My process for these write-ups is fairly simple. I finish editing the photos, then I sit in front of the computer (usually in the mornings) and close my eyes and transport back in time, to the day of the shoot. Usually its been at least a few weeks since the shoot. This is helpful because only the truly memorable moments remain in my mind. There are typically several that I reflect on, but almost always there is one memory in particular that finds me. All I do is make space for it. Then, I sort of let go.
Writing has always been very difficult for me, I later came to realize this was partially due to being dyslexic. The other, and probably larger part, was due to being terrified of what people would think - if I let them in. I've come to realize this is exactly what everyone that sits in front of my camera experiences. If they let go and let the "real" them shine through, people might judge them. When you see it in writing, you can't help but realize how stupid that sounds. But still, it can be scary. The truth is, I'm still sort of terrified every time I share one of these write-ups (and even the photos). But everyday I do, I get a little more confident, but also I care less and by care I mean overthink and over criticize less. Again, like my portraits, the more photos I shoot during a session, the less people are in their heads. They eventually stop paying attention to that voice in their head and let go.
So back to Frank and our time together. When I close my eyes and reflect on our portrait session, the memory that strikes me the most, actually didn't happen on the day of the shoot. It happened two weeks prior, when Frank texted me "Hey dude! You still need recruits for your b&w portrait series?". Nothing special about that text...unless you know Frank. He's one of the sweetest guys I know. Honest, kind and super reliable, but he can also be shy and fairly private. I've know him for almost 5 years, but it took Frank a while to open up and be really comfortable.
The other interesting part of the story is that Frank was my landlord until very recently - that's how we meet 5 years ago. You hear these horror stories about terrible landlords. Well, Frank was the exact opposite of all those stories. I have so much love for the dude. Over the years he would stop by every once and awhile and he'd ask "what are you working on these days? Anything good?". I'd invite him in and tell him about whatever project I was working on at the time. He genuinely cared. I really enjoyed our talks, especially when the wine came out. So, one day in November I ran into Frank in the stairs and he asked me that same question "what are you working on these day?". I pulled out my phone and started to show him the early pictures of the first few portraits. No reaction. I told him about what the project was about. Still no reaction. I asked him if he was "maybe... possibly... sort of interested to be a model? " Blank face. Then after a long pause he respectfully declined. Frank being Frank, he still wanted to help, but was clearly not comfortable being the one in front of the camera. So he started listing off names of friends that might be interested. I can't say I was surprised. Like I said, Frank can be a little shy. No harm in asking though.
I thought that was going to be the end of it. I would've bet money on it. But low and behold, two weeks later, on a Sunday morning, I get a text message and before I know it I've booked my dear friend Frank for a portrait. What a great surprise.
ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT:
The lesson was very clear to me. Everyone wants to be seen. That's my favourite part of this portrait project. If I do my job right, I get to bring people out of their shells (we all have them!) and show them how truly beautiful they are both inside and out. I can hear the haters barking about how cheesy that sounds, but fuck it's true. We are - all of us - beautiful.