Category Archives: Interviews

Q&A with Borrowed & Blue

08 | 14 | 2016

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Gia Canali Photography recently teamed up with Borrowed and Blue, a locally-focused online wedding resource, to give couples everything they need to know about our photography services.

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Here’s our Q&A with Borrowed & Blue:

How did you first get into photography?

My mother and grandmother both loved photography.  There are all these amazing photographs of my siblings and cousins on every sort of occasion–first days of school, holidays, family get-togethers, summer afternoons at the pool or the lake … pretty much any excuse to line us up and make a picture.  

When I competed in the National Spelling Bee in eighth grade, my mom and I went together and she bought me my first 35mm camera and a bunch of film.  It was the first time I was responsible for making my own photographs and it was a blast!  I kept that camera and photographed everything that happened in high school — track and cross country meets and trips, prom, everything.  I think that kind of thing is common nowadays since everybody has a phone, but I was rare among my peers to be carrying around a camera all the time.

When I was 19, I decided to buy my first real SLR film camera because I loved making photographs so much, and I started making portraits of people and then I wanted to make more … and more.  My mother and grandmother’s love of photography and their deep and abiding value for making and having tangible photographs made such an impact on me.

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What wedding photo sums up your aesthetic?

I love the tenderness here! I made this photograph of my friend Sara’s high school friends high above Canandaigua Lake in Upstate New York.  It shows off everything I love about photographing weddings — the sweep-me-up tenderness, the being enthralled — and everything I remember about the falls on the lake — the color of the leaves, the warmth of the late afternoon light, the beautiful shape of the hills and water.

There’s this great thing that a really good photograph can do: render what a moment felt like, not merely what it looked like.  And this one does that for me.

jewish ceremony under lucite chuppah adorned with hanging wister

What is your favorite moment to photograph at a wedding?

I love the ceremony. And I particularly love those exhilarated moments, just after the ceremony.

The father-daughter dance can still bring me to tears.

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What are the three top places you love to photograph?

Every single place has its own particular light.  In California, we have a stunning golden hour.  In New Mexico, it’s the skies.  Scotland has this pale light I’ve seen nowhere else.  In Anguilla, there’s a pink light I am always surprised by.  France has never-ending afternoons in the summer — really! The sun doesn’t set until 10:30 at night!

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What is the first thing you ask couples when they approach you?

When couples approach me, I ask questions about what they’re planning for their wedding and how they made those choices, but I’m really getting a sense of their expectations — what they’re hoping their wedding day will feel like and what they’re imagining the photographs (or the getting-photographed) will feel like–what’s really important to them.  That gives me a good sense of what they really need to meet their expectations and how we can all work best together.

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What’s the biggest mistake the couples make when choosing their photographer?

Budget is a concern for everybody, of course, but couples can really get derailed trying to make a quantitative decision on commissioning photography — how many photographs they “get” in an album or the price of a package regardless of what’s included — rather than a qualitative one.  The value is key.

If you want to get what you expect, putting your dollars toward commissioning a photographer with a depth and breadth of experience and a treasure trove of work you love will go much further.  Experience means when the day gets tricky, as it certainly will, your photographer will know how to make wise clutch calls. Experience means knowing how to carefully balance all the sometimes-conflicting demands and expectations put upon the wedding and wedding photographs–and even the couple–and prioritize what’s really essential. And what’s really essentially is that the couple has great memories of their wedding day.  The photographs will naturally follow, of course, but it’s the memories that count in the end.

What sets you apart from other wedding photographers?

Approach is what differentiates artists one from another.

Open-heartedness is the most important thing we bring to every wedding and every single project. It’s essential — more important than strategizing a good wedding day or choosing the right cameras and lenses and film.  Those things are important, too, of course!

We think really big picture and really small picture, by which I mean that we mind all the little details — right now, in planning (strategizing the day, figuring out what’s important to the client), in shooting (producing the shoot, knowing which cameras and film to use–and I use all sorts of both!– what, where and when to shoot, managing all the people and personalities on the day of the wedding), and in post-production (making everything cohesive and up to our high standards for color, contrast, etc.) — so that our clients get photographs that look great now, in twenty years from now, in fifty years from now.  We don’t allow ourselves to get wrapped up in trends that might fade.  Classic is classic for a reason.

I think because I come from a literary background, I work keenly on developing the whole narrative of the day, frame by frame, when I’m shooting but I also find myself thinking about “if I were the bride, what kind of photograph would I want to show my granddaughter?” and “what’s really magical about what’s going on here?” … Actually, I’m pretty restlessly hunting for magic all the time when I’m shooting.

At the same time, we also have a lot of clients in the film and fashion industries.  They know what a shoot and a set feels like.  We want our clients’ wedding days to feel like real life– not a production!   We’re very conscious of that in the planning and in the execution of the wedding day.

When we put together a client’s prints and albums, I bring all my art school and art consulting and historical photographic process and conservation knowledge to the forefront — we use only the highest museum quality prints, albums, and frames made by artisans we know and trust or in-house with our own hands.  We want the presentation and the photographs to stand the test of time. I think my grandmother would be proud.

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What tips do you have for couples who have never been photographed before?

Set your mind at ease: find a photographer whose work makes your heart go pitter-pat and then get photographed right away! Seeing yourself rendered on film for the first time can be really informative feedback for both you and your photographer.  You can find out if you have any funny on-camera habits (!) and your photographer will learn you faster, too. You’ll develop a way of working with each other, which really means a way of seeing and hearing each other!  And have fun with it!

Thanks again to Borrowed & Blue for the Q&A!

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Supermodel Tips from Molly Sims for Your Wedding Photos, Part 2: Planning Ahead

05 | 09 | 2013

Molly Sims wedding photo by Gia Canali

Molly’s Wedding Photo Tips:

1. Get one nice photograph with each bridesmaid.

Molly points out that it’s a lot to ask from your friends to be a bridesmaid. So taking a moment out of your wedding day to individually thank your girlfriends and tell them how much it means to you is really thoughtful. Then you can give each bridesmaid a print as a thank you gift after the wedding. As Molly’s photographer, I would like to note that this was such a great photo op, particularly for happy, emotion-filled candid photos. See one of these photos here.

2. Even if you don’t love posed shots (and who does?!), be realistic about needing some posed shots, too.

And the posed photos will take some time. If you don’t want to see each other before the ceremony, Molly says to be sure to get down the aisle on time! You’re only going to have about 45 minutes for photos with your family and friends and your spouse, so you need to hurry. It’s a drag to miss the cocktail hour, but the photos will last forever.

3. You’re not just limited to black and white and color photographs.

Molly notes that black and white and color is only the beginning. There are toy camera photos; different film stocks, lenses, and processing; Polaroids; digital; 4×5 film; and more. Molly and Scott, who have an incredible collection of photographs and art in their home, made time for a few Polaroid 55 portraits.

4. You want to be as comfortable as possible with your photographer.

Wedding photography is a collaboration. To that end, Molly says speak up to your photographer if you know you have a “good side.” And have your photographer photograph your rehearsal dinner. Not only is it great to have those photographs later, but it helps you, your beloved, and your bridal party and family become comfortable around your photographer.

Molly has wedding tips over on her blog, too! See posts here and here. Thanks, Molly!

photo: Gia Canali Photography

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Supermodel Tips from Molly Sims for Your Wedding Photos, Part 1: The Makeup

05 | 09 | 2013

Molly Sims wedding photo by Gia Canali - Molly with her striking

Molly Sims has talked about both her wedding day (here and here) and about her wedding makeup over on her blog, and today she’s sharing her insights about getting great wedding photos with us!

Molly’s Tips on Wedding Makeup:

1. Put your makeup on an hour before photos.

Molly explains that this allows time for the makeup to mix with the natural oils of your skin, making it look, well, more natural.

2. Don’t overuse powder!

Molly has observed that brides tend to over-powder because they don’t want to be shiny (and I concur— I see both over-powdering and shininess all the time). Molly says the solution is to use less powder, but use it more often. You can have a bridesmaid or your photographer stash some in a bag for quick touch ups!

3. Get eyelash extensions.

Not only do they look nice in photos, but as Molly points out, they will save (precious!) time and hassle on your wedding day and the week of your wedding.

See more of Molly’s wedding:
Wedding Day Part One and Part Two; Polaroid 55; Rehearsal Dinner; and  Molly’s Photo Tips;

photo: Gia Canali

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Things I Like: An Heirloom Lace Veil (& a Good Story)

05 | 17 | 2011

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I consider myself a collector of stories (sometimes a creator of them, but not in this case).  In this case, the story is even better than I’d imagined when I first came across this veil of exquisite beauty in the tiny bridal room at Stanford Chapel the morning of Louise’s wedding.  As she and I conversed (both there and since), and I learned more about the veil, I thought you folks might love this story as much as I do.

Connecting with the things our forebears have done for centuries is a powerful reason people get married and have weddings (and why it is an institution in all our human culture).  But getting to so tangibly, so physically connect to that past is one the rarest and most extraordinary privileges.

Plus: don’t you kind of love to imagine ladies with excruciatingly delicate fingers embroidering this lace by hand … over 150 years ago?!

From the bride:

“My grandmother grew up in San Francisco, and lived in an apartment building with her mother. They became close with Mrs. Kane, a woman down the hall who had no children of her own. When my grandmother was engaged, the neighbor loaned her a lace veil that had been handmade for *her* grandmother on her wedding day, but the neighbor never wore since she eloped.  The veil is well over a hundred years old! My grandma wore the veil when she married my grandfather in San Francisco in 1949. When they had three daughters of their own—Katie, Nyna and Mary Lou—Mrs. Kane decided the lace veil should be passed into our family permanently. Katie wore the veil when she was married in 1975; Nyna, who is my mother, wore the veil when she married my father in 1977; and Mary Lou wore the very same lace veil on her wedding day in 1980. From generation to generation, the antique lace will continue to be passed down to brides in the family, and I wore this same veil on my wedding day in March 2011.  My cousin Carrie will wear the lace next for her wedding on July 4, 2011.”
Lace worn:
Veil and collar:  Carolyn Tilton married to George Magee Cunningham, Jr.  July 30, 1949
veil and collar:  Nyna Lynn Cunningham married to William Dana Dolby, July 9, 1977
Veil and collar:  Mary Louise Cunningham married to Rex Douglas White, July 26, 1980
Collar and handkerchief lace on veil cap:  Kathleen Ann Cunningham married to Scott Norman Lamb, August 1975
Veil:  Louise Gabrielle Dolby married to Brian Everett Schultze, March 19, 2011
Collar:  Carolyn Elizabeth Judson to be married to Justin Urso, July 4, 2011
The veil was also borrowed and worn by the daughter of a good friend of my mom’s for her wedding in 2009.
photo: Gia Canali
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Real Los Angeles Weddings: A & O :: at SmogShoppe and An Interview with Amy Kaneko

04 | 01 | 2011

I think we (the wedding-ready world) find it easy to mistake event design for a purely visual pursuit.  We think of the photographs. In fact, good event design goes far beyond that, into designing space and experience, which is why I think Amy’s background in architectural design (which is all about human experience in/of space) is a perfect foundation for putting together fantastic weddings and events … including her own.

And not every bride is so lucky to get to bounce ideas off haute planner Yifat Oren, but Amy, who was living in LA and working with Yifat (before her wedding and before she and Osamu moved to San Francisco)  got that rare privilege.    Here’s what Amy has to say:

“Even though I plan weddings all the time, it was tough planning my own wedding by myself.  At the time, I lived in LA and all my family and almost all of my friends were on the East Coast.  So I didn’t have my mom and a bunch of girl friends with me like an episode of “Say Yes to the Dress.” …  As much as I missed having friends and family to help, the good thing was that I was plugged into the event scene. Having worked at Yifat Oren & Associates, a top event production company, made things easier. Especially since Yifat and my former co-worker Stefanie Cove were really gracious with helping out. I don’t think Stefanie sat down at all during the wedding – she was making sure everything ran smoothly so I wouldn’t have to worry!”

{as always, click any image for a closer look!}

I asked Amy about design aesthetic (because when you’re on the inside of the wedding industry, knowing every cool detail, trend, etc., before it even hits is not necessarily an advantage) and DIY items and here is what she said:

“Most of the wedding was actually DIY, but I really didn’t want the wedding to look like it.  I think I was able to successfully pull that off because I have a strong artistic/design background (I draw, paint, love all things crafty, studied architecture, etc) and love the challenge of doing things myself. I really wanted it to look refined, but in a very natural and laid back way.

“The ceremony “ring of succulents” was DIY – I went to a nursery and picked out about 50 potted succulents, then had my brothers dig them up slice off the roots (they somehow survived afterwards though!).  The wrought-iron candleholders on the table were all borrowed from a florist (GD Designers) and I purchased all the pillar candles, so friends helped set them up on the day-of.  The bar was DIY – I used scrap fabric to cover rental tables and lit it from behind. All the paper products were DIY (the “time capsule” notes, escort cards, menus, etc), though my friend Jennifer Parsons of Tiny Pine Press was incredibly sweet and helped me letterpress.  Oh yes, and I did my own makeup in the upstairs bathroom because I always find that I look like a strange and different person when my makeup is done for me.”

And on the choice of SmogShoppe for their venue:

“‘I’m a pretty choosy person, and I really wanted to find the ideal venue for us: something non-traditional but unexpectedly beautiful, with a bit of quirkiness. I scoured places in Boston (where we went to college), Connecticut (where Osamu grew up), DC (where I grew up), and LA (where we lived). The SmogShoppe really spoke to both of us as a place we could see ourselves getting married and also having a great party. I also loved that the building is LEED certified – as someone who cares about architecture and sustainability, it seemed perfect!”

(Amy is a LEED certified professional!)

Below: a quiet first sight moment and the ceremony, which I absolutely loved for its thoughtfulness.  The “time capsule” they made along with their guests was really unique, but it was traditional to them.  They had a history of making time capsules.  Which reminds me: I always think it’s very meaningful to incorporate your history as a couple into your wedding ceremony.  Your wedding guests are your community (the group of people who uphold you when marriage is hard work!), and hearing your history vests them in your love and in your sticking-together.

I love that Amy used one of my photographs as part of the decor (see the projection!).  It’s from {this} magical backyard wedding by Yifat Oren & Associates, where she and I worked together for the first time.  I also really like the rolling work table as an escort card table, and not just because I love any furniture on wheels.  Though I do have fantasies of having my entire studio on casters …

A closer look at the table settings, with the warm glow of candles, a few scattered succulents, and breadsticks – ready for a family style dinner!

Her take on why the details are important is pretty fantastic, too.  She says that getting caught up in the small decor details is a good thing, at least in part, because “details add a layer of thoughtfulness.”  But she cautions:

“I think it’s good to realize that not all the details will stand out, so maybe concentrate your effort (and resources) into a few of them.  For example, I wanted to have 2 huge vine-plants on the bar.  The reception space was this cavernous industrial loft with some big hanging plants, so I thought it would be interesting to mimic that on the bar.  I went to the nursery a few days before the wedding, transferred these massive plants into tall containers (not before sawing them in half to make them fit), and then carefully transported the soil-filled containers in the car.  They were big, but not big enough to make a huge impact like I wanted, so I think the effort would have been better spent elsewhere.

The mood of a wedding is really the most memorable part of it – so I think all the candles, the firepit in our outdoor lounge, the mellow 90s throwback music, and the delicious blackberry cocktails had more to do with creating an alluring mood than the vine-plants.”

Gia Canali Photographyfirepit

photos: Gia Canali; sources & shout-outs:: planning & design, Amy Kaneko Events (the bride); venue: SmogShoppe; personal flowers, GD Designers; officiant: the author Vasugi Ganeshananthan (bride’s friend); bride’s dress: J Crew “Orion” dress; groom’s suit, Hugo Boss; bride’s hair, Salon DNA; caterer, Auntie Em’s Kitchen; ceremony music: Espi Music; reception music: DJ Crash via dubgypsy . With thanks to Yifat Oren, Stefanie Cove, and Jennifer Parsons (Tiny Pine Press!).

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Interview with Yifat Oren: Tips for Everyone from Celebrity Wedding Planning, Part II

07 | 17 | 2010

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We’ve got celebrity wedding planner, Yifat Oren, back with us today, offering one more expert wedding planning tip and it’s an especially good one to heed:

“There’s a whole art to the pacing of a party and the energy of a party.”

“If you create too many lulls, your reception will not be as great as it could be.  Waiting in between courses too long without giving guests something to do – like geting them up and dancing or listening to toasts – can really suck the life out of a party.   When creating your timeline, pay special consideration to timing.  A good rule of thumb is to serve a course and then have a couple of toasts.  After the toasts, clear the course and either get your guests up for some dancing or come out with the next course immediately.  For all this to run smoothly, your caterer/banquet captain at a hotel and band leader must work closely together with a well-thought-out timeline.  Ideally, you would also have someone there on the day of the wedding to manage this process and be the liaison.”

Thinking about the flow of your party when you create your timeline is essential, particularly in considering your guests.  But a wellthought-out timeline won’t help you if you don’t stick to it (or, at least, as much as is up to you). I’m not saying, don’t let yourselves be spontaneous. I’m saying: plan for the experience you want to have and share with your guests and then have it (don’t just think it’ll happen).  Your wedding crew will be busy doing the best job they can to realize that dream wedding day for you.  Poor planning and big deviations can impact what they can do for you and can halt the party you’ve hoped for and imagined.  Plus,  a lively party renders much better on film.  Thanks (again!), Yifat.

photo: Gia Canali

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Interview With Yifat Oren: Tips For Everyone From Celebrity Wedding Planning, Part I

07 | 16 | 2010

cocktail-hour

Yifat Oren has spent the last dozen years planning weddings and parties for some of the most discerning folks in Hollywood. When asked about her work, Yifat says, “I love what I do because I love what goes into weddings:  design and décor, food and wine, fine papers, entertainment, and even the creativity that goes into executing it all flawlessly.   I think the best weddings I do are a great collaboration between the clients and myself—that kind of collaboration breeds the most creative, trend-setting results.”

Those clients are high-powered and high-profile, everyone from Mariska Hargitay & Peter Hermann and Christine & Kevin Costner, to a host of Hollywood producers and business moguls.  And while a lot of what these folks do for their weddings seems (or is!) totally unattainable for most of us, some of the most important and impactful aspects of planning a fantastic wedding translate perfectly to diy (or do-it-with-a-little-help) wedding planning.  You don’t necessarily need more money or a bigger wedding budget; you just need a little forethought.

Consider The Guest Experience:

“Be thoughtful and cover your bases. When I’m planning a wedding, I walk through the entire event ahead of time, as if I am a guest. I imagine, for instance, “I just got off the shuttle. I left my hotel room an hour ago.  I’m probably thirsty and I need shade because it’s hot.  So we would serve cold beverages as soon as people get off the shuttle to quench their thirst and either a canopy or some market umbrellas for shade.  The grass is tricky to walk on because ladies’ heels will sink. So we put out ‘heel savers’ … and so on, throughout the rest of the party, ending with a heater near the valet station, to be sure your guests aren’t freezing as they wait for their vehicles.”

centerpiece with peaches

Here are a few specific areas you can consider:

1.    Be thoughtful about parking.

If you’re not doing a valet, it’s okay—just make sure there’s plenty of parking so your guests don’t have to walk too far or fight for spots.”

2.    Consider the weather.

If there’s sun in everybody’s eyes during the ceremony, it’s awful.  So offer some parasols or change the direction of the ceremony if possible.  It’s nice to let people know, especially the ladies, what they can expect in terms of weather and terrain for the wedding day.  If they’ll need to wear wedges, let them know.  If it’s going to be cool during the evening but hot during the day, they might not think to bring wraps, so let them know ahead of time or provide them yourself.”

3.    Consider the general appeal of the food.

You can be a total foodie, but if you want to serve something that’s wild and out there, do it as one of six appetizers, not as the main entreé that comes out for dinner.”

4.    Consider your bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Usually they have to be there hours ahead of time.  Make sure there are cold drinks for them, somewhere for them to hang their coats and stash their stuff, somewhere to sit down, and some shade, especially in the summer.”

5.    Consider the bathrooms.

Have someone checking the bathrooms throughout the night.  Make sure they are clean, well-stocked, and that the plumbing is working.  We like to set out nice hand-towels, not linen ones, but nice linen-like paper ones.  We also leave things your guests might need in the bathroom—a nail file, clear nail polish, extra deodorant, nice soap, lotion, safety pins, a mini sewing kit, and feminine hygiene products.”

I think that we (the wedding-ready universe) spend a lot of time thinking about who to invite and about hiring services, but not so much time about the experience of those services for ourselves and our invited guests. Hiring services is not the same thing as creating an experience. These tips are really helpful in taking diy wedding planning that one very important step further—having bathrooms at your venue, for instance, isn’t the same thing as having continually clean, well-stocked bathrooms for you and your guests all night long.  Small but important details can be not-thought-of at all.  Of course, in a world where we all had business-mogul-sized wedding budgets, we’d want to hire an experienced and expert wedding planner to think of all these things for us (because, believe me, Yifat thinks of everything).    Check back tomorrow for part two. Thanks, Yifat!

photo: Gia Canali

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Collaborating With Your Wedding Photographer, 109: Planning Picture Perfect Wedding Toasts

07 | 15 | 2010

wedding toast

We love wedding toasts!  For one thing, hearing how other folks love the bride and groom makes us—and everybody at a wedding, I think—adore the bride and groom even more.  And the photographs of the bride and groom and the guests reacting to toasts can be so fun (though, in fact, that could go either way if the toasts are deadly-long or if there are too many of them, come to think of it).

Somehow, toasts are more-often-than-not overlooked in the orchestration and choreography of the wedding day—but they’re important because the toasts themselves can be very meaningful and the photos do actually sometimes make it into the finished wedding album. So, naturally, you want the toasting photos to be their best selves.  (And don’t think that this magically won’t happen to you on your wedding day … )

toasting

father of the bride toast bridesmaid toast

Here are a few easy tips for setting yourself up to have picture perfect toasts:

  1. Have the speaker stand somewhere with a nice background and nice light, even if that spot is right at his or her dinner table.  Ample ambient light is the best kind.
  2. Please don’t put your toaster in front of an EXIT sign. (This is just an expansion of point #1, I suppose).
  3. Make sure your photographer is present. If you have a planner, he or she can help with this.  If you are diy-planning, you’ll need to keep an eye on this yourself.  Although your photographer may stick close by your side the entire rest of the day, during dinner time, she could be off taking photographs in another part of the event, or trying to take a quick dinner break.  If unscheduled or unannounced toasts happen, she can miss them.
  4. Toasts REALLY TRULY need to be short and sweet.  Haute wedding planner, Yifat Oren, notes,”it’s a toast, not a roast.  Toasts should be short and sweet and moving and anecdotal. The longest amount of time for any one toast should be seven minutes, but preferably no longer than five.  You can say a lot in seven minutes.”  And, “if you’re planning to have 35 minutes of toasts, don’t do it all at once.”  It’s hard for the guests to sit through a bunch of long toasts (read: boring) and can bring the whole party to a halt. If someone really wants to give a long toast or say something much more expansive to or about you and your beloved, the rehearsal dinner might afford a better and more intimate opportunity for that kind of thing.

bride toasting

Check back tomorrow for an interview with Yifat, full of tips from celebrity weddings that are applicable to weddings on any budget.

photographs: Gia Canali

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