Dirty Laundry #1: Photo Process

Phew! There’s so much to do- every time I think I should concentrate on starting my half of the blog posting I become distracted by one more piece that I want to slot into place. But! I’ve finished organizing the cargo site and I think I can take a little break before I start the great font hunt.

Right. So.

I had been thinking vaguely about the look of the first photo series for Dirty Laundry and had a few ideas rolling around in my head. After stumbling across the Araki book at the Strand a month ago I was seeing Geishas in my mind’s eye and I had even emailed a girl I know to see if she’d be willing to dress up in black underwear and Geisha make-up for a photo shoot- no response. I had nearly two weeks still at that point so I wasn’t worried. A week on when no possible model had surfaced I was starting to worry. Sunday night we held auditions for my video installation project- they went well- and at about 3:00 Wednesday afternoon it dawned on me that I might have have someone. I hastily called T, a beautiful red head from the auditions, and asked if she would be interested in posing for some racy photos. She said “how racy” I explained and she replied “Oh, that’s not racy”. Game on. We talked a bit more and it turned out that she was going out of town and would only have the next day free.  I asked her to meet me at a friend’s apartment the next day at 5:00 and started immediately to catalogue all the things I would need. I had 24 hours to finalize my idea and get organized. Suddenly the Geisha look was appealing less but I didn’t know where to go from there. I knew I wanted it to be sexy or erotic in some way but I didn’t want to capitalize on the female form alone. I wanted a sense of drama and I felt it was imperative to build in a narrative so that Viccy had something to work with when it came time to write her story.

The fetishistic side of Geishas was still on my mind as a new idea started to formulate…  on the train home I tried to brainstorm how to create psychological drama–mixing and matching visual and conceptual ideas -> odd pairs -> adults with kids things -> Froot Loops? A woman in underwear with Froot Loops.  Too simple and potentially too messy. Odd pairs -> dentures? A sexy young woman with dentures? -> A sexy young woman with a walker? Where would I get dentures? Where would a get a walker. A walker wouldn’t fit in the shower … Back to Geishas -> Araki -> Fetishes. Fetishes? Binding. To be honest I’m not sure how I arrived at the ransom letter but in my mind it was not so much a real ransom but a game- a fetish perhaps. I made a list of all the things I might need and looked through my apartment for useful props: exacto knife (scalpel), glue, paint brush, black gloves, bobby pins, gold case. I packed it all in my bag along with a Chinese lantern a red light bulb my camera and a couple lenses- the only piece remaining was the ransom letter itself. I decided to stop by the Strand and get a few $1 books for the cause.

Thursday I got to V’s apartment with about an hour to prepare. As I started to cut out the words I found myself wanting to cut out particular phrases and compelled to take the time to say something. However, there was not really time for this and I had to push ahead cutting out bits at random in preparation for T’s arrival. I had made the letter and started setting up the bathroom when T called from the Hallway. I let her in,  gave her a little instruction about her make up and what to wear and asked her to lay down in the shower…

We ended up working for about two hours with little conversation. The space was tight and uncomfortable so I let her move around as she wished. As an actress she had a natural sense of posing and I found nearly all of the configurations she settled into visually appealing. For her part, she became wholly engrossed in the process of making the letter picking up where I’d left of but doing it in slow motion so that I might capture it. Later she said that it was quite meditative and that she too found herself compelled to cut out certain words or scour a piece of paper for an appealing phrase. For the most part I just snapped away from all different angles occasionally asking T to hold her hand a certain way or tip her head slightly. While I’m used to working with actors while shooting film, this intimate quiet space felt entirely different and it was almost with difficulty that I broke the silence to request what I needed.  I had 3 main lighting set ups- a china ball with white light, red bulb on the floor among the props and a bare white light bulb. I shot mainly with a 50mm lens but switch a few times to 80mm.

At the end I was exhausted and nervous. It seemed as though things has gone quite well and I was amazed with how swiftly we had managed to organize the whole thing but I was also nervous about what I’d find when I looked back over the pictures.

By time I got home and uploaded the pictures it was nearly 11:00, but once I saw them I couldn’t hold back- I was compelled to pick a few out for Viccy. And then of course I had to take a quick look at them in photo shop… and then just do a little bit of work…. by 2:00 I was satisfied. 10 finalists, 3 color corrected, cropped and sent off to Viccy for review.

I could hardly sleep the next morning knowing that in England Viccy must be up and looking the photos. What would she think? Would the imagery be too specific? Too closed? Would she like them? Shortly before 8:00 I gave up on sleep and called Viccy.

see photographs and stories at cargocollective.com/dirtylaundry