I feel very lucky to have had the privilege to work with so many incredible muses. Ones who brought out the best in me. Often helping me to develop and visualize my artistic goals. No matter how awful or uneducated my ideas may have, and may still be. These people nourished whatever artistic or photographic ideas I might have had. Even comforting me when they didn’t produce the best results. As time has passed, I’ve come to realize that this kind of chemistry and artistic vision will, most likely, never happen again. Still, I remain forever grateful to have had the opportunity to explore my creative ideas and and quench the thirst that often comes with them.
Over the Summer I began to really kick up my game when it came to better marketing myself. I worked on my resume, checked listings daily and regularly updated my website with new images. Within a matter of weeks my work began to pay off as freelance opportunities and contract work began to come my way. I was doing the kind of work I hadn’t done in years, while engaging in new opportunities. During that time a few offers came my way that would provide steady work and income in the future. One particular opportunity was working as a freelance photographer at a nearby studio two to three days a week.
As the week before the interview progressed we kept in touch via emails and phone calls. I did my share of research on the company and felt pretty good about the opportunity that was being presented. When I was asked to bring a portfolio and my camera. I realized the only printed work I had available was my Boudoir Portfolio. When I asked about it, the woman on the phone seemed to stumble over her words. “Um, I don’t know.” “That’s not what we do here.” “I have to….. ask… the director.” I informed her that I had a website that would perfectly highlight that side of my work or I could quickly whip up a digital port worth presenting. Still, she stumbled. For some stupid reason I felt bad. That my recent work was being deemed dirty by someone I had never met might seem silly now. Yet, at the time, I felt as if I was being looked at as some deviant smut peddler who hides his portfolio behind some oversized rain coat. A couple of days past and I got the call that the interview was set and they were looking forward to meeting me. I was relieved. I was ready.
Though the studio I’d be working out of was about forty five minutes from me in nearby East Brunswick. The interview was set up at the companies main office in Connecticut. So in the days prior to my appointment, my wife and I planned our day around the interview. As I entered the building I was impressed with the stone walls and lofty ceilings. As I sat there waiting to be called I eyed the modeling pictures on the wall. The lighting, the style, the models. All standard, but nothing all that inspiring. Then I began to notice the clientele coming in and out of the offices and studio. It immediately reminded me of all the scams you see where some company promises the world and all it’s riches to a naive family who’s convinced their child could be the next… insert child star name here _____________________. I decided to stay, listen, ask questions and make an informed decision after everything was done.
As I was ushered in by the attractive secretary and introduced to the my interviewer, the douche chills immediately began to build. Dressed in black from head to toe with slicked back, black hair with enough product in it to supply an entire city block. He spoke quickly in a thick Russian accent about the shooting process. “It’s not how many shoots you do in a day.” “It’s about the looks” “You need to shoot five looks.” “See, look, look, look, look, look.” “Five looks.” Never once asking me questions like someone interviewing you for a position. Finally he says “You brought portfolio?” I placed it on the counter and he quickly flipped through without much eye contact. “Good, good, good.” “I like.” Before he asked me any questions he wanted me to shoot a client waiting in one of the studio rooms. I’m already planning my escape plan. I’ve always prided myself on trusting my instincts and listening intently to what my gut tells me. At the time, my gut was telling me “Scam, bam, no thank you, man.”
Finally, I excused myself from his sales pitch long enough to ask a few questions of my own. Questions about the general age of the clients, the companies they work with and other general curiosities. He became even more elusive and led me towards the studio where the shooting would take place. Knowing full well that the pictures I would be taking were going to be used by the company without them ever paying me. “Thanks, but no thanks.” I replied and walked out. When I met up with my wife a few minutes later I told her what had transpired. Being the amazing woman she is. She told me not to worry. “Always listen to what your heart tells you.” Hopefully, the lessons I learned from this brief exchange will not soon be forgotten. 1.Trust your gut. 2. Never let anyone make you feel uncomfortable about the kind of work you do and love. 3. Never do anything you don’t feel right about doing. Until the next debacle.
Show Me Your Softer Side
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.
The Cookies Stay in the Jar.
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.
Flashback Friday; “One Day I’ll Look Back and Say, “I Did It”.
We were sitting at a dive bar on the Lower East Side one night drinking vodka and whiskey when I turned to Julie and said “One day you’re going to let me photograph you.” I had been friends with Julie for years and always thought she was beautiful. Though I had hinted at wanting to do some studio work with her in the past, she always shyed away from the subject saying “A lot of guys have asked or tried. I’m just not comfortable having a camera in my face”. About an hour later she turned to me, slammed her drink on the bar and barked “Yeah, let’s do it while I’m still young.”. After a few more shots we moved to the next bar and eventually planned our session.
I always loved Julie. We met while working together and quickly became friends. We had a similar dark humor that always made us click on all cylinders. I was in love with her sense of adventure and strong sense of independence. Whenever she had some off the beat idea to try something different, she’d ask me gingerly. My response was usually an excited “Let’s Do It!”. One of the best offers was when she took me to see the Dalai Lama speak at Rutgers. It was never a dull moment with her.
The day of the shoot she showed up with a sense of confidence I had seldom seen. The more we talked and took pictures, the more confident an intuitive she became. There was a certain layer of beauty and aura that I had never gotten from her before. I had not done many nude sessions in recent years but I honestly feel she opened the door for me to shoot many more in the future. She also taught me a lot about making the model as unaware of the camera as possible.
I haven’t seen much of Julie recently. People come in and out of your life. I just know in my heart that one day the phone will ring and the person on the other end of the line will have another great adventure to share.
Second Time Around
Every so often a model I’ve worked with returns to update their images or perhaps go for an entirely different look. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll have just such an opportunity. I first worked with Tara a little over a year ago. During that November shoot Tara and I worked really well together. However, there were some challenges. There have been times when you don’t really gel with the people you work with. It’s not that you don’t like or trust the person. It can sometimes be a simple difference in approach or vision. This was one of those times. On this particular night I think I challenged her to look outside of the box a bit. Perhaps to step outside of her comfort zone. Looking back I was really happy with the results and recall her thanking me for taking her out of her comfort zone.
I’m really looking forward to shooting with her again tomorrow as we go for a more urban vibe. I’m sure I’ll have some good stuff to post and a new story to tell.
What if it Really Did Happen?
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.
Everything Falls Apart Again.
It was Monday morning and a plan that had been in the making since the beginning of the year was finally about to take place. Steph and I had been working on an erotic lingerie shoot with several other models at one time or another over the past three months. Each time coming close but missing due to schedule conflicts, illness, death in the family and everything else under the sun. However, on this particular Monday, it was all going to fall into place. Steph had an entire day put aside and I had the perfect model confirmed. “Shit is gonna happen.” I got up extra early and made sure everything was ready. Around 11:30 Steph contacted me to let me know she’d be leaving her place in just a few minutes. I was calm and collected. I sat down at the computer to check my Facebook page and ………… “Blamo!!!” A message from the other model. “I can’t make it.” “I got called into work.” Fifteen minutes before starting time I get this. No call. No text. A f%&king Facebook message. So I scramble for the phone to contact Steph with the news. The phone picks up but all I hear is a scrambling sound. We’ve all heard it before. The phones on and you can hear a number of things going on in the background but the person on the other end is nowhere to be found. I call again and it’s the same thing but someone eventually picks up. Whoever it was it wasn’t Steph. I thought “Either Steph’s boyfriend is fucking with me or I just called for Chinese food delivery”. Only seconds after hanging up there’s a knock on the door. Of course, it’s Steph. I asked “Didn’t you get my voice mails and texts?” “She cancelled at the last minute.” A combination of disappointment and confusion came over Steph. “I didn’t get any messages.” “What happened?” I scrambled for my phone to show her my calls and texts. That’s when her confusion grew. “That’s not my number James” “I don’t know why you have that number.” We laughed for a minute but the disappointment in her eyes was irreversible. I calmed her down a bit and convinced her to stay for a bit. “I’ll make it worth you’re while.” “We’ll get some beautiful pictures.” She ended up staying and we got some nice shots. But damn, how hard can it possibly be to get two naked women in one room at the same time? The Photo Gods are definitely not in our corner.
My Mom has always been a pretty cool lady with eccentric, yet classy tastes. As a kid we had Vargas paintings in our apartment and she was always pretty cool about having Playboy magazines around. So a few years back during a visit to her home in Florida I bought her this piece . I don’t really remember the details but to this day I think it’s a pretty awesome gift to give your Mom. I got to spend the holidays with her this year and stayed in the room where it’s proudly displayed. Just thought I’d share it with you.
A Thin Line.
I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since April a few weeks ago. As we talked about what one another had been up to since the inevitable question came up “So how is the photography coming along?” I began to detail the various things I had been doing including some of the nude work. I told her I was looking to go outside the lines and take new chances. She looked somewhat shocked and for a moment, even speechless. Then she said it “Oh my God. You have totally crossed the line.” I laughed it off but then found myself explaining and even defending the change. Later that week I had drinks with a long time friend who by all means knows me as “A good guy”. We talked about said conversation and some of the opportunities I’m being offered. She loves me and my work. So I totally trust her instinct. She said “You could never be that guy.” meaning I’m no smut peddler. There isn’t going to come a day when I wake up and decide to forgo portraiture to go into the Adult Film industry. Though I enjoy shooting nudes and have no issues with it (growing up in my home my Mom had Vargas paintings and still has pinups and nudes in her home.) but I want to keep it artistic. There’s a line and it can be a thin one at times. I’ve pretty much decided what side of it I want to dance on.