Elements of Nature: E-Session for Julia and Gino

The Escape: Engagement Session for Irina and Igor
July 13, 2009
And the Winners Are… (BloggEd Contest)
July 27, 2009
Engagement Session

Engagement Session

What a power week-end the past one was… Three engagement sessions, one being quite a production — eight people involved, 150-mile trip on three cars, 22 hours with little or no sleep. And all that to cover just 3/4 of the session.

Julia and Gino are among the lucky winners of Zorz Studios’ free engagement session contest 2008, EngagEd. A lot of thought, effort, and discussion went into the preparation in the past few months. The main theme, which brought this brave couple to the final, was the elements of nature — air, water, earth, and fire. Nothing short of challenging. In fact, the last element had to be pushed back to a later time due to some logistical issues although we found a professional “fire tamer” to work on the set.

Planning out the session, we saw that it would be difficult to squeeze all four mini-sessions in one day, especially dealing with the body art as decided. So, we gathered after a workday in my Staten Island studio at 7 PM on Friday for the first scene, the air. Anastasia and her friend Anna started to work on makeup, body art, and hair. My friend Tony, commercial photographer, joined us later. For our envisioned effect, we bought an industrial 32-inch fan and 20 yards of fabric. Perhaps that part was the toughest as we struggled with creating the intended effect… Not discouraged, we worked past 1 AM, then packed and hit the road at 2 AM.

Our next destination was a spot in Hudson Valley near the Bear Mountain that offered a natural and quiet background for our water theme. It started to rain when we were in the studio and a continued shower would have made a perfect mood-setter but alas, it stopped that night…. We stationed in two rooms of a nearby Countryside Motel, arriving there around 4:30 AM. The work kept going – Anastasia and Anna had to prepare the guys for the next set. Since it was taking two hours, the rest of us couldn’t resist but catch some sleep, waking up at 6 AM. I don’t remember having breakfast that morning… We got ready for the ride to the beach and started shooting there, still catching the patches of morning fog scratching the hills across the river. A few early fans of outdoor activity got a glimpse of our beautiful half-naked couple but the shoot was mostly undisturbed. Maybe not as impressive, same early birds had a chance to see me and Olga shooting in our underwear. Yes, I could have thought I’d need something more conservative. Ah, whatever it takes. We wrapped up around noon, with Julia knocking her teeth in the unseasonably chilly water.

On to the next and last theme that Saturday — the earth. Before climbing the mountain to a seclude location with a few ruins, we returned to the motel for the girls to prepare the last look. While they ate on the go, four of us sat in a “Grandma’s Deli” across the street — a colorful and marvelous little shop that sells everything from home-made salads and kosher pickles, to original coffee soda and rare German beer, to gold necklaces and makeup, a bit outdated… The shop’s decor is even more magnificent. The owners are a senior couple, husband — an honorably discharged veteran of the WWII. Our crowd made quite a commotion there, (almost) patiently waiting for our 8-person lunch comprised of salads, cold cuts, soda, juice, teas, and cakes. All for a ridiculous price of $58…

After such a nutritionally and visually rich lunch, we finished covering our couple in mud and were ready to concur the last part of the shoot, about 800 feet above us. We climbed to the top of a wooded hill to the ruins of an abandoned estate. Fighting the mosquitoes, we spent two hours moving from corner to corner of that enchanting location. It was our 22nd hour after we met in the studio, testing the physical capabilities of our valiant bride-to-be, who had been awake for more than 33 hours by that time. Olga and I had to consider it and stop at some point although the ideas kept pouring in and poisoning our relentless minds… Nonetheless, I have to admit, the earth collection is my (and Olga’s) favorite. I wonder what the fire left to us…

Exhausted but astonished by what we pulled off, we walked down to our cars and soon exchanged our goodbyes. I drove Tony and Olga back to NYC stopping for a quick but refreshing swim in the Hudson river. I didn’t get home until 8:30 PM, going to bed early as the following day had two more e-sessions in order although not as time-consuming…

More images will be added when the entire series is finished. Thank you!

UPDATE 5/17/16: I’m at loss why the images were never added. Most of them were shelved somewhere very far and deep. They are certainly not lost but the below is all I have at hand. One day I’ll go into my archives to fish out the rest.


  • Julia Raychuk and Gino Soroker – brave couple
  • Ed Hafizov – photography and production
  • Olga Mironova – photography, styling, and assisting
  • Anastasia Durasova – makeup and body art
  • Anna Bilinchenko – hair styling
  • Fiodor Tuldur – fire effects, to be used in a later session
  • Kliton “Tony” Ceku – assisting
  • Misha Bernadsky – Anastasia’s husband and driver
Ed Hafizov
Ed Hafizov
Ed Hafizov is a creative director and lead photographer of Zorz Studios, Manhattan-based boutique photography studio, offering arousing and daring fashion, commercial, beauty, and wedding photography. Multiple Fearless Photographer™ award winner, named among the top 50 US wedding photographers, top 10 NY wedding photographers, winner of Adobe contests, featured by Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle et al, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week photographer, and a distinguished member of Grace Ormonde Wedding Style‘s Platinum List, he is eager to step out of his and willing clients' comfort zone to pursue original artwork with a lasting impression.


  1. Julia says:

    I love the cadids, perfect…I want to go back do more now that I m all rested.

  2. Maya says:

    What a great production! Ed, everyhting just bigger and bigger with you, I love it! The couple is very brave indeed! The finished images look fantastic, hope the series will be out soon 🙂

  3. Marina says:

    WOW is all I can say about the composition, lighting, colors and the models…

  4. Gino says:

    I would just like to thank Tony most of all, for holding my feet tight, and not letting me go. Otherwise these pictures would have been the last great thing I did. =)

    FYI, those are my legs in that last picture…and as you can see by Julia’s face, she approves of this shot.

  5. […] Elements of Nature: E-Session for Julia and Gino […]

  6. You guys did a terrific work working as a team. It was a pleasure assisting and getting to know every each one of you. To the brave young couple…no pain no gain:) Ed and Olga got the best out of you and you looked fantastic in the pictures.

  7. […] to the abandoned prisons and asylums, get steamy in the recycling centers, get me into nightclubs, get body-painted, mess up their kitchens, go ethnic, go underwater, fly on the hot air balloons (later this year), […]

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