Gonna dial it back a bit, as I’ve spent several weeks pouring out my personal stuff all over this column. WHICH I LOVE, don’t get me wrong. But I’m sure it can be a bit much. So this week, something light! Trust.
I crack myself up.
There is a certain degree of trust I am usually afforded by my models. A social contract is formed, and most of the time they go out on a limb a bit further than I do. Sometimes they let me into their homes, and that’s a big thing, man. Letting a stranger inside your house. Sometimes they come to mine, and that’s a big thing, too. Walking into a foreign place, not knowing who or what to expect.
I do my best to soften the strangeness of it, to earn the trust they’ve given out. I think the first thing is to realize, Trust is something to be valued.
Alexandra showed up with her mom, and all they knew is that I was a photographer. They’d been sent to me by Ford, so there was some vetting already done, but I’ll tell you, you just never know. I’ve heard stories, too many stories. Some guys are … I don’t actually know if I can swear in a Manolith article, so I’ll just say, some guys are monsters.
So there’s trust that’s required, here. I like to lay out exactly what I’m gonna do in a situation like this, what the tone of the shoot is gonna be, where we’re gonna be, how long, and so on. Give out as much information, invite the mother along to the shoot (something some photographers aren’t into), just make it as open a situation as possible.
One of the things trust fosters is communication. And I love talking. Might not be great at communicating, but I love talking. So I talk, I try to communicate what I’m after, what I’m thinking about, which, in the best cases, allows my model to open up, come up with their own ideas, feel comfortable to move and experiment with how they are in front of the camera. The more folks talk to each other, the more comfortable they become. And comfort is key to my work, man.
Which makes having a make-up artist for a shoot like this quite helpful. Why? The make-up artist being involved means the shoot is gonna take longer. Make up, after all, takes awhile. FACT. At first I assumed it was just because a particular make-up artist was slow, but no, it’s not slow, it’s considered. Takes time to get it right, to do all the things that need to be done.
And the longer it takes, the more time I have to talk to Alexandra, find out about her, let her know about me, bolster the initial trust she’s given me by letting her in. It allows me to create and strengthen a rapport with her, which, I hope, takes the dynamic beyond a simple photographer/model dynamic.
All three of us talked: me, Alex, and our make-up maestro Kristina. We talked about relationships and high school and college and whatever else came to mind. We kept it going on the drive over to the location, on the hike up to the park, when Alex got her hair adjusted, when she laid down in some heavy foliage. The whole shoot, talking, communicating, creating and re-enforcing that comfort.
In the end, after everybody’s gone home, that trust continues. Alex has to trust that I didn’t make her look bad.
My mom says, “trust is giving another person the ability to hurt you.” And that’s the truth, emotionally, physically. Acknowledging and respecting that for the entirety of the shoot, hopefully that shows in each and every picture.