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Monday, November 26, 2007

Sex, Money And Drama

Becoming grist in the gossip mill can damage the career of a professional photographer. You can't always avoid the scandal, but you can learn how to recover from it with your reputation intact.

sex money dramaThere are three universal topics of conversation that people like to blab about no matter what industry you're in: sex, money and drama. One or all of these topics will affect your career at one point or another. The secret to surviving a few malicious words or a full-blown scandal is having a consistent reputation—and learning the art of self-control.

As soon as you throw your hat in the ring as a professional photographer, you enter an illogical world of politics. This isn't altogether a bad thing. Believe it or not, surviving the occasional transgression or embarrassment bolsters your ego and gives you a bizarre confidence that looks good with a martini at a social gathering.

My first magazine cover was for Diablo Magazine, a periodical based in northern California. The cover was to feature Marion Cunningham, a famous chef and author of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook series. Personally, I didn't know a thing about Miss Cunningham, but my friend and legendary food stylist Susan Massey did. I called Susan to ask if she'd work way below her day rate so I could have a friend on the set that could offer Miss Cunningham a bit more of a culinary conversation beyond my “I can make a killer chili-cheese omelet if you're ever hungover.”

Because of budgetary concerns, the magazine mandated that they would supply the clothes stylist and makeup artist, which on this shoot was one in the same person. The location was set for Miss Cunningham's home. A brief conversation the night before the shoot revealed Miss Cunningham to be exceedingly nice and accommodating.

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When I'm nervous, I talk a lot. This was my first magazine cover, so I was yammering up a storm while I was walking around Miss Cunningham's house, desperately looking for my shot. It was the middle of the day, so my natural-light style, with which I was supremely confident, wasn't going to happen. So out came the strobes, with which I had very little experience. Susan, the food stylist, my assistant and the wardrobe/makeup artist were all standing around, waiting for direction as I was going from room to room, still trying to find a shot.

I could sense the makeup artist, who drove up in a Jaguar and an attitude, giving me the evil eye, like “I can't believe I have to work with this idiot.” She started barking suggestions at me like I worked for her—not because she wanted to be helpful, but because she wanted to get to some social event and my inexperience was extending her time on the job. I somewhat pathetically tolerated her attitude.

Finally, the shot went off and went off well. Everyone seemed to have a great time. When I turned in the film to the art director at the magazine, she was ecstatic—until she got a call from the wardrobe/makeup woman a few days later who slammed me as arrogant and upsetting to Miss Cunningham.


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