The Pains of Modeling
At 20, I agreed to leave photography school to help my parents with the business, and I haven't looked back since.
Fast forward eight years and I'm still working for my parents and shooting more and more as my mother slowly retires into her horse-breeding obsession.
After several years as a professional behind the camera, coaxing young girls into appreciating their beauty and sexuality, it was time for me to try on their shoes.
A friend of mine, Beatrice, who as a photographer I respected very much, had been bugging me to let her shoot me — nude, of course. It took quite a lot of nagging, with me stalling and saying I needed to lose weight (and of course not trying to), before I finally gave up and said yes. But, I insisted, I would not show anything explicit — no boobs, no vagina.
I didn't want to model for explicit photographs because I am not an exhibitionist and I'm not comfortable with my body — but also because I try to cast an image as a businesswoman, and I felt that naked pictures of me would detract from the impression I was trying to build.
So the date was set, the makeup artist and hair-stylist were booked, and it was decided that I would be shot naked on one of my mom's horses. The idea sounded good at the time because I could hide all my naughty bits by laying across the horse, and of course, I grew up competing horses for 13 years and was very comfortable being on top of one. Plus, I remembered this gorgeous picture of Cindy Crawford on a horse, and I wanted to be that image. Never mind that I look nothing like Cindy Crawford.
On the day of the shoot, the makeup and hair team showed up, and Beatrice and I showed them around the property, explaining exactly how the shot would be set up and how we'd like the style to come out. The makeup artist seemed satisfied, looked around the room, and, clasping his hands together, exclaimed, "So! Where's this gorgeous model of ours?"
Sheepishly, I had to let him know it was me. If I were a girl of lower self-esteem, I would have run from the room crying at the obvious look of disappointment that crossed his face. Instead, I laughed, grateful that I was not a model and did not have to rely on a makeup artist's opinion of my plain-Jane looks to shape my identity.
After too many false eyelashes, which made my eyes feel like I'd fallen asleep with my contact lenses in, the hair-stylist put in big blond extensions that made me look like a dust mop.
After the "magic," the makeup artist cried "Voila!" and spun me around to look in the mirror.
The girl staring back at me was not me. It was some chick with way too much makeup on and big hair that felt really heavy on my head. Not that I looked bad, it just freaked me out that a stranger looked back at me in the mirror.
I stepped a bit closer and looked into my eyes. They were still a grayish green, with gold flecks floating around the iris. There was still a look of lost uncertainty — from a fear of stripping naked in front of strangers and trying to be something I'm not. Yup, it was still me. After I washed away those layers of foundation, those eyes would still be the same.
My eyes flicked back to the makeup artist, who looked concerned. "Looks good," I said flippantly. "Let's do this."
The horse was hairy and uncomfortable to sit naked on. It was hot and I was sweating, and Beatrice wanted to shoot one more roll. I just wanted to be done. I didn't give a damn anymore if we got the right picture.
This was a far cry from my attitude behind the lens. I started to realize what an enormous pain in the ass modeling is, and I really started to appreciate the girls who pose for me. Who has this kind of patience?
I remembered last week when I told my mom about my modeling gig — since she started off as a model — she was only happy to offer advice.
'Modeling is like a dance, dahling," she drawled, martini in hand. "Like a dance, you just move … and dance …" She trailed off, a half-smile on her face, swaying to some kind of bohemian rhapsody that apparently only she could hear.
Cut back to the present. This was not a fucking dance — there were goddamn flies attacking me, dust and sweat was getting in my eyes, and I was trying to suck in my gut and somehow lift my thigh slightly off the horse so my leg didn't resemble the Hoover Dam. It was uncomfortable, boring, and I've never felt less sexy in my life.
When the pictures came back, out of at least a hundred shots, I picked nine. I even wanted to edit those down, but I realized I would end up with only one or two photographs, so I decided to stop being my own worst critic.
There are two images in the nine that I really like. One of them I absolutely love, and as a photographer, I know that's all you can hope for — one fantastic image that makes the entire day worthwhile.
Although I love that picture, and I plan on framing it for my home, the entire experience made me realize that I truly was not cut out to be in front of the camera. It takes the skill of a girl far more beautiful, far more confident and far more patient than I. And I'm more than happy to leave that job to the experts.