When we spoke about the ideas for the shooting, I immediately realised that Bejun had very clear ideas about the story that he wanted to tell with the album. He very actively put forward ideas and suggestions. In fact he was so proactive, constructive, and imaginative, that at times I got the impression that I was working with another visual art director as opposed to a musician. And at the same time he always respected my opinion, and trusted my way of visually explaining the story we had in front of us in the best way possible.
The works of the album were created in that unclear and exciting period between Baroque and Classicism (1758-1772), in which composers wanted to break out of the old rules of Baroque; to explore and discover and to verge towards a new stage: Classicism. The title of the album was “Che puro ciel – The rise of classical opera”.
‘Che puro ciel’ (which translates as ‘such pure sky’) is the title of one of the album’s arias and very accurately reflected this revelation of new values, of opening the door to classicism. It was this title that served as the main inspiration for the photo shooting.
We decided to dress Bejun in a baroque suit and to paint his face with white make up, which was very typical of this period. To create the sensation of rupture, the action focused on the moment in which Bejun removes his make-up and takes off the baroque clothing and wig (breaking away from Baroque norms), and as a result he immediately discovers this ‘new world’, this ‘pure, open sky’ of new possibilities. Apart from rupture, the images had to transmit a certain freedom, as if to say “finally I can breathe”, “I can see the sky”, “I feel liberated”.
Honestly, it was a true pleasure to work with Bejun, especially due to the fact that he is an opera singer, and therefore an actor as well as a musician. His performance was spectacular and the expressions that he managed to elaborate made the final images genuinely powerful.
MAKING OF VIDEO
I’d like to share with you one of the ideas that we had for the shooting. We finally decided not to go for it, but it would have been a very strong picture and a lot of fun for sure:
We wanted to show Bejun shedding his old ‘Baroque skin’ to reveal a new, beautiful, natural skin beneath, using the metaphor of a snake that sheds its skin. For this, we would have made create something like a second skin painted with the white baroque Makeup.
In the end, we all agreed that it might be seen as a little creepy, even if it was a very powerful idea.
HOW IT WAS LIGHTED?
I worked with four lights to achieve dramatic yet smooth lighting.
Main light: Softbox 40x60cm
Fill light: Softbox 200x100cm (to light the whole scene)
Fill light: Umbrella 150cm (to smoothen the shadows)
Rim light: reflector (to better separate the subject from the background)
In post-production I worked with a flare effect which is what opens our imaginations to suggest that he is seeing the light, that ‘pure sky’ that’s right in front of him.
Some of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ info:
We hired this wonderful baroque suit at Theaterkunst, where you can find all kind of suits, dresses, uniforms - whatever you need from all periods. Pretty impressive!
The make up was created by an amazing make up artist called Eileen Napowanez. The challenge was to simulate that the make up had to look like it had just been removed, so it had to be visible but natural and credible at the same time. Eileen did a great job!
Don't forget to visit Bejun Mehta's web site bejunmehta.com