By Gina Buccilli

As a nail technician, salon owner, educator and distributor my life is always very busy, so the opportunity to organize a photo shoot has nearly always been a wish list project, however somehow this year I managed it. This is the story of my experience, looking back I canít believe the circus of events that surrounded a few nail pictures, as you read on I can only suggest you eat the best and spit the rest! To begin my portfolio I decided to create some simple strong commercial images, I never expected top marks for originality, but focused instead on quality. I started out with three basic ideas.

Firstly to create a rhinestone cowgirl meets Las Vegas showgirl, sporting more bling bling than
P Diddy. Laura wore fantasy length square acrylic nails, which were airbrushed white, then given a blast of ice blue paint curving randomly down each nail. Then a coat of top gel was applied and encrusted with different sized diamonds and silver glitter, to give texture and sparkle. When the gel was cured we used topcoat to revive the luster of the gems. Feet were also given matching artwork, should we manage to capture a good hand and foot shot. I wanted to achieve high glamour through strong make-up and dazzling costume.    
Then to try and recreate a purring, sexy Cat Woman with wet, shiny, almost lickable looking stiletto claws, in a dangerous bedroom red. Acrylic nails were applied, shaped and painted and finished with tiny teardrop diamonds to add a little detail to the simplicity of the design. To enhance the look, hair and make-up were key as I wanted hair dressed in a sixties style, crowned with patent leather cats ears and very specific feline cosmetics. Eyebrows were darkened exaggerated and brushed up, strong green eyes with lots of black liner and extra lash, lips in matching red. In addition to a black cat suit, we also added a tail for fun.  
Finally Wendy, a nasty looking Dominatrix with black glossy, liquorice like, acrylic stiletto nails adorned with a variety of sadistic looking features and ornaments. We recreated all the usual suspects cutouts, piercings, chains, barbed wire, studs, stones and spikes. Wendy naturally has a vicious little bob that we backcombed and used heavy black make-up to make her look hard. We used the cat suit again with some bondage style belts and props.  

Initially my first job was to try and locate a photographer, I knew I didnít want a wedding photographer, but I also had no experience or connections in this area, and the amazing Nick Knight would not be available. Whilst visiting my hair salon West Row (Leeds), I was admiring some enlarged photographic images surrounding the walls, and enquired as to who had created them. I was given a phone number, promptly rang the photographer and arranged a meeting with him at his studio.

I visited Steve, who owned a modern impressive rooftop studio, I complimented him on his work, it looked really raw and edgy, combined with a kind of street cool. He showed me some other work he had done, all equally as slick but a little more artificial yet sophisticated, apparently award- winning material. He explained his specialist area was dealing with artistic fashion people from different hair product companies; this made me think he had a natural empathy toward my subject matter.  He told me the day rate for the studio was 1,500.00 plus VAT honestly I was rather shocked, but decided to proceed anyhow. Steve also recommended a professional make-up artist; she came in at $250 per day and suggested I try some of the staff from West Row for the hair. He said the staff from the salon would probably work for free if we gave them copies of the finished pictures for their portfolios, which they agreed to.

My models were three of my staff members; each girl had specific costume requirements, which were all ordered via the Internet, from different parts of the world. This in itself was problematic, due to shipping errors, language barriers and not being informed of out of stock items. Many of these items came from some shall we say, very costly, exotic websites. The names of some of these companies printed on my packages and frequency of these deliveries, definitely lead our grinning postmistress to believe I was some kind of raving nymphomaniac.            

After two months of trying to order a black cat suit to no avail, one of the most vital costume pieces, I decided in desperation to visit a sex shop. When I first entered, I was greeted by a polite cashier and array of stock both looking equally very tame. Feeling a little more secure in my new surroundings, I explained my requirements and that they were for a photo shoot. Naturally??? The cashier assumed I
(me!) was a professional pornographic photographer and directed me to the dungeon area below and introduced me as such to the shop owner.
Downstairs explicit porn movies were showing and there were about twenty executive style suited men, straining to listen to the shop owners conversation about the good old days when he too was also in my line of work. As a teenager I attended a Catholic, all girlís convent school, no doubt every nun who ever knew me is now praying for my soul.
Sunday the day before the shoot we were in salon creating the nails for the shoot from around 10.00a.m. And after packing all the equipment to take on location, I finally arrived home at 2.00a.m. 
The next day was fraught with unforeseen problems; the first model up broke a nail whilst trying to open a box, which meant soaking and replacement. This in turn changed the whole sequence of the day, made costume changes tricky and hair and make-up had to be rescheduled. Surprisingly one model developed stage fright and had to be dragged from the bathroom, after vomiting, and sent back into make-up. During a pose requiring one of the models to crawl across the floor, the cat suit ripped right through the back seam, fortunately Lauraís mum was on hand with a needle and thread. During a quick lunch break someone strategically moved my handbag to a new position on the floor next to my nail desk. When I stood up, I stepped into the handles of my handbag tripped and managed to launch myself in a most undignified manner across the studio floor. Then there was poor lovely Laura a real trooper, half naked in January, in a freezing studio. We had to keep rubbing her legs so they wouldnít look like corned beef on camera. Finally not forgetting the fiasco of models requiring assistance with the loo as their hands were completely disabled.

The worst part was, with so much going on I had no artistic input or direction with regard to the actual photos and I cringed as the photographer invited the first model to pose with her arms across her chest.
It was at this early stage I believe I lost confidence instantly in my photographer, decided he lacked imagination, and assumed he must be fortunate to be surrounded by some very gifted creative people.   
After numerous requests I only ever received one set of photos from Steve, and to the kind hairdresser who did a great job and worked for nothing, many thanks and apologies.
Picasso once said that, painting is love made visible, thatís how I feel when I create a nail design. However, the photographerís translation of my work left me with very little affection for the final result. Iíll never make the same mistakes again. Iíll probably just make a few new ones.

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