The second time Ruby worked with me out the friends farm, we worked in and around the family graveyard. Way off
in the woods, small trials led into the area protected by its remoteness. I found it very peaceful, we worked with a respectful quiet. The mosquitoes, however were out for blood; she sprayed her front, I her back to help repel the little beasts.
In early spring the day was mild, the clouds…, like a giant scrim floating in the sky. As this was our second shoot, Rudy had no inhibitions about nudity, she worked very well…, creatively. Very playful as the camera loved her, she in turn had different looks she tried for effect.
Esperanza came into my photographic life when she was 22 years of age. She was a little firecracker of a young woman just entering her prime. So full of herself, willing to play, had that confidence only youth can bring. After that first shoot she came back to my apartment to have a bite to eat, and to talk more. She was the wife of a friend of a friend of mine, trying to find what she wanted out of life. Later as we did more shoots we went out for lunch after. She’d take my arm going into which ever restaurant we had decided to go to. All male eyes, and not a few female eyes were riveted on her, I felt so special to be the man who had her on his arm.
She was among the first women to tell me that shooting gave her all the benefits of an affair without all the compilations. She’d try different personalities to see what they looked like to others. It was fascinating to watch her as she changed from one personality to another. Like most of my models, she came without eating anything so she’d keep that slim profile. But when that alarm sounded, we had to get her fed ASP.
Even after I moved to New York City, I’d let her know when I was coming into town, we’d setup a shoot. I’d try new lighting setups I’d seen in my work with other photographers on commercial shoots. Because she loved to play, we’d try different things…, but she was hesitant to shoot completely nude. I did get a few shots of her in the all together, but her heart wasn’t into it. To this day I don’t understand her reasoning as she always had a terrific figure made for photography. But I accepted her wishes, warned her when she was showing more than she want seen.
I feel that it is important to work with the models limits, not to cop those shots the model is unaware of. In return she has the confidence in our works to give me carte blanche in using the images we have shot. I also feel that its the right way to go, to have that trust that you honor in all my dealing with my models.
Oh to my delight plans for the new series have a rival, one of my models is expecting. As man and photographer, I am thrilled. When I was younger, friends often didn’t want to share the experience of being photographed, or breast-feeding. Time, values have changed as I have as well, older I’ve been blessed to witness the event from beginning.
First as a lowly floor cleaner, I befriend the interns at the teaching hospital I work at. They in turn checked with the doctor, gave me the all clear so I got to watch all sorts of operations. I saw people die on the table in addition to being born, saw people’s bodies stripped of parts, the gift of life, or sight for other patients. Once over Christmas, I was asked to shine the spotlight as the doctor operated on a patients brain. A truly miraculous experience all because I could talk.., think, and had a curiosity for life.
A few years later, I again returned to work in a hospital, there I made friends with the doctors as they did rounds. My photography was the deciding factor to get me in the room as the patient was worked on. Not that my exploits went unreported to my supervisor who was not my biggest fan. My supervisor was actually rubbing her hands together as she walked me into the director office. I was going to get mine, and she would be witness. Imagine her delight as the director said I had been spotted going into the surgical suite to take pictures.
Very calmly I replied that the situation had been cleared by the doctor, and any question he had could be answered by the doctor. Further, I said I was on my own time, and had violated no hospital rules…, I got up and left. It was very hard not to smile at their crestfallen looks, my dressing down hadn’t gone quite as planned.
I learned early the “the best defense is a good offense”. I had learned the hard way, to be a chameleon in dealing with people, my own parents taught me well. As much as I could, I tried to blend in, to pattern my behavior to please people. Only when confronted would I go into “good offense” mode…, that either work or got me fired.
Quite the way I deal in business, try to get along, but never show fear. In my assistance days I worked with a number of highly charged photographers. Driven, prone to a manic depressive outbursts…, the better the photographer the higher the manic in charge. Never show fear, know what you are doing or suggesting. Hold your ground, believe in your skill and knowledge. Once I corrected a photographer of his error…, long pause. Did I go too far? I challenged him about something he said. Then the exhale, “what I hate about you is that your right!” I patted his leg, said “always, remember that”. And then the winning smile.
You have to believe in yourself for all to work to your advantage. And for your sake, learn to play, not take life so seriously. I chose life, as in to have a life, to enjoy all that came my way with excitement, and joy. I chose to leave the camera home most days, so I could experience life as a participant rather than the observer, worried about f-stop, shutter speeds, and what not. This is the only life I’ll have as far as I know. Chose life for all its joys, for all its sorrow, and surprises.
Most all of you know the story of my stroke, and the slow recovery…. I want to talk about my personal work, I started this series in early 2000, with my love and respect for women of all ages. These studies are of women who had modeling sites, the majority age 20 to 24. I wanted them because they were willing, but none were professional model by any stretch of the imagination. Presented here are the girl’s from down the street. Just nice normal young women growing up, a phase they call it.
On blog I talk about what drives this site and my work. I follow my own instincts when it comes to my models. I offer each of my models, the chance to be involved in the use of their image. If the model chooses to not be involved, I respect their wishes. All the rights that I told each woman are still in place, and I am very protective of those rights.
It is such adventure, and to have people along for the ride. I made a deal with my self-destructive side, if I survived the stroke, then all doubts about myself must vanish. They did ease a bit, but I don’t fear being out their trying to get my work in a magazine. Submitted my first work in a long time…, this new personal side of my work. I am very proud of what I have accomplished, what I have captured in that moment in time. So too am I proud to be shooting the type of work that I do, to have that level of trust. A number of these women are retuning for an update who they have become in the intervening years. I am so proud of these women, the trust we have in each other.
Now to some of the reason for my site; no one here is paid a dime till something sell. The models approve of what I am doing, each wants me to succeed with their image first. So my work comes to you clean, free of any taint. Several of my models have taken an interest in posing for me again after all this time. So that is something I look forward to having these women, at another stage of life. I still remember a wilder side, a past side of who they are now with all the responsibility of this age. But I remember them, we have a history to share, we have a level of trust. Built each time I was in contact about what I was doing with their image now. Just an email, or a FB message. I have kept my word to these young women because they are not professional models.
Yes I do have a release, but something about fairness comes into play. I do not work like most photographers, I like working in collaboration with my models. This site too is a work of collaboration with loving attention to detail. From the Dutch side of the family my cousin Hans Hav donated his time in building this site. Countless others provide proofing, suggestions, support and just letting talk. I love all you that have believed in me, and helped get me to this point.
In this blog portion I share what I am working on currently, and what I hope to do in the future. I of course hope that people who support me and my work would make a donation. Even a supportive line or two would mean a lot. I will be talking about the work, what I think makes it art worthy. What I want to get across, and not just a pretty naked lady. What they as young women thought.
What a wonderful feeling after so long a wait, to be able to buy film. Not that the things holding me back have eased, not so much, but I have enough to work on. One of my first model’s to begin working with me on what has developed into the new series. I’ve know this woman for thirteen (13) years now, (seen on FaceBook) the boyfriends come and go. Never ever thought the both of us would still be involved with each other lives this long. Like so much of my art it has evolved over time, organic, the friendship has deepened. I’ve invited the model to my shows, or tell them when a magazine has picked our work to publish. I love educating new model to the world of art, how our work fits into the show.
So too has my relationship with my other models has grown over time, the nature of our work, what to submit to magazines, websites that handle art. Those models who wish to be involved are welcome, those that do not want to be bother, I let them be. With this new series I have someone who I work with, not everyone is so open to the type of images I want to make. I keep my options open, always welcome back models who have worked with me in the past. I welcome new models, they work with what they are comfortable with, I never require models to pose in ways they are not fully behind. Trust is key to my work, something that can only be built by getting to know each other, how we think. It’s the only way I work.
I find myself in a wonderful position, two (2) models, two different ways to pose. Each with a rhythm of their own, different set of values: its exciting. So return to the subject of film I need to buy, how my choice of film, model…, each bringing their personality, moves, and desires. Then I get to the real artsy stuff, expired film, those unpredictable colour shifts. Maybe a cross-processed roll of slow film for the movement, mystery, the flying by the seat of the pants feeling. The wait for real film to return from the lab. Part and parcel of the magic of film, exposing it for results hoped for, not for the faint of heart, or of imagination.
A return to the old days, the old ways, waiting to see if the magic has stuck, or a near miss. I love the suspense, the anticipation. I’ve spent decades work with these films, I know how they work, how they are supposed to work, then with the broken rules what you should expect. Now long out of date, the unknown…, what will I get, how will my model react if nothing shows up, least not model portfolio wise. That is the magic, the curse of my art, the great unknown is the way I work, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Checked the film vault, an old Tupper-ware container I have kept for many years now. Oh want delights! Film I had purchased in my N.Y. days, slower ISO that’s why it survived so long. All color film, all way out of date, oh the colour-shifts.
I was talking with a friend the other morning over breakfast, I told her how much I enjoys treading the needle. I want to produce a new piece from the current series, that is FaceBook pure. I do not support censorship, I will not show my work with a black bar, defused area because some white male is uncomfortable with the human body. So jerking a few chains does not bother me, I push boundary.
I moved into the new apartment towards the end of summer 2005. I finally had an apartment big enough to have a small studio, in addition being old enough so I had some interesting features to work in. I set about making my home/studio easier to work in, sheers on the windows. I kept the living-room/studio free from clutter, like any comfortable chairs to sit in. But I had my space to grow older, to pursue my art, and I finally had my office. Life looked very good for me, I was pleased with the plans I had, looked forward to my first shoot over the winter holidays.
That October I had the stroke that laid me low. The deal I made with my self-destructive side, take your best shot at taking me. If…, if I survive, then get the hell out of my way. Little did I count on having to try to reverse the effects of stroke. All strokes are particular to the patient, mine was a blockage in the left side of my brain. Right side of my body, flaccid, absolute paralysis. Confined to a wheelchair, only left side of my body could move. Only one side of my brain was functional, I was in deep shit.
So the deal with the devil was made, I kept to the bargain, doctors, nurses were telling all my visitors not to get too excited about any progress they saw. I on the other hand, not knowing what they thought they knew, I went ahead to try and reestablish the me I knew. Took the better part of twelve (12) years, fighting for every return to body, and mind. Now the harm to my body has healed as best it can, my two sides are now out of balance. My mind…, my mind too has healed as best it can, I count on the plasticity to seek out those pathways back to me. My brain is still injured deeply, that’s where the damage still haunts.
So the new series came as a blessing, both for mind and creativity. I have worked hard at getting the creativity back in as good a shape as possible. Enter model, muse, friend, to save me, to give me hope. It demand a model who knows me, trust me, believe in my vision…, and believes in me as a man. This my first attempt at a series of found objects in nature, and very private spaces on the female body. The working title “Natural Curves”, a juxtaposition of bark, seeds, pods…, wherever I can find in nature with there wonderful curves, set next to the bodies curves. The whiteness of her body, the darkness in the object. The play of light, darkness, enticing curves of the most intimate nature.
So with this as my background, I began setting up my home studio. It was the easiest setup I ever done, called on all my years working with the professionals. I had the depth of my living room to set the muslin background complete with a sort of drop shadow, taken from endless product shoots. I fashioned a comfortable table for my model to try different poses for the areas I wanted to use. Those areas had been determined by a test we had as to feasibility. This setup for the main event, the actual shoot where she has to hold the pose, and the object in place. We shot film as well, for the lighting, and background.
I’ve had to curb my model from posting these test shots. Next comes the hard work of the actual shoot which will be so much better, but for a test these look so good . I have to curb my own enthusiasm, more as we progress.
The toughie, I never smile…, ever. But she did…, having a good time, teased, played with, and loved every minute because she was treated with respect. All the older men who took advantage of a kid. I admit she was no real angel, had too many problems,and many addictions. She was a very troubled young woman, her life on a downward spiral. I worried about her, she might end up DOA, another statistic to a madly run war on drugs.
You can’t save them all, I was told. I just wanted to save one little girl child/woman.
This image was shot in 2003, the model and I had worked together for sometime, getting to this image. She was by no means a professional model, fresh off the farm literally. When we first met I remember a very determined young woman weaving her way over to where I was sitting. As I watched her approach I was thinking like a photographer, very tall (good), a little awkward, part of the fresh face appeal (good/bad), wanting her dream…, so very apparent. For me the training, investment in time, and not if, but how soon would she be able to do nude work.
We agreed to meet for coffee, she had an unfortunate incident that morning, and was stuck at home, could I meet her apartment? My book has my look, and the models are in various state of undress, I never hide who I am. She asked, “how do you get them nude)? I ask, is the simple answer. So we set our first shoot, what I wanted as a photographer was clear in her mind. We worked very well, any misgiving she might of had, vanished in the face of my professionalism. We became fast friends, I showed her every piece of film I shot, I treated her with respect, and her trust level grew. The odd misinformation about what I shot for me, and what I was doing for her. Had a newspaper piece in her hometown press about a parade that she had a part in as a Bird of Paradise. All novice miscommunication, and the trust grew.
Then came the shoot that changed everything. She was getting bored with what we were shooting, any fear of being nude had passed…, and she was ready for something more challenging. I suggested a far more intimate and personal pose. Her first answer was an emphatic no, but I could see the wheels turning in her head. This was the ultimate challenge fear/fact of life she was facing. That she had consider this type of image in her thinking both worried me, and pleased me that she was considering my suggestion. To my delight she said if she was going to do this, she had to be comfortable.
So I was privileged to photograph this special moment in this woman life, freely, and without question. Oh the questions she had, that flitted through her mind, overwhelmed by wave of pleasure, and alarm. Afterwards, small ripples of pleasure came across her, and I was thinking how special this moment was for me too. I had been privileged to photograph her doing something so intimate and special. That she was a “nice” girl, a “good” girl who could be so harmed if I was not to do the right thing by her. Say what you will, it was my responsibility to hold this lady, this girl from harm by exposing her.Now years after the fact we are great friends. She never posed for anyone this way after, we’ve had the time and distance to be able to put this shoot in perspective. I have managed to assure her of confidentiality, and my respect for what she decided to share with me.
My work really is about a partnership, a working relationship that puts the model more in touch with what is happening to their images. Each model works with me in a collaborative manner, and no one is paid for their time until I sell. If they choose not to give me an email address, or choose to just ignore me, they have that right to privacy; all the rights and responsibility remain in place. I will do everything I promised getting them to pose for me in the first place. I believe that it is the only way to work. Because of the special nature of the images I take of these women we have developed a special bond that endures to this day, as do the friendship we have developed.
This model and I shot at a friend’s farm near Austin. It was out in the middle of nowhere, off a dirt road of sorts, around the fields. Just in her twenty’s, and full of herself as we all are at that age. We had a nice time of it, good strong poses, self-aware with attitude. A true red head, fiery in the way she could attack her poses…, me if I was un-wary! Wore her mother’s outfit from her days as a hot young chick.
No disrespect, young and carefree we all were, made it to this age, and you learn certain things. But at twenty you haven’t formed those connections yet, you can use someone with ethics in the profession. The term “My Girls”, has caused a great deal of consternation in the circles I run in, and getting advice from friends on building this site. “My Girls”, I have a protective arm around them spiritually, I lay out before the shoot all the details. “You will always know where your images are posted, as long as I have an active email address” I tell them, and I do follow through with that promise.
Every one of these young ladies knows about my site, and have full access to every image. Those who’s images I plan on marketing, know about my strategy, and how each image was carefully selected. We still have in place that partnership promised so many years ago, with time-off for my stroke and recovery. Now that I am back on my feet, getting back to parts of the life I knew before my stroke…., and the long, long road back.
My thanks to these young women who trusted me to do right by them. To protect their names, and reputations now that they have a life established. Each and everyone is still My Girl!