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.

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.

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.

Long Ago and Far Far Away

Way back in my younger days, days when I was finding who I was…, what I wanted to be when I grew-up…, there was a girl. Her name, details about her are not important except that she was a lovely young woman, very kind. Ultimately we wanted a different sort of lives and loves. When we first got together she knew that I, at heart, was a photographer/artist…, I am not sure she understood all the baggage that entails.

She was adamant, if I wanted to shoot nude models she was more than willing to pose for me. I took her at her word, she became my live-in muse. All the ideas I had, but had never found a willing model she was up for. So I tested out my ideas, then tested them again till I got what I was trying to capture. Many long hours of getting her into position, getting the light just right…, and the dark. Always the dark, dark side of me, dark side of my life, and my art.

Once after posing for hours, I told her she could get dressed, I thought I had what I wanted. She looked up at me, said that I could shoot all the nude models I wanted to. I was so surprised I almost dropped the piece of gear that I was putting away. Not wanting to look a gifted horse in the mouth, I had to ask how come. Because you weren’t looking at me as a woman was her reply. No I said, the angles, the light, the darkness…, I tried to explain how I was seeing her, but not HER. She stood, patted my arm, kissed me on the cheek and said to enjoy myself.

So I did, I got a studio, brought women to the house to pose. Even got a couple of her friends to pose. I kept my part of the bargain, I was in it for the art of what I was trying to learn. All was fine for a few years, then they weren’t. We started bickering, then all out arguing…, we were no longer the people that we had started out being. I started to miss the life I had lived, the single life, then I found someone.

My muse and I decided we needed a break from each other to clear our heads , to think about this life we had together. She booked a room downtown, I stayed at the apartment, each of us were closer to where we worked for the week. By an unspoken agreement we each did out own things with who we wanted. For me it was that taste of freedom I’d wanted, a few nights with the new woman.

This woman I’d met didn’t want a commitment, she had plans for her life. She was content that I had a live-in girlfriend. I was perfectly fine with that…, except that it wasn’t fair to the live-in girlfriend. At the end of the week she came back. Then came the hardest talk I have ever had with a woman I once loved, still did in my way. It may seem cruel, I said I wasn’t leaving her for anyone else…, that I was leaving for me. That we weren’t happy and I didn’t see how we would ever be again. I was honest in that I missed my freedom, that I just didn’t want to be in a committed relationship anymore.

I was reminded of this phase of my life while listening to Sam Smith’s Midnight Train. How do you tell someone that you still love, that you do not love them in that way anymore. Which way is less cruel, staying with someone you don’t love,or to tell them why you are leaving them so they can move on with there lives?

Anyway, this image is from better days with my muse. Days in which I did love her, still do in my own way even after all these years have passed. I hope the life that she wanted turned out well for her. She still has a special place in my heart and mind. This image of a lovely part of her anatomy I always thought was very pretty. To be shared and not sold, just a special part of her that I was allowed to capture.

I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Maya Angelou

More from Long Ago

For a time in my mid-twenty’s I worked at a hospital, blue collar all the way. But I could talk, and I’d talk to the doctors and nurses because I was creative. Most of the people knew that I worked at my art through my photography. I was interest in getting some of the cooler nurses to pose for me in their off hours.

Here then is one young woman who did pose for me.

Long Ago…,

And so far away…, years in my past there was a girl, her name doesn’t matter except to me.  I used to work at a hospital, I’d come in early get a cup of coffee, wait at the window for her to arrive.  She wore what I called the string dress, made it herself had thin little straps that went over her broad shoulders.  God she wore it well, nothing underneath but panties.  A loose limbed undulating walk…, very very fluid that only the young can pull off, completely unaffected by her beauty.  I was smitten as I watched her breast gentle movements under her clothes.  She was 19 at the time, new to life, new to how things worked, and very trusting that life would work out to her favor.

Of course the fly in the ointment was that I was living with someone already, also a very loving forgiving woman.  I was in my late 20’s, still feeling my oats, and very much torn between the two; very much feeling that I was missing something, that something was my freedom.  Like with the other summer help she was a student, I liked the “kids” and would give them my list of books I thought had meaning, and were well written.  Then at the end of summer all of them returned to school, life returned to the normal state.

My live in girlfriend and I were having problems, then things would settle down, we’d be at peace again for a time.  A long winter followed, things got worse and worse…,finally we decided that we should take a break from each other.  She moved closer to downtown, where she worked, and I stayed in the apartment because it was closer to where I worked.  I had a blast, saw what I was missing, of course the young woman stayed over a couple of nights.  When my girlfriend returned, I had had enough of living a monogamous life.  A few days later we went for a walk along the railroad tracks, I told her that things just weren’t working for me.  That I didn’t want to be in a monogamous relationship with anyone, that I was leaving not for someone, but for myself alone.  It was a very hard conversation to have, I believed that it was the more honest way to be.  We separated a few weeks later, she didn’t want any of our possessions even though I told her that I’d just have to get rid of them.

I setup a life by myself, I also made up for lost time.  The young lady and I became closer, but didn’t live together, but we did see each other on a regular basis.  She was very young, needed her space and time to grow.  Of course we had our disagreements, that’s the way life is, but we made-up and life was good for the both of us.  She was the longest relationship I had up till then, about 5 years, the closest we came to living together was 1/4 mile.

Of course there is more to the story, I’ll save that for another time.