SIA "CHANDELIER" DANCING GIRL

I managed to find a used Mamiya RB67 120mm medium format film camera for an amazing price via Craigslist. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's the camera Annie Leibovitz used to shoot. For those who don't know who Miss Leibovitz is, she's the photographer Reese Witherspoon wanted for her wedding to Patrick Bateman... Anyway, I digress.

The Mamiya had clearly been used a lot, it had a few battle scars from being beaten around since the 70s, but I'd wanted one since I featured it as a prop in my short film 'Abstraction'. If only I could see all of the photos this one camera had produced from the day it was shiny and new to the day it reached my hands. I needed to see if it still worked.

I had my very talented and good friend Ben Cope come with me to take a look at the camera when I bought it in a Jack in the Box parking lot in K-town. He had a shoot that day with Maddie Ziegler, the girl from Sia's 'Chandelier' video. So, I loaded a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 120mm film and rolled with Ben to his set.

I absolutely love the 'Chandelier' video. If you haven't seen it, check it out below. When I saw it, my jaw pretty much dropped and all I could think was how much talent was evident across the board in that piece-- Sia's music, the direction, the cinematography, the steadicam operator and this little girl who was dancing her heart out. I was intrigued to see her work with Ben.

The shoot was normal for a fashion shoot, but "normal" is pretty strange in the fashion world. The styling was overtly sexualized and there was an air of uncertainty from the producers. Maddie's Dance Mom was quite the character; she was a nice woman though and gave away a few hundred dollar notes to the homeless population, whilst out looking for a nail salon to fix her chipped manicure, only to realize she had accidentally grabbed Maddie's matching LV purse and had in fact been giving away her pre-teen's stack of Benjamins. Before Maddie put on the wig and make-up, she was just a quiet little Eleven-year-old girl being well behaved, it was quite the contrast to the look that the styling team were going for. Ben and I exchanged a couple glances, but Ben is such a pro and was able to take his images to the high-fashion side instead of the very cheap side that it so easily could haven fallen on. It's amazing watching that guy work, he makes it look so easy that most would be convinced they could do it too, but they can't... not even close.

In between looks they were primping Maddie's wig in the bathroom. Maddie and I had already had a chat so she felt pretty comfortable with me. I noticed she was staring at herself in the mirror... it was almost as if she had no idea who the girl was in the reflection. Deep, I know... But all jokes aside, I could feel this very private moment and luckily had my Mamiya ready to go. I gently asked Maddie to look at me and told her to hold her face. I fired the shutter.

When I developed the photo, I was amazed at how much that moment read in the image. There's such an innocent, big hearted, Eleven-year-old in those eyes... hiding behind the wig and makeup. There's a mix of confidence and sadness in her eyes, or perhaps that's what I see. I'd be interested to hear what you see in her expression, please do leave a comment. It's my favourite shot I've taken to date. I hope Maddie keeps dancing her heart out, I'll forever be in awe.