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.
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.
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.
After 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.
As 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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.