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.
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.
I’ve been scanning for the new site, starting the B & W work at last. I feel my strongest pull from producing a lovely B & W, all the shades of grey. How far Jean Dawson and I have come, thank you Jean.
She was one of those “kids” that are at risk, newly eighteen, already trying out the sex trade. I saw her portfolio which featured tight shot of her pubic region. I knew I could do a much better job, and maybe show her photographs as art. She came to the studio, and changed into a really cute short bathrobe. She sat there, smoking a mile a minute, a haze of blue surrounded her head. For what seemed like 5 minutes, she when on about what questions she would answer, and never ask personal questions. She sat there, tight as a spring, and asked, “any questions?” Yeah, I asked “do you get “nekked”? She threw off the bathrobe, preening, she turn to me like “feast your eyes on this”! I studied her saying, “naw, let’s get you in a dress”!
She burst out laughing, and we were friends. That is an important skill I have, knowing what to say in the moment. Respecting my models, and having fun at the same time. And not backing down when they test the limits.
Not too bad considering my studio is in an old house, built on the patch of land that used to be a dairy. I trust that the magic will find our shoot anywhere, just use your imagination Also people ask me if I don’t get tired using the same backgrounds, and props? No, each woman makes it her own outfit, location, pose. It’s magical what two people can do for and by art.
I’d like to mention that I may have a lovely model with a very enticing look so stay tuned.
Easily my youngest and most vulnerable model ever. After getting comfortable with each other, we settled to the business of art. That small chip she carried on her shoulders fell off, and she began to trust me. After the session when I showed her what I had gotten, she turned to me and said this like “real art”. I told her there was a difference to working with me, I have your back still.
Now in her thirty’s and wife and mother. Long time has passed and she too has talked about getting in front of my camera once again. We’ll see, but even the idea that she’d come again is great.
My lovely friend Esperanza, akin to a blonde tornado she has been in my photographic life for many years. First came to me at age 22, she has always been a very private person, unless she isn’t.