(For the impatient, you can jump straight to the new sets: Angel and Rebel. Do come back afterwards though.)
If you’ve been following my Flickr account, you will have noticed a preponderance of new photos, mostly titled “Eri.”
Eri, my new model and as some have suggested, perhaps my new Muse. Eri is a girl I met a few weeks ago, when she came along when I was shooting her friend, Mari. At first I was a bit thrown off that she came along—when I set out to shoot someone new, I put a lot of thought into how I’m going to try shoot that person, pose them, bring out things about them.
In Mari’s case, I’d met her and asked to do her photo. She’s quite busy with her work, so it took several adjustments of schedules to find a couple hours to shoot. Mari’s a beautiful girl, with distinctive features and wonderful, kinky-curly hair.
To shoot Mari, I wanted to concentrate on just shooting her, not have to amuse some tagalong friend who might get bored and suddenly decide that the two of them could be having a much better time somewhere else, so I told Eri to jump in for a few pictures.
With Mari, I had thought about how I would put her into the frame, how I’d position her and pose her and how to get her to relax and show the camera the spark that I saw when I first noticed her. It’s a lot of work finding that moment, finding the right light and angle, making sure your lens is focusing and you haven’t filled up your camera’s memory card. You need to do that much to get a good shot and it’s the kind of preparation you need to have out of the way in case The Gods decide to bless you with something better than good, the elusive Great Shot.
I had Eri take off her hat, I had her and Mari move to where the light was good and started shooting a few fun pictures, not thinking they’d be anything but snapshots.
How wrong I was.
Of course I could see that Eri was a good looking girl, but there are a million beautiful girls in Tokyo, both Japanese and foreign. A beautiful girl in person can be quite unremarkable when photographed, after all—being photogenic has little to do with how you look. Finding a photogenic face is a remarkable, rare occurrence, like seeing a shooting star on a cold November night.There’s a simple way to tell how photogenic a person is: Take their picture. Sometimes you see it in the photo when you have gone looking for it, but other times, it surprises you. This time, I looked at the snapshots of Eri on the back of my camera and felt my insides do a flip. She looked like an actress whose name I couldn’t quite place.
That day, my camera fell in love with Eri.
I quickly arranged to start shooting more of her. We’ve gotten together twice now, meeting at my little studio space for a few hours at a time. Eri’s a girl, a sweet, down-to-earth girl, who effortlessly produces looks that ranged from sultry and dangerous to virginal and innocent. One moment she’s a leather-clad biker chick swigging bourbon from the bottle, another moment she’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever spent a Sunday morning whispering across your pillow with.With a change of the lights, she’s a prewar movie star, perhaps young Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake with peek-a-boo bangs, or even Ocassia, the allegorical personification of opportunity, known by her unruly forelock.
As I shoot her, I can barely keep up—It’s a constant game of focus and frame, check the exposure, check the lights, reframe, recompose and wait for those wonderful moments where something electric happens. “Hold that, don’t move,” I’ll say, as I struggle to keep up, “no, wait, forget it—that’s better!” as she unleashes yet another killer smile, or her eyes burn intensively into the camera. She does this all without pretense or forethought—when she catches herself at it, I invariably wind up with four or five frames of her easy laughter. Shooting her is a delight, an exhausting, wonderful escape from reality.
I hope you’ll pardon all of this fawning, but it’s to let you all know why I’m spending all my time shooting her, rather than roaming the nighttime streets stealing shots of gangsters. Frankly, I’d gotten bored of my photos, uninspired by re-hashing old themes, the same ideas. I would send hours going over frame after frame of the same old photos, trying to wring some tiny bit of the old feeling from them, but it just wasn’t happening.
Now, it’s happening. Where I would before let roll after roll go unprocessed or processed and ignored, now I savor every batch. Before, for every five hundred photos I would shoot, I’d get one or two that I liked, which isn’t bad, as the photographers reading this know. Now, I easily get twenty or thirty from those five hundred. I wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 each morning after the shoot and start importing and processing the photos, sorting, adjusting, cropping them, arranging them into themes and exporting them to galleries. It’s a great feeling to have such great material to work with for a change.
Of course you may be reading this and thinking “Jim’s in love again” and in a way, you’d be right, but I’m not in love with a girl, I’m in love with the image of a girl. Erica’s become a friend and I enjoy the time we spend together immensely, but the girl I might talk to over a couple of beers is not the same as this wonderful fictional creature we create with a camera, when a white muslin backdrop transforms a night in my shabby little studio into lazy day in a Manhattan penthouse.
So I hope you’ll indulge me in this little diversion and perhaps enjoy this bit of fantasy with me. I haven’t gotten the photos I want to get yet, so I’ll keep shooting as long as Eri is having fun.
In the mean time, I hope you’ll like seeing a couple of galleries I threw together. The first is called “Angel” and shows some of the sweeter, softer images. The second, I’ve nicknamed “Rebel“, a fun set done while playing with props like my old leather jacket, aviator sunglasses and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, done while blasting David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel.”