LaLaLand | Subculture: Body Painting

Last month I competed in a body-painting photo competition, deftly organized and executed by body painter Nicolette Spear. What tha–? How does that happen, you ask? Well, a few months ago I saw a flyer on the student board at Otis calling for photographers to compete in this body painting competition. So I submitted and was [obviously] selected. Ten finalists were selected, but I’m not sure how many photographers actually applied. Most of them were seasoned pros, not a semi-pro-former-indie-film-crew person like me, so I’m going to pat myself on the back for being even selected and not dwell on how in-over-my-head—OMG I’m never going to win so I should just give up and go home and watch TV because I’ll never accomplish anything ever— manically drowning in a crisis of confidence I was when I saw my shooting space and was told I only had 15 minutes with my models.

I was assigned painters Avi Ram, who is from Israel and painted an Israeli woman on one side of his model and a Palestinian woman on the other, surrounded by imagery of the wailing wall, mosaic graphics, and doves to represent his desire for peace between the two cultures. My other artist was Oscar Galvan, a fellow Texan, who painted a camouflage piece, blending his model into one of his own canvases.

Overall is was a pretty cool experience, however, I think next time I will attend as a guest, not as a competitor. We were only allowed to submit two photos for the competition, which are the first two in my album below. (See the winning photos are after the jump.)


What felt like a million hours of Photoshop later (but was probably only 8+), here is one of the two photos I submitted.

This was the other photo I submitted. I like how if you let your eyes relax—or in my case, let my lazy eye drift—the model's arm almost looks like it belongs to the Palestinian woman and she's dancing. It's almost an optical illusion. I also like the irony that the Muslim Palestinian woman who would normally be covered head-to-toe is painted on to a naked woman. But I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who sees that irony.

This was the "before" photo. Her face was quite distorted because of how the model was standing. One friend commented that she liked it that way because it was natural, but THIS IS LA. Natural imperfections are not permitted! So, I gave her some Photoshop-plastic-surgery for the final image. But, actually, this photo looks like the "after" in some plastic surgery cases.

I almost submitted this photo instead of the Palestinian back, but I decided the model was too pose-y. It's a bit distracting from the overall message of the art. The lighting is cool, though, right?

This girl's face feels more in-tune with the art. She is neutral. Just a canvas.

This is what the facilities looked like. Painters stations lining every wall of the building.

This artist, David Gilmore, is really cool. He won second place in the show. Check out his website:

This was the amount of space each photographer was given. That's my backpack, purse, and camera.

We all crammed our gear in the room, overlapping each other's space.

Fortunately, the shoots were staggered, so we weren't all shooting at once and could back up and spread out.

This was Oscar's painting.

And the winners were…


1st place: Diana Luckysova — She did slow exposure and moved a light all around behind the model. A well-deserved win.

2nd place: Manny Llanura — If you look closely, you'll notice he built the background out of pieces of her body art.

3rd Place: Carlos Torres Garzon —

Although I didn't win, it was pretty cool to see my photos on the wall. I almost didn't take a photo of myself. My friend had to pressure me into it. But I'm glad she did.

There are more photos of the event on Facebook or on Instagram #BFALA2015. Also, here’s a recap video:


I have a weird life.

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