Mon grand ami Jillian

Well as much as I hate to ween myself out of my Paris state of mind, there are other things going on these days. In fact there is nothing better than coming back from an amazing trip to Paris and have Jillian Ann arriving a few days later. Très bon! (See, I’m still in Paris in my head.)

I picked Jillian up at the airport at 8:30am on Saturday morning. Always great to see her. We have such a great time when she’s here. Talking, shooting, talking, figuring life things out, more shooting. And the results, both photographically as well as personally are always wonderfully rewarding. As we drove back to my place we caught up and told stories about our lives since we last saw each other back in July. More recently, Jillian had performed at Avalon, the huge New York night club with a great musical artist named Keevens. As those things usually go, the performance turned into a party and then moved to another club and Jillian pretty much got on the plane at 7am in NY without sleeping.

So we walked into my place, dropped her bags by the door, and then dropped her on my couch for a few hours. I went out and bought some of her favorite food, (I always seem to be buying food for my favorite women), returned the iGo car, did some laundry and answered email while Jillian attempted to catch up on her sleep. A little after noon I heard some stirring and we picked up the conversation right where we left off before she passed out.

Jillian has spent the last five years of her life creating an amazing music career for herself. I had the pleasure of meeting her a week or so after 9/11 after exchanging emails and portfolios for about a year before that. Since then she’s been fiercely and independently writing her music, improving her voice, programming her music demos in her NY space and using the internet to create a massive following. Since she has the lucky genes that managed to give her both stunning looks and talent, she’s been able to pay for her recording gear, her musicians and engineers with her modeling.

I certainly consider myself fortunate to have her as a muse and a close friend. She’s one of those people that has really been a positive influence both in my photography and perhaps even more importantly in my personal life. She’s vegan, which meant for the first visits a few years ago, I would go from a diet of pizza and other bad things – cold turkey – to vegan for the few days that Jillian lived with me. I always felt better physically after she left and ever so gradually… it always takes me a good long time to make big life changes… the pendulum would swing back to the pizza and other bad things a little less each time.

I can honestly say that this time, there was no major change in my diet once she got here. I was already there. I really want to be around for many more years. I have too much to do. I have too many projects in progress or in my future. Too many people to meet. Too many places to visit. Too much life to live. I’m really just getting started.

There have been a lot of people over the years who have been poking at me to take care of myself. I appreciate them all. I listened and even though I may not have been ready to get serious about when I was hearing it, I never forgot. But hanging out with Jillian over the past few years has taught me that healthy food is not bland and tasteless. We always look forward to our dinners at the Chicago Diner and now at one of our new discoveries, Karyn’s, which is a gourmet raw food restaurant. Delicious!

I’ve also become very familiar with the organic section of my neighborhood Dominicks. It’s funny that now when I go into that huge store, I only shop in one little corner of it. I love my corn on the cob there, fresh green beans, broccoli, spinach… oranges, bananas, grapes, apples, pears, peaches… mmmmmm.

So after spending two selfish days of having Jillian all to myself, it was time to share her with the rest of the photographic community here in Chicago, I turned into June Cleaver and had dinner waiting for her when she came home after running all over doing several shoots a day. I did hear, “Honey, I’m home!” as she walked through the door last night. We are having a great time this week.

I’m peppering this entry with some of the images we’ve made here this week. It’s always amazing how we keep topping ourselves every time we shoot. It’s one of the reasons I love Jillian. We push each other. And because we’ve worked together for so many years, we trust each other and I think it shows in our work together.

I try to come up with something new for every shoot with her. This time I really wanted to explore the natural light that is so abundant in this new space. It’s interesting to learn about how the sun moves in a new space. I used to set up a little webcam at my old place a day or so before every shoot, so I could track where the sun would be during the day. It would take a picture every minute and stamp the time of day on it, so I could see that at 3:00pm, the sun would be on that wall for example.

In my new space I haven’t really gotten that scientific. Must be that new relaxed and casual French attitude I’ve adopted. But I am pretty aware of the differences in the direction of the light from May when I moved in, to now in September. It’s a little more to the south when it sets. So that means the light is in a different place now than where it was when I first moved in, or even when I shot Jillian here back in July.

So I got a little creative this time. If I wanted the sun to be in a certain place in my space, I just directed it there – with mirrors. A few years ago, my friend Jill gave me a set of mirrors that I think she got at IKEA, wondering if I could put them to good use somehow. I think I even used them back then to create double images of bodies. But even back then I think I realized they would be good at bending natural sunlight to go where I wanted it to go.

This time with Jillian I decided to refine my skills a little bit. She was a little unclear as to what I was doing as I was lining up all these mirrors in different parts of my main shooting space. Three here pointing in one direction. Two over there pointing light towards the same wall, but from a completely different angle. But like the true muse that she is, she didn’t ask any questions and just let me work and figure it all out. She’s great that way. When we finally got a chance to look at what we did, she got it. It was fun.

Here’s a reverse photo of the mirror setup I used to photograph Jillian in one of my doorways that otherwise would never get any sunlight. The photographs I made with this light are of her in the beautiful pink Betsy Johnson dress. You may have seen it before in some of the Vegas photos. It’s pretty remarkable how direct sunlight can look if you control it a little bit. And once again, thanks and credit must go to Jillian who not only does all her own hair and makeup when we work together, but she probably risked burning her retinas out staring into five mirrors directing the powerful light of the sun at her.

I love you Jillian! Thanks for being such a wonderful friend, muse and collaborator. And the rest of you out there reading this… wait ’til you hear the music she’s making now! It will be out soon. It’s amazing. It’s Jillian. And she’s doing it her way on her terms. So impressive.

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