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.

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.

Mugs

Here is a quick snap of the mugs I got from the lab.  I told them after seeing the first one to think artistic.  These were not mugs of the kids playing baseball or soccer that you sent to aunt Harriett.  These were original work of art that I was selling.  Told them to reduce the image by a quarter inch, and increase the space between the images by that same quarter inch.  Much much better, except that I wanted the insides black to match the black in the image.  Stay tuned.

Rope

Many genres draw my interest, I shoot my impression of a setting…, a cerebration…, an act. All my images are crafted using available light, reflectors, cards, and that most important ingredient: love of subject.

My goal is to create art of you and your body. To highlight the curves, the crevices, and to do so in a respectful manner…, all while capturing the essence of who you are at this particular moment. Explicit or not each image gives the subject some sense of privacy to her image.

Models come to me from many walks of life…, and for many different reasons. We work in collaboration, my model’s input is expected and welcome. Poses are offered, boundaries are pushed, yet respected. I do ask each model to come with an open mind, and a sense of play.

No releases are signed until each image is approve, I shoot for the art market only.

Date’s Matter

 

Playing with rope ideas with my favorite model, Jean Dawson.  Cross-processed, and out of date film…, love the starkness of the image, that brutal hard light.

That the magic has happened, it’s sitting there waiting to be processed. That part of the equation happens at the lab far away. About 10 days till I get a rough idea of what I have gotten; knowing that these scans mean nothing. All told 30 days to get the master scan back from the lab. Only then do I get my hands on the final image of this scan.

Overall I am very pleased with my exposure, held the details in the window. The knot holds-up well, many years since my tying days. A very patient model here as I fumble with remembering long ago combinations.

Image deserves a higher quality scan to get the colors to balance off her skin tone. Only then will I know what the image looks likes…, what I will have to work with. So not for the impatient, or for those in a rush. Time put into all aspects my work…, the care and feeding of a model, the care and feeding of my mind…, still able to come up with ideas. Then to pull it all off, for that magic to happen in camera. And at 70 you say!

BACK-LIT: MS RUBY

 

 

A twenty year old college student, so full of herself and her sexuality, she had dabbled in the porn industry a bit. When we met to discuss a possible shoot she came off as a world weary pro. But the quality of my work and the ideas I present intrigued her.

By the second shoot she was comfortable with me, the way I worked, and the way I respected her space. I’d told her that we would again be working out at the farm, but way off in a very rustic area.  Took her to the family graveyard, three old graves, a wooden fence surrounding the plot. This was to be a completely nude shoot. She worked very well, good poses, good movement. These are among my favorites, back-lit, motion, and soft focus. Arty shots.

Ms Traci James

 

I watch as you move in an elegant way…,

unplanned, spontaneous…,

uncontrived movements

of you.

Unconsciously you move, hands just so

arms just so,

and your legs held…, just so, elegant.

Putting on makeup, unconcerned with the way you look,

but the way you are perceived, the way you relate to the world.

The footing for the foundation of you…,

who you are, and who you wish

to become in this moment in time.

Unconvinced of the gift of you, the treasure

of you…, the worth of you.

Taught, tortured from youth…,

the child inside of you disbelieving…,

basic value that I see shiny in your eyes.

The basics of your life, uncomplicated, easy in your skin,

mind and body; held just so…,

elegant in the beauty of you…,

Elegant in the you of you.

21 December 2010

Traci James (The You)