Monday, June 9, 2008

Black To Basics

A few years ago, a highly controversial movie titled "Eyes Wide Shut" was released to the public. The movie was co-written, directed and produced by Stanly Kubrick and starred the then couple, Tom Cruise and Nichole Kidman in a matrimonial role. Although the couple shared twin billing of the lead, the focus of the movie was centered around Tom's character, Dr. William "Bill" Harford over Nichole's character, Alice Harford. In the movie, Bill's wife Alice admits to her husband that she nearly had an affair with a Naval officer while the couple was vacationing. This sets off a series of events where Bill roams the night, constantly dealing with the mental anguish of this revelation, all the while fighting the temptations that push him into almost having an affair himself. One of the places that the night took him was to a jazz club where his friend was working as the piano player. While on a break, Bill's friend reveals to him a side job that he had accepted where he would play the organ during an event hosted by some members of the upper echelon of society. The musician persuades Bill to accompany him to the party later that night and even finds a way for him to sneak in and blend with all the guests.

As it turns out, the event was held in a very large mansion just outside of New York City. It was a very formal event and every person (that had clothes on) was dressed formally sharing the common uniform of a cape and Venetian-esque carnival mask. The sights and sounds of that event were quite unlike anything that would ever be seen on a daily basis and reveries of all manner were performed for everyone else to see. Through all the affluence and decorousness there was a raw and uncut primal atmosphere, and though Bill was dressed and looked like everyone else, he still appeared very much like an outsider that had somehow infiltrated their ranks.

Life, for me, imitated art last Saturday night.

My friend Caleb approached me that afternoon and asked if I wanted to accompany him to a photography shoot he was doing that night. The job was to go to this event and shoot pictures for about six hours, and he offered to take me along as his "assistant." I could even bring my camera and shoot pictures if I wanted to. He said it was a formal event and that it was going to be held at McCormic Place. So, I packed all my camera gear and made sure to dress to impress. He picked me up and we arrived at McCormic at around 5:30PM. The event was called Black To Basics and as it turned out, the event was organized by the Chicago chapter of the Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids (DIFFA), and this was their annual fundraising gala. DIFFA is a non-profit organization that is involved in fundraising and the sequential distribution of the fund to various HIV/AIDS agencies that are involved in things like AIDS research, prevention and education. Coincidentally, it was their twentieth gala. Some of the top designers in the city were present that night including some executive heads whose companies happen to be sponsoring the gala and the foundation.

The entire place was decorated to the highest standards. The guests that came early were ushered to an upper floor balcony for cocktails and drinks. After a certain time, the guests were then ushered to the main hall which was actually split into two because of a curtain. The first room contained another social area. Here, the guests could participate in a very expensive silent auction as well as treat themselves to the open bar. Along one wall was the display table for the auction while the bar was placed in the center of the room. The whole hall was basically blacked out with lights at strategic points. Along with lighting the auction table, there were large, cubic lights that filled the four corners of the bar counter. Each corner had a lone dancer, silently moving his or her (mostly his) body to the music pouring out of the loudspeakers. After a certain time, the curtain separating the room was pulled aside, opening up the main stage and the dining area. Dinner was already set and waiting on the tables, and while they ate, the guests could listen to the various speeches and watch the dance shows that were done on the main stage. Later on, there would be a live auction complete with a fast talking auctioneer. The night ended with dancing and another round of open bar.

My friend's job that night was to take a pictures of the centerpieces and the decorated room. He was also given a list of certain points of the night that needed to be captured. Since I was a guest of my friend, I decided to help him out by taking pictures that night. It wasn't going to be easy because the lighting was extremely dim, and as the night wore on, spotlights became the preferential source of illumination. I took some room shots with his camera, but once those were done, I decided to work the room and take some candids. I also took pictures of the things that were happening on stage and the random groups of people who would tap me on the shoulder to ask me to take pictures of them. By the end of it all, I was hot, sticky and nursing a pressure headache with no dinner in my belly except for a couple of cupcakes I took from the dessert table.

Needless to say, it was an amazing night. My friend commented me during the gala that he loves doing these things because it always attracts beautiful people.

He was right.

It might have been the dim light or the haze produced by the fog machine, but everywhere you would look and everyone that would pass you by looked very good. Not only that, but everyone there seemed to have this aura of class and tres chic to them while the room itself was permeated by the aroma of big money. It was like living a few hours on the set of Sex and the City.

Then again, I probably shouldn't have expected less from an event hosted by the design industry.

This is really the first gala that I have attended. My parents have been to a few, but you cannot really know what it is like until you actually attend one yourself. But even though I was pretty much working the night, and technically I was a crasher, I still had a pretty good experience on what it's like to live that life.

Anyways, here are a few pictures.

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The last line of the formal web announcement to the event asked the question, "Who do you know to get in?" Well, I knew one of the photographers so big thanks to Caleb for letting me tag along.

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A few more pictures can be found by clicking here

DIFFA Chicago website

2 comments:

karen said...

btw, McCormick is spelled with a 'k' at the end and your blogs are superduper long man. matthew complains about mine, he apparently doesn't read all of your entries either...maybe someday i'll read a full entry. i kinda just skimmed. good stuff though

Laurence Asuncion said...

What the?! You actually read my blog?!