Tag Archives: Madonna

Searching for Beauty and Meaning in Tamar Braxton’s “Love and War” Music Video





Director Walid Azami Sought Unique Ways to Portray the Pop Star

Viewers of Tamar Braxton’s “Love and War” music video may not soak in the significance of the stained glass window she’s facing while perched on the edge of a bathtub in the opening scene.

“You listen to her interviews and you hear how she’s relied on God. She’s in a cramped space and it’s dark and I wanted an element of God in the room, of lightness and good,” said Walid Azami, the director of the video that was nominated for a 2013 Soul Train “Video of the Year” award.

The details that can go unnoticed, coupled with the imagery and style Walid used, elevate the video from what could have been the retelling of a reality show to a timeless creation.

Walid told me during an interview that the project was like caring for someone’s newborn baby, and he knew how important the project was to her career. The song “Love and War” focuses on the challenging reality of relationships and Walid said he wanted to change the tone from how viewers may associate her with the reality show Braxton Family Values.

I also dug into his career that began about five years ago while working with Madonna.

How did working for Madonna lay a career foundation for you as a photographer?

She does so much to learn so much. I sat there and I watched. I watched her work with thesephotographers and directors and I thought, ‘I won’t get this chance to be a fly on the wall like this, anywhere but here.’

She was doing children’s books, and sitcoms, and a world tour. I was there for 1 ½ to 2 years and she has her hands in so many different pots you can’t help but learn. I felt like I came out with a college degree in marketing and music videos and imagery. She does more than any other pop star, really.

For Tamar’s video, how did you decide on your approach?

Her character [on the reality show] is so amped up, I wanted people to see how beautiful she is. I wanted to tone her down. The hard decision in that was initially there weren’t the kindest reviews from her fans. They wanted a lot more war. They wanted doors slamming and things breaking and I wasn’t going to give them that.

I promised her she was going to have a classic video that would never expire.

The song is so descriptive and it is about love and war and I thought, let’s not the let the video become so literal.

Now she’s in her third and fourth video, I think you can see the plan work out.

Did you feel a lot of pressure?

A ton of pressure. I’m not going to lie. She’s following in Toni Braxton’s footsteps and we didn’t want a Toni Braxton video. At the time, she was several months pregnant and she hadn’t told me but I knew. So that was the hard thing, trying to think of the different angles. There were things I changed on set. I didn’t want her knowing that I know because I was afraid she would be self-conscious and she would be showing.

That was a huge challenge the day of. They can have their private moment but I still need to make her look incredible for this video.

Did the silhouettes play into it? The video and clothing seemed to flow.

The flowing, the dress, it was a sweater I think, I intentionally leaned on that for that reason. The silhouette was part of the symbolism throughout the video.

Why the black and white and why not intersperse with color?

I thought it would have been tacky for that song. I had just gotten back to the States from a trip and I got a call from Vincent her husband and said, ‘Hey, Tamar wants to talk to you.’ We had a few creative points back and forth and she said I want to do this in black and white. I think I even told her God bless you.

It was inspired by Herb Ritts for Chris Isaack’s video “Wicked Game.” It was very classic and he directed a video from Madonna’s “Cherish.” We actually filmed on the exact same patch of beach.

I saw a picture of Herb Ritts and he posed on the same little rock that I did with Tamar. He’s one of the photographers I look up to so I found that cool.

What about the symbolism in the video?

I use a lot of silhouettes because I wanted to highlight the war part without a lot of fighting. I show the darkness, the arguing moments, in silhouettes.

The first part of the video started with her looking at the ocean, she’s on the sand. I really wanted to use water because I think it’s cleansing. I think in any relationship, in any situation, you have to take a look at yourself, too.

I wanted her to see a reflection of herself, look at that, in a cleansing back-to-something-new sort of way. That’s why we started that way.

It shows your commitment to the project.

Always. I was talking to my assistant and I said, any artist, they sacrifice so much and it’s like literally holding someone’s newborn baby and they say, ‘here you go. I did everything I cold with this and I need you to take care of it.’ 

If you don’t give 100 percent then I think you’re failing.

You have to commit because you’re holding someone’s dream in your hands.

To view Walid’s work, click on his website WalidAzami.com 

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OK Can we all just agree there isn’t and never will be another Michael Jackson and another Madonna? Stop calling yourselves THE NEXT _____________. It’s over, it’s done, there’s nothing more to see. Instead be the first YOU.

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Even Madonna Failed.

You cannot. You should not. You probably will not make it. You’re not ______ (insert another race). You are not rich. You are not connected. Be reasonable. Be logical. What are the odds? Do something else. Why can’t you just be a _________?

You’ve heard it all. I’ve heard it all. And it does not matter if you want to dance, photograph, teach, or sing. If you want, you can. If you work hard enough, you will get results.

There are reports Michael Jordan did not make his high school basketball team. Cindy Crawford heard she’d never make it with her mole. Madonna was rejected by a small record label, months before a major signed her and she became the highest selling female recording artist of all time, according to Guinness Book of World Records. In 2008, Billboard ranked her #2, only behind The Beatles, as the most successful recording artist of all time.

Here is a found copy of Madonna’s rejection letter. Remember this the next time someone puts you down or your doubt yourself.

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She’s 51?!
I guess she gives us a reason not to fear age and hard work and no excuse to give up on fitness or loving what we do. So for that, thank you Madonna. She turned 51 today. Happy Birthday Madonna!

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Mario Testino on Madonna’s RAY OF LIGHT cover

Madonna, Photographed by Mario Testino

Madonna, Photographed by Mario Testino

Famed photographer Mario Testino got physical to create the iconic image of Madonna on her Ray Of Light record cover – he kicked her into position.

The celebrity snapper worked with the Material Girl star to come up with an image for her now famous 1998 album cover sleeve.

But the photo shoot wasn’t an easy one – with Testino having to physically tackle the notoriously tough singer to convince her to keep posing.

He says, ‘At 2pm she (Madonna) said, ‘OK, I’m tired. We’re done.’ And I said, ‘But I don’t have the pictures yet.’ She said, ‘You’re working for me and I say we’re done.’ I said, ‘No, we carry on.’

‘The picture she used on the cover came after that. She didn’t intimidate me, you see. I thought, I have to push my luck here, so I started kicking her like this, with my foot. She was like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ And I was, like, move here, move here,’ and suddenly this created an intimacy. When these people come across someone who treats them as an equal, it puts them at ease.’

I’ve always thought that and from personal experience it’s the best way to work with someone! It’s scary standing up to a celebrity/high-profile client and standing up for what you believe in, but it’s worth it and they will respect you more…IF you do it respectfully. If they cannot respect someone standing up for what is right, what they believe in, or for getting the perfect image then you are better off ending the shoot and not working with them. Trrrrrrrrust me.

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Every moment is a great picture (updated)

The picture of the model AJ below shows that any moment can be a great picture. I always tell models that any moment can make THE SHOT. If you are standing in the right lighting and there is a camera in my hand, you can maximize every moment. 

I forgot to mention earlier that a great video is actually Madonna’s “Give it 2 me” video with Pharrell Williams. I believe it was shot on super 8 film and a large chunk of it is behind the scenes of a photo shoot. Take a moment to view and see how Madonna uses every opportunity to connect with the camera. She pulls her hair back, she does it sexy and for the camera. She looks at herself in the mirror? She knows she’s on camera and spaces herself far enough for both images to appear and keeps the character going. Is she stretching? You better bet she’s thinking of stretching in a sexy way. This is what the pros do. They just know how to turn it on in front of the camera and give the photographer what they need. Usher masters this also. See the video below.


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