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August 29 2014

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Self-Portrait of an Artist

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Makeup artist Nick Barose is clear on one thing: He is not quitting his day job. Barose is the man behind the maquillage for celebrities such as Lupita Nyong’o and Kate Mara, but like many other face painters—Serge Lutens, Tyen, François Nars, and Kevyn Aucoin (whom he assisted)—taking photos, and sometimes starring in them, is how he makes his dreams a reality. “It gets frustrating when you have a vision in your head and you can’t bring [it] to life because nobody would shoot it, or it ends up being their vision,” Barose explained. In order to assume creative control, he took the lessons he learned at the International Center of Photography—and from working on the sets of Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, and Patrick Demarchelier—eliminated the flaky models, and created a series of self-portraits in which he explores his Asian roots. “My grandfather was a well-known classical Thai dancer for King Rama VI and had his own troop,” he said. To make these exotic looks appear more authentic, he explored traditional methods of makeup application—opting for fingers and sticks over a bevvy of brushes. Here, the behind-the-scenes mainstay talks us through his time spent in front of the lens:

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“I was inspired by the iconic image Monsoon Girl by photographer Brian Brake. I re-created it by using cream bronzer to make my skin more coppery—outdoorsy, like the kind of guy that’s out farming all day, every day—and a little bit of black kohl liner to make my eyes more exotic. The fake raindrops were created with a garden hose, and the bananas came from my parents’ backyard in Thailand.”

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“I enjoy looking at photographs of sadhus [holy men] in India. They use only a few colors to paint their faces and all are from nature, like yellow, red, black, brown, and white—which usually come from cow dung and mud. I only used the palms of my hands, fingertips, and a few sticks to create this organic, earthy look.”

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“Inspired by Red Boy by Steve McCurry—a photo of a boy at the Holi festival in India that appeared in National Geographic—I used my grandmother’s vintage teacup as a prop, as well as my dad’s ruby rings. The red face paint was actually MAC blush in Frankly Scarlet.”

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“This is Princess Rojana and Prince Sung Thong from iconic Thai [folklore]. In this story, the prince has a beautiful golden body inside, but only a person worthy enough would see his true form—an ugly version is on display for everyone else. I interpreted this with gold face paint and the mask on top. Princess Rojana sees the prince’s true [self], so she threw a garland at him and chose Sung Thong as her husband. I had to drape that costume a certain way so that it would cover my bicep and make my arm appear more feminine!”

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“I love looking at my grandparents’ vintage portraits. They got all dressed up and posed properly—sometimes with props like flowers, a fan, etc. For this portrait, I painted a unibrow, like in an old Indian painting. I lit it very specifically so the sparks in my eyes mimic the sparks in the earring.”

Photos: Nick Barose

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