Out of the blue, on a lonely stretch of road, a car slowed to a stop and the driver rolled down the window and yelled out “there are no secrets on Easter Island”. I was on assignment on the island and I was shooting a portrait of this Rapanui man in a very remote spot on the island which was is one of the most remote places in the world. It was also mysterious and a wonderful place for exploration and photography.
One night I attended an indigenous dance performance. It was exhilarating and alive with sexual energy capturing the primal spirit of the people. I knew immediately that I wanted to photograph him with the barren environment of the island in the background.
He agreed and we set up a time and place. He drove up on a scooter sans makeup and tribal dress and proceeded to strip down naked in the middle of the road using the mirror of our car to apply his makeup. The shoot was memorable and what I remember the most was the fierce wind that was blowing and the engaging spirit of this man. His eyes tell the story and secrets of this mystical island.
Gail Mooney is an award-winning photographer and storyteller.
When I was a little girl my mom used to take my sister and I to Walgreens to get an ice cream sundae. Back then, like other drug stores and five and dimes, you could get a bite to eat at the counter. I had a game that I’d play every time we’d go. I’d sit on the stool and spin myself around. I would assign exotic destinations to various landing spots that the stool would stop spinning – and determine that those were the places that I would travel to in my life. I somehow knew back then that “the road” would become a huge part of my life.
Over the years people have asked me “Where is your favorite place that you’ve ever been?”. To be honest, I hated that question because I never had an answer. There were too many places, all different in their own way that attracted me to them. And then about 10 years ago I had an assignment for Islands Magazine to cover the Isle of Man.
The island pulled me in from the start. I felt a strange sense of belonging, a connection that I couldn’t explain. The air was cool and pure with a constant wind that blew across the island from one sea to the other. It’s a small island located in the Irish Sea somewhere between Ireland and Scotland. An island that’s reminiscent of Ireland 50 years ago – an island where time seems to have stopped.
Because the island is small, I didn’t feel the usual rapid pace that I have felt on previous assignments where I was given too much to cover and too little time. I could linger and catch the moods of the island and the vibe of the people. It was a magical place with open, cinematic vistas of a patchwork of every shade of green you can imagine, stretching from the barren upland’s to the blue of the sea. The sea was always present.
There were secret glens with waterfalls and I thought that fairies must surely live there, somewhere beneath the ferns. The island was enchanting on every level. One day I came upon a crowd of people in a field. I asked someone what was going on and they replied that it was a turnip weeding contest. How wonderful I thought, a contest to weed a field. I spent the morning caught up in the event, taking a few images, but mostly just talking with people and storing those conversations in my head.
And then like every other time I’ve taken to the road – my journey came to an end and it was time for me to leave. There’s a legend on the island that every time the Queen of England comes to the Isle of Man (the island is an independent nation), the great god Mananan covers the island in a mist, so that she won’t find her way there and take the isle back. The night before I left, a dense fog enveloped the isle and I thought the gods didn’t want me to leave – and I didn’t want to leave. But the fog lifted and it was my time to go, but I knew that I finally had an answer to the question “Where is your favorite place you’ve been?”
I’ve grown to love the editing part of the video production process. It’s where I “craft” the story and take it where I want it to go.
Last Spring I attended a conference at the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Michigan. While staying at this historic gem, my goal was to create a short web video on the hotel and the island. I shot the property in a dozen different ways getting b-roll footage of carriages, guests on the porch, tea in the parlor, the orchestra and other areas of the hotel as well as scenes in town. I also interviewed third generation owner and President, Dan Musser III and carriage driver Tom McCarthy. Those interviews as well as some soundbites from a talk given by concierge Bob Tagatz – gave me my narrative track.
When I returned I gathered all my assets – interviews, b-roll and music and started to layout the story. Generally, I lay down my best soundbites first. This drives the story. I’ll then go through all my b-roll and live action shots and select the best clips that best illustrate the narrative track. I was fortunate on this piece because I was able to capture footage of the harpist at the Grand Hotel and this not only provided me with some nice visuals, but it gave me a music track to work with that made sense in the context of the story.
After piecing together the story in Final Cut Pro, I then went back and “cut” it. Given time, I may even live with it a bit, going back and cutting more each time giving it more punch. I’ve uploaded my first two cuts on vimeo. Here’s a link to my latest rough cut. http://www.vimeo.com/5889700 I’ll probably live with it a bit and then go back and cut out another 20%. It’s always hard to cut but it makes the piece stronger and these days – people don’t take the time to look at long web videos.