Part 3: last-minute logistics
Room 325 was an elegant shoebox.
I opened the door to see a flat screen TV flanked by two smallish, highish windows that revealed just how thick the outside wall was. The bed was tucked into the corner to the left of the door, and a wee built-in desk nestled at the foot of the bed, in the far left corner. To the right of the door was the bathroom, with smoked-glass walls and a weighty sliding glass door. The far right corner of the room (beyond the shower end of the bathroom) was a narrow space, with three pegs (each bearing one wooden coat-hanger) under the window.
The sheets, space-saving sink, and toilet were crisply white, while the tall padded headboard, bed, desk, shelving and floor were deep walnut. The one free-standing corner of the bed had a fairly spacious void under it to house the garbage can. The whole room was roughly 10’ by 15’.
I dumped my (unstylish) backpack on the bed and hung my navy trench coat neatly on one of the hangers. Other than the bed there was only one place to sit, so I sat there, at the little desk, and ate half of my sandwich while killing time catching up on social media. Whatever I was wearing would have been an iteration of my standard uniform: leggings and a long-sleeve T under a clingy cashmere sweater, plus a bold necklace.
After a few minutes, a knock on the door. I opened it.
“Hi! Come in!”
Nicolas was wearing his black wool coat, and wheeling what looked like an ordinary black carry-on style suitcase, which contained his camera equipment. The room’s dimensions suddenly went from modest to crowded.
We hugged. He edged past me, hung up his coat beside mine, and then turned his attention to setting up his gear.
Earlier that morning when we were making plans, he had suggested prosecco and although I’m not much of a drinker I’d agreed: it sounded like fun and, yes, this photo shoot was worth celebrating. But when he arrived he apologized for having forgotten to bring some after all. I wasn’t fussed. He had thought it might help me with nerves and perhaps it would have, but I feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea of using alcohol to modify my mood so deliberately. Besides, I need to listen to my gut and alcohol scrambles the signal.
Wearing a black sweater and black jeans, he bustled about the small space and found a spot to put his light — there was pretty much just the one option, right in front of the TV. He brought the space heater out of its corner and set it on high, and then we tried to figure out the high-tech thermostat so the air conditioner wouldn’t suddenly kick in to keep the room stable at 21°. We chatted as he worked. At this point there wasn’t much for me to do except keep out of the way.
He asked which parts of my body I disliked. I had heard that this was a question he asked so it didn’t come as a complete surprise, and I knew my response might inform how he approached me. Months earlier I’d even given some thought to how I’d answer, but when it came to spitting out the words I rambled and qualified my statements.
“I’m going to ask again and I want a word not a sentence.”
Briefly then. Height, stomach a bit, and face a bit. I gathered that my answer surprised him, but if he had different expectations, he didn’t share them. He wondered aloud about the stomach being an issue because there was nothing wrong with it.
In retrospect, I think I understood his question differently than he had meant it. If the question was, “What parts of your body do you actively dislike, to the point that you avoid photographing them and perhaps even looking at them?” my reply would have been, “None — I’m OK with all of it.”
So what did my answer mean? I’ve always wanted to be taller than my 5’2”, but more importantly my horizontal measurements (bust, waist, hips) tend to go with a taller frame; it’s not so much my height as my proportions. As a child I learned from my parents’ example to be self-conscious about my stomach even though I now know rationally that there’s nothing to be self-conscious about. My face doesn’t look in photos the way it does in the mirror. Sometimes I feel pretty but never completely confident, but then I wonder — does anyone? Maybe I expect too much. Anyway, it comes down to this: do I hate any part of my body? No. Do I love it? Some parts but not all, and if anyone had bothered to ask my opinion, I would have tweaked the design a bit.
Eventually Nicolas had done all the setup he could. We had discussed how to approach the shoot. The preparations were complete.
He was now reclining casually at the head of the bed, propped up on his left elbow, looking utterly relaxed with a slight air of expectation. He was ready to start.
The next move was clearly mine: it was time to strip.
I chirped, too brightly, “OK, I guess this is it then!”
Part 5: the shoot begins