Here I am, sitting in Costco and eating one of their wonderful hot dogs. I’m not sure why this is the moment I need to write, but when the inspiration hits you have to go with it. Why don’t I ever get inspired to write in the comfort of my own home?
Normally I research the models I photograph for a long time before I ask them to do a shoot. If it’s a dancer who works with a company I shoot for, I’ll study how they move. How they interact with other people. If it’s an acquaintance I meet at a party or other social event, I’ll study their face carefully every time we meet. With the explosion of Facebook, a lot of the women I now shoot I’ve met as a Facebook “friend”. Sometimes the woman is a friend of a friend of a friend; several steps removed from anyone I actually know. In that case, I’ll kind of stalk their page for months. Viewing their pictures, seeing if they love to be in front of the camera, and checking to see if they speak kindly to their friends.
Lily contacted me on Facebook a few days ago and asked if I’d be interested in photographing her. I checked out her page and her look really wasn’t my style. Too sweet! I’m always looking for strong and moody women. It’s who I shoot well. I don’t do any smiling shots. They always seem so fake to me. But I felt I could hear Lily’s voice in her message. There was something so kind and honest in the way she spoke I felt I had no choice but to work with her. I’ve learned I can make mistakes and sometimes my original sense of how a person will photograph is wrong.
Juliet Doherty is one of those cases. I thought she be a geeky, giggling little girl and I’d be lucky if I got one special photo from her. Don’t get me wrong. She’s an amazing dancer but that’s not what interests me. Ha! Juliet blew me away. So there Mr. Paul B. Goode! Juliet impressed me so much I shot her three times in one week. I couldn’t get enough of her. Between her and her mom, Krista, who I also photographed, I got some wonderful photos and I can’t wait to see them both again in a few weeks.
The second I open my front door and see a model I’ve never met before, I generally know how a shoot is going to go. I wasn’t sure when I first saw Lily’s face. She was more exotic looking than her Facebook pictures and that was a good sign. When she arrived, I was at the tail end of another portrait shoot. The idea was to have the shoots overlap so I could use the two models together for my mirror series. Barbara Purcell, the other model and a beautiful redhead, was already completely relaxed and in goddess mode.
The contrast between their two faces worked perfectly but I wasn’t sure Lily could catch up to Barbara’s energy. Barbara already had a two hour head start to relax and understand what I need in a photograph. Maybe it took Lily two minutes to catch up to Barbara and do the goddess thing for the camera. I used to call it the “movie star” look. Either holding the mirror herself or as the reflection, Lily’s gaze is so intense and beautiful I can’t take my eyes off of her.
Lily and I shot for almost 4 hours without a break (except for a quick snack of dried mangoes). 4300 pictures! Every now and then Lily would get a little nervous or insecure but we’d laugh and she’d go right back into goddess mode. We shot in a sheer black tube I’ve used many times and Lily brought a different point of view to the fabric. The first models I shot in it appeared almost in a meditative state. The last one before Lily, Madison McDonough, was stronger than the earlier models but still with a great sense of calm. Lily’s pictures in the black tube are the most intense. Not what I expected. Her eyes are so fierce. In some pictures her gaze is so strong and confident it honestly scared me a bit the first time I saw them.
Often while shooting the mirror series, I need to stand right next to the model, just out of the mirror’s reflection. For one series with Lily, the best angle had me pressed hard against her side. I realized Lily could use me for support, allowing her to give me more interesting shapes with her body. This was a different and enlightening experience for me. I shoot fast and as I clicked away, I could feel the movement in Lily’s body as she changed poses. I think it allowed both of us to connect better as each picture was taken. Not only could I see when to take the next picture but I could also feel it.
Lily seemed the most relaxed while we shot these images. I wonder what she was thinking? I often feel very connected to the models while shooting. Something almost telepathic. The physical contact added a new dimension of closeness and trust. The strength of the photographs prove to me it was something positive. Lily and I are shooting again in 2 days.