Fall 2006: Werk. (Chicago, IL)
It was Fall-time in Chicago and it was cold. I’d already had quite a few shoots thru my agency since signing with them but this was my first “big one” with a big time photographer out of New York. My call time was 4:30AM and God knows I didn’t sleep much the night before. I was excited. I was nervous. I didn’t really know what to expect. When I got there in the morning, I was greeted by “my team”- hair, makeup, wardrobe, stylists, the photographer’s assistants and then one person solely in charge of making sure I didn’t need anything, and this made me incredibly uncomfortable. She kept asking if I needed water, or if I wanted her to make a Starbucks run, or if I was hungry, or if I needed a jacket or a magazine. I kept telling her, “Really, if I need something, I’ll just go get it myself, it’s really okay” and I remember a few people laughing over that comment, which I found odd. Everyone was nice but incredibly intense. The entire day was intense.
Finally, after literally hours of of getting ready, I met the photographer. I will never forget this moment when he walked into the room. It was like he floated in. He commanded attention without saying a word. He had on the most fabulous and eccentric clothes and spoke very fast. And after he introduced himself to me and made a comment about how pretty my face was and how I reminded him of a young Elizabeth Moss (? I never did see it), he looked me straight in the eye and with a serious tone said, “Alright. Let’s work.” And work we did. I was exhausted by 9AM and I still had the entire day to go. Lunchtime rolled by and the assistant brought us these cute little salads. Everyone ate while I showered to get out all of the hair spray, etc. from the last shoot and then I ate while I sat in the chair and my stylist blow dried my hair for the 5th time. After lunch, we jumped in the car to visit our next location and just as we parked, I walked to the trunk to help grab all of the gear (there was a lot). One of the photographer’s assistants looked at me and said, “What are you doing?” and I said, “I’m helping.” And he looked at one of the other photo assistants and they laughed, and he says to me, “Honey. You’re the model. You don’t help. You just do your thing and look pretty.” Part of me was offended. It was one of the first times in my modeling career that I felt like a piece of meat; a girl with no brain. Of course he hadn’t meant it this way and most likely I was being extra sensitive because I was tired and crabby from only eating a cute little salad for lunch.
After that shoot, we used a hotel nearby (and not just any hotel- The W hotel) so that we could prepare for the last shoot of the day. The photographer wanted to do a session on the beach (Lake Michigan) at sunset with another male model. By the time we got out there, I had been awake for 13 hours, working most of it. I had never felt so exhausted in my entire life. All of the shoots had been outside and it was freezing and super windy. And now I was about to wear this little wrap thing while laying in the freezing cold water. Mentally, I was giving myself a pep talk. And then in walked the male model. We were to hold each other close and “stare lovingly into each other’s eyes” is what we were told. I had modeled with guys before so I wasn’t nervous, but the more the photographer started shooting us, the more frustrated he got. He’d look at us and shout “Your eyes aren’t open! You’re not connecting!” So Mr. Model and I would “shake it off” and try again, only to have the photographer put his camera down again and yell something along the lines of, “I can’t keep effin’ doing this! I need for you to be professional! You need to open your effin’ eyes! This has to be a good shot! I’m taking a million pictures and haven’t gotten effin’ ONE that I can use!” (only he really was saying the f-word.) The more I tried to make sure my eyes were ‘wide’ the harder the wind blew my hair into them and then the sand would blow.
It dawned on me that perhaps he had been yelling at ME and only me. I assured myself he must be talking to Mr. Model, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when he asked Mr. Model to “just get out of the shot. Just go.” Whew. He wasn’t talking to me. And that’s when the photographer came right up to my face and said, “Listen to me very carefully. I know you’re tired but we’re all effin’ tired and I need YOU to open your effin’ eyes okay? Can you do that? Can you give me a look that says you’re in love?” Well it was then I realized that yes, yes he had been talking about me and only me the whole time. And something in me snapped like, where does this guy get off talking to me like this?! So I stared right back at him and said with a clenched jaw, “Well maybe I COULD give you an effin‘ I’m in Love look if you’d stop effin’ yelling at me.” (only I really said the f-word too and while I should tell you it wasn’t a proud moment, dudes- it totally was.) (Sorry, Mom.)
He stared at me in total shock and I could see the team behind him shake their heads like, this is over. I swallowed hard and that’s when he smirked and said, “Sure.” And it was like in that very moment, he and I got each other. We’d finally connected, as photographer and model. And he picked back up his camera, I remember looking directly into the lens with all of the energy I had, he took 3 quick snaps, and without even looking at me, turned around to start back to the car and said, “I got it.” And that picture above is “that shot.” Now I don’t know if it says I’m in Love (pissed off a bit, maybe, and that would’ve been the truth) but I can tell you one thing: I walked back to that car standing so tall and never feeling so much like- Yes. I just earned that hard day of work. (I also got quite a few head nods and mental air high-fives from the team that evening.) And then I went home, put on my sweats, ate a huge burrito and drank a 20 oz beer from the gas station. And that’s what happened that day.