Ruven Afanador is a master photographer, and being able to sit just a few feet behind him while he worked this weekend was a rare experience I won't easily forget. Towering in both height and presence, the Colombian-born lensman is one of those few individuals who commands every detail of a production with such resolve that even the usually equally resolute Dita Von Teese, the focus of Ruven's lens Saturday afternoon, submitted to a nude lip and blue-black pointed talons.
Ruven grew up obsessed with beauty pageantry and Richard Avedon, and those influences breathe through his work, whether it's the matadors or flamenco dancers he spectacularly captured in his two pictorial tomes, 2001's "Torero" (an image from that book seen above since we respectfully refrained from shooting onset that day) or last fall's "Mil Besos" (with introductions by John Galliano and Diane Von Furstenberg, to give you a sense of his hold), or in his captivating fashion editorials.
This shoot, with its nearly four hours in makeup and hair, was for Spain's mass-circulation mag Yo Dona (and I benefited with plenty fodder for our beauty book), but, really, there was an underlying sense that all this was more than about that.
Though there was a small crew in the shadows on set Saturday, there was an intimacy between photographer and subject, a trust between two artists who were willing to push on, that was electric. Dita held her own in positions for a length of time that had the crew marveling (not to mention inspired to get ourselves to pilates and yoga toute suite). Ruven oversaw everything–the super-high Elizabethan-cum-Mellificent hair, the extra-long and thickly inked brows and lid liner, the wardrobe of sheer Fendi, corseted Dolce & Gabbanas and safety-pinned, ruffled and crystallized Jose Castro (a Barcelona rising designer who will undoubtedly die when he sees these shots).
Ruven rightly let Dita have her input when it came to the looks. After all, having vision is knowing when to step aside.
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