Canadian Sojourn Part 3

To continue doing something with determination or resolve despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.”


Next morning I woke to clear sky so I made a leisurely breakfast coffee. Because I was safe from the cops, I took my time getting started, had coffee and set my little home ship shape before I left the camp. I had read John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley” a couple of times to make sure I had the rule of the road down pat. In my own travels I mean to follow I-10 into Jacksonville, then highway A1A north, back then in 1969 it wasn’t much a road, but it followed the ocean right up where I mean to go as my jumping off point.

B & W image, late 1960's, high school friend, abandon night club, golf course, female model, white pants suit.

So off I drove into the future, I took a left at the junction and found the blue line roads of fame. Though small towns America I drove with a vengeance, stopping only for fuel for both the van and me. By sunset I started looking for a spot where I could grab some rest for the night. Virginia Beach has some picturesque spots on the beach, so I was hoping to hear the ocean all night. But before I could settle in a cop pull in and informed me that sleeping there would get me arrested. So off I drove in search of a place for the night and fuel for the van, seeing is how I had good luck in New Orleans. Luck held and the owner said that I could park the van for the night just off his pumps.

After I wonder at my luck with gas station owners, it wasn’t until later I found out from a mother that I reminded her of her son who was off traveling. She had the idea by helping me just maybe her son would find help from good strangers as well…, pay it forward it became to be called. I would later find in National Parks all sorts of kind people willing to help me out in all my endeavors. I became the living embodiment of the lost sons everywhere, of course I did not tell a soul of my real intentions.

Black and white image, late 1960's, female model in white dress.s

Even though the real south where I expected trouble, I found kind people. That may have been because I was not staying, just passing through. The late 60’s was a horrible time in America, sort of like the time we are going through now. In Alabama I found, you guess it, a kind gas station owner who warned me off filling my water tank that the water he offered had a bad sulfur content before I filled my tank. In Georgia and again in Florida I saw my first chain gangs with only black inmates. I knew then that I didn’t want to spend time in there, luckily I was passing through and made no contact with the local police. As I was on a mission I had places to be and people to see, I could not tarry.

My next stop was in Trenton, New Jersey, with some friends of my mother who own a small motor court where I would rest for a few days.

Black and White image, late 1960's, female model, swims suit, on a log. 

Canadian Sojourn Part ll

To continue doing something with determination or resolve despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.”

Young, dark haired, night gown, old house in the countryside, overgrown weeds.
In the college l met a young woman who wanted to work on her modeling. Slim and hard working.

A sense of elation…, freedom greeted my passage through Houston as I saw the last sign announcing at I was leaving the city. As I opened a cold brew I was already drunk on my sense of freedom. I was entering the unknown, the furthest I had ever been from home. Now without a doubt I had entered an adventure. That adventure lead me to New Orleans late at night, I pulled into a gas station. I asked the station attendant who turned out to be the owner if there was a safe place to pull into to get some sleep. He very kindly told me that I could sleep there, but to be gone by morning. July was hot and muggy, filled with mosquitoes for a sweat drenched fit-filled sleep.

Next morning I found a lovely park where it was cool from the night air. My plan was to make coffee and hit the road, but a big burly cop pulled up and told me the park was closed. My water was just starting to steam so I told him real nice if I could make my coffee first and he would be welcome to the first cup. He sort of smiled and said I’d better not be there on his next round and left. Thus started my relationship with road cops all there to enforce the local rules, I would ask politely for their help then move off. All done in a self-serving spirit of not wanting to provoke a search, or other encounters. My greatest fears of the road was cops and bigots. Here I was a Mexican driving on their turf far from home. I was also twenty one (21) with a van that had some pot and a wad of hashes I had been given as a going away present. So I was always very pleasant and easy to deal with in all my encounters.

Black and white image, young dark haired model, wearing a shirt, overgrown weeds.
She was very open to my ideas and we work hard on our collaboration.

As I was on a short time fame to get to Rode Island for the folks festival and driving through the south, I knew that I would be in for some hard days. My next stopping point was in the panhandle of Florida at a state park I saw on a sign. I pulled in from a hard rain late in the evening, there I had the luxury of a place to sleep undisturbed, and bathrooms. I remember going to the washroom in my poncho, seeing myself in the mirror. Like a young medieval monk I looked back at myself in the bathroom mirror. Dripping water I could hear the thunder and see the lighting as I washed up for the night. My first real wash in two (2) days and nights. I fell into a deep sleep with the thunder as my background.

A word on the gear I had taken from home for my journey, I had a camp stove to make my coffee and hot meals. It was a two burner with flaps to keep out any wind, it served my purpose very well on my trip and beyond. Coffee became my peace maker, I’d offer fresh hot coffee to any official trying to run me off, or to buy a little time. Even served as a measure of common humanity to make it apparent to all that I was just like them in this regard. Just leave me in peace until I make and get coffee poured.

Black and white image, silhouette of a woman, abandon house, overgrown weeds and sky.
Sadly my escape to Canada cut short our work.


Canadian Sojourn

Old San Antino                      Old San Antonio. old building, Late 68, girl black hair, period dress, staircase.
Late 60’s high school girl in a staircase in old building.

                                                                      “To continue doing something with determination or resolve despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.”


I want to address my timeline here before I get to the assisting  proper. I’m starting just after high school because that when my assistanting story begins. I was also a shooter for my local newspaper for about a year after being an apprentice for a local shooter. When I was twenty my world change for me, some would say for the better, some the worst. My life has been one of being addicted to the news. I started as a very young man and of course as the war in Vietnam was played on most television sets in American, I became an avid watcher. I watched as Walter Cronkite slowly turned against the war, and was willing to say so. I listened to friend’s who I knew who had a firsthand knowledge, told the truth about the war that no one on television seemed to acknowledge. I knew that I could not in good conscience would not and could not participate. My country was willing to send me to kill…, send me a half the world away as long as l killed people who had never done wrong to me.

Black haired beauty with a piece of her hair in her mouth.
High school friend, black hair very cool girl and a beauty.

So it was clear to me that I needed an excuse to cover my fleeing to Canada to save myself. The popular sentiment with people in support of the war was, “America, love it or leave it”. So my decision was made, I would flee to the wilds of a country I did not know, but who supported my stance on the war. My cover became that I was taking a trip to see the country, and by happenstance I was going to the Newport Folk Festival. One last chance to see some of the country before I went off to war. I was going to go by bike, a 10 gear bicycle on a trip of over 1000 miles. My first hurtle, one of many, was to convince my mother!

Some 50 years later I can still see the events of that day clearly. I met her in the cafeteria in the basement of her office. She telling all the reasons that I wasn’t going, she had a list full of reasonable reasons I was not to go. I said not a word, safe in my resolve that come hell or high water I had no choice, but to save myself and my conscience. I could see in her eyes that she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt she knew I was leaving. So while she plotted ways to stop me I begin to train for the trip.

Late 60's black haired beauty on a golf bridge over creek.
High school friend, black hair in late 60’s dress.

I rode everywhere that bike would take me, I learned to take racers turns leaning far into my turns. My friend and another Michael trained with me, we rode day and night. My friend was fond of taking risks, riding down a hilly twisty street at full speed trusting fate that there was no car on the road. I made the mistake of showing him the bike of my dreams that I could not afford. He bought the damn thing because he could. Then one night ride he got a cramp in his neck that made him drive right into a curb and wrecking the front tire…, much to my delight. He also decided not to come on the trip with me for reasons I am unsure of. Unfazed I kept to my training riding far and wide.

As the day for my departure approached my mother offed to get a van for me. A VW micro-bus with poke a dots curtains like a wonder bread truck. It had a refrigerator/water tank, a small closet, and a pull out bed; a home on wheels for my trip, and a safe haven for her so she wouldn’t worry so much. Now if she had been less supportive I would have realize the limitation I faced. I hadn’t face really long distances before, I was just getting to those trials.

My preparations included buy a packing trunk, all my so call winter gear when in there. I stored everything I could possible need including all my darkroom gear. If anyone had bothered to check there was no way I was packed for just a summer trip.

Fired!

Black and White, Blond girl, an old speak-easy.
In my learning years I use the girls from my high school. Not necessarily prettiest, but the coolest.

Now I have to discuss a topic that many people find hard to comprehend, the idea of firing someone who should be in charge. I have always worked with people for as long as it pleased me. If someone disappointed me in some way, the first time I worked with them, it was the last time I worked with them. Top of my list is a guy I worked with who happened to work for the National Enquirer. I have strict rules for my working with entities. I was hired under false pretenses, he never told me who he was working with. We were already far from our home base when he told me, so I had to resort to my professionalism finish the job.

We were on a back-road when he told me to stop the car, I checked the mirror to see who was behind us before I hit the brakes. Again he yelled to stop, I put on my signal and pulled to the side of the road. Again I wasn’t fast enough for him and he yelled to stop the fucking car! Listen I told him it’s not my gear in the back of this car, I don’t give a shit if we are hit, but I figure you might. A line of three cars zoomed past us as I shifted in to reverse. Backup he growled, I want to see something. The shoot went downhill from that point on, and ended with not getting paid on time.

I mentioned it to a photographer I was working with in the context of not working with people I had problems with. He looked shocked by the idea, he said to me YOU fire people? Yeah I said I do…, I only work with people that I am compatible with. I told him that I had to fire his main competitor just that week for trying to get me to work with another assistants who I knew was racist. I had the perfect backup who I was training and worked with several times before, I knew the guy would do a fine job for him.

Black and White image, old house overgrown with vegetation, shot in the late 60's.
As a photographer I found it easy to get girls to pose for me. I learned from them how to speak to them which was the hardest part.

In my line of work I find it was to my benefit to have people who could fill in for me and I for them when the need arose. I trained many fine women and men on how to get were I was in the business. I never scrimped on the knowledge I taught them because that would work against me in the long run. I followed a few rules on the hiring of a backup, first and foremost was did the photographer work with them before. Next was how comparable was the assistant with the job to be done. And lastly but not the least of things how hard was the photographer to work with, did he have any problems I knew of that would make for a bad fit.

As I have said it was a good situation for me to run my business with the least of problems. Those who failed in some way to work in my guidelines I let go. To me life was too short to fill it with people who didn’t work with me, or tried to break the rules. Those that know me know I adhere to as few rules as possible in my life. Work was a horse of a different color indeed.

Working with Nude Models

Leaf, bottom, buttocks, color image, Michael Vasquez Art.

I have been blessed to have found models who trust my motives, and my photographic eye, who are willing to let me capture elements of them for my art. Sum of parts lead invariable to the whole being, those parts that are the valued by artists, and pornographer alike though for different reasons. I am drawn the pubic regions since I was a young boy for it’s mysteries. Now as a seasoned man I am still draw to this area. One young woman I knew and photographed allow me to capture her for a show I was entering. I wanted her pureness of my capture to show what photographers and pornographers alike were interested in.

Female model, torso, pubic, belly botton, B & W image. Michael VAsquez Art

I’ve been asked more than a few time if I worry about working with nude models alone. To tell the truth I have never given it much consideration because of the way I work my craft. I offer references, give the model a straight forward idea my style of work, now I give the access to my website so they can see what I shoot, and them what to expect. I am very welcoming to significant others to check me, and the studio out so that everyone is comfortable. I make it clear before any shoot happens that I expect to work with my model’s undivided attention.

Colorful image, female pubis and legs, vibrant colors, Michael Vasquez Art.

For my part I am very respectful of the models rights, and my responsibility. When I work with a nude model I realize that their personal space is much more important for them. To date I have never had a model who even thought I have done anything in the least bit inappropriate. Once I had a younger model who I plan to work with at a friend’s farm. On the way over I told her that I wasn’t sure who else would be there, I assured her that she was not going to put on any shows for anyone. That if worst came to worst we’d have the nice meal I had brought, and just call it a day. At the risk of being called paternalistic, I wanted her to feel at ease. That’s is the problem though, the same preparations I use to make my models comfortable, are the same tactics predators use to lull their victims into a false sense of security.

Female model torso, legs split, acorn over vigina, Michael Vasquez Art.

Then there is the matter of the release, I want my model or subject to see everything I have captured before they sign. I want for them to be comfortable with what we’ve gotten, after all we work in a collaborative manner. Many times I work without a release at all, preferring to be able to get in touch with the person, tell them what and were I want to use our image(s). Since I use real film this can get quite expensive, a few times the model decides to not sign. Those few times the whole shoot has been an expensive waste of resources. I can only use the images for display only, no sales are permitted, really that is fair. Now not everyone works as I do, my models work with the anticipation of sales to follow. My work is sold in galleries, or used in books, my website, or I donate it to various organizations that foster a positive sex culture.

Female, model, buttocks, Moon, night, B & W image, Michael Vasquez Art.

Again not everyone works this way, but I feel very strongly about my images, and the way I work. I work very hard at my craft, I get some beautiful images in the pointillist manner. I am proud of my work, the people who chose to work with me…, how could I not take the steps necessary to make it a beautiful experience for all.

Esperanza

Black & white image, glass block wall, topless,black panties, blond leaning against wall.

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.

Color image, cute blond, winter wear, standing in front of a silo, last of winter greenery.

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.

Black & White image, topless, long haired blond, in front of bedroom window, staring out window, wearing a white sarong.

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.

Color image, black panties, tight shot of black panties.

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.

Danish Summer: Girl ll

Danish Model, Black & White image, three quarters limage with a cute wrap around her bust, wearing jean.

This girl was harsh, harsh, and harsh in her look, patterned herself off the Germanic look. In reality she was a sweet girl hopping to make it in the big city. I tried my best to get her to relax her look, this was the best I could manage. The owner of the studio, Jim said it was the best look he had seen in her book, which was quite a complement coming from him, he had a great eye.

Color image of Danish model, in a Black PJ top, stern look

She had come over just in time for the madhouse of getting Jim ready for a shoot of his own. I sat her down in the alcove to the studio with a glass of champagne so she could relax while I made sure he had everything he would need. When I could finally turn my attention to her, I called her into the change room for makeup and to change. Then we set about the business we were there for, I made her change clothes fairly often to work off any nerves. And I tried to work on her look.

Danish model, color image three quarters, red top and jeans..

I also got her topless even though she said I don’t have anything to show, and I left it at that. I never force a model to try something she is not comfortable with. Their discomfort shows up in the eyes first, just like too much to drink. My job is to read how the model feels, and to react accordingly. An unhappy model doesn’t look good, there is something off about the photos. Now on the other hand a playful model will look so good in the photos, but when she has to explain to an unhappy significant other…, well things can change.

Danish model, color image, topless with jean shorts.

Anyway the model was very happy with the way she came across in my photos. And there was no significant other in the City to worry about. The only problem with that the afternoon that she came to look over her work Jim had locked his keys in the office. I didn’t get the chance to have a relaxing time with her, maybe buy her dinner, I had to make a mad dash to Grand Central to give Jim his keys back so he could go home.

A second shoot was in order, but in a boom or bust economy we never had the chance. We had a good time working that night, both of us got something out of out shoot as it should be.

Rest with Peace at Last

Young red haired model, white top, against a old wooden barn.

It was with great sadness and shock I learned of the passing of one of my model. I will always remember her as a very talented, and bright person, I thought she had a great future. When I met her I really had to sell myself as a photographer for her. Over coffee I showed her my book, told her in general term what I wanted to shoot with her. I was amazed what a difficult sell she was, though I knew she was worth any trouble.

We agreed to shoot at a friend’s farm, the old milk barn. On the drive over I told her that I didn’t know if anyone would be there visiting. I told her that we might just end up having dinner that I cooked because I did not want to put on a show for anybody’s benefit. We took our time to warm up, for her to be comfortable with what I was shooting. Went the sun was the right position for the light that I wanted we started at the barn. I got her in the transparent dress that I had just bought for this shoot. At one point I had moved in for a tight shot, asked her to lean back against the barn. She just let herself drop back against those rough boards. Without thinking I reached to grab her, she was so tall I grabbed her lower back and buttocks. She shot me a dirty look for having touched her without asking, I told her quickly “it’s the dress…, I’m saving the dress! We both started laughing over that, and all was forgiven.

 

Black and white image, wooden fence , young model, leather belt, boots, wooden fence, other worldly, looking into camera.

 

Then over a vegetarian dinner I had made just for her we met the boy’s that lived there. They were on their best behavior, and drunk on moonshine. It was so funny to watching them both so impaired, yet so formal with her. But Taz the dog just wanted a taste of what I was serving.

About a month later we had a second shoot out there in the family graveyard with the lovely old wooden fence. The setting really appealed to her, we worked really hard to get the shots I wanted. We worked with a man’s shirt for the most part, I got her down to boots and a belt at one point. Dressed or not she carried herself very well, and with a fluid motion. Not shy in the least she carried herself with a grace and pose that belied her few years.

We had a falling out over some advice I gave her, she told me that she already had a father. I figured that after she had put on a few more years we’d manage to become friend’s again. But she never communicated with me again, over time I tried less and less. Then last weekend I was just curious to see what she was up to now. I expected great things from her in business and beyond. It was great sorrow I learned that she had taken her own life, then it all made a kind of sense. While very open about parts of her life she was very guarded about other parts. Those parts that caused her hurt and pain that I couldn’t comprehend.

Global Virus

Young woman, cape, vampire before a tomb.

 

In this age of global viruses I have shut down my photography for the time being. I have decided to stay at home, now going my seventh (7) week of staying in. Time to take stock of where I am, where I’ve been, and where I am going.

First of all I want to thank the women who grace my pages, without your kind indulgences for my art I would have nothing to show. Each of the women who work with me are very special to me, and my work. That I value you individually is beyond question. I strive to capture what is the essence of womanhood though you. Sometimes I fall woefully short, sometimes right on the mark.

Now to the virus…, it’s so sad. Because I am an older gentleman I have organizations that deliver to older people. One nice sunny day, while I was waiting for them to deliver, I was listening to the birds. A car drove by with the driver wearing a face mask, the people delivering my food also wore mask and gloves. The new reality of life for those of us lucky to live in the so called civilized world. I too had glove, and asked them to leave the box on the porch. We each stayed the required length apart.

Other than that I have had only visitor who rarely come into my apartment. Last weekend for a change of scenery I went with her shopping, but stayed in the car. Who would have ever thought that sitting in a parking lot could be such fun. Seeing all the mask covered people going about their chores, a few wearing stretch pants, fewer still looked good in them. My first real glace at people in over 5 weeks, and all wearing masks.

My how the times have changed!

The above image was shot in the late 60’s, she was a girl from my high school.  Married her high school sweetheart and died early in a car accident.  She was bright and very statuesque.  The first time we shot together I was so nervous I almost dropped a lens I was trying to screw into my camera.  When she noticed I tried to cover by saying I was just deciding on which lens to use.

Latina Angel

Young Model, Eighteen, Black & White, Semi-nude, Latina.

Easily my youngest model, and most at risk. Just turned eighteen (18) with a toughness beyond her meager year. Already getting involved in the sex business, her portfolio was full of images that featured very intimate images. We made arrangement to meet, look over my work to see if she was interested in working with me. I told her point blank that her portfolio was showing too much of her, that no one was looking at her face. She very frostily informed me that she already had a manager. She agreed however to pose for me.

She came out of the bathroom in the cuties little bathrobe, smoking a mile a minute, her foot beating out a quick tattoo. Let out a burst of blue smoke and read me the rule for working with her. When on for at least five minutes, “any questions” she asked, taking in another lung-full of smoke. “ Yeah do you get naked?”, sure said she throwing of her bathrobe, giving me the feast your eyes on this look . While she preened for my benefit, “naw” I said, “lets get you in a dress!” She burst out laughing like the girl she still was, having been caught. In taking her down that peg, we became friends…, I showed her I could play as well.

We began in that dress as promised, soon she was nude, and man she could pose.., interesting stuff with very good moves. I asked her permission to shoot more anatomical shots, she agreed, but she didn’t want me to show them, they were for my own benefit. I had an idea, just in the formative stages of what I might like to do with them. She probably thought I was going to use them for my own enjoyment if you get my drift.

Anyway after I got my film back, saw just how great she came across we made arrangement to meet. I showed her our work, gave her small prints I had made, and then asked for her to sign a release. That is the way I like to do things, I want my model to see all our work, to be comfortable in what I was able to capture. For her part she was trilled, “this is like art” she said. That is the reaction I want my models to have. To see my work, out work as a cut above…, transcending that line between the mundane into the realm of art.

Many years after, after I had a stroke, many long years recovery I finally had worked out that vision of what I wanted to do with the more intimate images I had captured. I worked over those images getting them just right. Then I sent them to her for her approval, want her to know that I wanted to donate our work to some groups who work for a positive sex culture, asked her if she agreed. To my great relief she agreed to let me use them. Working in a collaborative fashion is not for everyone, but I feel great that it works for me and my models.

SEO: Easily my youngest model, and most at risk. We made arrangement to meet, look over my work to see if she was interested in working with me.