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

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.

In My Assistant Days

B & W Image, mid-thirties, Michael Vasquez, full length, dapper pose.
Me in my mid-thirties on a wander about the country side.

Assisting Days

In my early assisting days, I was in that learning phase of my career. I was hired by a local photographer full time, I slowly learned how the game was played. There was absolute dearth of information about how to earn a living as an assistant, it was left up to chance to develop my way forward. In the beginning I got the minimum required for the job I performed, as I learned more I about processing film and how to print I became more valuable, my pay went up. I was encouraged to become a shooter as well and that was a big help.

There weren’t many assistants in those days so I pretty much had the field to myself. My city was poor at that time, and very racial, that I learned as a small boy. I could see that the deck was pretty much stacked against me, so as I grew I developed into my own personal set of goals. To get by with blending in, not to draw attention to my ways. I knew that life was short so I decided to enjoy my youth while I was young. To work enough to eat, play, keep a good roof over my head, and help those that I came to love. In school I learned that I was in the working class, blue to white collar was my limited options. I found that I had a calling to working in wood early, I learned to help my teachers on their project. So naturally I found that when push came to shove I had something to fall back upon.

I moved to Toronto Canada while still a very young man, I was an avid watcher of the news, my moral compass was a prime motivation to that move. My first job was for a man who was opening a club, he needed help with the finishing touches. When I went to get my papers which allow me to legally work they asked what skill did I have, naturally I told them about the photography. The immigration man told me those jobs were for Canadians only, to pick something else to do. So for the next thirteen years I worked best with my hands and mind.

When I returned to the states I did not want to grow old as a carpenter, I wanted my dream. Back to square one in my search for work however now I had a goal for me, some knowledge. I even worked for a time in the retail end of the business, but when offered a full time position I quit. I worked for a time as a stringer for a bigger newspaper, then was hired to work with another photographer as an assistant. When business started to fail I started working as assistant to traveling photographers from all around the country and soon developed a reputation so I got jobs with national guys. The more I worked the more I learned. So when the market fell I decided to go to New York and ply my trade.

Color image, shadow of Michael Vasquez shooting the trees.

A side note: I have been having writer-block for the past few months. A lot has been happening like a new model and a visit with an ole friend. If you have read my blog you are used to a certain direction, I’ve decided to try something different here now. It is my hope that you will like the changes, and if you don’t…, well the changes are here.

Erotic Work

Black and White image, two women, nude embracing

Erotic Work

I love doing my erotic work, I love the women who work with me, and I hold them in the highest regard. I consider them as co-creators to my images, without them my pages would be empty. As we work on a piece I give them the leeway to create, giving them instructions only when needed. My job is to run the camera, intrinsically how I want to capture the image before me. Same with my model’s, I give the free rein on their poses, only adding what I am trying to create. Symbiosis, a union of two minds each work on an idea, a feeling that in most cases can’t be explained, but only felt.

Recently I was work with two women, one I had worked with before, the other was totally new to me, my way of working. The new woman had her own views of what she wanted, and that was the other model. After a bit of a warm-up my models made love. No other words come close to describing what they did, I only told them what I want to see more of to be sure I had capture everything, they only too happily compiled.

Some would say that my shoot had been hijacked, I see it in much different way. I knew what I wanted to capture. I had to concentrate on running the camera, all those little details that make the image. For them this was the first opportunity these two women had to be alone with each other. They took advantage of that opportunity, and then some. But when my camera was finished so were they. They both had other plans for that night, bang like curtain coming down they were finished.

They stayed around to finish their wine, to dress. And then were gone like a small summer breeze on hot summer day.

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.

Young Model’s

Color, nude, naked, arroyo , dry creek bed, dark haired beauty.

The problem is that young women are not prepared to understand or handle a situation like this, an older man with power and influence was carrying on, saying this is the way its done in the business. To me its not surprising because the higher functions of the brain aren’t developed until later stages of development. That is the concern I have about expecting young models to think through all the ramification of posing nude. I also have problem with thinking these “kids” as full grown women. That they should be treated with all respects as fully grown people at any age is a given, early twenty are still kids. I don’t want to take advantage of them at that age, I run the risk of being seen as paternalistic, yes I will shoot young women, but my preference is 24 at least. Yes I do get a release, but to think that gives me the right to ruin someone life because they agreed doesn’t mean I can use the images indiscriminately. Maybe because of my younger man’s experiences, kids don’t make the smart moves at that point. That’s why I still ask the women who are in contact with me if I can use their images for whatever I am trying. Having developed my own brain has given me an appreciation of the not yet developed brains. I know a lot of photographers who say “well I have a release!” To my way of thinking, yeah you do, but you should ask first…, maybe she has a reasons (like kids) not to want to be exposed like that, or to use identifying information with an image.

Young model nude, naked, white shirt, red haired, boots.

I had a model who was 24 at the time, but a young very naive 24 yeas old, She came from a farming background, wanting to make up for lost time. I could see that she was testing herself, testing her limits. We’d been shooting nudes, she was tired of that, too vanilla.., so I said, partly in jest why not masturbate for the camera. NO she said, but I could see she was thinking about it, was she brave enough. Now don’t go jumping to conclusions, I knew she was ripe for someone to take advantage of her. I also knew the way I worked, knew that I would be willing to protect her and her images. She said yeah but I have to get comfortable. So I got some really lovely stuff mainly because she didn’t know any better than to fake it, so when she left she was happy as a clam. Only after she had second thoughts, asked her friends, they told her she was nuts, that her job was in jeopardy. I told her not to worry, I wasn’t going to do anything without asking first. I kept my word, but still doing that was her concern, what did I think of her really.., she wasn’t that kind of girl. Finally a few summers ago we had the chance to really talk. That I had thought of all the ramifications before we actually shot, that I was willing to protect her, while someone else might not. Told her that I didn’t think that she was that kind of girl either, that I respected her, that I was still protecting her and her images. She was so relived that I didn’t think poorly of her. We went though the images again, told her how proud of was of the both of us, that she needed an outlet at the time that wouldn’t harm her. So all is good between us at long last. Spideer blouse, young model, class of champagne, toast blond, black and white, see through blouse.

Not everyone works the way I do, with my past mistakes of my own, made when my brain wasn’t fully developed, I have learned a hard lesson. I think of a shoot a little like the Stockholm syndrome, a model gets so comfortable with a photographer, that she wants to please him or her. Then has second thought, but its too late by that point; any damage has been done if she has signed that release. I don’t want to be that photographer…, ever! I want to do the right thing by my models then and now. I think that’s the reason I haven’t had problems. I do the right thing, even if it cost me money. I have found that the rewards far outweigh any monetary harm.

Young model, red panties and red shirt ,smoking, look down, color ima

Youngest Model to Date

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.

Youngest model, topless, young, work for trust, tough, street kid.

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.

Young, model, transpant dress, home stuido, sitting stool

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.

Young model, topless window in background, smiling.

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.

Young, model, topless recline posel Black and White image.