Well. That was…odd.
40th birthday. Yeah, i’m THAT old. Deal with it.
Anyway, I have been messaging back and forward for a week or more to organize a photoshoot with a model who for all intensive purposes shall remain nameless. Well, we figured on a time and place, and it happened to fall on my birthday, but since I wasnt exactly booked up for then, I thought, might as well do it then.
It all went, well, wrong, yes, but also just, surreal.
We decide to shoot at her apartment, its in the middle of an unfamiliar location, a place ive kind of been near, but havent actually been to much, so I wasnt sure exactly where to go. In fact, the planning already went wrong when I didnt write down the metro station to get off at, so it was a total lottery statistic hope that I was getting off at the right place. Thankfully, my hunch was intact, and I got off at the right stop, and followed my hand written note to the location. It was in a sketchy part of town, near a big DIY superstore, railway line, and highway flyover. Not exactly prime location.
I had offered a couple of choices for shooting, but the model had settled on shooting in her apartment, which she had told me looked like ‘a film set’ (her words). I figured that would be ok, as most models are most comfortable shooting from their home anyway.
I was kind of intruiged about this shoot, her portfolio was pretty good, and when asking about what shes comfortable and uncomfortable with in the pre-shoot correspondance (a part of photographers etiquette is figuring out a models boundaries and safe zones) she had told me that there was no limitations. This interested me, as until now, I have actually not done a nude shoot, even with my ex gf I had done partially clothed, not fully naked, so this would be something new for me. I have been in touch with models before for shoots, and I find it sad when they have a long list of dos and donts, as it really restricts the creative process. I had long wanted to shoot someone and really push those boundaries. Also, I get a bit nervous and shy during a shoot, and had wanted to find a model that was at ease with this situation so that I could break through that particular mental barrier and shoot something more intimate and erotic. Also, I hadnt shot for a long time, perhaps a year or so, and not with my new camera, so it was time to get back into the swing of things.
So, I turn up, a few minutes late, but finding the place. I knocked on the door, and a guy came to the door. Now, it was a little awkward, as I didnt know the models name, just her ’stage’ name, so I felt a little awkward asking for her by her stage name. I expected he would go get her….however, I was met with a blank stare. I tried explaining, I was here to shoot a woman, Im a photographer, this is the address she gave me, and tried to explain how she looked. Some of the features I described seemed to sound familiar with him, so he bought his camera to the door and showed me a snapshot of the woman in the house. He obviously didnt trust me enough to let me set foot on his property, which was fair enough, I guess.
He showed me a picture of the woman in the house, and it wasnt the model I was supposed to shoot. Hmm. Awkward. I really wasnt sure what to do, as I was convinced I was at the right place. The next possibility is that she might have mistyped, or perhaps (gasp) deliberately given me the wrong address. I asked the guy in the house if he wouldnt mind me checking my email on his computer, to double check if I had the right address. Again, somewhat understandably, he refused.
I left, a bit deflated, thinking that my journey was over. I was in the middle of suburbia, no internet cafes around, no contact phone number for the model. Had she tricked me? Was it a mistake? I needed to find a computer to check.
I had a brainwave and headed for the local DIY superstore. Time was ticking now. I managed to beg the woman at the customer help desk to quickly use one of her computers, and checked my inbox. Problem solved. In my rush to leave the house, I had reversed two of the digits on the street number! My bad. Her house was on the same street, just a little further down.
I retraced my steps, and continued down the road, and found her apartment. Finally, and I wasnt too terribly late.
The model came to the door and let me in. I was assaulted by a variety of senses and reactions. Internally, I felt like a rabbit trapped in the headlights of a car, that frozen expression of terror moments before the head is introduced to the front wheels…I was praying that this internal turmoil didnt translate to an obvious external state.
Firstly, she didnt look anything like her photos. Now, when I say that, 90 percent of models look varying degrees of difference from their images, and thats ok, its expected….but she, she was about as far as you can get from her portfolio….its at this point in the blog that I find myself choosing my words REALLY carefully to avoid future potential lawsuits if the woman for any reason happens to stumble across my blog.
Its as if someone had taken her model images, soaked them in a bowl of alcohol for a while, added a layer of grease, drawn over them with a marker pen, the way someone does when they add a moustache and glasses to a picture on a bus shelter, and then dropped the image on the floor for a few months.(Ok, I realize I didnt really choose my words as tactfully as I wanted)
Her hair was completely different, she didnt have any makeup on, she wasnt dressed and ready for the shoot, and she had gained a fuck load of weight since her pictures. It had become obvious that she had taken those images a while back, either that or there were some award winning retouchers out there. I must add, I am not trying to be overly harsh here, I take all-sorts, really, but when youre led to believe you are shooting one particular person based on their portfolio, you expect them to live up to that image they portray, or at least in the same general ballpark. This wasnt even a ballpark in the same country, this was like someone else.
Not only that, but (and heres where Montreal is a small world) I suddenly remembered that, one random day, about 8 months ago, I was leaving my photographer friend’s studio, as a model was entering for a photoshoot, and it was the very same woman I had seen. This is a model that my friend had also expressed his frustration about, that he literally couldnt get any useful images from the shoot, as she was nothing like what he was looking for, for that particular shoot.
Feeling overwhelmed, my brain quickly turning to mush, I attempted to make small talk as my brain raced for a solution. I told her that I had seen her before briefly, and mentioned my friends name, and she seemed to remember him. We walked through a few rooms of her apartment. She said she was sub letting it to others, but it was empty when I was there. Her apartment was certainly a film set alright, if by film set, you are shooting some post-apocalyptic disaster movie. There was crap EVERYWHERE. I dont know when the last time was that someone had actually cleaned, but it didnt look anytime recently.
It was grungy and atmospheric, but not in the way I had particularly wanted to use. Really not what I had hoped for, and not at all suiting this particular theme of shoot that I had planned on.
I was at a complete loss. The more I saw, of her, of the apartment, the less I wanted to be there. I tried really hard not to let it show. My mind raced for a solution.
‘Do you have a computer? I need to check my email. I was expecting an important message from a client’
‘No, sorry, I dont’
‘Where can I find one?’
‘Theres some computer access back near the metro station, about 10 minutes away’
It was the ‘out’ that I was looking for. Thank god she didnt have anything in the apartment, although I cant say I was too surprised. If she had a computer, I would have had to continue the charade, checking my emails, and making some big drama up, and leaving in front of her, and I dont know if my acting skills would have held up throughout.
I told her that I would pop to the internet cafe, and be right back after checking my messages. We picked out a room for a shoot (which I had no intention of being in any longer than I could bear). There was an awkward moment, as she said ‘you can leave your gear here if you want’. I told her I felt better keeping it with me, which actually was true. And, get this, to add insult to injury, she asked me if I could by some food to eat from a local store on the way back, as she hadnt eaten for a while. Wait, what? Im shooting in your apartment, Ive just paid 6 dollars to travel here for a free shoot, and you want ME to buy YOU food so you can eat in your own house? Yeah…not gonna happen. Nope. No-siree.
SO, making my excuses, I went out. I havent been so happy to leave an apartment in a long time.
When I got back home, I wrote her an email saying I had been called away by a client who’s website had crashed, and I would lose my contract if I didn’t fix it. made some grovelling apologies via email (which, I have no idea when she will read, as she doesnt have PC access. She hasnt read them yet. Her response may be…interesting…)
Im pissed that it was a wasted trip on my birthday, Im pissed that it was SO not what it was supposed to be, a million miles away from what I had hoped and expected, but Im glad that I got the fuck out of there.
Anyway, what an odd start to my 40s….