HASEEB OMAR & MARISA WESTPHAL

My wife bought us a camera before a trip to India a few years back, and I was shooting travel snaps, buildings, street scenes. Shortly after the trip we moved to Southern California and I started meeting models and actors, and taking photos of them. It turned out I loved photographing people. The number of parking meters and bicycle wheels I shot went to zero pretty fast after that!

 

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Beyond her looks (those cheekbones!) the thing I love about Marisa is how she moves and expresses. LA is full of talent, but it's still a bit of a find to run across someone who has the look and the expressive ability. She speaks to the camera with her face, with her body, with everything she has and nothing's too weird for her to throw herself into it with full effort. She's a gem.

It was late and I was actually kind of tired, but Marisa brought the electricity from the first minute. At one point during a sequence in front of the window of the room, we had an audience outside recording with cell phones and for the jaded Venice Beach crowd I thought that was pretty hilarious.

 

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People think it's just about finding beautiful women, but it's infinitely more important for me to find someone who knows how to move and express in front of the camera in a way that's totally fearless and uninhibited. There are tonnes of tall, athletic, pretty women especially in LA. There aren't a tonne of really great models who can look at my work, instinctively get what I'm going for, and deliver the goods.

 

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I started out really focused on flattering the models' faces and bodies. I didn't know a damn thing about fashion, but I knew a poorly styled set when I saw one, and knew it was worthless to me. I got around that by going minimal. More skin, less fabric. Not to titillate, but to control for an element I knew I wasn't strong in. Obviously over time my understanding of fashion and styling has grown a lot, but I've learned to leave the serious styling to stylists and in my test work I stick to what got me here. I still struggle with garments that are bulky, that hide the model's shape, because my instinct is still to flatter the physique. But as you grow, you focus more on expression: the eyes, the face, the body language. It's a constant process of self critique and improvement!

 

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I'm really excited about Marisa! She's new to LA, but she has the instincts of a model who's been there, done that. Gung ho, understands her angles, totally present in the moment and working to get the shot, and totally absorbed in geeky about the kind of work we both do. It's great when you meet a collaborator who's just as obsessed with the art form as you are, because then there is no explaining to do only mutual understanding, and you get to work. I'm not the only one who sees it it's a smallish circle of people who create in our little corner of photography, and a lot of the same photographers I respect and admire are popping up in the comments to her photos. If Marisa doesn't blow up I'm gonna be really surprised.

 













Marisa Westphal // marisa.a.west

Haseeb Omar // junnnktank.com/haseebomar-scarlettlilliadavis

 

JUNNNKTANK is an online zine which has existed in one form or another since 2006.
For over a decade, the focus has been on highlighting the efforts of inspiring individuals and artists from around the world.

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Submissions are always welcome to junk@junnnktank.com.