he’s moved on to other adventures.
Dancers are the honey badgers of talent, bar none! They can be under the toughest of conditions — heat, cold, rain, long hours, changing aesthetic, etc. — and they will never falter. They will bleed for the art. They get it. I have undying love and appreciation for my people.
Check out more of Michael's work at higphoto.com.
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