There are the kind of situations in life that are mere run ins with phony's and alternatively there are scenarios that are so wild and out of your realm of imagination and understanding that you can't help but believe, even if you're the biggest non-believer, that there are powers from another universe responsible.
I received an email from Shivani about a month ago requesting photographs in Niagara last week. Her and her boyfriend/fiance were coming from Dubai and wanted pre-engagement photos done in the Niagara on the lake area. (Thank you Google!) This was the first time I had actually photographed in front of Niagara Falls. It's funny how when you live here, you take things for granted. I mean, I know the first thing I would be photographing in Dubai would be a camel in the desert. But when such a concept is no longer exotic, you search elsewhere in the world for inspiration.
It was so hard to believe they were a mere 21 years old. The two of them were almost half our age and more cultured, well versed and mature than most anyone I know, never mind of that age. Most importantly, you could tell they were head over heels, madly in love. The kind of love that seems like a rarity these days. They were equal parts glamorous and innocent. And so despite not knowing each other, or really understanding how each other's culture really lived, we did our thing. We photographed them, we laughed, we asked questions and we paid attention. When I arrived home after receiving a lovely email of gratitude, they asked if we would like to come to their next destinations to photograph them. I thought she was joking. Turns out she wasn't. Lucky me. Lucky us.
She cancelled the photographers from Chicago and NYC and in a whirlwind evening after a Niagara shoot, we somehow were booked and ready to fly out in 3 hours from the JFK airport. You've never seen two people pack and drive so fast in your life!
I would be lying if I told you I wasn't nervous about the whole situation. I mean, it was so bizarre, impromptu (and can I mention generous!) And I've been putting it in the universe for so long that I have wanted to shoot in New York City. But here were two strangers, from another part of the world, offering us everything we have wanted and this cynical world made us doubt what their intentions were. Sad, really.
The sun was setting in the eastern part of their world and rising in our western atmosphere. We were getting by on no sleep and the rush of blood to the head reminded me that we were alive and enjoying the adrenaline. We checked into our hotel and by 9 am that morning were out exploring the neighbourhoods of Greenwich Village and Soho. We dined like rock stars without a care in the world. We equal parts navigated and wandered. We scoped for locations for our shoot the next day. Our beautiful couple would arrive to New York from Chicago a few hours before we were to meet up. She had arranged hair and makeup to the hotel and when we met again in their hotel lobby, it was as if it was always supposed to be this way. You know, destiny, and all that jazz.
We started our shoot in Times Square. It was as crazy as it looks and my mind was racing and eyes overstimulated with all that surrounded me, trying to capture the best possible moments. It's almost impossible to even think straight, nevermind set up shots. New York just sort of took over as our main shooter. And I was more than honoured to be it's backup second shooter. We made private arrangements at a beautiful rooftop patio called Refinery Hotel. We dined, shot photos and I had to laugh that we ordered middle eastern food and they ordered french fries and ketchup. The ways of the world, eh? We then headed off to Central Park where there were an abundance of festivals, lovers and photographers. It was as if everyone was in their own world. And I know for sure Deepesh and Shivani were. We ended up by the water in Central Park and much to our dismay, the private boats were closed two hours prior. It was nothing a little smile and charm couldn't change, and before we knew it, the two of them were having a romantic moment in a canoe. And we were there documenting every minute.
I would later learn that Shivani and Deepesh were in Chicago and got a famous blessing. I asked them questions as I always do about the way they live, the things they believe, the world that they know. And I was surprised at how alike we all were. This wasn't the first time in New York I discovered this. I spent all our cab rides questioning where the drivers were from, how they liked their city and where they were when 9/11 went down. The answers astounded me. Even though they were targeted with racial profiling after 2001, they still loved their city. They still loved being American. They were proud to be Muslim. Because they said, the true Muslim religion is peaceful and kind. They love their families. They have laughs with their friends. They get excited when they see Indian celebrities. They enroll their kids in sports. They hurt. They love.
I mean really, don't we all?
Towards the end of our evening, Deepesh was surprised to hear that we had never shot in NYC, considering how much we loved it. I said that it was something I had recently put out in the universe.
It's your destiny, he said and smiled. And I couldn't help but silently agree that it was also destiny that the four of us meet.
"That person who enters your life out of nowhere and suddenly means the world to you."
It just so happened to be Father's Day and we finished off our shoot by meeting Shivani's family and got the warmest hug from a quite astounding man. Her father promised to see us again in Dubai and this time, I have no doubts. I have no doubt that sometimes, people are who they say they are. They do what they say they will and don't make empty promises. They aren't phony, they aren't fake and they aren't out to get you. Sometimes, in the middle of the universe, four strangers from alternate ends of the world meet in the Big Apple to take some pictures, make some memories and change each other's lives.
It's destiny, darling.
p.s. we put together a little video of our whirlwind day in NYC. You can find that here.
p.s.s. stay tuned for this gorgeous couple's Niagara shoot!