The day wraps after eleven hours of wardrobe shifts, hair cuts, styling, and over 5 locations. Our “look” team consisted of two amazing wardrobe stylists Julissa Cisneros and her assistant Kirstin Gellatly, Legend Rivera Jr. on hair and make-up, and Noa Sade, who generously donated her beautiful hand crafted jewlery from her line Lionette. This would be the now fourth time I have shot with my friend and the amazing Photographer Michael Dos Santos, and second time for The Rouge Royale (with photo-assistants Luciano Frietas and Abigail Fugua who were responsible for making sure everything went smoothly so that Dos Santos could work his craft with excellency). The team of guys from The Rouge Royale came together and unified with power and confidence. I have to say that everyone looked dapper, and exuded the shine of (if I do say so myself) stars.

We started the day with indoor shots at Dos Santos’ “Versatile Studios” where I with my fanatic love for beautiful clothing, (similar to my love for exquisite chocolate) fell immediately in rapture with Julissa’s wardrobe choices. The guys and I spent many hours researching, brainstorming, and finally deciding on how we felt our music and image should fuse into one, which we then carefully crafted into a very specific mood board. (For those of you who have never heard of a mood board, it is a tool which professionals use in order to create a target for an idea. In this case a series of images conveying style, period, and feeling of what we wanted our photos to represent). Julissa with her artistic eye took our ideas and amplified them in ways I had not expected. Pleasantly surprised I was and am.

Each location and each concept flew like a bird with the wind at her tail, simply and easily dancing with grace. Dos Santo’s has an amazing eye for a photograph. But, I’d also like to note that his ability to reign in the circus and make sure the show keeps a movin’ was a fantastic experience to watch and be part of. He and I spent many hours speaking and exchanging correspondence while we tirelessly worked out the details prior to the shoot. Good job “El Capatan”. I’ve never co-produced a large event, such as this, with such ease.

One of my favorite moments of the day was when we arrived at our purchased location (we rented out GildHall of Thompson Hotel’s) downstairs lounge and lobby. Each guy from The Rouge Royale was dressed to the 9’s (and I’m talking sheik). Each guy was in full blazing glory of his individual style and personality (look out ladies and gents). Dos Santo’s was outside the hotel shooting us through a window as we all acted a fool in our own individual ways. Cast upon antiqued leather booths, with books from O. Henry and a soft afternoon light, I thought to read a few pages from what seemed ancient manuscripts. I flipped my thumb through pages of “Roads of Destiny” (quite fitting if I do say so myself) while Jaxon and Tony persisted to wield other volumes of late Henry’s works as make shift weapons at one another while in their constant play of “beef this and beef that”. (Inside joke, maybe one day we’ll elaborate). Tim read the daily news paper upside down with his black bowler cap placed dead center upon his long hair, all the while considering to light a cigarette. An act which would have defiantly broken the rules of the hotel and quickly amplified our already raucous mood… We are four unique personalities to say the least… in many ways I see us like four creatures from “Where the Wild Things Are” and I’m really not sure which one of us would be Max. (I’m reveling right now at the memories of such childlike play with my great friends and band mates…)

We then played a game of chess on a gorgeous antiqued and hand made set. Each piece was personally carved and the board it’s self was engraved with artistic brilliance. (I think I need to find the craftsmen that perfected this set and get myself my very own for home). I started the game in a rush against Jaxon as I knew we had deadlines to meet with the shoot in progress and then handed the board over to Tim to see what he could do against Jaxon’s wit. Poor Jaxon had to play with a visual handicap as the stylists decided to replace his actual glasses with the glasses they saw fitting the look: rendering our bass champion damn near blind. These were the glorious circumstance that Tim and I used to our advantage while Jax was lost in his very own “Fog of War”. Tony of course sat patiently and playfully watching as the battle raged on. It was a good game, but we had to call it quits before the final axe was dropped and the winner emerged.

We then moved upstairs to the party lounge where we were joined by stunning ladies and a party instilled. (Wait till you see the shots…)

Our crew moved to the Meat Packing District of NYC after several more shoots at GildHall and we walked the cobble stone streets while Dos’ kept his camera firing (like the sniper he is). I’m excited to view, what I anticipate to be, a collection of home-run shots. It felt awesome to walk this area of our hometown, the same town that the giant Mr. Babe Ruth came from, the same town that Bob Dylan meandered about all the while writing his genius, the same town that is commonly known as the city of our world, Manhattan. I am reminded that this is where I gained my stage legs, amongst the vagrants and the disillusioned, the hope driven and the broken, the stars and the homeless. This city will chew you up, spit you and stomp on you if you’re not always up and aware on your twinkling little toes. The same city that Jay-Z wrote “An Empire State of Mind” about, which swept and dominated every gad damn taxi-cab, bar and lounge in our fine home for what seemed like an eternity. This is the city for the strong. This is the city where if you don’t play hard you will be sent home. My mother told me “Friends are the family you choose.” And here I am, there I was, yesterday with my shining team of extra-ordinary individuals walking the streets with our cast of fantastic professionals following and guiding, making each player look fantastic and capturing every moment with lens and block box in hand: as we casually did what we do. Tony Rouhotas, Jaxon Dillon-Fish, Tim Sharp, and myself James Ruff (the four members of The Rouge Royale) our great friend Mark De’ Olivera and our fantastic manager Alterik Dewayne Willburn (one of my oldest and most devoted friends) walked into the sunlight, photos burning with the flare of the sun, and perhaps… just perhaps… each image will sparkle from the radiating sheen of luminance flowing from each member’s eyes of my favorite tribe, my chosen family.

None of this would be possible without the unshaken and deeply rooted support system of our fans, friends and donors. We are undoubtedly and graciously yours.

One more notch on the hand crafted belt of The Rouge Royale.