PHOTOGRAPHER AKIRA LE asked, “Do you have a princess dress?” I have two dresses. Both black.
“No matter,” she breezed. “I can bring mine.”
Not good. I had asked Akira for a simple, quick headshot because my hair is short now and I need something up-to-date. Now here she was talking about meeting in woodlands?
“Let’s go to the river in Canungra. The river is dreamy and I want dreamy photos!”
“Akira. I know you’re an artist, but you cannot have photos of me looking outrageous. This isn’t a good idea. Plus I don’t have the right shoes.”
“In dreams, the fairies don’t wear shoes.”Akira Le
“What happens if it rains? I asked.
“Then we take beautiful rain photos,” she said.
Ah. I liked that. Going to the car I grabbed my melodica. I’ve never played it by a river…
I met Akira, who was with her son Ronan and Q’s bulldog Biggie, at Canungra Creek Lions Park. The water had its own music, bats hung heavily in the trees, Ronan and Biggie trod on dry leaves that crackled underfoot, and Akira handed me a long, flowing, pink dress.
“Then I’m going to put these false eyelashes on you. You’ve never worn them before? Really?”
Akira said, “The light is great over there.”
“How am I supposed to get up there?”
“Oh, you just climb up.”
I remembered David Deggs Fischer braved spiders and swam in murky waters for Akira, and Minh Chong Ali broke a finger during a shoot on a bridge for Akira. Or was that urban legend?
But hey, I was having a blast! How often does a grown-up get to wear a fluffy dress and stand, arms outstretched and face turned up to the sky, like a fairy in the forest! Just don’t think about the bats.
Before we left I took out my melodica. I placed my Tascam DR-05X recorder near the water, and Akira directed me where to sit – precariously, on a ledge. The Tascam picked up everything! Here is ‘Amazing Grace’ on melodica, featuring the creek, and the bats.
Akira was using her Fujifilm X-T20 camera. In Messenger afterwards, I asked if she wanted to say anything about her camera or the shoot. She said not this time, because this post is about my experience on a shoot. I will follow Akira at work soon, and then that will be all about the shoot. She did say she did not want to misrepresent me and made a comment on that.
“I wanted you to be as untouched as possible in these photos. I didn’t retouch your skin. This means I didn’t remove blemishes, wrinkles or reshape your features as I would in editorial beauty work. I did use dodge and burn techniques (darken/lighten) on you, but this was used to emphasise your features, like your eyebrows and lips. I wanted to keep the raw beauty.”
Thank you Akira for taking me on this adventure despite me dragging my feet! I’m honoured to be part of your project and now have these amazing images to remember it by.
Akira Le is on Instagram @le_akira. She photographed Chong Ali at the Flamin’ Galah in this Scenestr review and in an interview in 2019. An interview with Akira’s husband Barber Q includes her photography.