AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF NAMAHA GENEVA
I recently travelled to Geneva (Switzerland) to photograph the teachers and therapists of Namaha - a unique centre focusing on manual and movement therapies. Rather than a typical generic advertising campaign of yoga, pilates poses and massage, we set out to create a window into the life of the real teachers and therapists behind Namaha. These portraits would be used all over Swizerland, France and beyond as print advertisment, editorial articles and billboards.
The people we chose to celebrate in the images are the teachers and therapists at the heart of Namaha guided by the founders of the centre Celina Hwang and Marc Hwang. Estabilished in 2014 in Geneva, since then Namaha invites people to unleash their intuitive movement by finding a body that works in a simple way and soothing their mind by opening their consciousness. Their intention is to guide people through a process of integration and help them to undo the physical and mental constraints that interfere with people’s inner nature.
The teachers of Namaha incorporate the latest findings in movement sciences where the body is considered as an intense network of neuromiofascial connections.
Considering this was a fresh, new campaign we had the opportunity to establish a key look and feel in contemporary and fresh looking images. Celina who runs the centre, was on the exact same page: we envisioned simple tones, simplicity in light and genuine expressions. The goal of the portraits was not to appear “formal”, but rather to emanate movement, professionalism and confidence.
The formula for getting these shots and collaborating with the teachers wasn’t anything secret - it just required a bit of planning. First and foremost, we reached out to all the teacheres and therapists to explain the project and find a moment in their busy agendas, especially considering some of the subjects travels internationally or have a booked agenda already for the next full year. Then, before our 4 days shoot began, I personally scouted the different shooting locations of the center and discussed on site with Marc and Celina my ideas. I found all the teacheres and therapists delightfully open minded to photography. They were quite proud to have their portraits taken and all keen in experimenting to work with a flow of movements rather than static poses.
4 back to back days- from sunrise to sunset- of shooting followed. We photographed all the teachers, therapists, CEOS, founders, yoga classes, pilates classes, pilates teacher training, one-to-one session, Thai massage. We wanted to photograph the typical days at Namaha from start to finish. What began as an assignment to capture a limited number of specific images for an advertising campaign turned into a marathon of image making. I fell in love with the place, the people, and I shot enough to make an entire series. We also managed to shoot few portraits for two publications where Celina was writing about Yoga, fascias and meditation.
Speaking French was really helpful, although all the team at Namaha speaks English, I felt I could be more accurate and personal in giving directions to the subjects in order to get the best out of their time.
These images were shot with a mix between my Sony a7rII, and mostly with the 24-70mm 2.8 lens and 70-200 f.2.8 lens. This was to capture a mixture of wide and closeup shots to portray the actions from a teacher’s point of view and some long shots to bring the viewer inside the action. Portraits were shot mainly with the 50mm 1.4 which on my Sony which can easily become a 85mm thanks to the option to crop the sensor when needed.
I shot a lot of natural light, but some portraits were augmented with large soft modifiers powered by either a Profoto B1X or hotshoe flash trigged remotely when I had to move fast between two setups (this small flashes are easy to transport). I often just used one light, as we had to shoot all portraits in short time 5 to 10minutes and I wanted to give more time to the subjects rather then to complex lighting.
As someone who spends his time shooting 50% movement based projects and the other 50% shooting portraits and personal work, I always enjoy when a project bridges the gap and involves both sides of photography. My personal projects are in-deph explorations of the nuances and intimacies of real life. I believe this shoot was a chance to do this, even though it was a commercial project.
I’d like to thanks the following people to collaborate with me:
Helene Bourbellion for introducting me to Celina and Namaha.
Namaha Geneva: Celina and Marc Hwang and all the incredible team.
Production assistant and image library manager: Alice B.
Special thanks: Michel Hennaux, Nadine Roux