The other day my friend Lisa invited me to photograph an event called Women at Large. The event was an annual pageant competition where 12 women and an alternate were selected to participate in a calendar photo shoot which is to be held at the world-famous Hedonism resort in Negril, Jamaica.
That day I left my house with no expectations, which is probably the best way when taking pictures at an event. The even was held at the Montecassino Hotel and Event Centre . The building was teeming with energy as there was a DJ, a bar and some vendors selling various goods and services. Most importantly, family and friends came out to show their support for the contestants. They brought their signs and their louse cheers. Someone even brought an air horn.
The first round of the pageant was the introduction of the contestants. I don’t know how many women entered but the organization narrowed it down to approximately 35 women from all walks of life and of all shapes and sizes. The one thing about Canada and specifically Toronto, is our diversity. It was great to see that Women at Large was really trying to challenge the notion of what beauty should look like. It can be anyone under the sun.
The second round of the pageant was the evening gown segment and Lisa did not disappoint. She looked regal in her blue sequins dress. I have known Lisa for approximately a year and a half and I’ve seen tremendous growth in her personally and professionally. I think her blue dress is emblematic of her future. Lisa is destined for greatness.
Due to time constraints, the talent competition was shortened to a few contestants but they definitely brought the house down with their singing, dancing, poetry, fashion and a young lady that painted a portrait of Snoop Dogg upside down. I’m still baffled by how she did that.
There was a brief intermission and I managed to speak to Lisa briefly and she asked me if I’m having a good time to which I said “Yes” and she said, “Yeah right you’re just saying that”. But I was taking in the sights and sounds. She expressed to me how nervous she was and frankly, I couldn’t blame her but she was doing so well for someone that’s never participated in anything like that before. I told her that I was proud of her but I think the nerves made my comment go in one ear and out of the next. Which I understood when you are so focused on doing everything correctly and you just want to get it over with.
Next was the much-anticipated swimsuit competition. All of the ladies looked amazing. During the intermission, Lisa told me to look out for her and wanted me to take pictures of her swimsuit. I thought to myself, ” I’ll just move into the aisle so that way I won’t have the back of someone’s head in my pictures.” What I didn’t anticipate however was her family coming to the aisle, holding signs to block my vantage point. Luckily, I was able to manoeuvre to the sides and got some images for her.
The next round was the final walk through to show all the contestants before it was time for the big vote. It went very quickly, but the crowd was in full force showing their support for their favourite contestant. As a photographer, catching those rare candid moments is what I love best. Unfortunately at the pageant I was unable to catch the final moments of when the winners were announced. That was the only part that I did not like. When they announced the winners, the contestants were backstage and not on the stage where everyone could see. I suppose it was an issue with space, but as a photographer, I would have loved to have seen their genuine reactions to hearing their names being called. Some winners were clear to me and some were a surprise. Not in the sense that they didn’t deserve to win, but I was surprised that some ladies did not win.
Coincidentally, I was sitting beside a man named Sven Frenzel who is a Still Photographer for film and television. He had me laughing the whole night. Sven told me that he liked how I approached people to take photos and said that he could tell that it came naturally to me. That was a huge compliment to me coming from someone who is an established professional photographer with 20 years of experience.
All and all, it was a fantastic experience. The stage lighting did present some challenges as there were some dark areas that created shadows but I would definitely go back next year if given the chance. I would like to thank my friend Lisa for having me there. I’m so proud of her. The world is yours.