Part 4: setting up the shoot
Before we met up, Nicolas had said he was looking forward to seeing me, and I’d teased that he had already seen rather a lot of me. This — sharing this space together — was different, he’d said. He was right, of course.
I was standing by the foot of the bed while he reclined at the other end, waiting expectantly. Of course he’d be expectant.
I felt a bit awkward, but probably less so than I would have predicted, truth be told. I was about to take my clothes off in front of someone who I’d first clapped eyes on only the night before. But it was also a project months in the works, unilateral, and not romantic.
My problem was an unusual issue of etiquette: what is the most appropriate way to take off one’s clothes for a nude shoot in a small room containing the photographer and with virtually no privacy? For in this elegant shoebox of a hotel room, there was nowhere to retreat.
Stepping into the bathroom seemed pointless: distance had suddenly taken on symbolic relevance, but escaping to the bathroom would necessarily start with an advance towards Nicolas — a zero-sum game. And anyway, I’d roll the door closed and face the mirror while… what? While he watched me through the smoked glass. Of course he’d watch.
No, I’d stay put. This was not romance, and still less a seduction. There would be no eye contact, no slow, tantalizing reveal. Facing straight on felt too bold, but turning my back seemed silly: I was here to do a nude shoot — shall I now spend 60 seconds being modest? For what purpose?
I split the difference and turned to my right, then removed my clothes as if I were alone, and tidied items away on a shelf under the TV as I went: necklace, sweater, T-shirt, leggings, bra… When only the panties remained, I hesitated, then looked to Nicolas for guidance: OK, we’ll just go with this much for now.
Then we added clothing again, starting with a little black net bodysuit that he had brought. The fabric ran from under-bust to hips or thereabouts, with shoulder straps split above the bust to frame each breast, and garters (suspenders) hung from the bottom edge. He snapped some shots and then showed me one that he thought was particularly hot: my breasts framed by the black lace and straps. But ultimately that photo was deemed insufficiently striking to make the final cut.
Being nude when the other person is clothed is an odd dynamic. There is difference and thus power is invoked, but which way does the power flow? “Naked” is a synonym for “vulnerable”, and yet nudity compels the eye and thus has its own strength. This creates an interesting tension but there’s no paradox — vulnerability and strength aren’t mutually exclusive. Anyway, I felt satisfied with my appearance (perhaps even confident) and wasn’t worried that Nicolas would be critical. He had seen lots of photos of me, had approached me, and had only ever been complimentary. That provided me with a kind of emotional safety that I appreciated.
My usual photography process involves a lot of distance: I set up the camera, choose some promising poses, and take photos more or less blind with a remote shutter release; I look at the resulting raw material; I edit; I post; I promote. I see my blog stats change. Occasionally someone will comment. It’s all very removed and any feedback that I get is from a very safe distance in both space and time. I’m not used to being seen directly.
So now, instead of being a passive consumer of the curated images that I chose to share, Nicolas was a co-creator and director. Instead of communicating by means of text on a screen, he was close enough that I could just about feel his breath on my skin.