Assisting 100 pt 0

Black and White image,full length shot of a young Caucasian woman wearing a grown.

My first gig as an assistant was gotten for me by my mother. After I had tried working with my mother, doomed from the start. Working with my mother doing collections was hell, she found a small pillow in the closet that she accused me of storing there. Again and again I told her it wasn’t mine, she thought I’d had girls up to her office. One of her girl’s finally said it was hers, I turned on my mother and told her to apologies. I told her that the word she was trying not to say was I’m sorry; no apologies I walked out.

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

I wanted to do theater work for the school, and since working with the AV Department junior school, now I would be working on school plays. But that wasn’t good enough for the dear, I got the word just as I was about to climb up into the catwalks on a newbie the tour. I did not know what I wanted to make my life work, but I’d know it when I found it, it sure as hell wasn’t working in a 9 to 5 environment. So to make it up to me she found a friend who had a photographer brother. So began a life long obsessions.

Young, dark haired, night gown, old house in the countryside, overgrown weeds.

I had seen the ​​​​​​​​​​​​​”Blow-Up”, the movie loosely based of the English photographer Harry Benson I believe. I learned very quickly that as a lowly assistant, I was not the one to roll around with models. But as the owner of a set of keys to the studio it had it’s benefits. I have always found a draw to the human face, female faces in particular. Throw in an old building with a window I will find a model. So my knowledge of the basics of photography and the darkroom got me hired.

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

Along with my basic knowledge, and knowing how to answer a phone got me an introduction to the duties of an assistant. Clean the toilet each morning then sweep the place, and making coffee. As for shooting that was accomplished with the aid of hot lights, so I needed to know how to change a HOT light bulb. This was seat of your pants photography, most was daylight setups. I learned how to develop film as well as prints. Many long hours spent over rolls of 35mm film both Back and White and of Transparencies. One summer he hired another guy to work there as well, that summer we cleaned the drum drier canvas belt. That included putting the damn thing back together with the weight roller to provide tension.

Latnia young womam, sitting in window, black hair, head and shoulders, Black and White images.

We both got press passes that allowed us onto the grounds to Hemisfair, the state’s attempt at a worlds fair. The extra bonus was that having a press pass allowed us into the Press Club just for journalist. They allowed all journalist to drink, though the state did not. Same thing for the main Press Club just for journalist and their guess’s. But the real draw of the press pass was access to places without paying the admission to. We used those passes for all they were worth. We practically lived at Hemifair that summer.

Black and white image, silhouette of a woman, abandon house, overgrown weeds and sky.

But all things come to an end, I soon left the photographer I worked with, went on to the local newspaper.

Canadian Sojourn Part 5

Black and White image, profile of a girl, head to knee, in shadow and light.

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


I asked the cop if there was anyplace, like a state park that I could grab some sleep. He told about a state park that wasn’t far that I could try. I found the park without too much trouble and settled in for the night. Next morning the caretaker of the park came around to tell me no sleeping was allowed. I beat him to the punch and told him my coffee was almost ready and he was welcome to a cup, but I didn’t have cream or doughnuts. He smiled and said he’d bring some the next morning, then we sat and talked about his life. He said in the summers he worked there in New Port, winter he went to live in Florida. He got around to telling me about the state trooper who made his rounds at night, he would tell him that I was alright. Then the village was calling me to go explore the sites, so off I went.

Black and White image, young woman buttocks with shadows and light.

I drove back to that park I had tried to sleep in, walked out to the point to have a look around. I found a young blonde hippy chick was there at the point. I nodded a hello and kept walking. Next I drove out to the press site for the festival and presented the letter of introduction I had from the radio station. It said that the radio station was doing a report on the festival, to give me any consideration they could. Even thought I was a member of the press in good standing back in San Antonio, I could see that this was big time, with big coverage. They turned me down flat because they didn’t have time for small town press.

I just gave up for now, when back to the beach to look and to think. Now I had the time to think, to mull my options. Did I want to push them, was I going to Canada or not. The little blonde hippy chick was no where around by then. I did have a place to stay for the week, and a state trooper to check on me.., I was safe as possible. The caretaker and I began a morning ritual, coffee and a long talk. Next morning I went back to the point, there was the girl so I said hello. We stuck up a conversation, explored the beach at low tide. Her father lived there, she was visiting for the summer. Slowly she began to tell me more about herself, how her father would lock her out of the house for coming in too late.

Black and White image, young woman's torso , neck to knees in shadow and light

I got to drop her off at home, then went down to the church were all the kids gathered. I found the billboard where all the acts for the festival were posted. Most of the kid were sleeping on the grounds, but I had a very quiet hilltop view of the ocean to wake up to. That night I attended my first night of the festival. It was a lot of fun as you can guess, with plenty of pot going around to partake. I drove back to my hilltop, music filled my dreams and any thought of my responsibility to the radio station were soon forgotten.

To this day I still have reservations about not doing what I had agreed to, I reasoned that I was not getting paid anything, the letter hadn’t worked, and I was probably not going back for a long time, if not forever. Therefor I’d put out of mind till I was trying to get to sleep. My mind was on the festival and the hippy chick, although not necessarily in that order. I was slowly deciding that I was not going back to be drafted, this was my last chance to see the states.

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.

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.