My concerns each time I agree to a photo shoot are: will I be safe and will this be worth my time?
I’ve shoot with some very talented people, a lot of whom have become good friends and regular muses. We shoot together on the regular. These photographers and the art we make together, that rush of making something more beautiful than I imaged possible is why I brave dangerous and often cold and muddy situations for a photo.
I’ve also shot with some very creepy weirdos. Guys who buy a decent camera and create a shooting space just to get attractive women to pose for them so they have something to put in their spank bank later. Or worst to manipulate women into sexual favors instead of a shoot. These dudes we call GWCs or Guy With Camera. It’s the worst insult you can give a photographer.
So shooting with a great photographer is often the difference between leaving with something pretty to add to my portfolio rather than leaving with a sick feeling in my stomach that I just got used. And it’s no small commitment to shoot with someone; creepy or otherwise. In order to get my body into a condition that anyone wants to put in front of a camera I have to spend hours getting ready. This is what I refer to as lady maintenance . As in, “Sorry I can’t have brunch with you, I have a shoot at 5PM and have serious lady maintenance to do before then.”
Shaving. Exfoliating. Moisturizing. Hair coloring and styling. Make up…so much make up. Manicure. Pedicure. Selecting a wardrobe for the photos. Ideas for poses. Photo inspirations. Pack everything into a bag. Figure out transit to shoot location. Touch up make up. Touch up hair. Brave bus while gussied up and all the attention that brings. Arrive and psyche self up for shoot.
This isn’t me #firstworldproblems complaining about how hard my life as a sometimes model is. Like oh woe is me and my cute girl privilege. But you do need to know I don’t just show up and roll around naked in mud and/or a bed for a camera and go home. Being a model is actually a big investment in time and effort. This will be important later.
So on this particular evening in question, I did all my lady maintenance and headed to the photographer’s house. I’d met him for coffee earlier in the week, I’d seen his portfolio and he’d worked with people I know. I didn’t have any concerns about the shoot. I thought this would be an easy one.
Until I walked up his block and heard someone playing maudlin acoustic guitar on their porch while slur-singling along. I was getting ready to give this person the amused side-eye while walking by when I realized it was the photographer, slumped on his porch in shorts and giant yellow rain boots.
The other part of being a model you don’t get to see is the part where the person in front of the camera often, in addition to making herself literally and figuratively naked, also has to provide the unpaid emotional labor of amateur sex therapy to the person holding the camera that needs to be reassured that what is going on isn’t shameful as they apologize for asking for things like a sexier pose or if it’s okay to adjust a stray curl of my hair. I knew instantly this evening was going to be heavy on photographer coddling.
Once we got a glass of wine into one another, he loosened up. Once I told him, “I’ll tell you if something is too much, just ask for what you want to see and I’ll do it if I’m comfortable with it,” he stopped worrying and started shooting.
We had fun. I rolled around in different outfits on his gorgeous hard wood floors. I tied myself up (of course) for a few shots which he was excited about, having never taken bondage photos before. Then he had an idea: “I want to try some shots in the rain! How do you feel about that?”
It was pouring. His back yard was a giant mud puddle. It was cold. Remember all that work I did to get presentable? But he seemed to know what he was doing so I said, “Sure, as long as you have a towel I can use.”
“Why would you need a towel?”
I raised my eyebrow at him and pointed to the wall of rain outside. ”Oh!” He fumbled around in seemingly every cupboard he had until he pulled out an old, tattered, paint splattered towel. Meanwhile in his bathroom was a pile of 2 billion thread count plush beautiful towels. Thanks, guy, thanks.
He stood in the safety of the porch, dry and complaining about the rain while I stood in the down pour, shivering, make up streaming down my face, strangely exhilarated, high on making art. After, I toweled off with the thread bare rag, leaving it in mud covered heap near his back door and joined him in the warm living room to look at the photos tiny and pixilated in the back of his camera. They looked great and I was excited to see what he made of them. We had another drink and I went home feeling good about the experience.
A week later I get an email from the photographer entitled “Good News and Bad News.”
Direct quote: “The bad news is very embarrassing...and stupid. So after our shoot, I popped the SD card out of my camera and headed upstairs to take a look at the photos. In one hand, the SD card, in my other hand, a handful of wheat thins. (Yeah, you can see where this is going.) I popped a wheat thin into my mouth, bit down and thought "ugh! bad wheat thin!" What I spit out was, of course, the SD card, not a wheat thin.“
The good news is that he had transferred money into my PayPal account. I declined his offer of doing another shoot. He wasn’t worth the lady maintenance.
This was also the first and as far as I know only time that photos of me were confused for a wheat thin.