Lovena is one of the most beautiful people on this Earth. Yes, she is gorgeous physically but I mean as a person. It’s a rare and special occasion to meet someone this wonderful. We worked together for only a short time in the mid-90′s when I was working mostly as a bodybuilding/fitness photographer but she left an impression on me that will last forever. I wish we didn’t live so far apart. Lovena certainly would have become a long time muse and more important, one of my best friends.
The following essay was written for my book PHYSIQUE, published in 1996 by Thunder’s Mouth Press.
I photographed Lovena Tuley competing in the 1994 Fitness America Championships and I’m afraid I didn’t notice her or her eighth place finish. It was only later, while I was sorting the slides from the competition that I noticed this incredibly beautiful woman. You could see her vibrance radiating from the little slides. Looking carefully, I could see Lovena had an extremely photogenic face, beautiful hair, and a drop-dead gorgeous gymnast’s body. Where was my mind during the contest? Normally when I am so overwhelmed with a model, the impression she makes is instantaneous. Lovena’s look was perfect for my photography. I knew any picture I took of her would be great.
I wrote to Lovena begging her to shoot with me as soon as possible. Lovena quickly responded with a phone call, surprised that a photographer “as famous as me” would be interested in working with her. It always amazes me that the best ones never realize how good they are. Fortunately, she was competing several months later in nearby New Jersey and we made a date for our photo session. From our phone conversations, I could tell Lovena’s personality matched her looks. She was a warm and wonderful person. I knew those traits would come across in my photographs. I couldn’t wait to meet and photograph her.
The weekend of the competition came and Lovena was better than my imagination of her. Of course, nothing good comes easily and during the competition Lovena broke her foot. I was sure my months of waiting were now for nothing but Lovena, ever the trooper, insisted we do our shoot no matter what. I think my expectations were so high, that during the first several hours and twenty rolls of film, nothing seemed to work well. The pictures were okay but nothing was great. It was as if there was some barrier between us and I couldn’t break through. This sometimes happens during shoots and often it is better to give up, knowing that you can try again another day. Second shoots are always easier. Both people already know each other and instead of a business relationship it’s more like two friends working together.
Something happened to Lovena on roll number twenty. I had said my usual, “Just one more roll,” and I meant it. But during that roll lighting must of struck Lovena. She went through a complete personality change. I don’t know what made her relax but suddenly every picture was incredible. There were more great pictures on that one roll than during the previous two hours of shooting. I looked up at Lovena and said, “If it’s okay with you, we’re starting over. The last roll was amazing and I have to go on.” Broken foot and all Lovena allowed me to continue and shoot another twenty rolls. The barrier was broken. Now we were friends.
Our second shoot went better. I can’t wait to work with Lovena again. Not only do I get great pictures but I have a new, very special friend.