Posted by: alyceinwonderland | October 4, 2010

hot n cold

This weekend was so chock full of shoots that I’ll have to parse them down for you one blog entry at a time. Although, to be honest, I forgot my computer adapter at my friend’s place in New York — typical Alyce move — and so to my severe disappointment (I was yelling angrily up at the sky at one point) I cannot spend the next few days editing photos like a crazy person. Because if it were not for the adapter, I would be editing. Constantly. Without sleep. Ahh, I’m kidding, but just sort of.

First up, Christine’s shoot. Thursday in lovely New Jersey saw a mini hurricane idling right by the state’s border. Although it wasn’t full on, the hurricane did whip the sky into quite a whirlwind of restless grey turmoil. It was also so windy that grasping a reflector as tightly as I could against the wind threatened to hurl me into the clouds like a violent Mary Poppins.

For a fashion photographer, that means only one thing: shoot indoors. For a fashion photographer out of her mind, it means you should shoot outdoors for atmospheric effect. We did both, but for this entry I’m presenting the makeup shoot first.

Makeup Shoot

I’ve always wanted to do an intense makeup shoot, like the advertisements for Dior that graces every other page of Vogue. The beauty shots feature flawless skin, colorful high-shine makeup, while preserving detail in areas such as the eyes and lips.

Christine is featured in a higher concept shoot that exhibits how color alone can set the mood for a face, and, subsequently, an entire look. A girl can choose to be intense and sultry one night, and whimsical, glittery — and a little frosty — the next. Hot and then cold. Here’s how color temperature in makeup transforms one’s entire personality, through just her face.

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Posted by: alyceinwonderland | September 25, 2010

high line

Yesterday, I high-tailed it to High Line Park in downtown New York and did quite an amazing fashion shoot with a model friend of mine. I was lucky to have scoped out the place earlier this summer (although I didn’t know I was scoping at the time!) — so that I could mold the shoot’s concept to the location.

The High Line is a dreamy place. Railroad tracks floating meters above the concrete city below, with a warm sunset turning everything it touched to gold — from the rustling plants in sidewalk gardens to the supple wood planks beneath my feet. Looking at the hazy skyline to the West, I felt like the mood was set for a fairy tale.

Enter the (slightly magical) traveling musician. I dusted off the violin that I hadn’t touched since senior year of high school, and assigned it the new role of fashion prop. Not to objectify you, violin, but I’m objectifying you. We chose the brightest lit spot on that long winding track-in-the-sky and began our story.

My rates for portrait, fashion photography, and glamour shots:
www.alycetzue.com
alyce.tzue@gmail.com

Posted by: alyceinwonderland | September 20, 2010

svpply

As I wait on photos from the Mochi Magazine shoot, which should be out by the end of September, I’m browsing fashionable accessories and delicious fall apparel that I cannot quite afford. This site is called svpply and is as addictive as a good RPG during a rainy summer.

The site shows you user-selected images in both men and women’s fashion, and allows you to add them to your wish list. I see this tool as not only a convenient way to set up a wish list of specific, no-fail gifts friends and family looking to pay all price ranges can buy for one’s birthday (Am I right? It’s a wonderful solution to a “Ohhhhh, yeah… I really like it, Jill, yeah. I’ll put it on my shelf. And it’ll be there, untouched. Forever.”)  — it’s also a great no-hassle tool to define your style in pieces.

I mean, if instead of asking your musical tastes, a potential date was like, “hey what’s your style, girl?” wouldn’t it be great to just offer one link? “Here, here’s my style. Literally, these pieces compose my style.” It’s great.

I’m so lazy.

Anyway, it’s by invite-only (thanks, Will!), but I don’t have the privilege of inviting guests yet or else I would be showering you all with email notifications. You can feel free to check out the gifts you can — ahem — I mean, pieces-that-define-my-style at any time, though, right here.

Posted by: alyceinwonderland | September 10, 2010

carol’s shoot

I asked another friend of mine, Carol, to help build my portfolio, and this second shoot is the result!

Rockville, Maryland

I made the five-hour journey from my house to Maryland a few days ago. Carol and I frolicked around her hometown of Rockville looking for the perfect sets. They included the small suburban community, a purple meadow, a corn field, and the town square. I was also lucky enough to be able to borrow her dad’s 50mm f1.4 prime lens for the shoot! It worked wonderfully, although the manual focus took some getting used to.

Notable moments include when an older woman began clicking away with her flashing digital camera a few feet from me as I attempted to photograph Carol in the street; the woman turned her head toward me and said matter-of-factly, “I’m going to take pictures, too.” I can see that, lady, but you’re blocking my view. Following a few seconds of incessant clicking, I kindly informed her that her flash was disrupting the shoot. Without missing a beat, she handed Carol (who she probably thought was a real model!) her business card and said, “Call me if you want these photos.” That probably won the award for sketchiest-moment-of-the-day.

Another moment (or several moments) was well in the running. Every man over 60 turned and stared for a good half a minute at Carol — dressed as a schoolgirl. But, honestly, how completely expected.

A Facebook album of all of the post-produced photos can be found here: Carol’s album

Also be sure to check out: Tiffany’s album

Again, it would be lovely if you could refer me (alyce.tzue@gmail.com) to those in need of portraits, personal shots, or any type of photography service. I would be happy to email follow-up any inquiries with more information.

Posted by: alyceinwonderland | September 5, 2010

modeling

My First Photo Shoot
As the model

Two weeks ago, I traveled to a drizzly New York City to model for my first real photo shoot — Yup, it was the prize for winning the Mochi Magazine Beauty and Fashion Consultation Contest, the video entry to which is posted below!

I could hardly sleep the night before due to both excitement and nerves. On the one hand, my interest in fashion made this the perfect opportunity to learn more about the nitty gritty of the industry. Plus, what aspiring fashionista doesn’t go gaga at the prospect of being dressed up in someone else’s expensive clothes, someone who knows what they’re doing, someone who’s been affirmed as trendy? But on the other hand, I am not a model. Would I know how to pose, or would I — trying way too hard — freeze up in a pile of my own tangled limbs and affected awkwardness??

It turned out to be a wonderful and eye-opening experience. In the process of learning, I also developed a fierce admiration for my makeup artist, the Editor-in-Chief of Mochi, my photographer, the boutique owner, the Mochi staff… Actually, that’s basically everyone that was there. It was a full 6-hour day of difficult but rewarding work. I can’t say too much now because the issue that contains the shoot is not out yet, but I will let you know soon! I’ll also be writing a blog entry about the day’s happenings. Ah, familiar ground.

A Wonderful Shoot
As the photographer

Needless to say, my experience at an actual fashion shoot was an inspiration. I itched to be behind the camera again, and thought it would be wonderful to include some of that work as well as the process on this blog.

Luckily my beautiful friend Tiffany was looking for some professional photos to commemorate her 21st year; you can say it’s a bit of an Asian tradition to capture a girl’s blossoming youth in her 16th and 21st years. Perfect. I was more than happy to oblige.

A twelve-hour day of running around to different sets, picking and changing outfits (and then changing our minds), trekking through the blistering heat and smoldering humidity, and explaining the purpose of a fashion shoot to a curious cop who thought we were delinquents breaking into his precious community barn later… I present to you a high concept shoot, titled The Five Stages of a Modern Young Woman.

Please feel free to contact me at alyce.tzue@gmail.com if you are interested in one of these for yourself or for someone you know! My rates are very reasonable (:

Be sure to check out the Facebook album of Tiff’s complete set of photos: Tiffany’s album

Posted by: alyceinwonderland | August 7, 2010

inception in wonderland

I know, I know. This is a fashion blog. Why am I talking about a movie? Well, you know, because inception happens in a dream, which some call dreamland and others might call wonderland and… Alright! It was just too compelling a movie NOT to write about, and I don’t really have any other outlets in which to spew out a sufficiently thorough entry about it. Sue me.

Secondly, major spoilers. But this shouldn’t matter; you’ve all watched the movie, right? Right?

Third, before you begin reading, I highly recommend you skim through the following two articles if you took any interest in the film. To me, these are the predominant interpretations of Inception at the moment: one which says that the entire movie is a dream, and the other which says Cobb achieves a happy ending in his own reality. Both are really quite eye-opening:

Devin Faracis’s Never-Wake-Up Theory
Spencer Starnes’s Happy-Ending Theory

After skimming through those (particularly the first one) reading my post below will make more sense. I’m basically leaning toward what Devin Faracis of the first article is arguing: that the film is a dream Nolan has constructed for the audience. But what might the idea be that he’s trying to incept?

Food for thought:

What if we looked at the biggest picture possible? What if Christopher Nolan’s goal, phrased as specifically and succinctly as possible, was to plant a seed in the audience’s mind that one can still achieve true happiness through what is not real? This can apply to anything from the movie itself to, on the most radical end, our own reality. Let me try to explain.

The movie serves as a dream Nolan has constructed for the audience supported by the many facts in Faraci’s article. Of these, the suspension of disbelief that is maintained and the moment after the credits start rolling when you are a bit dazed as if just shaken awake from a dream are only a few things I felt myself.

The most crucial part of the movie to me is the final scene where Cobb spins the top but does not watch it fall. The strongest argument here seems to be that he simply doesn’t care if his world is reality or not. I completely agree. All you need is to put yourself in his shoes. I don’t think that in that extremely emotional moment — when he is experiencing the catharsis of finally being back home with his children, after all of that pain and sacrifice and work — Cobb has even the remotest desire to glance down at his hand to see if he has the wedding ring on (what some say is an alternative totem) or to check for any other signs of reality. By practiced instinct, he pulls out the top, but the important thing is that he doesn’t even watch it fall.

In his joy at being with his kids again, he simply doesn’t care; even if he was still in a dream, his bold move signifies that he can accept his dream state and live happily in it. Cobb’s decision echoes very strongly of “justified deception,” a theme that recurs in several of Nolan’s movies, most notably Memento and The Dark Knight.

You might remember how Leonard in Memento alters his notes to deceive himself so he can continue on his vengeful mission (so he can continue to have a purpose for living?) and how Alfred in Batman burns Rachel Dawes’s letter so that Bruce can at least hold on to one shred of happiness following her death. All of these were conscious decisions to keep one ignorant — even if it’s himself. Cobb does the same. It seems that Nolan is less concerned with whether one’s world is “authentic”; after all, no one at any point in their lives ever knows the truth about everything. He is much more concerned with each individual’s evaluation of and reconciliation with their world: one that does not necessarily include knowledge as to whether or not everything (from the news to politics to frivolous gossip) is REAL. Perhaps he is saying that the necessity for happiness trumps absolute truth.

When we see that last scene in the movie, of Cobb possibly accepting a false reality, it plants an idea in the audience’s head that every individual is actually very much like Cobb: living in a world where he is not certain of the difference between deception and reality — but, in spite of knowing this, he can choose to be happy.

Furthermore, having audiences all over the world arguing about what’s real in this movie is exactly what Nolan wants. Part of the idea he has planted into our subconscious is that what we think to be real can always be questioned (the other part is that we can still find a way to be happy). On our own dream level (which is the movie itself, when we are watching it) this incepted idea is at its most amplified. As evidence, we endlessly debate about whether or not Cobb’s world is real. The truth is that there seems to be a lot of evidence supporting both sides of this argument, leaving it almost intentionally ambiguous.

However, quite appropriately, we do not automatically apply the incepted idea that “we can choose happiness in what may not be real” to our real lives. It takes time, just as Fischer did not immediately say “Eureka! I will destroy my father’s company!” when he first awoke from those many layers of dreaming. Even though this idea may have been amplified and very immediate in his dream, it is slow to develop in his real world. Similarly, because it is not clear to us what Nolan’s incepted idea is yet, our thinking processes will naturally apply this idea first to our dream, the movie.

But the idea is VERY applicable to our lives. Let’s be honest — even the movie’s worst critics must admit that the film has brought the majority of audiences much joy. Whether it’s because they honestly think it’s a wonderful piece of film-making or because they love to debate it out, the majority of audiences is made happy by the film in all of its complexity and ambiguity, even though we do not, and perhaps will never, know “the truth.”

A truly successful incepted idea, as Cobb recites, is the greatest parasite and will grow to take over someone’s mind, even grow into other parts of his life. This film ultimately — albeit subtly — makes us ponder other aspects of our life, not just the dream (the film). I’m sure everyone, at least for a moment, has bemusedly entertained the idea that they are currently in limbo, and that none of their surroundings is real and they will grow to be old and grey before finally waking up in their true “reality”. I also guarantee you that someone somewhere in the world (not to say this is a good thing) will develop a disorder similar to Post-Avatar Depression (in which people believe Pandora is a real place) and begin to whole-heartedly believe that their reality is, indeed, not real.

Can we be happy with what we can never be sure is real or fake? Can we be happy without being completely methodical and possessing the absolute truth about everything; can we indulge in fantasy? Looking at these excited debates that have followed the movie’s release, I think the answer, Mr. Nolan, is yes.

Posted by: alyceinwonderland | July 24, 2010

portugal dreaming

I’m only in Portugal for another week, and I can only predict how much I’ll miss this wonderland of a place. Living here is like walking through a lucid dream — where the perfect weather daily kisses your skin, the fruit flow bountifully from the field next door, and the burnt auburn terra cotta roofs sizzle beneath the warm sun, a sun that is never, ever harsh. I can say honestly that the only pull back to reality is (ironically, considering the previous metaphor) my barely containable anticipation for watching Inception on the big screen back in the States.

This entry is about how I conducted a love affair with a place. The town, called Arcos De Valdevez, is an hour outside the city of Oporto, nestled in the mountains. My boyfriend’s family, with whom I’m living, has been more than kind and accommodating (Their little mansion sleekly constructed entirely of wood and stone, I have a feeling, will somehow find subconscious expression in my future architectural imaginings).

With such beauty all around me, I aimed for a photo shoot that captures the spirit of my surroundings. But even though every glance is like an unframed painting, how do I capture how a place feels? The problem with most landscape photos is that with the lack of human subjects comes a lack of kinetic energy, and life. They also become harder to relate to, more like a two-dimensional image than a moment in time.

By placing myself in the photos — but maintaining the environment as the primary subject — I try to somehow breathe life into landscape photos. At the same time, I try to designate the human subject as a component of the picture rather than as its protagonist. After all, Portugal should be the main character of the story here, not me.

Thanks so much to Mark who collaborated with me on the shoot!

Posted by: alyceinwonderland | July 19, 2010

contest entry

Thanks to a few of my friends, I learned about this Asian American magazine for girls, Mochi Magazine, which is holding a contest about beauty and fashion. The theme is how one’s Asian American background has influenced one’s view of beauty — you could either write an essay or make a video about it. The prize is a fashion consultation and a photo shoot in New York.

Since I had recently made quite a few discoveries traveling to Taiwan and creating my last entry, I thought this was a good time to talk about the topic! I made a video (that actually gets pretty up-close-and-personal, now that I look at it again), and uploaded it onto YouTube. Finding out how much of Adobe After Effects I’d forgotten from class was not fun, but I had a good time overall!

Check it out here!

Posted by: alyceinwonderland | June 30, 2010

taiwan inspired

So I’ve very recently returned from a two-week trip to Taiwan. Seeing as most people who visit their motherland halfway across the globe stay for the whole summer, you might say that my eager relatives squeezed into two weeks what should have been a one-month long itinerary of things-we-all-must-do-while-there. Reflecting this action packed journey will be a MONSTER-sized entry!

First of all, if Taiwan could only be noted for one thing, it shouldn’t be for its politics with China or the fact that all things plastic used to be made there before its economy tanked — it’s that alighting onto its surface by plane is like descending early (rather than ascending, I guess?) into food heaven. The tropical fruits, the countless cheap, open-24-hour eateries right next door, the night markets (bubble tea, oua jian, ba wan, the works).

But another major thing worth nothing is that, like every culture, its young people have a very unique aesthetic style. But perhaps Taiwan more so than other places. One can spout theories of a sporadically recognized country’s youth searching for lost identity — but for whatever reason — Taiwanese youth are at the forefront of Asian aesthetic trends, and move from trend to trend as if a wild fire were nipping at their heels.

The Eastern standard of beauty: a beautiful Western woman. Large and (recently) pale eyes, fine and light hair, high bridged nose, legs like stilts, thin. The few differences I’ve noticed are: 1) The Taiwanese, like most Asians, admire pale women, since dark skin has long been a mark of the tan, sun beaten backs of the laboring, farming class. 2) Because native Asian women tend to be thinner than their Western counterparts, their standard for weight is also lower: American women traveling to East Asia tend to go one size up.

Seeing these Taiwanese girls wear grey contacts, dye their hair blonde, and go through surgery and eyelid gluing to achieve a Western aesthetic gave me an initial feeling of revulsion. Why change yourself this much to try to be something you’re not? But I am a victim of culture shock as much as the next person: I realized that we Americans do just as much to disguise our appearance, from Botox injections (less accepted in Asia) to fake tanning. While East Asians strive to look Western most probably because of widespread, dominant Western media exposure, we have standards as well. Furthermore, my own initial revulsion at their “inauthenticity” is likely brought about by this Western notion of individuality, that we should embrace our real selves rather than conform. It’s perfectly fine to conform in Taiwan.

In an attempt to appreciate this cultural divide, this entry is inspired by Taiwanese trends. First, I will try to replicate the image of the beautiful Taiwanese girl. Kind of like this one. Then I will transfer that aesthetic as inspiration to produce a more Western image.

Smile!

OMG I have large-ish eyes! Here, I’ve put on long fake eyelashes slightly above my lash line, and used thick mascara both to cover up the plastic lashes and to unite the two (real and fake) as much as possible. I’ve used Maybelline mineral powder to create a lighter complexion and to cover up darker areas of the skin (under eye circles are key!).

The fake eyelashes, because of how they were applied, ended up giving me double eyelid. As a result, I applied eye makeup a little differently than how my tutorials describe by darkening either side of the bridge of my nose above the eyes. I’m also wearing grey contacts that enlarge your pupils slightly. Because my eyes became very strong, I also had to shape and darken my eyebrows to balance them out.

Most girls in Taiwan just apply a little lipgloss because small, indiscreet lips are preferred over luscious ones. I’d also gotten my hair layered in Taiwan, so I guess the image is complete!

Now for a little change

The next photo shoot is inspired by everything Taiwanese, from the fake eyelashes to the pale skin, from the nude lips to the clothing. Both the miniature feather hat and dress were bought in Feng Jia, a night market in Taichung. However, the aesthetic also stems from my own upbringing amidst a cloud of Western images. I hope it helps to show that cultural differences can serve as sources of inspiration rather than causes for petty tension.

Note: “Vintage” is a made-up brand name for the purposes of constructing a magazine-like ad.

Posted by: alyceinwonderland | May 18, 2010

after a year’s hiatus

I’m back!

A few people have asked me about the fate of the blog, and I’m happy to say that I’m continuing it for the summer, before I leave for the other side of the world (Beijing) for my new job. Then again, blogging about foreign fashion trends does sound pretty exhilarating, as long as I don’t get arrested for “photo-documenting” the Chinese people.. I guess if this blog becomes censored, you’ll know why?

So I was asking myself, how I would tell the story of my year? Instead of 365 entries, I’ll try to condense my senior year’s fashion statement — read, a “statement” doesn’t actually have to be drop jaws, it just has to encompass the season’s style, right? — to two outfits. There will be one for winter, and one for spring. I’ll attempt to give you a rundown of the school year at the same time. Boy, this will be tricky.

When senior year began in the fall, I was still very much emotionally attached to the business casual style that was required at work. There was just a lot of black (as the entry below attests to), more fedoras than I needed, and a lot of geometric cuts.

And then winter crept onto Princeton campus. Maybe because it was particularly snowy and bitter this year but I (and much of the casual fashion world, from what I could see) held on to whimsical frills, breezy tiers, and soft fabrics — small reminders of spring that contrasted starkly with icier days. While the runway graduated to harder looks, such as the return of the military jacket, in stores there were imitations of spring motifs everywhere, from flower appliques on (which also added $20 to) J. Crew tees to frilled, gathered, and pleated blouse collars.

A love affair with gray

One thing that kept the light winter looks grounded was the dominance of gray in the color spectrum. While I exchanged solid colors for muted tones and business casual for softer, more feminine outfits, I knew the winter of 2009 was going to be far from soft. There was my thesis to write, and senior architecture studio to push through — and, quite fittingly, my wardrobe became drained of color to match.

Thick gray and black leggings became a staple, while mixing and matching layers became a good way to procrastinate doing more important things. Most layers would be neutral with one serving as a color accent. The accent usually wasn’t strong by itself, but only stood out against weaker colors — in this case, it’s my purple cardigan vest.

I also came across a devastatingly soft shawl with frilled edges that kept me warm those late nights that I had to walk around the freezing studio, but didn’t want to look like Mallow stumbling around in a puffy down coat. Coupled with a tank that has a lacy, strategically asymmetrical cut (above), I’d say that winter was a very romantic season for fashion.

The return of color

With my thesis handed in and Princeton’s 3-day house parties to look forward to, spring barged into my life with a burst of color. The stars are still dancing in my eyes. Really, all I wanted to do these past few months is to roll around in a field of flowers, naked (alright, maybe not, I think I’m getting allergies) — but when what one really wants to do is not socially acceptable, I guess the next best thing is to clothe oneself in fabrics drenched with rich colors and swirling floral prints. I feel like I’ve stepped straight out of Eden.

So now that spring has come, graduation is near, and there are some extremely exciting trips planned (Hawaii in a few days!), I think I just want to metaphorically roll around in the field that is my last college summer. I want to savor every rich texture, every sensory detail. And look, there are rich textures in not just the clothes we wear but everywhere we look. I want to roll.

Roll with me?

Chunky shoes offset the whimsical quality of the sundress.

Linen -- beautiful when dyed and feather light.

I could mistake this meticulously gathered blouse for leaves.

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