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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How To Work With Models

As photographers, we should pause and occasionally remind ourselves that the life of a model isn't all manicures and massages. They're among the hardest-working people in our business.

The Secret Lives Of Models The symbiotic relationship between photographer and model is the rough equivalent of the relationship between ocean coral and their companion algae—take one away and the other will die. Forget the supermodels, those pampered darlings who end up on reality TV shows and bear little resemblance to the vast majority of models who end up working long hours for modest sums. Like any glamorous business, the reality of the modeling world as a whole is far more interesting than the glimpse most people catch on America's Next Top Model. The models whose faces you know and names you've never heard are the ones who have the real adventures—12 auditions a day over 12 miles of walking, stalkers, freaks and more party invites than most people would see in two lifetimes. This is the secret life of a working-class model.

The Real Reality

It's 9 a.m. at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. A man in his early 30s has just extinguished the butt of his sixth cigarette. He's a driver for the Success model agency sent to pick up a model flying in from America. Her flight arrived at 8 a.m. and she's nowhere to be found. It's Sunday, and there's no one at the agency who he can check in with. He resigns himself to wait for another hour.

Rebecca Steigner is on the edge of a meltdown. After flying to Chicago from San Francisco, she was bumped from the only daily flight to Paris. It's Sunday in France, so she has no way to communicate with her agency or the man sent to pick her up. Her suitcase is somewhere in the bowels of O'Hare. She's stuck overnight. At the airport convenience store, she buys a toothbrush and soap to wash the clothes she's wearing in the hotel sink.

“Always carry a bathing suit, change of underwear, a toothbrush and your book with your body—never let your original book out of your sight,” she explains. “You never know what's going to happen when you travel.”

After more than 11 years as a model, this is the line Rebecca spouts over and over to the legions of young girls who are just starting out. On this trip, however, she hasn't taken her own advice and she's scrambling to get across the Atlantic.


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