So when Playgirl approached me about shooting solo male centerfolds for its magazine, I balked. Men are boxy, bulky and un-wielding. It takes a certain type of photographer to shoot males without making them look, well, gay. And funny enough, I noticed that these types of photographers tend to be homosexual males.
When I picture the perfect masculine yet sexy portrait of a man, I think of Herb Ritts' "Fred With Tires," a black-and-white photo of a shirtless, greased-up young man in a garage, holding a large tire in each hand and glaring at the camera with a haughty, arresting gaze. Could I achieve a similarly sensual portrait? And how the hell was I going to pull this off?
I'd always said I hated shooting guys solo — they were only useful to me as a "prop" in hardcore sets. Someone to hold the girl's knees up in a reverse cowgirl position, or a penis supplied for the model's luscious lips to wrap around. But they were never the main focus of the photograph. And now, they were the sole subject of it.
My biggest fear was the guy's ability to get and maintain an erection during the shoot. I don't generally worry about this in my day-to-day work since there is always a woman there to tease and please him so that I can get him prepared. But this time there would be no girl, nor a fluffer provided for him. The only people on set would be two male assistants and me, and since my model was not a homosexual, nor was I a stacked, naked porn star, I expected all kinds of problems.
My first choice for the male model was Justin Magnum. I'd worked with him a few times before, and not only was he very good looking and well-built, but was he also reliable and a genuinely pleasant person to work with. I was nervous, and with him I felt a bit more comfortable.
As I rushed to the location on the day of the shoot, I stopped by a local magazine stand and headed straight to the porn section. I loaded up my arms with stacks of dirty magazines and breathlessly dropped them all onto the cashier's counter. A nearby customer eyed me with a curious look, not sure if I was a raving lesbian or a really horny girl who was in a big rush to purchase over a hundred dollars worth of porn. He probably imagined me hurrying home and gleefully spreading my titillating treasures around me as I powered up some enormous vibrator for a good few hours of raunchy masturbation.
What a pervert.
When I got to the location, I was nervous about getting down to the erect penis shots, so I did a lot of opening pictures — Justin clothed in a suit and slowly undressing on the stairwell, or shirtless in faded jeans. But eventually it was time for the inevitable.
I presented Justin with my horde of glossy porn magazines, pointing out that each one I'd purchased catered to a specific fetish, so he could get hard to whatever turned him on. But he barely glanced at the magazines, and instead turned to me.
"Holly, I was wondering if you could help me out here."
Oh God, he was going to ask for me to take my top off, or give him a blowjob in the bathroom to get him started — I won't do it, oh how am I going to tell him without humiliating him and ruining my entire shoot.
"Could you take off your shoes for me?" he asked me inquisitively.
What? Did I hear him right?
And then I remembered — Justin has a foot fetish. In fact, he'd often ask the girls to remove their shoes during the scene, something my stylist sniffed at since she'd spent about an hour matching the shoes to the outfit.
Well, I most certainly could do that — in fact, I don't even like to wear shoes. True to my Southern California roots, I practically live in flip-flops but always wear sneakers while I shoot, lest a heavy light drops on my feet. But suddenly I have permission to work barefoot, which is actually pretty great, since it's so warm out. And thank goodness I have a fresh pedicure; otherwise I'd be really embarrassed.
And so the "real" shoot begins. Justin's a great model, and he has no problem keeping it up during the duration of the session. Whenever he feels as if he may falter, I notice his eyes drift towards my feet, and the crisis is averted.
In a strange way, it's actually nice to be appreciated for my feet — I've never really had a guy focus on them that way before. I find myself almost proud of them, frequently going up on my toes while I focus my camera lens, and for the low angle shots, positioning myself on the floor in such a way that my feet are thrust in front of me, giving him a clear view of my 10 little treasures.
A few days after the film is submitted to Playgirl, I get a phone call from the editor: they are thrilled with my layout, and I got the cover. All the anxiety that I felt over working for a new client finally shatters. I did it, and I did a damn fine job.
That night I draw myself a long bath and celebrate with a big wine glass filled with Perrier water, extra lemon wedges. I sink down under the bubbles and rest my feet on the edge of the tub.
My toes peep out from the mass of bubbles, and I admire them, pointing and flexing them for a few moments. I have a new appreciation for my feet: they helped me secure a new client. I'm thankful for this undervalued part of my body — and I think they deserve a paraffin pedicure tomorrow.