I have always loved watching movies, and not just American movies, but films from all over the world. In the 90's I started watching popular Chinese movies and became intrigued by how the stories were told. Some of the movies I watched were, Raise the Red Lantern, To Live and Farewell My Concubine. Never in a million years did I think I would ever get the opportunity to photograph one of the directors, but life has a funny way of bringing things to you. This is why it's important to gain control of your thoughts because what you think about, you bring about.
When I learned I had the assignment in China of photographing Chen Kaige and his lovely leading lady Chen Hong, I was excited and wanted to try and learn to speak a little Mandarin before the assignment. I purchased the Rosetta Stone's Mandarin language course and studied as much as possible before my trip to China. I wanted to be able to greet my subjects properly at the very least. I even learned how to say, "that's nice" so as I photographed them, I could say, "Henhow, henhow!"
Well, on the day of the shoot everything was going great. I ordered beautiful flowers for his wife and had the right music playing as they walked into the studio. As I went to say hello and try and speak the few phrases I'd learned , Mr. Kaige said, in perfect English "oh you know a little Mandarin?" I quickly told him I only know a few words and phrases and he laughed and said they spoke English. As the shoot progressed, what really made the day enjoyable was Mr. Kaige's enjoyment of the music I played during the shoot.
I was horrible at speaking Mandarin, but my subjects were happy that I took the time to try for them. The lesson here is to do everything you can before an assignment to make your clients (and subjects) feel like they are the most important people in the world. Taking the actual photograph is usually not the hardest part of the day on a photo shoot. The hardest part is connecting with your subject and pulling out the best of them while they are in front of your camera. Taking the time to get to know everything about your subject is important for the success of the shoot. Even when you can't speak the same language, music can serve as your universal language to relax your subjects and help you get great shots.
Have fun and always dream big!