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The Beijing Project

May 29

In On Location at 4:59am

The first time I came to Beijing, in 1987, I traveled in with my assistant at the time, Gabe Palacio, and somewhere around 18-20 heavy cases filled with Sports Illustrated Speedotron units, and the accompanying paraphernalia. (Not the least of which were a couple cases filled with step down transformers. It was like traveling with a pair of anchors. Ah, the good old days! There was lots of stuff about them that, trust me, weren’t all that much fun.)

This time, it’s just me, a couple cameras, a few basic lenses, three speed lights, two Justin clamps, and, thankfully, a couple Pocket Wizard PlusX units. Threw those in at the last minute, just in case. No tripod, bigger light shapers, or stands. Some cards and batteries. Speed light small light shaper or two. Done. Backpack, a roller and suitcase. Suitable pack for many jobs, especially if you have to move fast, as you often do over here. But, I got here, and, several production meetings later, I’ve been shooting stuff like this.

Yowza! I got wind my assignment was shifting away from light hearted run and gun to production just as I left. Made some recommendations, and jumped on the plane. While I was en route, my client, which is essentially the city of Beijing, went out and bought various bits and pieces of lighting gear, not all of which, you know, sort of, kind of, work together. Making all this stuff get happy on location has been a bit of a parable in itself, which I’ll take up in another blog, but man, it’s been a wonderful, exuberant education in how to get some stuff done in this huge and complex city.

(As a for instance, they bought a super boom, which is really a studio piece of gear. I put this thing together in my hotel room, and it looks like a metallic praying mantis, which I think scared off the cleaning lady for a couple days. It’s a hoot trundling this wheeled monster through the streets of Beijing. It’s handy, though, I have to admit.)

It’s honor, really, to interface with several of the top fashion designers in China, and place their magnificent work in the context of significant Chinese landmarks. The pics in this blog are all from the first day in the field, working in and around “The Egg,” which is the National Center for Performing Arts, nearby Tiananmen.

We’ve often got 20 people out there on the streets, shepherding six foot tall Chinese models, kitted out in seven inch stilettos, through the crowds. We’ve, uh, received our share of attention. The gown below, for instance, weighs over 100 pounds. Seriously. Beautiful? Yes. But not what you would reach for when you want to “slip on something more comfortable.”

My thanks to Ariane, Dukes, and the crew at Vision Beijing. I’ve built up a welcome six year history with them, and they are always gracious hosts. We are back in the field tomorrow, and I’ll do more blogging as the project progresses. But, I’ll close with a quiz. Look below. Which one is the fashion model, and which one is the dork?

Oh, and by the way, it’s raining.

More tk….








Dennis Pike says:

on May 29, 2013 at 6:12 am

I’m flabbergasted that these are all from one day of shooting. Truly amazing.

John Keane says:

on May 29, 2013 at 7:41 am

Wow! Raining on a McNally photo shoot? Go figure!

Leave it to you to make it work any way. Nice images.

I Can’t wait to read about how you cobbled all that equipment together to make it play nice.

Thanks for the peek into Beijing.

Mark Griffith says:

on May 29, 2013 at 9:53 am

Looks like the infamous gray skies of pollution followed you around….

Nikolay says:

on May 29, 2013 at 10:15 am

Wow that is one serious project. I really love the styling and the concept of the models which I think fit very well the backgrounds.
You are my inspiration Joe 😉

Edd says:

on May 29, 2013 at 10:15 am

Love these posts….cheers Joe!

Sandee Soloway says:

on May 29, 2013 at 11:07 am

Those shoes! Ouch!
Beautiful pix, thanx for sharing your know-how.

M. Holloway says:

on May 29, 2013 at 11:29 am

Some of your best work. Congrats.

Arno says:

on May 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Would love to hear the specifics of what you brought (lenses, etc) and how packed. Really great images in a really great city.

Mike Neale says:

on May 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Wonderful culture diffusion, Joe,…job well done.

Have you considered a shoot with the Artist Ai Wei Wei?

Thanks for sharing!

Analia says:

on May 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Fabulous images! The models, location, lighting all work so beautifully.

Thanks for sharing Joe.



John Fowler says:

on May 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm

As well as honoured, Joe, I’m sure you feel lucky as well to be doing such exciting work. What do they say about making your own luck? Great work and another great read. Thanks muchly.

Richard Skoonberg says:

on May 29, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Very cool! I love shots, they are all so futuristic in their look. The first image with that oval portal is so great. The light, color, pose and composition… truly an “image that burns” to quote the famous stage director, Peter Brook.
Wonderful work. I hope to see more from this China trip.

Eric Politzer says:

on May 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm

ok, I will bite. the fashion model is the one making the fashion statement with the short pants! I would not call someone a dork, but the guy with hands on hips is looking a bit dorky!

awesome images Joe. hope the rest of the trip goes famously

Jim Child says:

on May 29, 2013 at 5:49 pm

You always bring a smile with your wit. I can still remember your antics and great ability to draw everyone into the project! Just as I imagine you are doing here!

steven says:

on May 29, 2013 at 8:17 pm

welcome to beijing ! see you friday!

Pony says:

on May 30, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Welcome to china Joe!when shooting Chinese,did you use any gel to warmer there skin?

Darren Elias says:

on May 30, 2013 at 6:11 pm

NIce work, Joe! Man, I love your work. Good stuff!

Jim Donahue says:

on May 30, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Great stuff on every Blog, Thanks

David Apeji says:

on May 30, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Every time you shoot, you get better. I strive to be like you!

Iain Anderson says:

on May 31, 2013 at 1:13 am

Raining… & you’re wearing shorts? Obviously spent too much time on that Flash Bus with Mr Hobby.

Carry on.

Ken Toney says:

on May 31, 2013 at 1:22 am

Hey Joe, I’ll have cataract surgery 1 week before Vegas so it’s out this year but I’ll be in Atlanta for Spring PSW! Hope you A&D Moose are doing the precon, I’ll be first in line for a ticket! I’m only 2 hours from Atlanta! KT

Joe McNally says:

on May 31, 2013 at 3:11 am

True enough! David’s my fashion icon!

Joe McNally says:

on May 31, 2013 at 4:56 am

Hang in Ken….see you in the spring, but they have separated Moose and I now, we have our own pre-cons. So you’ll have to choose! :-)))

Patrik Lindgren says:

on June 7, 2013 at 1:19 am

Your stories Joe, your stories are the best. And the images, well they´re not to shabby. 😉
Excellent stuff, as always!

Mika Fey says:

on June 8, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I don’t doubt on the technique level of a photographer, but – Why those pix look like some kind of Fashion designer promo stuff? It has nothing to do with Beijing, actually, except the background. This city is not simply a combination of big egg+dirty air+strange modern haute couture in a wide screen, it has a lot more to be discovered and interpreted.
This “Beijing Project” might be renamed as “Beijing Philharmonic Divas”? LOL…

Joe McNally says:

on June 10, 2013 at 3:44 am

Hi Mike….the gowns and the cityscapes are rendered in accordance, actually, with my assignment, which was given to me, and you hit the nail on the head here, the city of Beijing. They wanted to feature notable Chinese designers, with iconic, important Chinese backgrounds.

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