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That Time I…Got Caught Naked By Security

...a deleted scene from “Diary of a Rope Slut”

So I told The Southern Gent [the photographer I was working with that night] about the shoot I’d done a couple weeks earlier with Philly Dude [a traveling photographer] who was doing a series of night time long-exposure shots of nudes in city landmarks. My hope was to make The Southern Gent understand how liberal the nudity laws in Portland really are so that he would be less nervous about our shoot.

Philly Dude was going around the country and shooting similar photos with whomever he could get to pose naked in very public places. Beforehand he would gather a posse: two look outs to keep an eye on creeps who might try to mess with the models, a person to hold lights, and a couple models. 

Around midnight we met at the center of the city in Pioneer Square with the hope there would be little car or foot traffic.  We weren’t so fortunate.  People were milling round everywhere and cars drove by on a steady basis. The other model and I took all this in and feeling safe with our entourage, shrugged and undressed, pretending this was totally normal.  And in a way it was, since the law protected us by saying as long as the nudity wasn’t meant to titillate (i. e. no one was touching their genitals) it was legal. 

At first being this publicly nude was anti climatic, we hurried through several poses at the corner of the park filled with benches and trees.  Just as we were feeling cavalier about prancing around without comment, one of the look outs nodded his head in the direction of two people coming our way.

From a distance in the dark it was tough to tell if they were security guards or cops.  It was clear from their pace and the walkie talkies in their hands that they meant business.  The other model, Pixie, and I quickly pull on our robes and act casual as they approach.  We get our stories straight and feel confident that being honest and promising to move on is the best option. 

Philly Dude is from out of town so he’s nervous enough for all of us, incrementally bringing up the stress level in our group each time he whispers under his breath, “Shit!”

“Just say we’re making art, and it will be fine,” I keep telling him.

It seems to take forever for security to approach until we wonder if they were even interested in us. With the high population of transients and drunk people in the area it was possible they saw something more urgently in need of their attention.  Regardless we were in a holding pattern waiting for them to approach us or disappear all together.

Finally when the suspense was so painful we considered packing up and taking our chances walking by them on the way to our cars, the youngest and burliest of the guys walked over. I was so tense my shoulders were at my ears. Philly Dude’s prickly attitude wasn’t helping.  Getting into a debate with a cop while essentially naked wasn’t something I hoped to be doing that particular evening. 

The security guy advances on the photographer and says in an authoritative voice that feigns courtesy but has already seen too much shit for one evening, “Excuse me sir, are you smoking?”

I exhale so fast it turns into a laugh without my volition which Pixie mirrors.  We were so focused on being naked we’d forgot that smoking in parks is illegal in Portland!  That was the concern, the reason they had been circling us.

“You can’t smoke here.” The cop points at the “no smoking” sign we’re standing a few inches away from as illustration.       

“Outside?  A person can’t smoke outside in this town?  What kind of…” the Philly Dude starts, his macho ego getting ahead of him and threatening to get us all in trouble.  Before he could mouth off further, the woman who had organized the entire shoot stepped in front of him, taking the cigarette from his fingers to put it out in a receptacle.

“No problem, sir.”  She beamed her enormous lovely smile, her waist length flame red hair dancing around her face like a mane as she held eye contact with the young police officer.

“Alright, good.”  He walked away with an aside over his shoulder, “We’ve been enjoying the tits.” He gestures to his partner. “Gotta warn you thought, shift change is in 10 and the next guy is a grumpy Mormon.” With that he walked away and disappeared.

We looked at each other shocked.  One of the look outs managed, “Did that just happen?” 

 After composing ourselves we were highly motivated to set up the shots we needed.  One look out kept close track of time, the other scanning traffic for an angry Mormon starting his shift (whatever that might look like.)  All went off without further issue.  We got several more photos, trying not to shiver while the photographer counted down the long seconds we needed to hold statue-still for the camera.

We got dressed and moved on to a new location like nothing had happened.  Because Portland where smoking is more scandalous than boobs.


That Time I…Shot with a Hungry GWC

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.

Me dolled up for a photo shoot.

Me dolled up for a photo shoot.

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.

Me literally just having rolled out of bed.

Me literally just having rolled out of bed.

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.