American Beauty Photoshoot with Ben Baker

Back in April, I had the incredible opportunity of being photographed by Ben Baker for his latest project, 1-100. He has photographed the likes of President Obama, Warren Buffett, Richard Branson, Bono, Diane von Furstenberg and even the Olsen twins!

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Although I’m camera shy (you’ll notice more nature photos than selfies on my instagram), I was eager to participate. This project was going to share the different perspectives of American women of all diverse backgrounds ages 1-100 and I wanted to contribute as an Asian American 22 year old.

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 I went to his studio in Chelsea as camera ready as I could but with no idea what to expect. Upon entering, I saw a large booth set up and met Ben and his producer Sid. Both were incredibly welcoming and friendly, which helped because portraits are quite intimate. I assure you: Obama, Diane Von Furstenberg and The Olsens just make it look easy. As you can see, it was just the subject (me) and a white background, eliminating distractions and putting the attention, all on me. As nerve-wracking as that was, I quite admired this approach: Instead of photographing subjects in a “candid” environment, the focus was solely on the person and her authentic responses. What’s more, this project is using the NYC census to be as accurate as possible, in terms of demographics. 

On the hotseat, I was also handed a list of questions I would have to answer. Things like: “_____ makes me the most happy,” “My favorite age has been____,” “People could learn ______ from me/my life.” Mind you, those are just 3 examples of the 15 questions i answered, so you can imagine how difficult and thought provoking the other questions were. How would you answer them?? Pretty difficult especially when asked on the spot, right?

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Thank goodness for the soft lighting as I’m pretty sure I was nervously sweating. My sister who was watching this all take place told me that I was pretty awkward and stiff. I really tried my best to relax (I guess my attempts to channel my inner goddess failed) but these questions were really difficult and disarming. Maybe that’s just me.

One of the questions that stands out in my mind to this day is “What’s the hardest part about being 22?”

I said something along the lines of, “There are so many choices, It’s easy to get lost in all the noise.”

Besides that, I don’t really remember how I answered the other questions. I’m hoping that when the photos and video come out, I don’t embarrass myself! haha Either way I’m ok with it. I was as honest as I could be and it’s how I felt and looked as a 22 year old at the time.

 After I finished up with the photoshoot and interview, I thought I would ask him some questions, since he’s usually the photographer! He kindly obliged.

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What is a piece of advice that you can give that applies to both business and life?
Make sure you wake up everyday doing something you are madly passionate about. With your heart genuinely in it, you’ll try harder at it, and you’ll be better at it. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. When you do something you’re genuinely interested in, people can tell and it makes all the difference.
On being “life trained” and building soft skills.
With the work I do, photography is actually the easiest part. The challenge is handling people. I wish the younger generation could see themselves. Step back and see how they talk to people, how they approach people. It’s something that is learned as you go along, but you really have to go out there and make some mistakes and just hope that the mistakes you make aren’t too damaging.  Go and get a real job, where you are interacting with as many people as you can, and learn.
What’s something you wish you knew when you were 22?
It’s a long game. You’re in for a long run- it’s a marathon not a sprint- so think about long term decisions. It’s easy to see what’s in front of you and that’s the only way you can live your llife, you can’t always be thinking about the future and not see what’s happening now, but be sure to take a look at the bigger picture.
And of course, they were kind enough to send over a few stills for me to look at. I’m not sure which will be used for the final product but it’s still interesting to see myself this way. You can tell I’m a little tense and nervous (and these two were the least tense of the batch) but hey, I argue that many other 22 year olds would feel the same way.
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Photo Credit: Ben Baker 2014 (towards the beginning of the photoshoot)

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Photo Credit: Ben Baker 2014 (warming up a bit towards the end)

I’m looking forward to how the video and photos will turn out! I’m turning 23 in a couple of days so it will be interesting to see how things have changed. Looking at these photos I already feel like a different person. I can’t wait to see and read what everyone said. My prediction is that we will all have a lot in common despite age and experience.

I want to thank Ben and Sid for such an enlightening experience. I hope I was able to make a valuable contribution and I’m honored to be representing “22.”

The team is still looking for women of all ages to participate, especially those 80 years old and older. If you would like to be considered for this project, or would like to suggest someone, please email americanbeauty@benbakerphoto.com.  All participants will receive an 8×10 print of their portrait.

You can see more of Baker’s work on his website at www.benbakerphoto.com.

Cheers,

Andrea

We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely in the best way. It’s miserable and magical.”- Taylor Swift,  from her song “22”

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