I begin with an essay Austin Sora wrote about our August 3rd shoot. My own essay will follow.
Austin Sora. Another Place. 8-5-15
When Paul asked me to do a portrait shoot with him, I felt like he had given me an invitation into a world I had been watching from afar. He didn’t reveal what kind of portrait he had in mind, but I had been following his Intimate Portrait project and wondered if we would be shooting in that style.
The morning of the shoot, I thought about what might happen, and I found myself hoping to do an intimate portrait. There is an intensity and strength inside each model that Paul knows how to draw out and capture. The series is so powerful and it was something I wanted to be a part of.
As the day went on, I tried to imagine what I would look like photographed in that style. I was intrigued, but as I began to think more about the logistics of the shoot, I questioned whether or not I would be comfortable having Paul, who I barely knew, sitting on top of me, with his camera inches from my face. I was also in the middle of a stressful week, wondering if that would come across in the pictures. When the time came to ring the buzzer, I felt somewhat hesitant, but mostly curious.
Stepping into Paul’s apartment was like entering another world. My fears about the intimacy of the shoot quickly faded and I was ready for whatever experience would unfold. We chatted while Paul adjusted the lighting and shortly thereafter we began shooting.
It was such a special experience. It was truly like a meditation. The physical contact, what I had been nervous about, turned out to be what comforted me. It was as though the weight of Paul’s body grounded mine. It was an unexpected physical-emotional reaction, and an exciting discovery. I found a rhythm in the subtle movements, focusing on my breathing, and I felt completely connected with Paul. All of the stress I had been dealing with faded away and everything seemed to be in complete harmony. It was like a dream.
Paul periodically flipped his camera around to show me some of the photographs and I almost didn’t recognize myself. I saw a side of myself I didn’t know existed.
Afterward, Paul was kind enough to make some hummus and we sat at the table, chatting about New York, dance, and dumplings. It was hard to believe that something so magical had happened just moments before.
I left feeling changed and it stayed with me long after I arrived home. The experience was so ingrained in my subconscious that I dreamed about the shoot that night. I couldn’t help but wonder if the whole experience was a dream, but there were pictures that proved otherwise.
Paul has led me into another world and I can’t wait to go back there with him.
Austin Sora. An essay by Paul B. Goode
Last night I did an Intimate Portrait shoot with Austin Sora. It was the first time I was able, allowed to enjoy the physicality of an “Intimate” shoot. It will change my expectations for every shoot in the future, Intimate or otherwise.
Austin wanted to stop by to pick up the winter issue of VISION magazine. There’s a photo of her in the Table of Silence feature. Austin is applying for a work visa and needs as much material as possible to make sure she can continue to work in the United States. I have always wanted to take Austin’s portrait and figured as long as she was already coming over it would be the perfect opportunity to shoot. The first idea to come into my head was how perfect she would be for the Intimate Portrait project but I didn’t think she’d be comfortable with the emotional closeness and physical contact involved during the shoot. It’s difficult enough to shoot like that with people I know! It takes a special person who can let go of all their inhibitions and trust someone completely during a very intimate shoot with a person they hardly know.
08/07/15. I’m having trouble writing about this shoot. It’s hard to remember my feelings without actually being in physical contact with Austin. I sort through the thousands of pictures we took, hoping to find some inspiration. It does work. I text Austin one of the images I like. We text back and forth.
PBG. “I’m finding it difficult to put our shoot into words. You did it so well.”
Austin. “Thank you! I feel like I didn’t quite express it. But I wanted to finish while it was still fresh.”
PBG. “I should have written immediately after our shoot but choosing the photos for our essays has brought me back to that place and in some ways, a better understanding of why your shoot was so special.”
Austin. “It’s nice to have some time to process everything.”
PBG. “I realized that more than anyone else, you allowed me to be myself while we were shooting. That comfort level made me a better photographer. ”
Austin. “It’s so interesting hearing your perspective because you have shot in this style so many times, whereas I have nothing to compare it to.”
PBG. “When we’re shooting next time it will be easier to explain. I think in some ways it will be easier to talk about while we’re physically connected. It was a magic few hours.”
Austin. “I agree!”
PBG. “I posted another photo. There are so many great shots!”
Austin. “OK. I’ll have to take a look!”
08/10/15: I will finish my essay today! I just finished retouching the photos that go along with the photo-essay. It should help me find the words. I’ve put a bunch of Austin’s photographs up on Instagram and Facebook and the response is like nothing I’ve ever had before. People seem to love the portraits I’ve taken of her! They’re striking a chord in people that few of the other Intimate portraits have. I feel that way about the pictures too but I’m not sure why; though my instincts have made a guess.
As I said earlier, I didn’t think an Intimate Portrait shoot would work with Austin. These shoots are emotionally intense, often bringing out emotions from deep inside the model’s brain; place they didn’t know existed. Rarely are there smiles. There is strength and warmth, passion and sensuality, tranquility and peace. It’s a complex combinatin of feelings. Most people have all of this inside of them but it’s not what they show in public and definitely not in photographs; certainly not to the depth of the Intimate Portraits. When I look at Austin’s Facebook page it is filled with photographs of a happy, young woman. Big smiles. A Canadian living the American dream. I don’t see the deep moody dancer I look for when searching for my Intimate models.
Austin and I spoke a lot during our shoot. I stopped on occasion to show her pictures, never losing our physical connection. We talked about our comfort together and how it was making the pictures special. Sometimes I took a moment to rest my eyes, still sitting on Austin’s stomach as she lay on my couch. It was hot in my apartment. I felt the warmth of her body; the movement of her lungs, her chest slowly moving up and down beneath me. We felt like one body and one mind. I’ve been there before during a few of the previous Intimate shoots but never at this comfort level.
As I’m writing, right now, my good friend Marieka is texting me. She’s my “lost muse,” the person I most want to photograph… she won’t let me! I text about doing a shoot together.
Marieka. “Would you nut yourself like a giddy little girl because you would finally get to do a shoot with me (AKA Steal my soooouuuullll!!!!)
PBG. “I wouldn’t know until we got there. If you let me steal your soul I’d probably be a very happy person!”
Marieka. “Meh. There’s not much of it left.
At least not the fun, artistic dark side.”
PBG. “That the part I can always find in a person. The only question is whether you’ll let me pull it out?”
Austin let me “pull it out” like no one else. I found her artistic dark side. I honestly didn’t think she knew it was there. I certainly didn’t! The pictures I got from Austin’s shoot were an unexpected gift and now she leaves town for three months! I hope we’ll shoot again when she returns. I have no idea if it will be the same after the passage of time. In my crazy life, three months can seem like a decade. I might photograph twenty new muses for the Intimate Project between now and then. The series will continue to evolve and grow. I’ll have new expectations. In the late fall, when Austin and I shoot again, will she once again let me “steal her soul?”