After Sunday’s nude session I was both eager and anxious about sharing the results with my friend and mentor down the hall. He’s been a great teacher who has made it a habit to share his positive thoughts before sprinkling in any much appreciated criticism. I say “appreciated” because if it were not for those much feared critiques. I would have never grown or learned to improve on the things that have been holding me back. Imagine the combination of relief and glee I felt when he remarked how good the pictures from that session were and why. Going as far as saying that this was the best work I’ve done to date. Declaring that, as I move forward. This should be my portfolio. That school was out and I had graduated. The End.
I had worked with Iya a number of times through the years. I’d seen many sides of her personality and beauty. Uncovered layers of her personality and character I never knew existed. All while building a level of trust and friendship that made me feel as comfortable with her as she may have become with me. So when Iya returned for from her trip to Russia I invited her over to catch up and put some of my new ideas to work.
Though I had done my share of Boudoir Photography in the past I had recently found myself engrossed in a book by author/photographer Christa Meola titled “The Art of Boudoir Photography. Within the nine chapters Meola covers a wide array of subjects including, but not limited to posing, movement, lighting and communication. All with great detail, imagery and easily understandable text.
As Iya arrived I explained my ideas and vision while expressing my hopes to show a side of Iya my camera had rarely captured. Since meeting and working with Iya I’ve been able to capture many of her strengths, beauty and naturally sexy look. Yet I’ve never been able to capture the soft and often funny side she often reveals in private. I don’t specifically remember her reaction that day but I do remember the relaxed pace and approach to taking those images. Moving from the lights and backgrounds of the living rooms studio. We moved to the bedroom, relying on the soft natural light coming through the widow late in the day.
During those few hours we shot some beautiful images while capturing some very intimate and unguarded moments. It was by far the most laid back and natural session we’ve done together. One I’ll look back on as the day I really allowed me access to Iya’s softer side. Thanks Iya.
I had already photographed Jay on several occasions and had developed a very good working relationship with her. I was really just starting out on my own at the time and only had only shot a handful myself. Gingerly, I asked her if she would have any interest in working with me on this new venture. With a confidence I had rarely seen before she reared back and like a general about to lead the troops in to battle she crowed, “The cookies stay in the jar”. It was an answer that not only made me laugh uncontrollably but eased the anxiousness I would have otherwise felt do to both the nature of the question and the rejection that followed. Even now, a few years later, I have to laugh whenever that innocent exchange comes to mind.
I’ve photographed a lot of cookies since then. Some small, some large, all beautiful in their own size, shape and form. I’ve grown more comfortable lighting and photographing the nude. I don’t think I ever saw it as something dirty. A woman’s body is the most beautiful thing there is. However, the perception and how it’s looked at by outsiders could use a little more maturity. All you dirty son’s a bitches on Flickr should take note.
Tonight, just like every other night, the moment I sat down to write, my wife started her nightly ritual of calling out my name from the other room. This ritual is part comedy, part tragedy. We could sit in the same room for hours without her saying a word to me but the moment I sit down to write or work on photos the cat calls start. I could swear to the heavens that she has a special listening device that knows the moment my ass hits the seat. The calls are rather urgent, kind of like the scream who just walked into the room to find the dead, bloated body of a stranger lying on the bathroom floor. It’s jarring to say the very least. An hour later, my nerves are frayed and I’ve all but given up being able to write anything. Tonight it was the news. Something about American Idol and Steven Tyler having Jennifer Lopez’s ass surgically fitted to where his face used to sit. Then there was her dropping a hard boiled egg. That was a real emergency. What a cleanup that was. I hope the Fire Department didn’t mind bringing the Jaws of Life up three flights of stairs to free the poor thing from it’s cracked shell. So I’ve given up. I was planning on writing that Pulitzer Prize winning article on picking up hot chicks and having them pose nude for you but, I guess that will have to wait. She’s singing now so I’m just going to post this and say goodnight.
In my recent post “What if it really did happen.” I mentioned the different women Steph and I had approached to shoot during the weeks that followed up to our shoot with Iya. One of the girls she mentioned was an old friend she had gone to school with. When she sent me a link to Jenn’s Facebook page I thought “She’s pretty but…..” I saw a really sweet woman but I didn’t exactly see the fire. However, I found that very intriguing. One of the signatures of what has become “My Style” is the fact that I work with real people. There is nothing I enjoy more than portfolio building or hearing someone say “You made me look and feel beautiful.” or “I never saw myself like that.” Jennifer was the perfect example. When we spoke she told me she was nervous and very self conscious. I could tell she was very down to earth and sweet. That alone, made me want to work with her. The challenge to take her out of her shell and show her a side of herself she may not have seen before. Yet, after several cancellations I had a strong feeling it would never happen. Maybe she was just a little too shy for something like this. I really couldn’t blame her.
Then I got a text from Steph. “Jenn and I are ready to shoot on Thursday.” That morning Jenn arrived a few minutes before Steph which gave me a chance to talk and perhaps make her feel a little more at ease.. As we started to talk I realized she was becoming more and more confident and whatever insecurities she may have had were quickly fading. Soon Steph arrived and we were on our way. We moved slowly and before you knew it I was seeing Jenn in an entirely new light. Jenn has big, expressive eyes and beautiful lips. I can not say enough about her in terms of beauty or presence. At one point she told me her age and my jaw dropped. I thought she was maybe ten years younger. Needless to say her beauty coupled with that of Steph’s made for easy work. In the two couple sessions I’ve done with Steph I’ve noticed the calm, nurturing aspect of her personality. She’s an absolute pleasure to work with. She’s smart, fun, grounded and brings me plenty of referrals. I couldn’t possibly ask for more.
As I started to set up the lighting for this part of the session I had a specific idea in mind. I was inspired by some of the older Black & White film photographers from the 50’s and 60’s. As a kid, long before I even picked up a camera my Mom always had old photography books around the apartment. I would gaze at those books for hours on end. It was storytelling at it’s best.I always wanted to capture that look and feel. Though I’ve been exclusively shooting in digital over the past couple of years I have been told that a lot of my digital monochrome images look and feel like old Black & White print film. Which, to me is one hell of a compliment. By setting the lights and messing with the cameras settings I came pretty damn close to achieving my goal. As for boudoir photography…. It’s something I’ve become very comfortable with. It beats the hell out of awkwardly positioning the model on a cold. hard floor. I can also get amazing angles and and position myself in a way that does not kill my knees or give me back aches. (Yeah, I’m getting old.) Another thing I really look out for is keeping it loving and attentive as opposed to dirty or sleazy. My Mom reads this blog and I don’t want her to think she raised me to be a smut peddler. I’m posting more pictures than usual here but if you only knew what it was like narrowing it down to this amount.
I had all but given up on an idea that had started just months ago with a somewhat anonymous email from someone on Model Mayhem asking me if I could photograph her with another, yet to be picked woman. At the time I was intrigued by the idea. Yet, time passed and after a few close calls nothing ever materialized with her.
Weeks later I brought up the story while photographing Steph. I wasn’t eluding to anything. It was just small talk. Something worth bringing up in conversation. The idea seemed to intrigue her. Later she noticed a picture of Iya and said “She’s beautiful. Can you ask her if she’d shoot with me?” Her question was like that of a kid in a toy store eyeballing the biggest and most expensive toy. I thought “what the hell” and asked. Iya seemed curious and within a few days the three of us were in the planning stage of it. The day of the shoot I had everything ready. Chock full of ideas, energy and that James Damion angst. Then, less than an hour before the shoot Iya canceled. I don’t remember the reason but it was pretty serious. As big of a let down as it was the girls scrambled to reschedule for next week and my hopes were again high. The next week it happened again. This time it was Steph whose son came down with a fever. It was as if someone was playing a cruel joke on my emotions. In the weeks that followed it seemed Steph was more focused on making it happen then ever. While Iya seemed to be losing interest quickly. Me, I had all but given up. Different women were approached. Each one falling to the side like casualties on a battle field. Cancellations are a big let down. You’d be amazed at how hard it can be at times to get two naked women in the same room at the same time.
That’s when it happened. Steph calls and tells me they set a date. It would all take place the following weekend. “Sure, Sure.” I thought. “Don’t expect me to get excited.” I’d been there before. I’d been down cancellation road one too many times before. A few days before I confirmed with Iya and set a meeting place to pick her up. The day before I sent a message to confirm again. Last minute cancellations happen time and time again. Steph got back to me right away but Iya was nowhere to be found. To make things worse I had misplaced her number. Expectations were low but I’d go and wait at the time and place we set to meet. This time of course with a back up plan. I sat and waited with zero expectations for Iya to arrive. Already set for a day in Brooklyn. Suddenly, out of the mist of Avenue of the Americas I see a familiar face walking towards me. It’s Iya and she’s right on time. Shit was about to happen.
I give the word “GO!” to Steph and head back to meet up with her at my place. Within minutes Steph arrives and with child like glee asks “Are you guys excited or what?” Now, up until now I’ve been uncharacteristically calm and “Steady Spaghetti”. But as I realize this is about to happen I start to feel those nerves. Steph and Iya spill into the bedroom and begin the task of picking out what they’ll be wearing. Like the scene in ‘A Bronx Tale’ my mind wanders “Stay calm James” “Don’t lose it James” “Don’t Blow it.” “They’ll think you’ve got no heart” I take a breath and all is well. Within a few minutes Iya pops her head out of the bathroom. “James, you’re out of toilet paper!” I reply “Oh My God.” “You don’t have to take a shit now. Do you?” My true geek self revealed. Things are going to be just perfect.
Here were two women who had never met in person before. Two women from opposite sides of the world chirping and laughing it up like old friends. They immediately meshed and I reminded them. “Don’t worry about me.” “I’m just going to observe.” “I’m just the voyeur.” I wanted their exchanges to be natural and honest. I didn’t want them to be playing for the camera. Now, you might think getting two beautiful, sexy women together for a photo shoot is dirty. Something for dirty old men to take with them to the bathroom. Or a priest to gaze upon in between taking confessions. That’s your deal. What I was witnessing was two complete strangers in a very loving and tender exchange. They were laughing, joking and being intimate. You could tell they were very much in the moment. My favorite shots were those where they were just laughing and talking or sharing the pictures I had just taken.