photo shoots past and future

He said he’d look for a hotel room for us.

Wait. Let me back up. This statement came near the end of a discussion about meeting to do a photo shoot in which I’d model for him, nude. The London pub he’d chosen for our first face-to-face meeting wasn’t one he knew but was convenient to where Gawan and I were staying for the few days around Eroticon.

He didn’t spring the idea of the shoot on me at that pub. On the contrary, we’d been discussing it at some length from our respective time zones via DM. The pub was where we’d get the measure of each other and compare that to the impressions we’d conjured up from words on screens. That and, if all went well, discuss logistics.

He had suggested (over a year ago already!) that he would like to photograph me. Not long before, I’d had the idea of working with a photographer but hadn’t imagined that he would reach out. I was intrigued. And flattered. I liked what I had seen of his work and set out to find out more about him and his style.

I knew myself well enough to know I wasn’t able to guarantee that I could do the shoot. Or rather, I knew wanted to do it but I didn’t know myself well enough to predict with certainty that my emotional baggage wouldn’t interfere with my plans.

I’ve mentioned my first ever photo shoot before. I had thought I would be OK, but I wasn’t: I found the whole thing awkward and difficult. Nothing bad happened, it just felt vaguely (or not so vaguely) wrong. Shameful. I was given a print: my face in profile. I put it in a frame for a while but I never liked it. I think I still have that print in a folder somewhere. I couldn’t quite bring myself to toss it. Maybe I could now. The frame is long gone.

What could I do to be sure I was willing, and critically, able to a nude shoot now? Looking back, I can see that in recent years I’d already done some of the necessary work. A lot, actually. The biggest problem plaguing that first attempt was likely my sexual shame, from which my epiphany has largely freed me. Beyond that, doing self-portraits has gotten me more comfortable with being naked in front of a camera, and contributing to Sinful Sunday was (it turned out) working to improve my body-image.

But planning to work with a near stranger in a different country still seemed daunting. I’m cautious and slow to make decisions, and I wasn’t going to have the time to get to know him as well as I would like. The most time I’d get was a couple of days between meeting for drinks and then doing the shoot. I was concerned that my awareness of the hassle that would result from cancelling last-minute would override my awareness of whether I felt comfortable with the situation in the moment. I didn’t want to put myself in that position, and I didn’t want to cause him avoidable inconvenience.

So how about a test run with a near stranger who lived within daytrip distance? Without the element of overseas travel, the idea seemed substantially less daunting. As it happened, a photographer had struck up a conversation with me on FetLife months earlier and I kind of shut him down. Politely. But then I had this idea of a trial run, and I approached him again with the idea of working together. FP was game. The day arrived and I was ready to do the shoot but it fell apart because I had problems with the model release form he gave me. I was disappointed.

The disappointment was key: I discovered that I was actually fairly comfortable with the premise — otherwise I would have felt relieved that it had fallen through. There’s something else I absorbed well after this all went down: he seemed angry, and someone expressing anger at me is a red flag, especially when it’s a response to a relatively minor inconvenience. I suspect he thought a little too highly of himself, and too little of others. (When we met up, he spent time complaining about other models — another red flag.) But modelling isn’t my job and I have no obligation to tolerate difficult people.

Then the opportunity with Lucas arose. It was similar to the plan with FP except that Lucas is a close friend. It was a flight away rather than just a drive, but friends sometimes take flights to visit each other, I hear. The shoot turned out to be an OK experience — nothing terrible and nothing fantastic. I didn’t feel any shame — that was good. I had learned a lot about Lucas in those few days and got some insight into what happened during the shoot (and outside of it) that didn’t work for me. I learned that (unsurprisingly) I feel vulnerable when posing. I need to feel safe and appreciated and respected, and I need to feel emotional warmth. (It’s probably no coincidence that I need all of these in a physical relationship too.) I also need to get positive feedback — he didn’t give me any indication that I was doing things well, and feeling like I’m doing a shitty job makes me close down. And I need not to be cold!

I was becoming more confident in my ability to do a nude shoot, and I was working out the circumstances required for me to feel comfortable and maybe even enjoy it. I told the photographer that I wanted to do it and suggested we start planning when we’d meet, but I also expressed some hesitation because I couldn’t in good conscience say “Yes! I’m 100% on board!!!” and I didn’t want him to be too put out if I had to cancel. For what it was worth, during the intervening months I’d cobbled together an impression of him that, while sparse, was consistently positive, so I thought it was unlikely that there would be a personality clash.

So the last major variable that remained was whether the impression he gave in person would be consistent with what I thought he was like. And I couldn’t reach any firm conclusions about that until we met.

Sinful Sunday: coiled

We had checked in not long before. The last place we stayed had a shower but I prefer to soak in a hot bath and I wanted to make the most of this one. The fact that I’d be getting dirty a few hours hence didn’t dissuade me from getting clean first.

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Boobday: mile high 9

Another day, another airport. At least, that’s how it’s been lately. I’m just coming home from a business trip, during which I was still tired from my Europe trip, where I had caught a cold. And then my period started.

I’ll be so glad to be home, I may not leave the house for days. I’m looking forward to having time to just sit and think rather than rushing hither and yon.


This photo is from the last outbound leg of the Europe trip – a month ago already.

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Boobday: home again

I touched down at my little local airport at an objectively reasonable hour on Wednesday evening after three whole weeks away. As I came into the public area my eyes scanned the crowd until they found Wolf, and then I developed tunnel vision. He was the only person I could see so how is it possible that he didn’t literally glow?

I’m not sure who said the first word or what it would have been because we greeted each other the way we always do: looking into each other’s eyes until we close the distance and can share a long and meaningful hug. Words aren’t up to the task so we don’t bother.

I returned home with groaning luggage and a phone stuffed with photos. My head is swirling with thoughts and ideas and memories. Also, a cold [cough, sniff]. It’s weird not being with Gawan – being reduced once again to text, email and FaceTime.

I had lots of amazing adventures, one of which was doing a shoot with the wonderful Nicolas Laborie. Here’s one of the photos he took.

Photo by Nicolas Laborie

Here is where I want to feel
your ephemeral breath
your delicate fingertips
your covetous mouth.

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Boobday: mile high 8

Still in Europe and having a blast. I’ve turned my computer on twice, just to write sone quick notes about my adventures. I’ve had neither the time nor inclination to do anything more than that. There’s too much ambience and scenery (and wine) to soak up to spend much time staring at my laptop, focused on my thoughts and memories.

This photo is from my second flight, the one I had hoped (and failed) to sleep through.

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sleeping together 3

On the fourth day, Gawan took me to the outlook he’d shown me the day before and went beyond for a proper hike, though there were paved paths and steps throughout.

falls

He even brought a picnic: nice thick sandwiches and homemade pie for dessert, which we ate while looking out over a dizzying height. But we had mostly walked down to get to this particular height, and the return trip was up the equivalent of something like 40 flights of stairs. I would have eaten more pie if there had been any.

vista

That evening, Gawan and his roommate’s boyfriend wrestled the soft office mattress upstairs and plonked it on top of the hard mattress in Gawan’s bedroom. It turned out to be just right: baby bear’s bed.

On the morning of the fifth day, we explored each other more, and this time it was not entirely vanilla. He visited the leather paddle upon me again (the first time for that had been at the hotel). We fucked again. He gave me oral, explored with his fingers, and wielded my trusty little vibe on me. Whenever I got close, he sweetly crooned “good girl” until I eventually came. He was unconditionally invested in my pleasure and happiness, and he swaddled me in a blanket of warmth and love.

In the afternoon, he drove me to a notable landmark, one of the sights you really should see if you’re in this part of the country, partly just to have a little outing and partly so I could say “Yes, I saw the famous sights”. I had travelled a long way to get here; if I didn’t see any sights, there would be some awkward questions when I got back home.

So by the fifth day we knew we had a bed that was comfortable enough for me and big enough for us both, but we slept on it only once more before leaving town for the first time, then a couple more days here and there. Otherwise, it was a parade of five different hotel beds over the next two weeks.

***

Throughout the trip, I continued to check in with myself, but less and less frequently as the guilt and anxiety failed to materialize. I did, however, experience some guilt for a while after I got home, in response to Wolf’s moods. He had been consistently supportive of me taking this trip and having fun but had nonetheless found it difficult with me away, and more difficult that I was with another man. This almost certainly hit him harder than it would have otherwise because of his depression and anxiety (which was finally diagnosed only a couple of weeks ago).

But he was still unhappy even after I returned. It pains me when he’s unhappy, so I have a tendency to take more responsibility for his mood than I should, but it seemed clear that the trip was the cause of his unhappiness. And this probably hit me harder than it would have otherwise because of my own depression.

Looking back, I suppose I was projecting my own fears: that non-monogamy would hurt him, and when I saw that he was hurting I unconsciously assumed that was the reason and duly felt guilty about it. While it was unresolved, I couldn’t face writing about this trip. We’ve talked about it many times since: he didn’t expect or want me to do anything differently than I had done, and I’ve let go of feeling like his pain was my fault. I think we’re in the clear now.