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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.

On day two, she's bumped again. Sprinting across the airport, she narrowly makes a flight to London, then 10 hours later she manages to pick up a commuter flight from Heathrow to Paris. By the time she meets the driver, who has been visiting the airport daily, waiting for her, she has been traveling for three days in the same clothes and her luggage is nowhere to be found. There's no time to lament the problems, so the driver whisks her away to an audition. At the agency two hours later, she's informed that she flies out at 4 a.m. for a job in Switzerland. With her luggage still missing, she gets on the plane in the same sink-washed clothes she was wearing when she left San Francisco four days earlier. Four days of shooting later, she makes it back to an apartment in Paris that's set up to serve as a base for visiting models, where her luggage is waiting for her.

Recalls Rebecca, “I took one of the 10 best showers of my life that day.”

Eleven years ago, at 14 years old, Rebecca was discovered by the same agent who gave me my initial break in the fashion industry. I received an effusive call from Michael DiMartini, saying that he found the next “Miss Thing” and would I mind shooting her first test pictures. He insisted that he fax me her picture to make sure I liked her look. Technically challenged, he faxed me a big black blob. I would have done any favor for Michael, after all, he launched my career. I called him back and told him that the Rorschach test I was looking at was one of the most stunning models I had ever seen. I couldn't wait to see what she really looked like.

You're A What? Whatever!

As strange as it sounds, models who work are almost immediately ostracized from their peer group. From the first moment that Rebecca appeared in a full-page Macy's ad in the local Sunday magazine, she started getting a snobby attitude from her classmates. It's the job that all young models dream about—all except those who end up doing it. It's a bizarre fact, but almost every model who I've worked with never really sought out being a model. As was the case with Rebecca, someone suggested that she was “pretty enough to be one of those model types you see in the magazines.” And so a snapshot gets sent to an agency, and suddenly you're on McNear's Beach with an entire photo crew babbling about how beautiful you are and how you need to pout more. All you really want to do is go play soccer with your friends who have now abandoned you.

At 16—the age at which Rebecca had shot a variety of catalogs and local editorial spreads—you have very few high school friends and a bunch of people running around telling you how breathtaking you are. “But don't go crazy with the ice cream, darling. You're working in a bikini tomorrow in Japan...Italy...Australia.”

Look Pretty, Pout And Travel The World

Rebecca gets to travel—a lot. Early in her career, she would be scouted by foreign agencies that would ask her to come to their country to work. As she has become better known, she can contact an agency in another country and make arrangements to “audition” in that market by e-mailing current images of herself, and if they think she's right for their market, she's on her way. When she travels to another market, she goes with the understanding that she'll look the same as she did when she first met with the foreign agency, and she'll act in a professional manner. That's to say, she has to go to auditions set up by the agency as well as show up to shoots on time and well rested. In return, the agency pays for her flight, picks her up at the airport and puts her up in a model's apartment. Easy, right?


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