F . Y . E .

F . Y . E .

“For Your Entertainment”

designer & styling // Elizabeth Bastian
assisted by Callie Jensen

photography // Khadijat Yussuff
assisted by Nai Cherry

“I want it to be cute and playful, but with a hard edge – not too la-dee-da.”
She fluttered a few fingers in midair.
As Elizabeth (the designer), Nai, and I sat at the comfortably cramped window table at a café, my apprehension about the project transformed into unbridled excitement upon hearing Elizabeth’s vision for photographing her saccharine collection of  childhood-inspired tops  – so much so that I went along with Nai’s (ultimately genius) idea of shooting at Coney Island with little protest, despite my personal aversion to beaches and tourist destinations.

At the time of the meeting, most of the details were still up in the air – most importantly, could we find someone in the next 16 hours who was edgy enough, cute enough, and available enough to shoot during Labor Day Weekend? After all, the only qualifications the model needed were to not be a cookie-cutter skinny White blonde (while I can’t honestly say I wasn’t taken aback by this stipulation, I was immediately enthralled – it’s been an ongoing personal mission to choose and work with almost exclusively people of Color from a wide variety of backgrounds).

After a  few urgent Craigslist ads and hurriedly forwarded emails later, we had our girl.

I have encountered few folks with personalities as naturally bubbly and encouraging as Cashay’s; the moment we met, she greeted me with a smile and a compliment, and bypassed my half-baked attempt at a handshake with a big hug. On the train, we bonded over a variety of topics from breakfast to boys, and her infectious excitement at finally visiting Coney Island (and beating her group of friends that planned on taking her the following Monday) left me wondering if we’d be able to pull the “bored model” trope out of such a joyous soul.
My worry was quickly abated, however, when Cashay, an immensely talented aspiring actress, switched seamlessly between her vibrant, bouncy self and an unamused amusement park attendee without missing a beat.  Between giggling with elaborately dressed art viewers, straddling metal lounge seats, and dancing to the afternoon DJ’s musical fancies, Cashay found her light and posed with unaffected grace. 
That was settled, then; the weather, the clothes, the setting, the model, the team rapport – they were all beautiful. It was all up to me: stretching my sea legs, so to speak, was less nerve-wracking than I’d expected it to be. Practice builds confidence, at least, if not perfection. The multitude of art-soaked walls to the right of Coney Island’s entrance provided a perfect series of backdrops for every one of Elizabeth’s cool-girl tanks.
It was a beautiful opportunity to photograph a location as iconic as this without the cliché half-dressed beachgoers, or in-your-face amusement park props. I learned new things, from this experience too, such as the premise of the show Mr. Robot (the two seasons of which I began binge-watching immediately upon getting home), and the fact that you’ve gotta cash out pretty heftily to shoot in fsociety’s seedy arcade headquarters.
Well, c’est comme ça.

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