A Felicitous OccasionWednesday, October 27, 2010
In 1967 I was working as unpaid apprentice/assistant for a Mexican commercial photographer in Mexico City called Arno Brehme. He had a huge airplane hangar-like studio in which he could shoot many ads for the likes of Life en Español. I remember that one day he was shooting a Plymouth Barracuda commercial. The human model used (Mexico at the time was not too politically correct so women were used as commercial fodder) was a British girl called Felicity. I had never heard of such a name. Felicity was beautiful, delightful, and even though I was a lowest of the low assistant she gave me the time of day. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I was one of the few who spoke her language. I never saw her again, but for days I had pleasant dreams of gunning a Barracuda around the curves of the Toluca Highway with Felicity’s arms wrapped around me. I have never forgotten the name and its power.
Last night I taught the fourth class of the Contemporary Portrait Nude at Focal Point. We alternate lecture days with shooting days. Las night was the latter. We had a model I had never seen before of which we knew nothing. She appeared going up he stairs of the school as I was going down to the studio. I told her, “You look like someone who should be called Alex, my name is Alex, too.”
When Alex entered our studio (6 students) she was quiet and shy. I asked her if she had ever posed before and if she had ever posed undraped. She blushed a bit, and answered, “No.” I insisted a bit and asked again, “Is this your first time?” This time she answered with a slight smile and in the affirmative.
There is a certain charm in getting to photograph someone who has not posed before. This means that they do not have pre-conceived ideas of what you may want and they will usually not volunteer the so called “model poses” that include pursed lips, or they might show their beautiful teeth (Alex had beautiful teeth), and the pose in those hackneyed glamour poses that look so tacky, almost pornographic.
Within 40 minutes we saw Alex as Adam saw Eve and “it was good.” From then on she seemed to grow a persona that grew on us and I felt most frustrated in being the teacher and not a student. My students were happily shooting like mad, aware on how lucky they were to have Alex in the studio that day.
I did manage to shoot a few iPhone portraits on the sly (as the one you see here) and a few others with my Nikon FM-2 loaded with Kodak Tri-X.
When I went home I had a buzz of contentment in my head as I realized exactly how lucky I had been. All I can add is that the evening was a felicitous one!
Another Perfect Model
A Felicitous Occasion