Sunday, October 14, 2007

Candid Shots © by adrian Photographic memory: Episode Two

A few random, sometimes pointless thoughts from my life of pictures:

Photography for me is magic, it's like fortune telling. You show up at my door, I've never seen you before, we are strangers and yet you want me to present you with an insightful representation of your inner being. Forgetting about the sexuality of my particular specialty, even regular photography is a very intimate experience. In seconds, I need to get you to remove your pretence and mask, trust me, and reveal who you are. If I do it right, you end up showing me parts of yourself you didn't even know existed. How crazy is it that we both believe this is possible? I tell you, it's magic!

Mary, from the treasuresintheattic and a private workshop blog I belong to wrote in a comment to me once, "When I read your writing, I feel like I've signed on for a carnival ride."

During one period of my career, I kept coming across a photographer who had his own studio but wanted to work with me. Every time we would meet, he would repeat the same story, that he liked my style etc., and wanted to partner and work with me. He always explained that he was well off and could easily pay the bulk of my rent if I would allow him this privilege. I would thank him, and explain repeatedly this was not possible, as I worked alone. In a moment of weakness once, (maybe I was having trouble with my rent, I don’t remember why) I told him to come to my studio for a meeting, and we would talk about it.

My studios have always been an expression of my being, the studios themselves are theater. I always set my studios up as huge play rooms for grownups. This seems to help enormously in getting so much playfulness out of my clients, and thus onto the film.

I always had on display everything imaginable, and much unimaginable, all strewn about, in what I would call studied carelessness. Great flowing pieces of fabric, underwear of every description, heavy leather gear, satin, fur, whips, dildos, butter. In one period of time I even had a life size papier-mâché horse that I would occasionally put out onto the sidewalk in front of my studio. A little something for everyone. You knew you could act the fool if you wanted, be as free as you wanted, and no one would laugh or point at you.

I arranged everything so that the deeper you ventured into the studio, the more provocative my samples became. That way, you could stop at any point if you felt uncomfortable. If you asked to see something more revealing, I would show you samples of my special signature works that I create called "carnalsnaps" (if you Google them, visit at your own risk).

The other photographer showed up for the appointment he had sought for so long. He solemnly walked through my studio, constantly shaking his head. When he was finished he stared at me wide eyed and exclaimed "This isn't a photography studio, it's a carnival ride. I could never work in a place like this!" He then stormed out. His reaction gave me a warm and toasty feeling, and he never bothered me again.

Well, Mary's comment also made me feel warm and toasty, but this time for a very different reason. It's great to know that even in writing, I can sometimes still throw together a good carnival ride.

I have been on many strange journeys doing what I do for a living. I've seen things and been where it would have been impossible to be if it wasn't for my work. I suppose I have satisfied every imaginable fantasy a man could have, certainly any I ever had, at least three times in my life. The great part for me is that most of the time I didn't even get splashed. Everybody did most of the grunt work for me, and all I had to do was encourage, cheer, watch and take a few well timed snaps.

I have always been amused by peoples reaction to what I do. We constantly see photos of mayhem everywhere these days and hardly ever think about the photographer's involvement in what they have just witnessed. I'm sure it's safe to say we don't anticipate that when they return from their assignments they will refuse to take another picture unless there is a body nearby.

I used to do photojournalism shoots early in my career, dreadful fires, car accidents, that kind of stuff, no one ever wanted to talk about the event I had just witnessed. No one ever seemed to be the least bit interested.

Mix some sex into photography though, and most peoples brains don't seem to work properly. My experience is that you can't get people to stop talking about it.

I have earlier mentioned that I mostly live as a hermit. The friends I do have I've known for forty or so years and that's about it. I did end up with one extra photographer friend about fifteen years ago. The only reason that worked out was because he used to do still photos on the old porno movie sets in California. It was easy for both of us to become friends because we didn't have to waste each others time talking about sex and photography. We had both given at the office.

When I was younger and my ego lived in a different place I believed that my ability to get everybody naked was entirely because of me and my imagined sexiness. I eventually came to understand this was not the case. As I continued in my field, I realized that it had never been about me at all. Of course I contribute, I do seem to have an ability to give people permission to do whatever they want, and to have no embarrassment or shame about it. People do trust that I have no moral interest in what they do, and I will honour whatever their choice is.

I realize that I am dealing with a selective clientele, but it's always seemed to me that most people are able to abandon much of their moral restraint if given the opportunity. After forty-five years of this work, I still wonder what it is about photography that gives so many people the excuse to act differently than they normally do. I always enjoy challenging people to express that same freedom without the aid of a camera.