I met this burst of life and light in my hometown of Stamford, CT. Kayla is a few years younger than me, but we went to the same high school (Stamford High School) and with her huge participation in drama (lead in "Cat in the Hat" her senior year) and my participation in music, our paths would inevitably cross through many many mutual creative and artistic friends.
In 2009 I started building a photography portfolio and would photograph a lot of friends for fun. Over time Kayla and I kept hunting and urging one another that we should shoot together. Eventually it came to pass in 2010 and we photographed a few fun looks in what we would jokingly call "Kayla Day." (See: Kayla Pavia: Part I). There was a more elaborate idea behind Kayla Day. It was supposed to be a "day in the life" kind of project. We talked about taking the train together into New York and having me follow her to a few auditions and capturing her life as a budding actress and comedian. Life and schedules get busy and we weren't able to complete the full vision of the project, but we were happy with being able to work together.
On that day in 2010, Kayla and I had a heart to heart, one that is common in our conversations, basically about breaking out, and breaking away from our hometown. If you ever meet, Kayla, you learn within the first few moments that she really has a tremendous energy, again it's a burst of life and light. After acting and studying in NYC at the Upright Citizen's Brigade for a few years, she decided it was time to chase her dreams on the west coast. She would move to California in 2011 and I was beyond thrilled for her.
Fast forward two years to the Fall of 2013. I would finally make the move to the west coast and land in Los Angeles. I was looking forward to reconnecting with Kayla. I surprised her while she was working at the Apple Store at the Beverly Center. She knew I had officially moved to town via Facebook, but we hadn't formally been in touch to meet up. She was excited to see me claiming it to be like "a little piece of home."
Naturally, being in the same town, we would keep in touch, and the creative collaboration conversations commenced. "We need to shoot again..." "Hey we should do Kayla Day part 2! Yes!" Again, life...and especially the rhythm of LA...it took a little while to finally link our schedules and by May of 2015, we finally met up for a day of fun shooting. We floated around a few different ideas, and this day started with the idea of going to Malibu, but along the way we decided that Santa Monica would be a better fit with more options/variety of backdrops for the day.
Our aim or goal for a day like this is first to have fun. I always appreciate Kayla's willingness to readiness to shoot photos. She loves it. I'm usually the grumpy one worried about my time or budget, but shooting with Kayla is a very very freeing exercise. Her energy is tremendous and she's always looking for the next image or opportunity. And she's having a blast the whole time.
A secondary goal to a day like this would be give Kayla a few shots for her library/portfolio. Kayla is an actress and stand-up comic she never knows when she may need an image for some promotional material. If my image ends up on a poster or ad sometime, that's a win-win.
Kayla is Superwoman. I'm convinced. We arrived in Santa Monica, and Kayla pulled her two huge duffle bags out of my trunk and toted them around. Inside were about 5-6 changes of closes, hats, shoes, you name it. By the way, she did her own makeup in the car. She is always hustling, but kept enough energy in the tank to pose, laugh, smile and more. Superwoman.
Enough talk. I'll share the images. All I'll say is that compared to five years ago (at my dad's garage in Stamford, CT) We upped the ante tremendously. More locations, more time to work, more images. I was so happy with these shots and really glad we got a second day of shooting done.
We started out at...
An alley in Santa Monica
Cue Natasha Beddingfield's "Unwritten":
No one can ever tell Kayla she's not cute...
Kayla Pavia: always thinking on her feet...
I sincerely hope she lands a comedy special someday with a theme about taking on Los Angeles and uses these images...
Pier + beachside
Naturally we worked our way down to the Santa Monica Pier and Kayla had a bit of a Baywatch feel going here:
I enjoy working with Kayla because...
We understand and recognize that we bring opposing energies to our shoots but we respect that, and it gives us a variety of images in the end. She knows I want to bring a serious and at times sombre energy to the moment and it will create images like the one above or this one below (that I'm very fond of):
but for every image like the one above, Kayla will break out her side of things: a fun, bright, vibrant, explosive energy and we'll get moments like this:
That change of mood literally happened within 30 seconds.
Afterward it was time to head down to the water with coffee in hand...
Santa Monica in May...was the water hot or cold? I'll give you two guesses but you'll only need one...
God bless her hats. Bringing so much variety to the shoot:
Again, she's a comedian. Why wouldn't she have a big t-shirt with a delicious hamburger printed on it? We would actually stop for lunch and eat at Pier Burger. It's just a notch above In-N-Out Burger in my opinion (Pier Burger has better fries). But this is where Kayla starts to show she's a real pro. She is able to interact with any object or prop (even if it's a greasy hamburger and a milkshake) on a moment's notice, like any actor/actress worth their salt. Woman of a thousand faces:
pier fun and games
Afterward we would wander the Pier and just look for any opportunity for a fun image. We actually did ride the roller coaster that day, a first for both of us:
We made our way inside the arcade and for some reason (I still don't understand why) I discovered my favorite Kayla face. It was "exasperated liberated angst." I genuinely could not stop laughing whenever she pretended to scream at the sky during Whack-a-Mole...
...or if she screamed while fired an imaginary magazine into the air...
When Zoltar gives you the forture you wanted...
back to the streets
After all the fun at the Pier, we headed back up towards Ocean Ave. and Kayla changed outfits. There's actually a funny picture of her mid-change that she wanted me to capture . It's really good, but a bit too blurry to share (or I'm just being a PG rated prude right now).
We again, just wandered looking for some opportunities, and one came on a set of steps just off of Ocean Ave:
There was something about that image above that froze and captured me. I hopped around in excitement after I captured it. It took me a while to figure out what "it" was. Kayla's eyes. To be honest, I didn't arrive at that conclusion on my own.
I reached out to my friend from New York: mom, fashion blogger, Nikki Frangakis. I had met and worked with Nikki many times while living on the east coast starting in 2009. I included a link to one of our shoots below so you can match a face with a name. I emailed Nikki and sent her the shot above and the one below basically saying, "am I crazy? Or is there something special about these images?" Her response:
She's definitely beautiful and has an intense stare with a lot behind the eyes!!! Beautiful pics :) I especially love the first one.
is she an actress? She should be!!!
Boom. She nailed it. Having never met Nikki, she correctly guessed that she was an actress, and identified the "thing" as being Kayla's eyes. Her stare. I agree. There's something behind Kayla's eyes that's full of life and she effortlessly focuses leaving you in wonderment.
I was loving the moment and the location, so Kayla kept working:
Remember what I said earlier about Kayla and I have opposing energies? Well, shortly after all her dreamy gazing images, she broke out into this:
But then was able to snap right back into this:
Man, she's good.
I need to talk for a second about how this following image is magic...
I love when moments like this happen: this image was taken on the streets of Santa Monica at 4:40PM on a Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday's are not the busiest day of week, but it's still Santa Monica, California at the tip of rush hour. There's no explanation other than God and magic (not even Photoshop) that absolutely no one else is on the street in this shot, not a single other pedestrian, and that ALL the traffic lights (all 5 of them) in the photo are green. I love the magic and positive vibes of this shot:
On to a little alley and alcove:
Top five favorite shot of the day...
I really like this one as well. I think she did "that thing" with her eyes again. Starting into the distance with an entire universe of thought behind her eyes:
Sticking with the theme that Kayla can take anything and work with it, she happily jumped on this pay phone and delivered faces number 1001-1007:
reading is fundamental
Our final stop of the day included a final wardrobe change and a stop inside of a local Barnes and Noble. Kayla would improvise yet again with a few good Lego pieces that were sitting out for "children to play with."
I think some kids actually were playing nearby which triggered or expression in the photo on the right:
Death by Legos...
If you head over to Kayla's Instagram, you'll find that moment like the following are a regular occurrence. She does hilarious things with dolls and stuffed animals all the time...
Even if you don't understand *Star Wars Themed 1st Grade Math....I still believe in you. Thanks for this really fun day, and for giving me a chance to exercise and stretch my creative muscles. I had a blast just trying to keep up.
Well, actually, this last image kind says it all:
You are kind of awesome, Kayla.
[*Disclaimer: Star Wars/Darth Vader are the property of the Walt Disney Company. I am not using these image in an attempt to solicit a profit through the use of Star Wars imagery. In short, if Disney has an issue with this, I will gladly take down/delete the images.
I'm Kind of Awesome is an inner truth journal published by Knock Knock books and can be found here on Amazon: I'm Kind of Awesome]