I’m not a huge fan of superhero movies. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight along with Heath Ledger‘s haunting Joker, and Christian Bale‘s anti-hero Batman pretty much defined superhero movies for me. It honestly was one of the best movies of all time.
I am not particularly looking forward to the upcoming Suicide Squad coming out in 2016. I’m not so sure about Jared Leto’s 30-Seconds-to-Mars Joker and especially not sure about Ben Affleck‘s effeminate nipple-clad Batman. However, I will definitely watch the movie for one reason and one reason only… Margot Robbie is the new Harley Quinn.
There have been many visually iconic female characters throughout Hollywood’s history. Matilda from Leon/The Professional. Princess Leia from Star Wars. Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. They are arguably more memorable than the movies they appeared in. Okay, maybe not for Star Wars.
But most recently, the internet went berserk when Warner Brothers leaked behind-the-scenes images of their upcoming 2016 movie Suicide Squad. In it, is the gorgeous Margot Robbie who plays the deliciously devilish Harley Quinn.
Inspired by her character’s costume design and naughty panache, we set out to recreate our own Dr. Harleen F. Quinzel on the streets of LA with one of our favorite models, Peyton Lake. We bring you along our shoot in this photo essay.
Golden Apple Comics
We actually meant to meet up somewhere else, but for security reasons, or specifically a shifty-eyed security guard, we started down the street at Golden Apple Comics.
Armed with my low key Sony A5000 and the kit 16-55 power zoom lens, we walked in looking like odd tourists. There were five of us: me, Peyton, Jordan the makeup artist, and two other girl friends. This was supposed to be a guerrilla shoot. No permits. No permissions. Oh well.
Guarded by a six foot tall spiderman on a skateboard, Golden Apple Comics reminded me of the comic book store in The Big Bang Theory. It was fully stocked with every DC and Marvel comic imaginable. It even had Pulp Fiction action figures. Very cool.
It started out pretty tense. We took a few snaps here and there with the pop-up flash on. There were some corner-of-the-eye stares but that’s probably because of Peyton’s getup.
I love the pop-up flash. Don’t let anyone ever tell you they are useless. They are small, discrete, and just what you need when you don’t want to stand out from the crowd. If they’re good enough for Terry Richardson, they’re good enough for me.
The tall and thin store clerk was busy helping out a dad and his five year old son. I think they were looking for a specific Batman comic. As he headed our way towards the stockroom, he nodded as he walked past and said “Harley Quinn! Cool!” That was our all clear.
I love that about LA. As long as you are discrete and respectful, store clerks and owners are non-confrontational about shooting inside their private properties. I think it’s something to do with the vibe of the whole city. Creativity just flows here. Thanks LA.
The Best Antiques Store Near Melrose
On our way to the next location, we drove past this junk yard looking lot on the corner of Melrose and something. It was an open air antiques & collectibles store with a ton of awesome signage, crazy looking mannequins, and even a few slot machines. Of course, we had to make a u-ey and check it out.
This was one of the best surprises of the day. It is also one of the best hidden photo shoot locations I’ve come across in LA. For the life of me I cannot remember where it actually was nor what it is called, so if a reader can help us out with this, that would be super.
The open-air market had a bit of everything. Jukeboxes, pinball machines, Elvis posters, and even a McDonald’s drive-thru sign. And so there she was, walking around with pink and blue hair holding a large wooden bat that read “Good Night.” We had complete freedom to roam and shoot.
Jordan Takeda did a wonderful job with Peyton’s Harley Quinn makeup. The really great thing about Jordan is her ability to adapt on the fly and her brilliantly smooth brush strokes. Conditions change quickly in a fast-paced shoot and having a calm makeup artist can make a huge difference. Keeping the vibe of the shoot relaxed and fun is very important.
Also, poor brushstrokes, believe it or not, show up in 6000 x 4000 pixel RAW files. They are as clear as craters on the moon. So if photographers and retouchers can see messy brushstrokes on the eyelids or below the cheekbones, that makeup artist will probably not be hired again. In a town full of creative talent, it is actually pretty difficult to find a good makeup artist sometimes. We are very lucky to have Jordan.
Our Old Stomping Ground: The 99 Cent Store
I don’t know what it is, but I love shooting at The 99 Cent Store. Maybe it’s the LA-ness of it. Maybe it’s because it was also part of the most expensive photographs ever sold. But this is not the first time I’ve shot at this LA/California icon.
The last time I was here, I used my Sony A7 with a 35mm Leica Summaron f/2.8. It was very tight. We could barely get enough soup cans in the background. This time, the 16-55m power zoom kit lens that came with the A5000 worked very well. Shooting at 16mm on a cropped sensor meant we had 24mm to work with. Yes, there was a lot of barrel distortion, but 24mm is 24mm.
The Berlin Wall
I once said that “there is more culture in a dirty Los Angeles parking lot than in some curated galleries.” I was referring to the Banksy piece in downtown LA. Here is another example. Across from the LA County Museum of Art, behind a row of parked taco trucks, is a section of the actual Berlin wall.
Part of the Berlin Wall Project, ten sections of the original wall was relocated to LA to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its fall. On them, are paintings done by local and renown artists. Once used to trap a country among ideological battles, now these walls have become the canvas for art and free expression.
There were no signs that asked us to keep away so we got up and close to them. As it goes without saying, we were respectful to the structures and artworks, but being able to enjoy public artwork like this is something Los Angeles should be very proud of.
Back to Where We Started
So to end off our shoot, we headed back to where we actually started, the Paul Smith on Melrose. By then, the store had closed, the overzealous security guard had gone home, and the sun has set far enough so that its famous west-facing pink wall is no longer soaked in hard sunlight.
That’s the great thing about photography. Sometimes, you have a clear image in your mind that you just need to “put on paper.” Other times, you just look with your eyes and let it take you to places you’ve never been before.