Glamour in your LensStory of a Model
MORE THAN ONCE I've said that the quality of the pictures you get depends to a large extent on how you get on with your model.
Be as friendly as you like--within reason--but you have to be the boss. The girl you're photographing can only guess what she might look like. You can see.
Things must never get to the stage where she decides where you're going to go, what she's going to wear, what pictures are going to be taken.
On the other hand, you don't try to turn her into a sort of lush, 36-24-36 robot who does exactly what you say, doing her best to carry out your instructions without any reactions of her own.
How does it work out when you take the ordinary shy, pretty "girl next door" and try to turn her into a glamour girl, a pin-up queen?
Here is a story of a typical model, Maureen Donelly. She wasn't an entrant in a beauty contest, she wasn't an actress or dancer, and she didn't reply to an advertisement. She was simply a pretty girl you knew slightly.
You ask her to model, and she says yes. Only she's very shy and doesn't think she'll be any good in a bathing costume. You arrange to take some pictures on the beach, anyway.
She turns up all right, but when you ask about the bathing costume she says he hasn't brought it. Wisely you don't press the point, and prepare to photograph her in her green summer dress, though it doesn't fit very well and is anything but flattering.
At first she's very shy and awkward, and so nervous she makes you nervous, too. She tries hard, but she seems to be doing everything wrong, and you don't quite know how to make her do things right. But you go on snapping pictures, and she seems to be relaxing a little. She even says something to you without being spoken to first.
Then, naturally wishing to get her pretty legs in a picture, you ask her to sit down and draw up her legs in front of her. She does this, and her dress falls naturally just the way you want it. But she immediately pulls it down over her knees, where it it looks awful.
"Leave it the way it was," you say.
"Oh, I couldn't!" she exclaims, shocked, perhaps even blushing.
You never guite regain her confidence after this wicked suggestion, and soon you take her home.
You go along to see her a couple of days later, however, with a few of the best pictures--and she's delighted with them. She doesn't say much, but she keeps having another look at them. When you suggest taking some more pictures, she nods quickly.
"Will you bring your bathing costume this time?" you ask.
"But I look awful in a bathing costume." (This, of course, isn't the real reason for her reluctance, but you pretend it is, too.)
You say you don't believe it, and point out that she thought she'd look awful in the pictures taken already.
Struck by this point, she has another look at them. "Well... all right," she says.
You start the next time by taking some of the pictures which were nearly, but not quite, right last time. Maureen is still nervous, but she isn't stiff and awkward any more, and once or twice when her dress slips up over her knees she doesn't seem to care.
Then she goes and changes into her swimsuit. She takes a long time and emerges shyly. She has a nice figure after all, not aggressively feminine like a film star's, but slim and neat. You take some photographs and soon she seems quite at ease.
Later she even tries some action poses and you congratulate yourself on having realized she'd make a good model.
As you go home this time she's quite animated and doesn't seem shy at all.
You're so pleased with the negatives that you spend all your spare time printing them and don't go near poor Maureen.
About five days after the session a pathetic little letter arrives. She realizes that the pictures aren't good this time but she'd still like to see them all the same, and when could she?
If you're not ashamed of yourself, you ought to be.
During the rest of the summer you photograph Maureen on several other occasions. You've had experience of photographing two or three other girls by this time, and it may happen that if one of them is Sylvia and another is Rosa (the dancer) you'll get so used to their easy, practised posing and their readiness to wear anything and do anything that you'll begin to think patronisingly of Maureen and wonder whether you'll ever bother to photograph her her again.
Then one day you'll see a girl crossing the street ahead of you and the way she walks, the way her hair hangs and the way people look at her make you decide you must ask her if she'll model for you. You hurry to speak to her, she turns--and she's Maureen.
The way your models will improve out of all recognition will remain a constant puzzle to you. The truth is, they really are shy and modest, and it's only when you photograph them and show them how beautiful they can be--and how ugly they can be if they don't take care--that they realize how important it is to try to look beautiful. If they sit just anyhow, the photograph you take shows a spare tyre round the middle and awkward, ugly legs. If they sit the way they should, the photograph makes them look so attractive they can't believe it's them.
That's what happens to Maureen.
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