Last weekend I read supermodel Cindy Crawford's biography "Becoming Cindy." It was a beautiful book that probably intrigues me more than it intrigues models. She goes over her career and all the big name photographers she's been mentored by, and discusses the challenges she faced as a model. It was very refreshing hearing the model's story behind an iconic photograph rather than the photographer's. And it made me think about some things.
On trusting photographers
Before the digital days, a photographer was the only person on set who saw the photographs before they were developed, which meant they had a lot of responsibility in art directing and guaranteeing that they got the shot. With tethering nowadays, not only does the size of the crew grow, but less interaction happens on set. Every team has its assistants and they interact within their own teams. When the shoot happens, everyone is gathered around the monitor, making comments about the bad shots, and the model is left off to the sidelines. Everyone interrupts, makes suggestions, and the photographer eventually becomes less of the artist and more of just a human tripod there to push a trigger.
I think photographers should be hired for their unique vision, and clearly communicate with the art director ahead of time about what is to be achieved. Photographers should have the say on set, and they get to determine when they "got the shot." Because they know how to interact with models, get them to perform their best, try new things, pause if something's not right, or continue a good rhythm until something beautiful happens. Tethering, despite how useful it is, turns me off because no ones is paying attention to the model, not even the model herself. In camera I catch her eyes gazing in the direction of the screen, and the flow completely stops when someone else on set yells out anything. (Also why you keep your crew small and unnecessary people off your set.) I love when it's just me and the model, clicking away to upbeat music. Every few minutes, I'd show her an awesome shot, and she'd get super excited and perform better. Their confidence surges and they trust me. And we start making beautiful art together.
The era of the "supermodels" started in the 90s. Back then it was just a category that a handful of models happened to fall into. Modeling was a job, not an identity. But somehow these women became iconic celebrities.
Nowadays, modeling has become an identity. Being a model comes with ego, fame, "influence." Modeling became about reaching celebrity status and being famous on social media. People are no longer considered by their actual talents, but rated and valued by their numbers (not clothing size, but their following). And the people on top are the new "supermodels."
I've experienced this first hand, working with beginner models (signed and freelance) and some just pretty people, throughout the last half year or so. Some "models" with tens of thousands of followers don't have much besides their pretty faces. Other non-models hold themselves so beautifully, and express themselves elegantly as they waltz in front of my camera. And as much as I love test shoots, at times it's just me catering to what kinds of images the model needs in his or her portfolio. Some models literally just want me to take new Instagram photos for them, and don't respect the time and artistry I try to put into creating timeless images. There is so much ego they sometimes forget it's a collaboration.
Anyway, I guess that was my little rant of the month. This post was mainly to share these images I shot with Karla. I love the idea of models at the beach. The combination is just so iconic, and reminiscent of the black and white images of supermodels from the past (Elle MacPherson, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington) by Herb Ritts and Peter Lindbergh. It was so natural, simple, unretouched, and beautiful.
I love these images in color because all the colors are so beautiful together (!) but ultimately it's black and white images that show light, composition, and the essence of the photograph.
Much better. At the moment I'm completely obsessed with Herb Ritts' work. His style is everything I love. I can't wait to shoot again.