Saturday, May 28, 2011

Down Time

There's something a bit awkward about blogs.  It's a combination of a personal journal, a work of reflection and personal insight, and yet it's public to whatever extent anyone cares to read it.  Because of that, there's a tendency to write "positive" things, stuff that will help others to feel you're on top of everything, and everything's going well for you.  I haven't written in a few weeks, partly because I haven't been feeling totally on top of everything.  I haven't felt like writing here, because I just haven't felt as positive about things as I generally am.  But here goes - I'm writing and everyone will know that I'm a human being, complete with flaws, doubts, and all those weaknesses we're all harboring to one degree or another.

Actually, when I make this point, it's specifically with respect to photography that I'm feeling a struggle these recent days.  (Yeah, my car did break down today, but that's kind of a separate matter...). 

It started about a month ago, when a model I'd spent an afternoon shooting with suddenly became quiet and sullen; not her usual self.  I never really found out what it was that bothered her, but this was our third shoot together and we'd had a lot of fun up to that point.  After the shoot, I never heard from her again.  She never answered email from me, and basically she just disappeared.  I really struggled with that, as I am the kind of person who wants to make peace with everyone. If there is some kind of misunderstanding, my hope is that we can talk and have a better idea of how things look from one another's perspective.  I just don't like the feeling that someone's unhappy with me, and I especially don't like not being able to do anything about it.  Acceptance.  That's all I could do here.  Accept this as something I can't change.

I had another shoot a couple weeks later (I can only shoot on alternate weekends, since I'm a single father with care of my kids on half the weekends).  That shoot went pretty well, and we got some shots we were both happy with (except the model developed a pretty bad allergy during the shoot and that kind of messed up her complexion).

Meanwhile, I was exchanging emails quite regularly and frequently with a model planned for the next shoot.  This model and I had a pretty good rapport going, and had been planning a fairly intensive production with a particular theme.  This compelled me to go out and start gathering lots of different props and wardrobe items for the shoot.  All along she's sending me mail about what she's gathering at her end, and how excited she is.  What more could a photographer want?

Then the shoe drops.  The morning of the shoot, I get an email from her telling me she has to cancel.  Ouch.  I had gone to quite a lot of effort to get ready for this shoot, and I could hardly believe what I was reading.  I restrained myself in my email response, knowing that it would only make things worse to rant or carry on in some way.  So, I just made other plans for the day, as best I could.

I've been in that situation more than a few times.  Models come in all shapes and sizes, and in various levels of committment versus flakiness.  I know that the same is true of photographers, as many models have complained to me about photographers cancelling at the last minute.  What can we do about it?

One of the things I did with my Saturday is go down to the library and check out some books covering the work of some famous photographers.  It was inspiring on one hand, seeing really powerful photos that had clearly required a lot of thought and insight on the part of the photographer (and model).  At the same time, I had even more so this feeling of conflict within myself.  I was reflecting on how great it would be to really focus in on getting a certain look, arranging for a special location, or setting up the lights in a particular way, or getting the right look in terms of wardrobe.

But, at the present time, this was a frustrating thought.  How can I put a great deal of effort into the setting up of a shoot if I can't be sure the model will really materialize the day of the shoot?

Models sometimes declare that they don't want to be pursued by a "GWC" (guy with camera).  Yeah, I don't blame them.  But what is the corollary?  Is that a GWL (girl with looks)?  That would be a pretty girl who has the idea that being a model is just a matter of being pretty and showing up at a shoot, assuming she still wants to do it when the moment arises.  Nah, a "real" model understands what it takes to set up a shoot that is something more than "hot summer nights", or a "shootout".  She knows she needs to get plenty of rest a day or two before a shoot, so she'll look her best.  She knows that a serious photographer will go to great lengths to prepare the set, or select a location, and she'll faithfully follow any guidance on what time the shoot should be held.

I don't know.  I guess I still have these doubts.  Is is possible that I'm expecting too much?  Should I just show up the day of the shoot with my camera in hand, and just click away on whatever appears in front of the lens?  Honestly, it's not what I want.  I'm not interested in recreating the same thing we've all seen a million times.  I'm not sure I'll be able to do what I really want; I need to connect with another model (I've worked with a few) who wants to join me in the effort of creating something new - some kind of art.


  1. Don't let it pull you down too much, Eric. Your photos are much too good to be sad.

  2. Thanks, Wolfgang. Appreciate the kind words. :)