Workshop Blog #3
Who is Waterbury?
I think I should actually go back and start from the beginning. Well, my beginning. Blogging is fairly new for me. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I just love to tell my stories. But write them down? Well, here goes. I’m trying to put something down every other week, and I’ll make a real effort not to bore the piss out of you.
Thirty-six years have passed since I ventured to Chicago to see if I could work as a commercial photographer. Up to that point, I had limited success getting jobs as a paid photographer. Sure, there were friends in bands that wanted me to do their promo piece, or friends who wanted me to take their portrait - but for FREE.
At that point, my marriage was ending and I was losing my ability to see and make art. So I started to think I should pursue another path rather than the one of starving artist.
In the early 80s, Chicago was truly the center of the earth for catalog photography. Seven of the top 10 books were produced right there in the Windy City. Sears, Montgomery Wards, Spiegel, Aldens, JC Whitney and a plethora of smaller books like Schwinn Bicycles and Ludwig Drums, all being produced at the largest photo studios in the world. So, I made the decision to go for it. I had meager savings of $500, a 1972 MG Midget, and my best friend's apartment who had moved to Chicago to pursue his Master’s at Roosevelt University. He had a spare couch for me. I arrived on February 2, 1983, cold as hell and without a clue as to where to start.
I managed with the yellow pages and the Chicago Tribune want ads (that’s right, before the Internet, that was how jobs were found). I felt lucky to find a black and white printing job at a suburban photo lab: 6 am to 1 pm, 4 days a week at $3.35 an hour. It got me gas and ramen noodles. On my days offs, I spent 3 months showing my portfolio at different studios and I finally landed a job at a small production house. I mainly worked on Montgomery Ward Sunday rotos — those flyers that come in your Sunday newspaper. My salary was to be $16,000 a year and I was overjoyed.
I was on my way to being a photographer being paid to take pictures...
Workshop Blog #2
On Working with a Model for the First Time
In my last blog, I gave you some ideas about how to find new models through connections in your local area. Here we some of the general things I do when working with a new model for the first time.
Before the model arrives, you will need to get your space and lighting prepped and ready for the photo shoot. It will help the model greatly if you are well prepared and have a professional setting ready when they show up.
The very first thing I do once the model arrives at the studio is to sit down and talk for a while. I always take time to set expectations and before we start, I let the model know that they are in charge during the shoot. I tell them that if they ever become uncomfortable when we are working, they should say something to me to let me know. Also, I let them know they should stop me if there’s anything they don’t understand as we go along. I make it clear to them that at any time they should feel free to just say, “No, I don’t want to do that” and we will stop and move on to something else. Also, while I’m shooting, I always ask several times, “Is this okay? Are you having fun? Do you want to continue? I feel it’s important that the model feel comfortable, or neither is us will be happy with our work.
So, my novice model, Rachel, arrived at 2 pm on the day of our session. I asked her if she was nervous. She said yes but that she was excited too. I should mention here, that I always work for a minimum of 3 hours the first time I work with a model because this allows time for us to get comfortable with one another and establish a good rapport.
I told Rachel that I always start with seated portraits, fully clothed at first, and that we will work up to the poses. I had Rachel sit on a large cushion on the floor on the seamless background that I had put in place.
When we started with the portraits, I was astonished that she happened to be a natural! We chatted the whole time about her job, her boyfriend., etc. After about 15 minutes of just straight portraits, I asked her to put on a silky robe and continued in a portrait fashion. Next, I asked her to remove one side of the robe and place her hand over her breast, and I continued taking shots focusing on her face. I believe one of the most important aspects of photographing the artistic nude is about the emotions, the perceived feeling of the models. It is not just about her being naked. That’s my style, you may have a different area of focus.
From there, we moved through a number of poses. I had her slip the robe down to the elbow on both sides and at that point she was exposed from the waist up. When I asked, she said she still felt comfortable.
Ultimately, by the third hour, she was sans clothing but she was always seated. I had moved her into a dining room style chair so I could see her overall form. We worked through many poses and made numerous exposures and I checked in many times to make sure she continued to feel good about what we were doing.
When I’m finished with a session with a new model, I always take them for coffee or a bite to eat to talk about what we’ve done. At that point, they can ask any questions they have and I think it’s a personable way to wrap things up. My goal is to make the photo session and overall time together comfortable for the model with the hope they come away as proud as they can be and see that everybody is beautiful, especially in art.
Workshop Blog #1
How to Find New Models
One of the more straightforward ways to find a model for your work is to join Model Mayhem, the portfolio website for professional models and photographers. The traveling models typically go to larger cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, etc.
Moving my studio from Chicago to the Southwest Michigan lake shore area, I knew I would also need to find local talent. My new location, while beautiful with many opportunities to shoot outdoors,is somewhat off the beaten path for traveling models. Fortunately, I’ve worked with dozens of professional traveling models in Chicago and several of them still seek me out and work with me here in Benton Harbor. But I can’t rely solely on those connections and I have continued to cultivate models here, locally.
I have found collaborating with professional models to be wonderful. However when I find someone new to work with, I find the joy of working with an amateur model for the first time to be really satisfying. It’s a different kind of collaboration and I enjoy mentoring people to try this art form and to help them appreciate their own beauty and build their inner confidence.
By sharing my experience, I hope to give you ideas on how you too can find potential models if you live in a smaller community.
For the most part, I first seek out artists and entrepreneurs in the community and make as many connections as I can to build a presence and positive reputation. These friends and acquaintances become my informal references. Almost 100% of the time, you will have to make the introduction with potential models. Here’s one specific example of how I found a new model through such a connection.
Recently I stopped in to a local yoga studio, which is owned by friends of mine, in order to catch up and find out about their plans for the holidays. I met a new employee, Rachel (not her real name), they had recently hired for the day-to-day management of their growing business.
We were all able to chat for a while, catch up on things, and share a few stories. Rachel was very friendly and upbeat and I really liked her personality. While we were all talking, I was sharing some of my recent work that I captured on my phone and I asked Rachel if she thought she would be interested in giving modeling it a try. I asked her to look at my Instagram posts, my web site, and even go to Model Mayhem to see my verified credits there. I told her if she was interested that for the first photo shoot, she could bring an escort the first time, so she would feel more comfortable and to ensure that nothing inappropriate was going to happen. I also told Rachel she would get paid. I believe that everyone should get paid and I share this up front before they have to ask about it. The rate for an amateur would be less than a professional, but work is work, and they too should be compensated for their time.
I will say that 90% of the time, people I approach this way will decline right away. Also, of the the 10% that say they are interested, many will not come through. So, it’s a bit of a numbers game and you will likely do a lot of asking before you find someone who is truly interested and comes though. You have to be persistent without being overbearing and secure in what you are doing, that your art is important if to nobody else but you.
I gave Rachel a few days and I reached out to her again. Don’t expect the potential model to follow up with you. It’s important that you reach out to these contacts and let them know your are serious. I was pleased to learn that Rachel had talked to the yoga studio owners (who I had previously photographed nude) and she had researched my work, etc. She said was interested in working with me and we set a date and time to work together. Even though I had given Rachel my card and asked that she call me if anything came up to prevent us working together, the first date came and went due to miscommunication (this can often happen so you have to be patient and flexible).
I called her again and we set a new date and time. Wouldn’t you know that the first real snowfall of the year started that morning, but Rachel showed up and we were able to work together.
In my next blog post, I’ll share some of my strategies for working with an amateur for the first time and getting the best work from the novice.