Vanichi Magazine Ian Bailey

Ian Bailey has traveled with his lens from Macchu Picchu to Antarctica observing life, nature and fashion. His photos seem to give back to the subject rather than just take away their image. For Vanichi’s VOICE section, Ian shares some lessons he learned in the Mojave Desert.

“Mojave: Skin, Fabric, and Light.” I came up with the name of gallery after we had shot in the Mojave desert that weekend. Mojave means “besides the water,” and the Mojave Desert is one of the driest places in the United States. It’s also home to Joshua Tree National Park. This is an arid, dry place that has an intense harshness of beauty that is unique. It has a certain energy and magic that can be seen at dawn and dusk, during those transition times.

I hadn’t expected to shoot that weekend but on the way to the Mojave Desert, my friend Chelsea texted me. She had been modeling since she was 14 years old, spending time in Europe working with major brands. It turned out she was going to be there and wanted to shoot.

Lesson 1

Always, always, always bring your shooting equipment—you never now what opportunities may present themselves.

I was traveling to the Mojave Desert that weekend for Shakti Fest, held in Joshua Tree National Park, with my girlfriend. Shakti Fest is hard to describe, other than calling it a festival of yoga, dancing, music, and free spirited people. We had been invited to stay for free at this amazing venue in exchange for a few hours of work at a vendor’s tent. The facility had rooms, a labyrinth, a swimming pool, and large buildings to handle the thousands of people that would show up for the festival celebrating the divine feminine.

Lesson 2

When you’re invited to cool places that might be outside of your comfort zone, go. You never know what you might learn or capture with your camera.

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Shakti Fest was a whole different world. There was kirtan, which is devotional singing rooted in different ancient languages, as well as vendors where you could buy the trendiest yogic clothing and jewelry. A massive stage surrounded by different buildings hosted yoga sessions and different speakers throughout Shakti Fest.

One of the reasons it’s so amazing to shoot nudes in the desert is the comparison of the hard, almost barren land with the vibrant life of the naked body

It was really an incredible festival. Chelsea and I had connected earlier that day and she had pulled out some long beautiful silken fabrics that were sheer pink and black. We grabbed the pink silken fabric and I was really excited to shoot with her, because she was probably the best model I’d had the opportunity to shoot with up until that point.

The sun was starting to set, so I went out looking for her. She is a wild, free spirit, and when I found her, she was wrapped up doing acro-yoga. She was having fun, and since the shoot was really a favor to me, she wanted to continue doing yoga with her friends. Alas, I would have to wait to shoot tomorrow.

Lesson 3

Be open to what others have to offer. I didn’t even think about fabrics until she brought it up, and her saying “no” actually presented an opportunity. When someone says “no,” look for the “yes” that’s waiting to happen in your photography.

My girlfriend at the time was adventurous and I had the desire to do the shoot that night, so I asked her how she felt about shooting nude in the desert with the fabric. She was elated, and I myself was a little surprised! This would be the first time I shot her nude. So we grabbed the fabric from the campsite and on our way met a friend of mine, Sunny. We had ran into him selling Tibetan jewelry at the Festival. I had known him for a while, and he actually worked next door to my house at a shop selling Tibetan jewelry. We had talked about shooting him nude for fun only a week beforehand—crazy coincidence, right?

So here I was, an hour away from sundown, all of a sudden with two models and this beautiful silken fabric.

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Lesson 4

Always ask for what you want, but always welcome when things don’t go according to plan. You should always ask if you can shoot, always ask if someone is interested—don’t let money get in the way. If Chelsea hadn’t declined, then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to shoot with these other wonderful people. Welcome change, welcome the unexpected.

One of the reasons it’s so amazing to shoot nudes in the desert is the comparison of the hard, almost barren land with the vibrant life of the naked body. The desert in its own way is naked, so when the two meet, it has a unique energy that highlights and compliments both the desert and the body.

We began to walk out to a space a little deeper away from curious eyes, although both of my models in the end didn’t seem to mind. We found ourselves at this open space with cacti and brush, and although we were only about a quarter mile from our camp, the scene looked like we were a world away.

The sun began to go down and Sunny wanted to go first, so he dropped his pants, took his shirt off, and put his boots and belt back on. Sunny is Mexican with long brown hair to his waist and a lean, muscular build. He has a strong Mayan face with an almost bronze complexion. We shot him in different yoga poses, some of them more revealing than others until I found my stride. Every photography set has an emotion of its own. Even if the shoot is for fun, I try to bring the same energy and emotion to it as if I were shooting for a major brand or art show. The pretending is fun, it ups my game, and when the real thing does come around, I don’t panic.

Lesson 5

Shoot even when you’re not feeling it. Shoot through it and into it until you come out on the other side and find that stride. Sometimes it takes a little while to find it, but you have to go with it.

Ian BAILEY