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Yesterday was a long one. I had to get to Napa to take my Subaru into the dealer for its 30k spa treatment at 7:30 am. Mother nature decided to mark the day with the first rain storm since June that dumped until late into the evening. I worked on my website a bit and then had to head out to prepare for my closeup. It was time to be a model again.
I modeled nude for the first time a few months ago. I wrote about my session with Kristin and what I learned from it. Even though I was nude, you couldn't see my face. In fact, I was more of a parts model than anything else. Today's shoot was completely different. It involved clothing and emotions.
My friend Richard Plunk (Model Mayhem link here - you may notice we have worked with the same models from time to time) is making a conceptual series on self-identity and the "othering" we do automatically. He wanted me to be a part of it and sit solo and with a female model friend for later shots.
As always, I enjoy learning from other photographers. Richard is a different photographer than I am. He is much more meticulous in his sessions. He has a strong concept of the shot and sets up all the wardrobe, lighting and has blocked out the scene in many ways before the first photo is snapped. He directed us in movement, emotions, and other details to get what he needed.
Even though he had a very strong concept of the photo, he asked us for ideas and let us experiment with our movements. We would try something and if he liked it we would hold the pose and he would give subtle directions for subtle enhancements (e.g., chin up a little, tilt your head a touch, etc.).
We shot for around 80 minutes and I was getting tired by the end. Shooting in a studio with huge banks of lights popping while holding poses, expressions, and thoughts takes immense concentration. Working with another model where you are touching and holding each other while trying to keep all this other stuff in mind takes even more work.
What did I learn? First, Richard's eye for detail is a must for his work. His photos have a heavily composed aesthetic where every part of it is crucial to the narrative. I appreciated the constant stream of direction and his attention to detail.
Second, I need to tighten up my directorial game when photographing models. I need to be able to direct physical motion (chin up, tilt head, etc.) with more precision. With that said, I also recognize I direct differently by guiding through the emotions I want the models to feel and live during the shoot. I learned this from watching videos of Avedon photographing subjects and manipulating the session with dialogue that evoked deep emotions within the models.
Third, I reaffirmed I want Richard to take my portrait I will need for my website bio page. I feel he has a true aesthetic that compliments mine, yet is unique and will add to my portrait. I look forward to that session as well.
I had to depart quickly after the session to pick up my car from the dealer before they closed. I would rather have stayed and shared a coffee with the Richard and the other model, but life started back up outside the studio and I had to get back to living. All this brings me to my fourth lesson. Time creating images with a model is of its own entity. All other life issues, agendas, and urgency pause while the session creates something entirely different. Once it is over, life resumes. This is partially true for me as a photographer, except I still have so much work editing and preparing the photos that time continues on. As a model, that pause of reality is a rare treat to escape what is life and to live it out in front of another photographer's lens.
Will I model again? Yes for three reasons. The first is that I owe it to art karma since I've relied so heavily on others to model for me. The second reason is that I learn a lot about the model/photographer relationship that is different than the photographer/model relationship. The third reason is that it feels so good to help create something and then be able to leave it in the hands of others and trust them to do it right. Since I do most of my work behind the camera, I don't need to take ownership in these images or push them for my needs. I am not going to put out a Model Mayhem page advertising my modeling work. I am there to support the art and just enjoy creating and then releasing control and not have to worry about all the post production that I do for my own work. I paid my dues by modeling. It is up to the photographer to make sure those dues pay off for him or her. With Richard, I hope I gave him what he needed. He is a great photographer to work with.
One last note, Richard went on the same trip to NYC I went on last year. He is somewhere in the image at the top.