An unlikely set of circumstances led to my introduction to top-ranked pole dancer and Pole Pressure studio owner Jessalynn Medairy last week which culminated today in one of the most productive and meaningful photo shoots I’ve ever organized. Productive in that Jessalynn has a work ethic similar to mine and meaningful as it proved to be the right time, the right place, and the right person with which to attempt a fully bare-body outdoor shoot. I’m preparing new work for an exhibit, in the new year, of my large-scale photography, and some of these images are prime candidates for the show.
We almost didn’t meet. After a long night of shooting for Tiffany & Co. in Tyson’s Corner last Saturday, I remembered that my friend Lani Hay had invited me to Jayne Sandman‘s 30th birthday party at the The Rookery. I really wanted to celebrate with Jayne and also to hear (Lani’s husband) Mark T. Smith, Jay Scott, and (Jayne’s husband) Jeff Dufour‘s rock band, which headlined the B-day bash – but my body was asking to get some sleep. I’m glad that better thinking prevailed.
When I arrived, the band was already in high gear and the place was a sea of familiar faces and friends: Holidae Hayes, Winston Lord, Amanda and Curtis Polk, Susanna Quinn, Cindy and Evan Jones, Lindsay Czarniak, Jessica Gibson, Patrick Gavin, Lee Brenner, and Alexe Nowakowski.
I spied an attractive blonde woman hanging out with Sharon Yang and something about her seemed special…but I didn’t know what. I later discover that she was none other than Sharon’s pole dance teacher, Jessalynn Medairy, among the top 12 pole dancers in the US for 2009 and in the top 15 for 2010.
The woman has NO inhibitions – and that distinction shone through, lending the resulting images we created an immediacy that only authenticity can provide. She IS her art and, at least for the 4 hours we were together, we breathed as one. I can’t remember a time when I was more in sync with the person in front of my lens than with Jessalynn. Shooting started early in the afternoon – indoors at the Carriage House Studio, home of the DC Photographers Coop – near 9th and O Sts. The 9.5 foot tension-based pole she brought with her was securely erected within minutes – snugly fitting between floor and ceiling, providing the necessary support for the myriad moves she executed over and over again.
As luck would have it the rain stopped as soon as we finished in the studio so we headed over to Rock Creek Park to a secluded area near The Nature Center. We were able to get in a hundred shots of what I really wanted to shoot: the bare form in space, outdoors, in nature. We erected her portable stage and 10 foot pole right there in the middle of the woods. My strobes were being powered outside by one of two sine wave inverters that I own, which gives me roughly 300-400 full power bursts of light with as many lights as needed, attached. The only disadvantage of working with an inverter is not being able to use the modeling light on a strobe head for any length of time, as the battery will deplete quickly or worse yet, the inverter can become damaged.
An additional sign of support from the Universe came in the form of the Sun – it showed it’s face the second I was set up and ready to take my first shot. That bit of Sun changed everything for the better so the portable lighting was repositioned to allow the Sun to be my rim light. We’ve planned our second shoot together once she returns from an International pole dance tour of England and France.
She’s heading to Europe today for a week of competitions, teaching, and workshops. A dancer, choreographer, and teacher of dance myself, I found the newness of her very specific movement style intriguing, forever expanding my limited conception of movement and portraiture.