The Best Check to Cash is Yours

Holly Randall
Branching out on my own — the thought was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. It was an idea that I’d wavered upon, back and forth, for quite a while. I had only seriously begun to consider it this year, but it had been lingering in the back of my mind for many years.

Though I had achieved a decent level of success and recognition working for my mother, Suze Randall, I wanted to try a side project on my own. Launching my own site, HollyRandall.com, seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do so. This way I could test the waters fairly quickly — I could see if the vision I had for the kind of material I wanted to produce would appeal to anybody else besides myself.

I love my work, and I love shooting erotic, explicit photographs and video. But I really wanted to lend a younger, edgier, more fashion-forward look to my work. My mother had developed her sense of style in the 70s and 80s, and as gorgeous as her work is, I wanted to move beyond the china blue walls and drapery that populated her sets in every conceivable way. I wanted to shoot more on location, I wanted to give the girls crazier more dramatic hair and makeup, and I wanted to put them in more latex and ball gags. I wanted to shoot what I wanted. Everybody knows that the only reason I am where I am today is because I rode in on my mother’s coattails. Let’s be honest here, since I’ve never denied it myself.

I don’t really expect to make a million dollars with my new website, or to show up my mother as a better photographer or businesswoman. But what I do expect is that this project will ease tensions between the two of us, as we both have our own opinions and are fairly headstrong about them.

Though we love each other and fight relatively infrequently for a mother/daughter relationship that is enmeshed in a working relationship, I think she’d rather be free to shoot more often for her own company, and I’d rather be free to shoot for my own company. I do plan on continuing to work full time for her, but I need an outlet for my creative energy.

I also think that this will truly be a character building venture. With no financial backing from my parents (though they are generously allowing me to use their equipment and locations free of charge), I must learn to shoot on a shoestring budget. This will force me to be creative about how I spend my money, which I think in turn will push me to become a better photographer. This exact dilemma brought me to begin searching for “free” locations — i.e. remote places where I could shoot nudity and nobody would find me.

Kaitlyn, one of the girls in my office, found me such a place. She has a group of stoner friends who like to find weird places to smoke pot, and this led them to an abandoned dairy farm out in Camarillo. She went out there to scout the place, and returned with photos of a ruined, graffiti covered, perfectly decrepit building. It was perfect in its utter creepiness.

There was a new girl that had come in for Polaroids — someone who I’d not seen shot before. She had a very pretty in-an-unusual-way face, yet it always seemed to be scowling. Kaitlyn liked her too, and named her look “bitch-face.” We called her that in the most complimentary way possible, and the name stuck. So I booked “bitch-face” for my first Holly Randall Productions shoot at the creepy abandoned dairy farm.

This girl remained true to her name in the fact that she cancelled on me three times in a row — the last one being at 9 p.m. the night before the shoot. Her excuse was that she didn’t think her car could make it to the studio that morning. Why that didn’t occur to her when I booked her, or at least prior to the evening before the shoot, I’ll never know. All I know is that it really made me begin to doubt my ability to pull off my first shoot, much less a whole new company and website. Misgivings about my ability to succeed began to creep in, but I was determined. After several panicky calls and urgent text messages, Celeste Star responded and told me she was available for the shoot. Relieved, I went to bed, hopeful that this whole idea perhaps wasn’t such a bad one after all. The next morning I wasn’t so sure. Celeste called me 15 minutes after the scheduled call time, telling me that though she was on her way, and fairly close, she wasn’t sure if her car would make it. My God, is everyone’s car on the verge of collapse? My confidence certainly was. Perhaps this was a sign that I was doomed for failure and I could never make it out on my own. Yet Celeste’s car made it to the studio, and she was finally in makeup. My mother suggested that I just come and shoot up at the ranch, since so much had gone wrong with the shoot, and the ranch was: “ … familiar and we would be there to help you!” But this is exactly what I was trying to avoid: I didn’t want to shoot the familiar, and I didn’t want help. I wanted to shoot outside of my comfort zone and do it on my own. I couldn’t understand why nobody seemed to be able to see that.

After a couple of hours, Celeste was prepped, and Kaitlyn helped me pick out a few outfits for her. Since the place was such a run-down shit-hole, I wanted Celeste to really contrast with her background by putting her in clothing that was feminine yet edgy. My favorite outfit, and my favorite look, was her in a petticoat with a bejeweled top, complete with handcuffs and a ball gag.

It was almost a mile hike into the location, and when we arrived, there was a strange homeless guy hanging around with a big and vicious German Shepard. I realized that there were only us four girls, and I really cursed the fact that I hadn’t thought to bring along any guys for protection. I almost canned the whole thing and turned back — but I’d come so far, so I decided to brave the creepy guy and go ahead with the shoot.

Hidden inside the many rooms of this abandoned building, we felt somewhat protected. If he decided to come our way, we could spot him from far off and quickly get Celeste back in her clothes. I was insanely anxious and couldn’t stop pacing. This whole place gave me the creeps, and I was petrified of someone coming out of nowhere and discovering our perverted little project. Later I found out the place was supposedly haunted, which I suppose would account for that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, but really I think I was just nervous about shooting outside of my element.

But really, that kind of shoot was exactly what I needed to kick-start this whole new endeavor. The photos came out looking incredible, and I couldn’t have been more proud. As the images began to pop up on my screen, I squealed like a little girl. This kind of feeling is what got me hooked on photography in the first place — that feeling of artistic exhilaration.

It felt so great to know that I’d gone against the grain and done something so out of the ordinary. Despite my aching back and legs from the hike there and back with heavy equipment strapped to my back, and despite the 43 (yes I counted them) mosquito bites I received at the location, I had finally achieved something entirely on my own, and it was something I was immensely pleased with. And I know that even if my business fails, I will have been content with knowing that I worked for myself, on my own terms. And that’s the best paycheck you can cash.

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