I remember being about six or seven and like many kids my age, I loved Winnie Cooper. Danica McKellar is one of those people who almost...almost, transcends sexuality. Catching her the past few weeks on DWTS, she is as appealing as ever. Beautiful, smart and a very good dancer. Usually when I watch Val Chmerkovskiy dance, the woman on his arm is invisible, but that is not the case with Danica, she did, does and will always command visual attention. Hopefully her broken rib this week won't sideline her chances. Winnie for the win!
Below: Danica with Val Chmerkovskiy
Equally appealing as Danica is Charlie White. I am sort of semi-obsessed with his incredible smile and watching those blonde curls bounce around as he moves across the dance floor. For some reason, I suspect that brilliant smile hides a wider, and deeper breadth of emotions, but for now, he seems most comfortable with emoting mostly happiness. On any other season White would be a shoe in for the win, but this season I think he is destined for third or forth.
It was almost four years ago that 23 year old model Claudiu first appeared on FH. I first became aware of Claudiu's work though my collaborations with Toronto photographer Chris Teel, and it was Claudiu's work with Chris that I first featured on the blog back in 2010. One of the great things about writing and featuring artists over the years has been watching growth and changes within both the work and images and the individual themselves. Looking back at his work with Chris, when Claudiu was in his late teens, you can see incredible changes, both in physical appearance and even more clearly with self-confidence and a flourishing fearlessness in front of the camera.
With each new experience and with each new shoot, inhibitions have dissolved and additional layers have evolved in Claudiu's work. Part of this process has of course been the work, but I think at the core of some of the changes have been Claudiu's personal drive and ambition. Claudiu is both a dreamer and a thinker, meaning to dream means to do, not just sit back wait for something to happen. Success is not just something Claudiu desires, in some ways it is part of a larger destiny. Although currently living and working in Toronto, Canada was not Claudiu's first home. Originally from Romania, Claudiu's birthplace was the home of some of the countries most celebrated personalities in the area's of science and culture, making his strive for greatness an innate part of both his thought process and dreams.
As part of that journey, Claudiu has been travelling to many destinations in Europe and North America. The past 12 months in particular have been busy, with several trips to New York to shoot with some of the best chroniclers of the male form. Claudiu has shot with many of my favorite photographers including two of the best, Jon Whitney and Rick Day. These images come from his most recent trip, this past February when Claudiu shot with Wes Triplett from New Manhattan Studios. Over the past couple of years, Wes has become one of my favorite artists to feature on the blog. Wes is a favorite not only because of his incredible imagery, but also because of the effort and work he puts into sharing both his images, and the stories behind them, with myself and readers of FH. Here is some of the story of his shoot with Claudiu, told and written by Wes on his site;
'Claudiu is one of the very first models with whom I started corresponding, shortly after the studio opened its doors in New York City in early 2012. I can no longer remember who initiated the conversation, but early-on we agreed that we wanted to collaborate. Unfortunately, Claudiu wasn't exactly in the neighborhood. He was a good 350 miles “uptown and to the left” of the studio, in Toronto, Canada. Although we failed to connect on a trip to New York that Claudiu made in 2013, we stayed in touch and vowed to try harder next time. With sufficient advance notice, finally, it was agreed that we’d do a session when he came down in early 2014. Misfortune nonetheless struck when my business partner overbooked the studio calendar a few weeks out from his trip and at the last minute we had to scramble to find an alternate shooting venue.'
'So in the space of one day, Claudiu got a close-up and personal look at life in New York City. . .which I guess is fair, since we got a similar, up-close and personal look at Claudiu! Our Saturday shoot went well. So when my partner, Dwight, called to say he’d found a space for us on Monday, we agreed to shoot a second time before Claudiu returned to Canada on Tuesday. Feeling guilty over having forced us out onto the street because of his sloppy scheduling, Dwight had agreed to pay for a hotel room “with a view” for our shoot.'
'I was blown away with the view. The contemporary hotel was beautifully-appointed and each and every room was west-facing with a classic skyline view of Manhattan. Glancing out the window I saw that we were within a half hour of sunset and I wanted to capture some views of the city by day. I called Claudiu and Alex, our stylist, and told them to turn around and head upstairs immediately. Golden hour was just setting in when our cameras started clicking a few minutes later. It was quite the treat for our out-of-town model.'
'By night, the view was even more impressive and lushly romantic. But it was also a huge challenge to photograph. Finding the sweet spot to capture the lights of the city in the background while having sufficient light on the model and not casting reflections in the windows was a trial-by-error exercise in a small room with limited shooting angles. You’ll see snow on the rooftops in some shots in Claudiu’s gallery. You’ll also see a prominent red prop in other shots. This was mid-February. I felt badly that Claudiu was missing Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend. It was my intention that he would take our prop home with him to Toronto and share the chocolates with her. Well, so much for the diets of models! Between Claudiu and Alex, by the end of the shoot our prop box of chocolates was empty!'
Claudiu didn't seem to mind missing Valentines at home, he loved the results of his shoot with Wes, and the chocolates. Claudiu reports Wes was great fun to work with, 'He introduced me to American TEX MEX which I love now, and American dark beer'. The shoot was enjoyable and Claudiu had a bit of an obsession with former Mayer Bloomberg's office, which he could see from window during the shoot. Claudiu's work with Wes, as well as his other New York Shoots. were not just to compile images for his portfolio, they were also a way to increase content for his new web-site. Through his site (opening soon) and his facebook page, Claudiu is going to be sharing, and selling calendars, prints as well as starting an 18+ section for fans to enjoy. Currently you can obtain your own copies of images from photographers Rick Day and Lindsay Lozon. Claudiu says the prints are nude, erotic and sexy and you just have to shoot him a message on facebook to see for yourself!
Q-There seems a definite growth in your level of confidence and depth in your new work and images. Has this come from experience in front of the camera, or a greater confidence in your body and who you are as a person?
A-Absolutely, as a person I'm growing into my own. This has allowed me to be very comfortable with who I am, and what I can accomplish based on my many strengths in this industry which can at times overshadow the weaknesses which I am working on.
Q- You seem much more relaxed with taking it all off for shoots. Was it hard to make the decision to take that step and sharing the results with the world?
A- It's funny that you ask about nudes. I was always comfortable since my first shots with McKenzie James, although the experience and skill level has sky rocketed since then and there has been a wide variety of work which has displayed my versatility clothed or unclothed.
Q-What made you decide to start your own site?
A-My site idea is in the process of being completed and launched. I have such a wide variety of photos which basically sit in the dust. I need to start showing some of my work and I'm glad to have such opportunities as this to share my work.
Q-What are your long term goals for the site?
A-My goals professionally are to land some more gigs with brands, I'm currently preparing to shoot for Vizeau. My hobby-style or self-propelled modelling ventures are to be renowned for being a model that can do anything he's been allowed to.
Q-You spent time in New York last year shooting with many of the worlds most well known photographers. In addition to Wes, who else did you shoot with and what were the biggest differences and challenges in shooting with different artists?
A-I also shot with Jon Whitney and Rick Day. There's never any specific challenges other than maybe the typical photography things such as lighting, or on the model side maybe having a full bladder or not being in the best shape.
Q-You have put a clear focus on fitness and working your body to obtain the results we see in your work. What would be the best tip of advice you would give someone wanting to make changes in how they look?
A-You know, my look has defiantly improved though I wouldn't say that until this summer I've (in the past) made the leap from a more commercially driven or story telling model to the fitness side. This summer you'll see another big change, the biggest yet I assure you. As for people who want to make a change to their look they should look to fulfil a role instead of simply being themselves. A lot of models simply do the same face, same look, same idea for everything and it's boring. One thing I take pride in is that each season I try to portray a different look, sometimes unrecognisable in some instances.
Q-It is clear from talking with over the years about pieces for FH you are very passionate, determined with strong ambition. Where does this come from and where do you hope it leads you to?
A-You know, I'm just a dreamer to be honest. I've always enjoyed the escape in life through sports and now fitness, modelling and other hobbies have replaced some of those daily "get away's" I used to passionately enjoy. Now I'm looking to launch my own image, my own brand.
Q-Having modeled for a few years now, have you had the experience yet of being recognized by someone who enjoys your modeling work?
A-This industry is funny because I do get recognized for my work but it's always the more risqué work that is noted. People tend to forget that I can pull of commercial or editorial too. It's always welcome to hear feedback, I'm looking forward to releasing all of my collection (5000+ photos) so that people can make little slideshows and stuff.. it'll be fun!