, DoDo Chuan’s Studio. Dodo Chuan’s studio, housed in a gritty industrial block on the fringes of town, was familiar territory for Dana Lee. Its shabby chic interior was second home for Dana, who had spent many hours of her life doing shoots, and poring over endless images, and having long discussions on art and life, with the incomparably eccentric Dodo, right here in the caverns of the studio. Like a vampire, Dodo never sees daylight. Before Dana had become fashion’s foremost personage, she was already working with Dodo, when Dodo Chuan was but a mere fledgling photographer with one Nikon camera. Their careers’ twin meteoric ascents bonded them like no blood could. Their aesthetics were completely in sync, and where Dana went, Dodo followed, trailing cables, lights, computers, cameras and an endless trail of glossy images that defined an era in fashion.
Entering the anteroom of Dodo’s studio, Dana was struck afresh by the haphazard yet refined décor of the loft-like space. Dominating the foyer was an Ng Eng Teng cast iron sculpture (1981) whose one extremity had become, over the years, an umbrella stand. Suspended from the ceiling was an actual sampan (1890s) converted into a lamp. But what struck a different note today, literarily, was the sound of music. Dodo liked to blast hip hop during his sessions, but today, what rang out mellifluously was a Bach piano solo. Dana Lee stopped in her Pierre Hardy heels, listening to the music being played with virtuosity and feeling, before parting the black drapes and entered the studio.
In a pool of light, a beautiful young man sat playing Bach on a vintage Steinway (1936). His unconventional features were made attractive by his rapt expression as his long fingers flew over the antique ivory keys, holding the entire studio (11 people in all) spellbound. For once, no assistant dashed up to take Dana’s Birkin. Till there was a pause, and Dodo’s firm claps broke the spell.
Then Queenie took Dana’s arm and ushered her onto the set. “Eli Kee, this is Dana Lee, our editor,” gushed Queenie, “Ms Dana, this is Eli Kee the musician we are re-shooting today.”
Eli stood up to, taking Dana’s hand. “I’m honoured, Ms Lee, thank you for taking the trouble…” said Eli in a deep basso, a big man’s sensual voice rumbled from the profound depths of his lean young person.
“No, I’m honoured, lovely live playing. I had no idea, no one told me you’re a classical musician, I – and Bach is my particular favourite too, this piece – ”
“No, no, no,” laughed Eli, his white smile wide as the keyboard, “I’m promoting my jazz album, it’s just that playing Bach really helps me chill – it’s stressful for me to do a photo-shoot you know, not that I’m not grateful to appear in Flair, but to do this twice! – and so many people scrutinising and fussing – and…”
“Right,” boomed Dodo Chuan, from without the circle of light. “Now that Dana has met Eli, can we get this shoot started?”
When Dana was inspired by her subject, her enthusiasm was infectious, and Dodo fed off Dana’s energy. Creativity filled the studio, inspiring everyone: Maybe it was the big man’s voice in the thin man’s body, or the sensitive fingers playing Bach, or Eli’s El Greco face – whatever it was, Dodo’s pictures of Eli turned out stunning that day.