Well… it probably makes the most sense to tell this story from my point of view (Melissa’s) because this truly was one of the most amazing days of my life. It’s so hard for me to even describe what an incredible two days I had just a couple of months ago. This man is just incredible.The thing is, we had already talked about getting married and were actually already started to make arrangements for the wedding. So there was never too much of a question as to whether I was going to say yes or not by this point! And because we had such a busy schedule and had so much to do before the wedding, I just assumed that the proposal would be very sweet, but very simple and quiet. And for some reason, I was completely convinced that he would propose to me in New York City since we were schedule to travel there the following week. It’s pretty obvious now just how off I was on my assumptions!
So we woke up on Tuesday morning and since Jerry had a meeting on the other side of the city, I was just going to walk to the studio while he took the car. We got ready, had breakfast and then said goodbye at the door and went our separate ways. Nothing odd, nothing different, just another day at work. I spent the day at the studio and was just in full-on work mode. We were leaving less than a week later to go on a 6 week trip so to say that we were a little busy at the studio was a total understatement.
So at around 2:00 or so in the afternoon, the front door opened and we heard the chime that someone had just come into the studio. Sally turns to me and says, “Are you expecting anyone?” I replied no, but said it’s probably just Jerry who was coming back from his meeting. Sally went to check and came right back to say, “Melissa, someone’s here to see you.” Which is very weird. So I went to the foyer and there’s a cute guy, very well dressed and he said, “Hello, Melissa?” “Yes?” He replies “It’s great to meet you!” So I thought he was a client? Or maybe photographer? Then he follows that up and says “I have strict instructions to have you come with me immediately.” So I look out the door and there’s a black Audi right outside our door (We’re right on a pier so there’s never any cars allowed this far down….) with the back door open. He says, “So just get your bag and follow me.” I suddenly got so very hot and my face got all red. I ran back to the production room and was just fumbling everywhere. I somehow managed to tell Sally that I had to go and she kept asking “Where??” “Who are you going with?” (Sneaky little bugger – I actually believed she was just as surprised as I was!) And I kept saying, “I don’t know!” It was the most surreal thing ever! I went outside and the driver escorts me to the car and I’m trying to ask him where we’re going, but he’s just smiling. I assumed that he was taking me to a restaurant and that Jerry was going to meet me there for a really nice lunch? At which point, I was really bummed, because I was definitely not dressed for a nice lunch. I had dressed super casually because it was going to be a long day at work. But I was still thought it was so romantic that Jerry wanted to take me out for lunch.
You see, what had completely thrown me off was that my birthday was the following day. Combine that fact along with the fact that I was convinced he wouldn’t be proposing for another few weeks, and I really had no clue what was in store.
Then, the next thing I know the driver pulls up right in front of our building and he turns to me and says, “Okay. Now I need you to go upstairs and pack an overnight bag and then be back down here no later than 3:50.” Now I wish you could have seen my face. “A what?!? An overnight bag?? Where am I going? What do I pack?” The driver just smiles again and says, “Just go upstairs, pack your bag. I’m sure your questions will be answered when you go there.” (Thank goodness I had my keys with me by the way!) So then I thought, “Ahhhhh, Jerry must be meeting me in the apartment. How romantic!” I got off the elevator and ran all the way to the front door, threw it open….. and no one was there.
All I saw was a big Chanel box on the kitchen counter. I almost died!! I ran into the kitchen, totally forgot to close the front door and opened the box. I knew what it was instantly. There’s this adorable little bag that we’ve been looking at for ages and I knew right away that he bought it for me. When I opened the box, there was a card designed by Karl Lagerfeld right at the top and it said, “Meli-mou (which is a nickname Jerry has for me…) You’ll need this for dinner tonight……” And then I turned the card over and it said, “………in Sydney. xoxo”
I had to read – and reread – that note over and over again. SYDNEY??? As in Sydney – the opera house and Harbour bridge Sydney. Right now??? Who does this!? Then I started finding the post it notes. And there were several. The first one said:
First – do not call or text me. (Which was good because I had my phone in my hand to do exactly that).
Next go upstairs and pack something very nice for dinner tonight (very sexy). [Just in case I didn’t understand what “nice” meant, I guess...]
You will have time to get ready.
Make sure everything fits into a carry-on bag.
And there were a few other very beautiful notes as well and at this point I was half giggling and laughing and half crying. All this because I was turning 34! Who knew??? Not only that, I still hadn’t even talked to him. I was DYING that all of this was happening and I had no idea that he had planned any of it. I was running out of time because the driver was still downstairs and I now had about 15 minutes to pack and go. I went upstairs and there on the floor was my carry on bag, already opened, ready to be packed. Which was crazy because *I* left after him that morning. I started wondering if he had just parked across the street and waited for me to leave that morning? When did he have time to come back? I was too flustered to even try to work it out. And laughing and crying. This crazy, crazy, beautiful man.
When I was finished, I ran downstairs and there was the driver. I got in the car and he whisks me away again. He asked me if I knew where I was going yet, but I swear to you… I still wasn’t sure. Surely we weren’t going to Sydney right now. First, who does that? And secondly, we had SO much going on at the studio, there’s no way he would have just stopped everything. As a matter of fact, the studio calendar for the following day was absolutely filled with appointments all day long. (It was all a conspiracy though…they were all fake appointments that Jerry had “planted” earlier in the week.)
So I looked at the driver and said, “Are we going to the airport???” And he just smiled and away we went! I was just beside myself in the back seat of that car. Just giggling and laughing and DYING to talk to Jerry but I had my instructions.
Finally, when we were close to the airport I got a text message. It’s from Qantas Airlines, of all people, and you’ll never believe it…the text message contained my boarding pass. A boarding pass for Sydney. So I’m just laughing hysterically and so unbelievably excited and my heart is pounding because I’m SURE I’m about to see him at last.
So once we arrive at the airport, I thank the driver, run inside, get thru security and dash to the gate….and no Jerry. So then it finally dawns on me that he wanted me to get to the gate first and now he’s going to walk up on me. So I run to the bathroom, make sure I look okay, sit down and I wait. And wait. And wait. And now we’re about to board the flight. They call my row number – and still Jerry’s not here. Is it actually possible that he’s not even on this flight? Which worries me because my instructions ended at the airport. That’s why I assumed he was on this flight. I have nowhere to go after this.
I drag my heels but finally board the flight and I’m in the second to last row so I can see the entire plane in front of me. Every last seat was filled. And of course, no Jerry. Now I have to sit on this flight, giggling like I’m an absolute nut case and try not to die from excitement before getting there. I was in the middle seat, and I swear, my seatmates must have thought I was crazy. Halfway through the flight I stood up because I just could NOT sit still anymore and went to the back where the flight attendants were sitting and I was so nervous and so giddy that I just started chatting with them. One of the girls said, “Are you going to be in Sydney for long?” And I replied, “…….I don’t know! I didn’t even know I was coming to Sydney when I woke up this morning!” And then I told them the entire story. By the time we landed, they were giggling and so excited for me and kept saying they wanted to meet this gorgeous man who would do this crazy thing and for a 34th birthday. They were convinced that Jerry was going to be at the gate waiting for me – so did I – because that’s where all of the instructions ended. Oh my goodness – I can’t even express how nervous and excited I was. My heart was POUNDING! It was crazy!
Because I was in the back of the plane I was one of the last ones out and I had this little mini entourage with me. It was hysterical! I had the two flight attendants and another passenger who just joined into the conversation as well and they were following me out of the plane so they could go see Jerry for themselves. They were speculating that he would have flowers and that he was going to be waiting for me – it was all very exciting!!! So we finally get to the end of the walkway….and there’s NO Jerry.
Now I’m wondering…was he supposed to be on that flight? Did he miss it? Where am I supposed to go now?
So I slowly started walking towards baggage claim and don’t you know? There was another cute, very well dressed guy with a sign that said, “Ms. Tirado” just walking towards me. Can you believe this?? I know I couldn’t. It really felt so surreal. I was just dying to see Jerry and just kiss him and squeeze him. So I started laughing again and said, “Oh! Oh! That’s ME!!!”
So this man took my carry-on bag and I started following him. He introduces himself and says that he’ll be taking me to my destination. To which I reply “…which is??” And he looked at me like I was an absolute idiot. “You mean, you don’t know where you’re going?” And I was only too happy to my story yet again. “No!” says I. “I have no idea! I didn’t even know I was coming to Sydney went I woke up this morning!” And I promptly launched into the entire story again. I was so giddy! Meanwhile, he is putting on an oscar-winning performance and telling me that he had no idea and what an unbelievable story this is. But everyone’s been telling me this all day so far and by now, I’m not buying that line too quickly anymore. So I kept asking, “Do you know Jerry? Have you spoken to him? Where are we going? Is it a hotel? We’re not going to a restaurant yet, right?” So he started pointing out the sights as we were driving by, I think to shut me up. These drivers were so amazing. They were so into making me believe them. I truly fell for it. I only found out later that both drivers knew everything all along. They were brilliant.
Finally we pull up in front of this hotel and I just melted. It was RIGHT on Sydney Harbour (It was this hotel: http://sydney.park.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/index.jsp?null).
Then just before he steps out, the driver says, “Now. I need you to upstairs and get ready for dinner. I will be ready to pick you up in exactly one hour. Stay in your room and when I come back to pick you up, I’ll call up to your room. There will be some wine and snacks in the room, just unwind and take your time getting ready.”
Do you know what it’s like to be completely not in control of something? I’m always in control! I’m always the one that knows where we’re going, where we have to be, what time we have to be there. Now I’ve just spent an entire day not even knowing what my next step will be. I can’t even describe to you how luxurious, how pampered I felt.
The bellman took my carry on bag as I stepped out of the car and he said, “I’m so happy you could join us, Ms. Tirado.” Which is really bizarre since I hadn’t told him my name yet. Then he leads me inside and a man came out from behind a desk, shakes my hand, leads me to a chair and says, “We’re so happy to have you here, Ms. Tirado. Please have a seat here.” And at this point I can’t stop smiling wider than should even be legal. I just flopped in the chair and said, “Okay. I’ll sit. I’m just going to do what everyone tells me to do. No problems.” And they guy laughed. He said, “Now, I have some keys here for you.” Of COURSE you do! You know my name and you have some keys for me already.
I was just trying to still work out exactly how Jerry made all of this possible. We’re together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I mean, I should really know if he was planning something! Here I am, sitting in the MOST BEAUTIFUL hotel I’ve ever seen and being treated like royalty. Two pretty blonde girls peek out from behind a door and give me a big smile and welcome me. It’s like everyone was in on this except for me. Crazy!
So the hotel man shows me to my room and I promise I’m not exaggerating about this…he opened the door. And I remember nothing more about that man. I don’t remember him saying anything, I don’t remember him leaving!! He opened the door and I saw the most spectacular room with the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. I must have been in a daze. The room was so huge and there was a giant balcony…..with a full on view of the Sydney Opera House RIGHT OUTSIDE the door. It was like I could touch it.
This room was so big that I was just running into the rooms back and forth, back and forth, because I didn’t even know what to take in first. Then I kept wanting to go into the bathroom, and I kept walking into the *closest* instead! Three times that happened to me. Wanted to go to the bathroom and I walked right into the closest. Remember Pretty Woman? The movie? I completely felt like that. (…without the prostitute part, as Jerry likes to point out every time I tell this story.)
Then I saw this GORGEOUS arrangement of flowers on the table that included my absolute favourite flowers. How did Jerry find them? I have no a clue. Then were a dozen chocolate covered strawberries. And a note that said simply, “See You Very Soon….” I can’t even describe all of the emotions I was feeling by this point. I love this man so much that words can’t describe. Who does this???
So now I’m really soaking it all in. First thing I did was take a shower. Do you know how cool this room was? I was in the bathroom (which is made up of 2 separate rooms, by the way) and as I’m in the shower, I have a direct view, through the room, out the balcony, to the opera house. I said out loud in the shower, “I’m taking a shower and looking at the Sydney Opera House.” It was unreal.
I then got out of the shower and then started getting ready for dinner. I got dressed, did my makeup perfectly, my hair, everything. I know knew that Jerry was obviously at the restaurant waiting for me. And that I was going to meet him there. So now I’m REALLY getting excited and my heart was starting to pound. And I just wanted to quickly get there so I could see him.
I had just put my shoes on when I heard a sound by the door. I remembered seeing housekeeping in the hall earlier so I thought they were thinking of coming in to do the turn down service. So I hurried to put the “Do Not Disturb” sign out and just as I turned the corner in the room…..THERE he was.
Jerry had just walked in and he was so perfect. He was all showered, in a beautiful suit and tie, his hair was all perfect and he just looked so BEAUTIFUL. There’s really no other way to describe it. It caught my breath – literally. I ran and he just gave me the most massive hug ever. And I could have stayed there forever. I was so happy and so…..amazed….at the entire day and so in love with him for going through so much just to give me a surprise.
The emotions I was feeling at this moment are indescribable. Even now. Because I was expecting to see him at the restaurant, there was no build up at all when I turned that corner and saw him. I just wasn’t expecting him to be there at all. And because of that, the emotions that I felt at that moment when I saw him were so….raw. They were so real. I was just completely and madly in love with him and just so happy to be right there in his arms.
This was the absolute best surprise of my life. And then before I could even think, or breathe, he went down on one knee and he asked me to marry him right then and there.
To say that it was perfect is an absolute and complete understatement. It was beyond perfect. Perfect doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was just breathtakingly beautiful. And still, that was just the beginning of the evening. We then had the most spectacular dinner at restaurant with floor to ceiling 360 degree views. The restaurant spun around slowly so we had incredible views of Sydney the entire evening.
Then he surprised me AGAIN the next day and we went to Bondi beach to meet our good friends, Ryan and Jess Schembri for lunch (who also helped to plan the Sydney leg of my surprise) and then he booked a harbour bridge climb for the next day, too. It just never stopped.
He put so much effort into this. Down to the dummy appointments in the calendar to make me believe that we were completely booked out all week.
Anyways, I could go on and on and on, (and I probably will when I tell you this story in person), but I think it’s safe to say that I’m going to be spending the rest of my life with a really amazing guy.
~ by Melissa Ghionis
I had the pleasure of presenting the opening seminar for Skip’s Summer School earlier this year. Skip Cohen and his wife Sheila put on a great show and it was wonderful to connect with some old friends and make countless new ones. I received the following heartwarming feedback from an attendee which moved me and I thought I would share it with you:“Wouldn’t you agree?” is the question Jerry Ghionis rhetorically asks the audience upon declaring some universal psychological truism that he relates in a very clever way to the craft of photography.
“Wouldn’t you agree that in order to love someone else you must love yourself?” Yes, I do. The audience nods. We all seem transfixed on the insights he casually bestows upon us. His accompanying images on the screen behind him, which are nothing short of art, don’t hurt in making you take this man seriously.
I’m not a photographer. I work for a company in the photography industry and as a byproduct see many presentations. Rarely, if ever, do I feel compelled to improve who I am as a human being from these presentations. They’re interesting and I get a lot of insight on the industry, but rarely do I feel an uproarious desire to improve who I am due to these talks.
According to Jerry, the key to being a better photographer is being a better person. I found even my unrelenting desire to be skeptical and cynical muted while he ended his talk with this fact.
He hit home this idea many times while relating it to photography. He showed how he used mundane environments and stiff personalities to create extraordinary images. He made it damn hard for me to view his body of work as a byproduct of having exotic locations and overly charismatic clients. His craft is an extension of how he approaches life. His body of work is a byproduct of his humanity.
It’s the easy way to say someone else is successful because they have what you don’t. It’s the easy way to find fault in others when really it’s your own insecurities projecting themselves onto others. “If you think your clients are boring and your location is uninspired, then maybe you’re boring and uninspired.” Ouch.
I’m not even a photographer but I instantly felt a pang of self-acknowledgement within my own self. After countless conversations in which I’d judge others and after countless lines of thought deeming certain parties, events, hang-outs and phone calls awful due to the inherently inadequate people with whom I was surrounded, it became abundantly clear that I was inherently inadequate for not being happy enough and positive enough to find joy and love within others.
If life feels mundane – whether you’re a photographer or not – then maybe you’re mundane. Taking responsibility for the life you live and the pictures you take is one step toward not living an ordinary life. It’s one step toward turning something ordinary into something extraordinary. Can’t the transcendent feeling we all seek out when consuming or creating art best be defined as elevating the ordinary into something extraordinary? If so, how can you do that more often?
How can my life be better than ordinary? I’m sure if I were a photographer, the answer to that last question would be the same answer when asking “how I can improve as an artist as well?”
Living artfully means living with love. Seeing Jerry speak about viewing and photographing clients the way a loved one views them spoke to me. Reducing someone’s humanity to that of “an arrogant prick” or “a cold bitch” (words I’ve used to describe people before) nullifies the fact that countless people love that person. What if I took my quite pedestrian negativity and turn it into something extraordinary – such as the capacity to have empathy and love for someone despite character flaws? So many of us carry self-loathing around with us, why contribute to someone else’s?
I once read that “art and love are the same thing: it’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.” I’m not sure if I care much about being a better photographer, but I invite art and love into my life nonetheless purely so that my life won’t be ordinary. If I end-up taking better pictures on my camera because of it – all the better.
- Rebecca Brooks
After a blog hiatus, I am back and will blog once more! Well, that sounded profound but it was just a distinguished way of saying that I will blog frequently again. I am proud to present an engagement session of a rare, exotic, Asian beauty, Stella. I will be showcasing their wedding on the blog soon and I am pleased to announce that it will be featured on my educational website, the Ice Society in January 2012.
After just completing the last of my 5 day workshops in the US recently, I am proud to announce the release of my 5 day workshops for 2012. If you are an Ice Society member, you would have already known about the workshops as my icicles have priority booking before I announce them to non-members. Ice Society members also receive 5% off their registration fee. Some workshops are close to being sold out, so if you are thinking of booking, make sure you do so soon. If you are not a member of the Ice Society, join now!
2012 – 5 day workshops
May 28 – June 1 – Toronto, Canada (SOLD OUT!)
June 11 – June 15 – Vancouver, Canada (8 places left)
July 9 – July 13 – Los Angeles, USA (9 places left)
August 20 – August 24 – London, UK (SOLD OUT!)
August 13 – 17 – London, UK (Just announced)
October 29 – November 2 – New York, USA (10 places left)
There are only 8 places left for my Sydney, Australia 5 day workshop later this year as well (Melbourne is SOLD OUT!)
October 17 October 21 – Sydney, Australia ( 8 places left)
If you want to read a recent candid review from one of my students, click here.
You can read some other testimonials here.
Melissa and I promise to make a huge difference in your photography and business and give our all to make your week with us a life-changing experience.
Melissa and I recently had the privilege of visiting an exhibit at the MET (The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art) in New York City of the late Alexander McQueen’s contribution to fashion. It was truly amazing to see the highlights of his extraordinary 19 year career. I could easily cut and paste articles I found relating to Alexander McQueen but rather I wanted to share with you what I learned from his work and recent exhibit personally. As many of you may know, I am a huge lover of fashion and gain much of my creative inspiration from the industry as well as from cinema and music.
Alexander McQueen was born on March 16, 1969. He was very close to his mother and a week after she died on February 2, he took his own life on February 11, 2010. His mother’s funeral was held the day after McQueen died.
Apparently the exhibit at the Met (which ended on the 7th of August), was the most viewed exhibit in the museum’s history. That is quite extraordinary when you realize that an exhibit dedicated to fashion was even more popular than paintings and sculptures from the masters. I have been to 4 out of the 5 Alexander McQueen stores in the world in Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles and New York. Whenever I enter one of the stores, I always feel as though I’m visiting an art gallery rather than a retail store. I already have a few of his pieces in my wardrobe and some of you may remember that Melissa carried a McQueen clutch rather than flowers on our wedding day on January 24, 2011. We were really excited to discover that the same clutch was also featured in the exhibit at the MET.
Taking the clothes out of a store and into an exhibit made you appreciate them even more as works of art rather than so-called overpriced fashion that few will ever appreciate or wear. Sadly, it took his death for a larger audience to be aware of his work and who he was.
What I keenly understood as I walked though the exhibit was that Alexander McQueen was a true master of his craft. He was obviously never afraid to take creative risks and push the boundaries of his art whilst respecting the traditions of fine tailoring. Not only were the pieces on display amazing and theatrical, the presentation itself was spectacular. From dark and moody frames, a two-way mirror that repeatedly changed back into a normal window, to a 3D hologram, the exhibit itself was a feast for the senses. The textures, fabrics, colors, tones, shapes and the obvious influences from nature and history were used effortlessly. All of his clothes were themed in different ways and although there was an identifiable strand to each of his designs, his work was unpredictable but evolved with every new collection.
As I walked out of the exhibit I was literally speechless. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been so artistically stimulated. I couldn’t help but wonder what mark I would make on the world of photography. How far would my influence reach and how would my work be remembered? How has and how will my photography affect my clients and their loved ones who have already been in front of my camera? If McQueen were content on being in a creative comfort zone then would his work stand the test of time? Since when is being in a comfort zone synonymous with artistic expression?
At times, any artist struggles to find their creative voice and vision. With so many obvious and subconscious influences around us it would be simple to take the easy route and copy exactly what we see in our work. You can choose to imitate, emulate or innovate. McQueen did mainly the latter. What is new in a world where everything has been done before? Then you see something different and ask yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Although McQueen paid homage and respected his obvious influences he made his work his own. His art was an extension of himself. His dark and moody collections that were a signature in his work unfortunately, and most likely, also led to his death. I have always said that your biggest genius can also be the death of you.
How do I relate this to photography and what can artists learn from Lee Alexander McQueen? He knew his craft. He never forwent it. Sometimes I see photographers try something just for the sake of trying it with no real artistic intention. No direction of light, no understanding of composition, posing and story telling. They then attempt to extract a story from elements within the image after the fact. Respect the craft. Learn the craft. Master the craft and then reshape it. Technology has given birth to a lazy generation of so-called photographers. Owning a camera and clicking the shutter does not make you a photographer. The same way that owning a microphone does not make you a singer. I’m all for trying something different but not at the expense of lazy capture and over-zealous retouching.
McQueen worked with many gifted artists that co-produced his collections including masks, hats, jewellery and accessories. His collaborations with fellow artists helped shape and complete his collections. Never believe that you can’t learn from other artists. Seeing the way others express themselves can help you find better ways to express yourself.
We have all heard the saying, “Presentation is everything.” Apart from the actual collections, McQueen’s exhibit was displayed immaculately. It was visually stimulating. I was paying as much attention to the theater created with stage and lighting as much as to the clothes. As photographers, never let us forget the power of the way we present our work. Would that fashion have made such an impact on me if I had seen them on a computer screen as opposed to seeing them in person? When we only present our photographs on a disc to a client, we are not doing justice to our art, our clients or their portraits.
I was very excited to visit the exhibit because I have been a fan of his work for years. I then left the exhibit so inspired that I felt compelled to share my thoughts. How many exhibits have I dismissed in the past that I could have learned from?
Most artists strive to have a recognizable style but I believe this can be a blessing and a curse. McQueen’s exhibit showcased his depth and versatility. Although there was a creative signature to his clothing, his art was constantly evolving. Ironically, it was this unpredictable point of difference from his previous collections that made you recognize his new work. That is what I strive to do with my own photography. Rather than always emulating a previously winning formula, I often try to fool my audience and produce something one wouldn’t expect from me. McQueen’s exhibit reminded me to keep doing just that. McQueen didn’t set out to create history, he just did! I don’t like to think too much when I want to be creative. The more I think, the less I feel. The more I feel, the more sincere my expression is.
Although McQueen has designed his last collection, his work is alive. It has a heartbeat. It has soul. His legacy and exhibit made me want to be a better artist. Long live McQueen!