I’ve been having a real hard time finding the right words to describe my recent shoot with Roksolana. Sometimes it just takes time to properly let an experience run it’s course of emotions in order to write about it from an observers point of view than an actual participant. This became evident to me when talking to a model I worked with the other day. I’ve worked with this particular woman for years and over that time, developed a close bond and trust. We’ve always shared stories and not only is she supportive of my wiring. She’s downright forceful in that she feels my stories are worth putting to paper. This Friday afternoon, as she unpacked her chosen outfits for that days session, the conversation quickly turned to just that. It was then that I realized why I do and do not write about certain subjects and certain experiences in my life. It was then when I understood why I was having such a hard time writing about this particular shoot with this beautiful and very sweet woman. It all came down to separation and the time it takes to remove yourself and a certain emotional element from the story. At the time of the shoot I was overwhelmed by Roksolana’s energy, her thwarting of everything I had planned and inability to focus on anything for more than a few seconds. That could all be easily overlooked if not for the pure fact that she turned my organized and uncluttered studio space and turned into a combat zone. Even going as far as moving my couch and taking the shirts I had picked out for her to model and spreading them across my couch insisting “See, it feels like a college dorm.”
Yet, with all the madness, lack of direction and complete exhaustion those few hours created. I still had a beautiful woman in my studio. One who is inspiring in all that she’s already experienced in her short life. I was doing one of the things I love most in life and I was in the midst of a ‘real story’. I controlled my anger and emotions throughout and stayed focused. An hour or so later, my heart rate was normal and I was sharing dinner with my lovely wife. I was not only alive, I was living.
I had made plans to pick up Roksolana in the city and drive back to Hoboken to shoot at the studio. I had spent the earlier part of the morning setting up lights and backgrounds while stumbling around trying to make sure everything I needed was within reach. Quickly enough I made it down to SOHO with time to spare and decided to get my walk on. The temperature was reaching into the 60’s and the sun was fighting it’s way to the forefront.
As Rox arrived we quickly caught up with one another. It had been two years since we last worked together. It looked to me that she had not changed one bit. A big smile, wide eyes and a bundle of energy that a savvy marketing guru might turn into a hip energy drink. As we got in the car she excitedly asked what our plan was. I explained the studio set up and the look I was going for. Her eyes turned south like a child just about to ask her parents for the biggest toy in the store. “So, James… What do you think of the weather today.” I knew right then and there that we were just about to embark on an outdoor adventure. I was more than happy to embark on such a journey.
With a new sense of direction we hauled ass to the Lower East Side finding inspiration on this block and that block. Our first stop was just off Ave. A. There were interesting store fronts on the North Side of the street and a mural themed concrete wall and classic car on it’s South Side. Rox quickly rifled through her bag of tricks looking for just the right outfit as I surveyed the area for a good place to start. At one point she spotted a bike that was locked up in front of one of the store fronts. She quickly began to climd on as construction workers, shop owners and residents entered and exited the adjacent building. At one point the owner of the bike came out to see her quite comfortably mounting herself upon it. She looked over confidently smiling, “Is this your bike?” “Don’t worry, I will return it better than I found it.” Her friendly presence and sweet voice could have won over a Hell’s Angel.
Quickly me moved from one spot to another. Never staying long enough to attract too much attention or upset the herd.
Soon enough it was back in the car and off to Rivington St. Another change of outfits in the car with Police looking on curiously.
Some more great shots with a small interruption from a rather large homeless man coming between us in rather aggressive manner “How about you give a veteran a dollar!” he barked. Intimidated but more pissed that he visibly shook Rox up. I took a deep breathe and replied “How bout you give a poor photographer twenty.” Those few seconds felt like a lifetime but he actually moved on up the block without uttering another word. We quickly got back to work finishing up the block in front of one of my old haunts ABC No Rio.
As the day grew darker we stopped for some Vietnamese Sandwiches (Her first) before ending finishing up at Tompkins Sq. Park. For someone who was feeling pretty awkward in recent days. This was the perfect tonic. Funny how photography can do that.