Last year I was approached by an editor of JPG Magazine to write a little about how I find models. My approach to finding models, and photography in general really, is not the industry standard by any stretch of the imagination. I tend to make it up as I go, taking it as it comes, relying on my instincts, hoping for the best. So far, its worked out alright. We'll see what the future holds.
THE KIND YOU DON"T TAKE HOME TO MAMA, published in JPG Magazine, April 2007
We've seen it all before. The "cute girl", the "pretty face", the "radiant smile". Blah blah blah. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan. BIG FAN. But it gets old after a while. Okay, I may be a bit jaded after having taken photos of over two hundred women, but it just takes a lot more to hold my interest now. Sure, I've been suckered in by a pretty face, we all have. But I'd like to think I'm getting past all that. Which is why my current work is evolving: the beauty queen who likes to fight, Eve selling her forbidden fruit on the street corner, people being exposed in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Having worked with a few very professional-grade models, I learned fairly quickly that the mystique attributed to them isn't all its cracked up to be. A bit dense, a tad phony, with a slightly askew notion of what is deemed relevant and important for a good life. Which is why I now find my models in my small home town of Santa Maria much more engaging.
Yeah, I get teased by my family and friends about it constantly. We'll be at a restaurant, in a store, at a car wash, and I'll approach some attractive waitress/clerk/attendant with my standard, "Hi, this may sound weird, but have you ever modeled before? Would you like to?" Then begins the series of questions, reassurances, passing out of business cards, displaying of sample images off of my camera phone, all in an effort to show I am legitimate and not some pervert. Sometimes this can take a while.
These women are real, with opinions and personalities, and more often than not have always wanted to model. They have just as many issues and baggage and hang-ups as everyone else. Thankfully I have an innate ability to put them at ease and build up a mutual trust, to get them to open up about themselves, and eventually capture their true nature. Again, this can take a while.
However, with this trust, and eventually true friendship, comes a willingness to try new things, exploring not only my ideas but their own. Yes, they are all attractive women and I will be the first to admit that "sex sells", but these images are a lot deeper than that. I try to slip a little reality in there, a bit of brutal honesty and an uncomfortable familiarity that hopefully takes a simple image of a woman in a straight jacket and makes it into a sad and real metaphor for how she lives her own particular life.
Why capture a supermodel in a designer outfit when I can get a lovely woman to act out a slice of everyday life? Who can honestly identify with a size zero model walking down a runway? I'd much rather see an image of a pregnant woman saddled with two kids displaying her vices and dreaming of a better life. Make me a little nervous, a bit confused. Make me say "Hey, I know someone like that".
Just make me think, and I'll do my best to return the favor.
Here's just a sample of what I do: