A Body of Work…Days 1 through 4

A Body of Work…Days 1 through 4

Our days of henna and photography/videography for A Body of Work did not go exactly as planned but still resulted in gorgeous designs and amazing photos and footage. And the shooting continues.

Day 1 (Monday): The expected morning delivery of Paul’s new lighting and backdrop support systems from B&H Photo in New York didn’t materialize — a saga unto itself — so he improvised with existing equipment in order to shoot some preliminary footage of me prior to the henna application. We shot some beautiful body and movement studies which gave us ideas of what we might shoot after Kelly’s henna application.

Paul updated the equipment delivery for the studio instead of his house and expected delivery early Tuesday, so we were more or less on schedule.

Kelly came by the studio to report her own potential disaster: She had made a big fresh batch of henna for the shoot and placed it in the oven with the light on to warm the henna to slightly warmer than room temperature (this initiates the dye release, as I understand it). Her daughter turned the oven on to preheat for baking cookies and unintentionally baked the henna…although for an undetermined time. Kelly was going to test the henna and see how it worked after possibly being overheated.

When it rains, it pours.

Day 2 (Tuesday): I arrived at the studio around 9:30. Kelly would come by later after Paul and I set up the new lights, backdrops and scrim. The B&H saga continued…The packages had been as close as Deerfield (30 minutes away) before inexplicably being shipped back to B&H. Needless to say, Paul spent a stressful morning on the phone with UPS and B&H trying to sort out this mess. B&H had recalled the original order and shipped out a second which was due for delivery sometime before the end of business Tuesday. Crazy.

Meanwhile, Kelly’s henna appeared to be fine, so she planned to move forward without having to start from scratch.

Paul and I shot some additional footage before Kelly arrived. Our plan to start the henna process in the morning was obviously scrapped. We shot some other things including more body and movement studies, as well as Kelly mixing henna.

Kelly began applying her designs to my back. My hope had been that we would be able to do a lot of the application while I lay on a massage table. But such was not the case. I had to sit upright for her to apply on my back. Stupidly I sat on my antique piano stool with no padding. I had no idea how long I’d been sitting there — my butt numb, my arms and back exhausted and tense — until we finished, and Paul informed us we been at it for 2 hours and 20 minutes!

Our process was for Kelly to apply sections of her design, then Paul to take photos and video of the progression.

Next she worked on my hands, and before we knew it, it was 1:30 AM. She taped my hands and back to prevent smudging while the paste released its dye onto my skin, and we left Hart Yoga at 1:45.

Day 3 (Wednesday): I arrived at the studio around 9:30 AM after dropping my son off at preschool. We set up and began shooting and applying henna shortly after 10:00. Kelly finished my hands (palms and undersides of fingers), continued with my back and shoulders, and began making her way up the back of my head. Paul continue to document the progression of the henna as it expanded coverage on my back, neck and shoulder. We finally took a lunch break in the late afternoon before I picked up my son to take him home shortly after 5 PM.

I was back at the studio by 6 and we continued with my legs. For the first time I was able to lie down for the application of the henna! It was a relatively short-lived reprieve, as I had to stand while Kelly designed the upper leg. Shooting time allowed the henna paste to dry enough for me to lie down for the second leg. More standing application for the upper leg and some other areas (shoulder, maybe? The details have already blurred.)

By 11:30 we had to decide whether to continue on (second wind, anyone?) or stop where we were and hope we could finish the next day. Kelly pushed through and began working on my chest mandala. We were all getting punchy, and as I stood for the photo and video session, the dried henna paste from my legs began to flake off every time I switched my position. It was everywhere.

Once again, it was 1:30 AM before we left the studio — tired, punchy, and unsure of where this was leading us.

We were well behind schedule. The application had taken longer than expected, and the equipment delivery delay had set us back a full day. Kelly had scrambled for additional childcare (Cynthia McLaughlin, you are a goddess!! Thank you), and we had all rearranged our lives to be able to finish. How could we get it all done and cleaned up before Paul had to leave Thursday afternoon for work, and I had to teach a class at 6 PM?

Day 4 (Thursday): Back to the studio in the morning, dragging after another night of less than 5 hours of sleep, I vacuumed up the henna droppings before Kelly and Paul arrived so that we didn’t track it all over the place and dye the bottoms of our feet unintentionally.

Today’s agenda was to finish the application and the documentation of the process. Our intention was to finish between 12 and 1 PM. Ha!

Kelly continued embellishing the chest mandala, connecting the chest to the shoulders and back with an elaborate collar of henna. Her designs continued up and over my shaved head, down my forehead and onto the top of my nose.

I had no idea what to expect — much as I had experienced throughout this process since I couldn’t really see what she was applying most of the time. The sensation of the henna flowing onto my scalp was cool and tingly, and Paul’s comments as Kelly designed made me eager to see it for myself. My only viewing was in Paul’s digital camera, but it blew me away.

The complex designs on my back continued over my head and onto my face. It looked a little like a small, elegant sea creature had adhered itself to my head. It was gorgeous!

We were pressed for time. It was about 2:30 PM. We still had to document the final designs and strike the backdrops and equipment before we all had to leave. I would have a short time to deal with things at home before returning to teach my first class since Monday morning. I must have been out of my mind to think that this was a good idea!

The photos Paul took were stunning. He took some digital snapshots with my camera after the real photo and video session, and these are a sampling.

He also used his vintage 1920s-era large-format camera to snap some BW Polaroids. Just amazing.

We’ll be taking more over the next few days. Stay tuned!

One Response so far.

  1. Sharon S. says:

    Incredible, Lindel!

    Thank you so much for sharing your passion with us! I can't wait to see the final result! Good luck!

    ~ Sharon

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