On Monday 27th and Sunday 28th, June of the 2016 photo-shooting for charitable calendar Salty women for the oncoming year 2017 took place in hotel Corinthia at Prague´s Vyšehrad. Twelve models have been selected from patients of the insidious and incurable disease called Cystic fibrosis. Calendar was taken by worldwide photographer Robert Vano and I had that honour to help and capture behind the scenes.
I am not a morning person
Still half a sleep I am coming to enormous entry hall and reception of Corinthia hotel. It´s been a while but I still remember it quite clearly as it was really cold outside for a June morning. Looking around I decide to choose armchair in the corner from where I have perfect view over the hall. It seems like I am the first one here what is honestly does not happen so often. The lobby is quite busy for it is 6am. Bell boys pass around me with carts overfull with suitcases. Group of Asian tourist which were transported in front of the entrance by bus just enter the lobby. My chair is really comfortable, and I slowly start to fall asleep. Early morning public transportation journey evidently neutralised the effect of morning coffee. Fortunately, I am not going to sleep for a long time as I am in the second interrupted by hotel manageress and directress of the patient organization Klub nemocných cystickou fibrózou which organize the whole today’s and tomorrow’s Salty women 2017 photo-shooting. I’m very happy. Sleeping guy bedecked with tripods and photo technique would seems to look at least inappropriately. After a while a short grey-haired man coming to the reception accompanied by his young two heads higher assistant and represents itself in funny accent as Robert Vano very vigorously.
Models cannot meet each other
In hotel there are two rooms reserved for us as a make-up service which are immediately claimed by Bobbi Brown cosmeticians. Some parts of the room instantly disappearing under a pile of things which majority of men including me has never seen for life and would be even harder to recognize them by name. Then comes Robert and, according to his printed moodboard (inspirational photos), explains to beauticians what their work will be today. A total of 12 photos are expected – 6 women / months a day. However, the major problem is that the models cannot meet each other in order to avoid transmission of dangerous bacteria that are harmless for healthy people.
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is serious incurable hereditary disease which affects respiratory and digestive system. CF patients needs intense cure procedure which consist of lifelong inhalation and rehabilitation every day. Symptoms of CF are repeatedly infections of airways, which in the end results in fatal lung corruption. It´s also difficult for patients to digest food because of pancreas disorder that is why they need to use digestive enzymes before every food. CF ultimately destroy lungs completely and only rescue option is lung transplantation. Unfortunately, it is not possible for every patient. Average life expectancy is currently around 25 years. Every 34th person is a healthy carrier of the gene mutation for CF.
Hours of preparation and minutes of shooting
To my surprise the photo shoot itself takes place really quickly. Robert firstly walked around the scene with the exposure meter (small gadget for measuring the amount of incoming light to specific place) and then it begins. What I definitely can’t deny is his communication skill with models which he has during the years of photography led to utter perfection. Even girls who has never stood before the camera soon lost their initial shyness. Robert in almost fraction of the second turned them into a predetermined position. All that followed were a rhythmic sound of shutter in cadence of continuous shooting. The model always came to the place after more than one hour of the preparation, and before she was able to really take a peek, she was already finished. Those of you who have ever tried to photoshoot someone more seriously will certainly agree that sometimes it is not so easy to communicate with model and achieve the exact look you have came for. The less experience or more introverted the model is the harder it becomes in general. For me, as a behind the scenes photographer, it was quite difficult to document the whole event, because my movement was limited by very narrow space of hotel room, and the photo-shooting itself was so fast that it often required up to a sudden unexpected fast reaction.
What surprise me most was the technology which was used. Personally, I have expected many studio flash-lights and various diffusers to soften or bend the light. Robert used Canon 5D mark 2 with prime lense of 50mm focal length and minimal aperture of 1,8 (Which is for less knowledgeable the cheaper plastic lense for Canon DSLRs). The point is probably that you do not have to have the most expensive equipement to shot, a perfect portrait so in case you are into shooting people you need to rather focus of emotional expression.