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  Field Notes From

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On Assignment
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From Author

Cathy Newman

On Assignment

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From Photographer

Cary Wolinsky

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Brian Strauss (top), and Shane Young


On Assignment On Assignment On Assignment

Field Notes From Photographer
Cary Wolinsky
Best Worst Quirkiest

I've wanted to feature the textile art of Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake since meeting him in Paris 20 years ago while working on a story about silk. For this assignment, Issey suggested I use a dress from his A-POC  (short for A Piece of Cloth) collection. Working with computer-controlled looms, he had created a way to weave finished garments within a single piece of fabric. No sewing! Just cut out the dress and wear it.
My inspiration for the sequence photograph (See pages 72-3 in the January NGM.). came from action drawings I had seen in mangas, Japanese-style comics. It was important to find a model who could tell a story through body movements and Dwana Adiaha Smallwood, a dancer with the Alvin Ailey dance company, was perfect for the task. For eight wonderful hours, I photographed as Dwana explored the textile, squeezed between the layers, discovered that it was a dress, liked it, wanted it, and finally tore out of the background and escaped in the dress. A brilliant designer interpreted by a fabulous dancer! The day was magic.

The Phoenix Fire Department is a national leader in the research and development of protective clothing for firefighters. As the department's protective clothing coordinator, Tim Durby suggested I photograph a live fire-fighting exercise at their training academy.
On a hot Arizona afternoon, I arrived at a plywood room with a front door and window on either side and loaded with flammable trash. The structure sat on an open cement training lot. Two firefighters suited up in heavy fireproof turnouts and doused the volatile room in gasoline. A drop of a match, and it exploded into flames. The intensity of the flames drove me backward as the two firemen headed into the inferno. Ten cadets stood with hoses at the ready in case there was trouble.
Trouble?! Then it hit me. Two firefighters were engulfed in flames, risking their lives for a photograph that may or may not appear in the magazine. This was nuts! Tim assured me that this was normal training but, still, I didn't want anyone taking this kind of risk on
my behalf. The photograph turned out to be a good one but wasn't selected for print. (Zoom-In on the image.)

My wife Babs showed me an ad for a blouse made of casein, a protein found in milk. When I shared it with illustrations editor Kathy Moran, she joked about me photographing a cow wearing the blouse. Good idea, actually! But I needed a blouse large enough to fit a cow. My search led me to a Japanese company that produced the fiber, Italy where the yarn was woven, and France where the blouse was created. Christophe Marin of Frantech in Roanne, France, responded in disbelief but went to work on the fabric.
I then began looking for a costume designer, a set painter, and a cow. "I've got the perfect cow," Massachusetts farmer Peter Hawkes said. "We often loan Petri to the local Hindu temple to be decorated for festivals."
After several cow fittings, a dress rehearsal, and a storm that blew down our billboard, we got one good evening of shooting. The neighbors enjoyed tailgate parties while Peter struggled to keep Petri focused on our mission. (She was longing for the fresh grass off camera.) In the end, we used DuneBuggy the Jersey. And for contributing the idea, Babs got several bags of manure for her garden. (You can watch the shoot on video, or see the photo on page 71 of this month's issue.)

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