Ladies and gentlemen, I am seriously thrilled to unveil the new look of Zorz Studios, renovated literally from the ground up to the 12-ft ceiling. The project took a mighty year in making and the thrill factor is boosted by the fact that this is the result of my own vision, as opposed to the previous four years of sharing this space, when I was limited in what I could do on my own. And my fancy, due to my passion for India and travels there, was easy to predict. Here is the story.
UPDATE: Please check the updates at the end.
As I wrote five years ago, I joined the glamorous makeup artists Anne and Charles of Rouge Makeup Studio who invited me to collaborate and use their space. Last year they vacated it so I faced a choice between going under the wing of another industry peer or taking over the studio lease for myself. It was a tough financial decision, considering that I had recently become self-employed and taking on such a Manhattan-sized expense would be quite an ambitious move. But I did, with the kind support of my clients who participated in the April campaign properly dubbed “Occupy Broadway“.
I wanted to create a different photo studio, atypical to my local industry which usually features either a rustic industrial or a modern minimalistic feel. I wanted to create something personal, sense- and story-provoking, passionate, intriguing, and boutique. I wanted that studio to be a telling extension of my personality. I also wanted it to feel less like a photo studio and more like a cozy lounge, a meeting place to share art. That April, I raised funds for the initial expenses and carried on with investing into the studio redesign. I am blessed with several friends from/in India and one of them deserves a special acknowledgment in this story: Meera from Washington, DC, whose wedding in India I shot in 2012. She visited my studio when in NY and I shared my dreams of renovation. I am infinitely appreciative of her stylish advice and authentic insight during our email and Pinterest exchanges.
I started with the floor in July, replacing the wall-to-wall carpet with the dark chocolate bamboo floor. Then I decided to paint the walls. Would have been so much easier the other way around… The floor was replaced professionally by a contractor but I could handle the walls. The 12-ft ceiling and my intention to paint all the way up had me scratch my head for a few months until I decided to call my friends for help on Facebook, and we built a team! All of them happen to be my clients, too! Don’t you wish for such breed of clients?? One fine October day we all gathered, rolled our sleeves, I put the bandana on, and we had some messy fun. Thank you Heather, Joey, Zach, and Irene!
On that wall color… I shared my Indian theme vision with my friend Snezhana, a real estate agent in Virginia, and she was spot on suggesting terracotta color. I think I went a little off when preparing the paint at Home Depot, though. Nonetheless, I got to like the color eventually. 🙂
Thankfully, I didn’t hang my wall art before painting the walls, but this was the next step and I updated some of my older photographs with the recent ones. Several new additions were printed on wood, and a special display was made as a filmstrip from an old 1930s-themed engagement session.
An area of particular impact and interest was furniture and decor elements. I inherited a few pieces from Rouge, such as the iron elephant candle holder. Almost all heavier items (Jharoka wooden mirror, vanity table, wood screens, coffee table, etc.) were purchased via import traders. I had them shipped to my home and after collecting all, rented a van to transport to the studio. Many small decor pieces were brought by me from India where I had gone three times. I shared some acquisition stories after the main gallery below.
The final touch had been in my head all this time but kept me intimidated for a few more months until the latest trip to India past March. To nurture that feel of an inviting, cozy lounge, I kept thinking about a canopy under the ceiling. It is so high that I could easily use that spare space. It was this idea’s execution part that inhibited my excitement about finally completing the project. What should I hang there? What type of material? How to arrange it? What tools/system to use to hang?? Aforementioned Meera recommended using sarees which come as long strips of ornate fabric and I was determined to find them in India, and I did. Upon my return I decided not to hang in a common radial canopy style but constructed six panels for a more elegant and upscale feel. That part took some effort, actually. I had a tailor sew the folded “tubes” for me, bought plastic rods and inserted them on each side of a panel into the “tubes”, maintaining their rectangular shapes when hung. Then I spent one entire night in April drilling the walls and ceiling to hang those panels. And… that… was… it!
So here are the results of this stimulating 13-month-long project (click on an image to see full size and navigate right and left). I must say, I experience a thrill when I enter the studio, and when I sit and look around, recalling the little moments of finding a particular article on a street of Darjeeling, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, or Leh, I feel like I’m in a special place… home. This place became quite more than a photo studio to me. And it is that feel of art, culture, comfort, and cosiness, cradled in music and aroma, that I want my visitors to experience and remember.
And a few more individual stories:
I visited many Buddhist monasteries in Northern India where you can find traditional Buddhist mani (prayer) wheels, filled with thousands of avalokiteshvara mantras Om Mani Padme Hung. Turning them (always clockwise) purifies the mind, even touching helps purify from negative karma. This is a miniature version.
I bought this authentic Ladakh teapot at the Tibetan refugee market in Leh. I hope to be serving tea with it to my tea-loving guests during meetings!
I purchased this late 19-century intricately carved teak table locally via Craigslist. It was made in India and owned by a collector who frequented the country. You can also see Ganesha statue on its far left corner, which I bought right on a New Delhi’s street for something like $1 from a vendor wheeling his cart loaded with similar items. Another statue, an opening carved double hand (seen on a different photo next to the iron elephant candle holder) cost about $70 in a store.
On the left, you can see a flimstrip collage on canvas depicting a story that we developed around the 1930s-themed engagement session. Some album and book samples, a settee purchased from Rouge and eyed by one of my old-time commercial clients (still not selling it, dear), and more of my art work. As I was told by a witness, two of the older wedding images displayed on the right made one Brooklyn studio rather upset. The concept, direction, and photographing were done solely by me for that studio when I practiced weddings, added to my fine art and fashion specialties at that time. They weren’t happy that I used my photos in my portfolio. It is pretty sad because I, like thousands of studio owners across the country, allow my photographers to use their own photos for self-promotion, even if they shoot alongside and follow my lead and creative process (which wasn’t even the case here). Oh well, see that cord under the settee? Must have forgotten after a session, sorry about the mess.
Finally, here is where another special person comes into the picture, Sam, father of my client Jonathan whose wedding I shot past March. Sam and his wife Winnie generously hosted me for several days in Kolkata and it was he who went with me to the local shops where I found this exquisite fabric! You cannot see here but the petals are on a black net which gives a black shine to the panels if looked at from a side. A perfect match for my dark bamboo floor below!
I hope you enjoyed viewing this but here’s a little more: if you are in NY area and wish to see and feel all of this for yourself, as well as chat about anything related and not, I will be hosting an unofficial studio-warming party. “Party” sounds too much, though. I had that party during the actual opening in 2009… Model bartender and waitresses, actress hostess, live entertainment, food and drinks, sound and light systems, goodie bags, televised news coverage… heck, even security staff (why?). Well, I had a disposable income, towing two full-time jobs at that time. That couldn’t last for long and photography became my only source of income now, hence a more prudent thinking. 🙂
I just want to open the doors and welcome everyone who can come, offering a glass of champagne, a hug sprinkled with smiles, and more stories. Well, a little something, too… My genuine intention is to just informally share the results of this Zorz Studios’ project, as some people asked about a more personalized experience, which I love to offer! I will be there for you from 3:00 PM on Friday 05/16/14 to 5:00 PM on Saturday 05/17/14. Just come when you can, no RSVPs, no fanfare, just you, my friend! But if for any reason you absolutely love tracking your events via Facebook, you can find the invite and respond to it here.
Thank you so much for reading and hope to see some of you!
UPDATE 05/15/2014: Thank you everyone who plans to visit my studio this Friday/Saturday! I am truly honored. A few updates for you:
Time: I received inquiries about extending the hours on Saturday and was able to open my afternoon. The end time on Saturday is now set to 5 PM and will be reflected in the event description. Also, there is no end time for Friday and I expect some friends around midnight. 🙂
Security: On either day you will go through the lobby’s security desk and sign in so please have your official ID ready.
Contact: If you need to get in touch during the event, please text the main studio number: 646-873-8734.
Check-ins/Hashtags: Finally, a silly little request. If you enjoy what you see there and don’t feel like greedily keeping it to yourself, kindly check in via Foursquare or Facebook (if using the former, some specials will be unlocked). Also, do me a favor if you share your experience/photos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the likes: tag with #ZorzStudios and @ZorzStudios.