The duo of Joe Espinoza (@joedoeshair) and Roger Lopez (@rogerdidit), partners in a salon inside a gallery in Los Angeles and collaborators on creative projects, crank out photo shoots from within their intimate space that look big budget and long on time. But these two have neither. Calling on a network of friends and fellow creatives, the two find other talented artists who want to get together and see what happens. And as they organize these photo shoots in those stolen moments between back-to-back clients, MODERN was fortunate to spend some time with this power set and find out how they put together eye-popping images, shot on a simple backdrop, within their tiny creative incubator.
“It’s very DIY,” Roger says. “I made the dresses she wore and each look took a lot of time. I also did the makeup and it’s all stage effects, very high-quality.”
“We came together, he had some things, I had some things and together it became an actual thing,” Joe adds.”
CHOOSING A PHOTOGRAPHER
Joe: Our photographer, Jenae Lien (@jenaelien) is someone we met through a friend and we felt so lucky to find her. She is very busy, traveling and working, but we found time to do this shoot before she left town for three months to scout locations.
Roger: The really great thing about her is that she comes into the shoot only to document what is going on which makes it really easy to work with her. She is eager to understand the concept and to catch it through our eyes. She doesn’t have an alternative agenda other than achieving our agenda. She detaches from her esthetic.
Joe: And our pictures pop out of her profile in her book.
Joe: I wanted to do something very simple. I was inspired by who our model is already, in her everyday life, and I just wanted to elevate it. I had to retouch and refresh all the yellow with a great Schwarzkopf Professional yellow. The best situation is not to do the color on the day of the shoot, obviously, or you will lose your mind.
Roger: We each wanted to have our own look. Joe’s went from Stepford Wife to Riot Girl, from concept to creation. I opened my bag of tricks and said, let’s rope her braids with black, which meant she couldn’t be Stepford, anymore. It took it to a whole new place. We ended up with a North Korean flight attendant.
Joe: The idea I came in with was a neon, 1950s housewife, and I knew I wanted to do a Victory Roll and then elevate that a bit. I wanted it to be masculine, actually, but with feminine touches. I wanted a powerful girl. Then Roger kept saying, big hair, big hair, more extensions, and I honestly didn’t know exactly where we were going.
The whole yellow haircolor came from a yellow in Schwarzkopf’s Essential Looks. I wanted to have my own Essential Looks moment. That needed to happen.
Roger: There was an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race that had a Lady Gaga wearing a yellow wig that she called, ‘Urine Yellow.’ That urine yellow has been on my mind ever since and if you go back to older wig catalogues, you will see this particular color described that way—not canary yellow but urine yellow. We tapped into a synthetic world.
Joe: Our call time was 10am and we were done at 6:30.
We knew we had clients first thing in the morning the next day, so we are picking everything up and trying to keep the space neat as we went along.
WHAT MIGHT YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
Joe: We might have hired an assistant. We might have used more extensions. We could have stuck to a stricter schedule.
Roger: Our concepts can warp really quickly. If the photographer was able to stay, we would have done a fourth look.
Roger: Working together like this, we edify each other.
Joe: Even though it’s so exhausting, I wish we could do a shoot every day.