Like every year I work as staff at Oni-Con, I would like to share a bit of things that go behind the scenes at the convention. I, and the rest of the J-fashion staff, always endeavor to make sure that our guests feel like they’re a part of our family, and not just over in the US for a business trip. This usually leads to all of us running around getting coffees for our guests and making last minute treks to CVS for flash drives. It’s a hectic weekend, but one that’s completely worth it when guests tell us that they were able to be here so far away from home and work uninhibited by inconveniences.
One of the most hectic days of the entire convention is Saturday, the day of the fashion show. Putting together a fashion show is no easy feat; not only are there models to corral, there’s lights, music, and the walk to coordinate as well—not to mention getting details approved by the designers themselves. My position, as a photographer, involves much of the backstage details. This year, I was lucky enough to have an assistant to help me out throughout the convention (an incredibly good choice, as it prevented me from being completely exhausted). We ended up being in charge of lights and music—he had experience with music mixing, so he took charge of that and ran it for the show. Like last year, I took charge of lights.
The fashion show preshow pgotoshoot is my favorite part of the entire weekend. I work well under pressure, and I actually enjoy doing so. Some of my best work comes from high-stakes, high-pressure situations. I really enjoyed how last years’ preshow photos came out, so I decided I wanted to emulate those results a bit in this show. However, I had a bit of a dilemma. Last year, I wasn’t quite happy with the background and lighting for Royal Princess Alice, since I usually like to give lolita brands a more elegant and airy look. Still, it worked well for SEX POT ReVeNGe and Bio-Politics, and since Aito-san (the designer of Royal Princess Alice and Bio-Politics) has a deep history with Visual Kei and punk styles, it fit her personality pretty well. I didn’t really worry about it too much.
This year, the guests were Hell Cat Punks and Millefleurs—two brands that are pretty much as opposite as you can get. Minami-san (model and shop girl for Millefleurs) was quiet and reserved, but had a good sense of humor and was very well-mannered. Yuu-san (model for Hell Cat Punks) loved to party and was very outgoing. I needed to find a middle ground between these two brand personalities for the backstage preshow photos—instead of a punky chain fence like last year, I settled on looking down a long hallway near the kitchens in the back of the building.
After the preshow, we all headed to the stage for rehearsal and light and sound setup. We were running very ahead of schedule, something that’s pretty rare for fashion shows! Once we got backstage, we realized that the stage was already in use by another show who needed to rehearse and whose rehearsal was pushed back because of a delivery delay. We couldn’t really do anything about that, but that meant that our rehearsal time was cut to just short of an hour, including music, lighting, and walk rehearsals and coordination.
For some reason, the lighting wasn’t really working with us. I tried to get the best lighting on the catwalk that I could, but even that was difficult because the catwalk extended past the lights overhead. Me and the lighting guy ended up clamping a portable light to the press fence and pointing it upwards, which gave the models a slight underlight from far away. I advised the models to look down slightly when they were on the catwalk because of this.
The show itself was fantastic! All the models looked great, and the walks and brands were super organized.
I had chosen to change lightning for each brand to match the mood—for Ota-Q, a bright white light to highlight all the pastel colors and not distort them; for Hell Cat Punks, a white frontlight with an edgy red backlight as a highlight; and for Millefleurs, a softer, ivory light to calm peoples’ eyes and complement the brand’s vintage look.
Though this is what I had in mind, it was much easier to say that than put it into practice.
Compared with last year, the stage lights were in a different position on the stage and were therefore much more difficult to point where they needed to go. Lights were either too strong in back or too far above their heads (with no front light), resulting in harsh shadows and blown-out highlights. This made things a bit of a challenge to photograph, although the show looked fantastic in person. Luckily, I was able to fix some things in post processing!
Although I wasn’t entirely happy with the lighting, I definitely believe that we had done the best we could have under the circumstances. Having another show rehearse before you is never easy. Kudos to our brands and models for being patient!
Kal from Lightningsavage Photography specializes in creative portrait photography for J-Fashion enthusiasts and more. He has served as the J-Fashion event photographer for Oni-Con 2016–2020, as well as fashion shows, meetups, and personal shoots. He is also a co-owner of Kuroshiro Kawaii. You can follow him on Instagram at @lightningsavage_photography and @kaldec_
He is currently into visual kei and EGA fashions.
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