Graduation Day

04-30-17 Montoya7729AMAfter 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.

Gut Reaction

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. Audrey-4257When 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. Audrey III-4277    “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. Audrey III-4187He 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

Iya-2969I 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.

Iya softer side-3082Though 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.

Iya B-2964As 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.

Iya C-3077During 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.

Nervous Knots

IMG_7577After this weekends workshop I was eager to get back to my own home base and put to work some of the things I had learned. I had scheduled shoots for the week in advance. Lucky for me, my week would start with someone who is by far, my favorite person to work with. That morning I drove into the city and picked up a beauty dish at Calumet Photo. I’d been considering purchasing one for some time. After working with the dish over the weekend and seeing the results; I was somewhat obsessed with picking one up.

IMG_7604As the day progressed I had become more and more anxious. Getting into the city, dealing with traffic and finding a parking spot amongst a sea of loading zones, “No parking during the hours of…”  and “Don’t even think of parking here ever!” As I returned home to set up my typical butterflies turned to nervous knots and full blown angst. Now, I’m usually a little antsy in the minutes and at times, even the hours before a session. What was particularly strange about it was Audrey and I had been shooting together for five years. She is my muse, my canvas and by far the easiest person I’ve had the pleasure to work with. When she arrived I was surprised that I was still feeling like somewhat of a head case.

This Fashion Workshop has turned me into a complete headcase.Whatever anxiety and awkwardness I had been feeling faded as we began to work together. We put the new beauty dish to work and did our share of experimenting with lighting, angles and different lighting techniques. Having a beautiful, naked woman traipsing around the apartment without a care added  a odd calming effect. At one point I walked into the room as she was undressing. I apologized and quickly began to close the door. “Oh God, as if you’ve never seen me naked before.” she laughed. Suddenly, all was good with the world. It was as if the clouds had lifted and all the stress and tension from recent days was lifted. I am officially back to my old self. Thanks Audrey.

Show and Tell

When Audrey arrived for her shoot the other day I had a short list of things I wanted to share with her before we got started. Audrey and I have worked together numerous times and have developed a working partnership that has helped us both to grow and mature over the years. I won’t go as far as speaking for her but I could not have asked for a better canvas. It was five months to the day since we last worked together.

At  the time I had just printed a photo book with shots exclusively taken during our prior session. I had been trying to print a few books over the last couple of years but could never make a final decision on the photos or layout. The whole process was maddening to say the very least. So one day in a total fit of consciousness I broke from the normal routine of gathering pictures from various prior shoots and focused on just one. Remarkably, it worked. The pictures hit the pages effortlessly as words flowed like poetry. I had created my first Mac Photo Book in a matter of minutes. Damn, was I proud. When the book arrived I was more than pleased with the quality and theme. Needless to say, I was eager to share it with Audrey and just about anyone else. That day came Audrey and I had another great shoot and parted ways. About five minutes after she left I realized I hadn’t shown her the book. I thought of calling her but didn’t want to sound like a maniac.

So in the hours before Audrey showed up this week I made sure I had the book out and ready to share. As I handed it over to her I  watched as she went from page to page. I could see the emotion building up in her. She really, really loved it just as much, if not more than I did. It was a nice moment to say the very least. Having the stuffing hugged out of me was just an added bonus. Knowing that your work has touched someone or moved them emotionally is a reward I can’t quite describe. If someone asks me what I’ll be doing when I’m sixty four or eighty four years old. I’ll look them dead in the eye and say “Im meeting up with Audrey to make some magic.” Thanks to Audrey for always being “The Muse”.

Maria Edible – A Beautiful Woman, Tattoos and Hot Dogs.

Here’s a clip from a recent episode of  N.Y. Ink which features the beautiful Maria Edible. Maria and I have worked together in the past and I give her total credit for helping take my work to the next level. When I originally worked with her I was still doing straight up portraits. She gave me the kick in the pants I needed to take my work out of the comfort zone I had kept my work in. Her beauty and personalty speak for themselves in this video and our work together. A model, competitive eater and all around bad ass. Check it out.

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.

Writers Block And Cracked Eggs

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.

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.