So there I was – surrounded. The darkened alley stretched out on either side of me. I eyed my four-inch patent heals critically, took one more look at the ivy-strewn, open window above me, hitched up my skirt and decided I was definitely not too sexy to climb up a wall in a dress if it meant getting the shot.
Back up an hour or so. I had volunteered to model for a Wilmington-area photography club at its first event. The group of roughly 10 photographers met me and two other girls in historic downtown to try their hand at shooting models – many never had. Never mind that I’m 5’4” and have the uncanny ability to blink in sync with camera triggers, today I was a model.
Truth be told, I had ulterior motives for participating. While I think it’s fun to get in front of the lens every once in a while (this, after overcoming an irrational terror of being photographed), my real itch is for art direction. Not having a great camera of my own, I still love to see the shot, to concoct the idea and make it real. I thought this might be a good chance to help these photographers not just get shots, but create images.
Therefore, I was a little bummed when the first half hour was spent being posed (by the guy running the show) in hokey, portraiture positions with silly props (ahem… balloons??) in uninspired settings (ahem.. flagpoles???).
Something had to be done.
So when one of the photographers lamented that she’d wanted to look in one of the old alleys close by to find cool textures, I told her I was in, and a group of us left the main event to explore.
Immediately,we were graced with a killer doorway with lots of depth and great color on the surrounding walls. After a few minutes there, though, we walked down further and struck gold. One of the buildings enclosing the alley was completely gutted and missing its roof. The windows were entirely blown out, and the inside was overgrown. “I’m going in!” one of the photographers shouted. “Well then I’m getting up,” I responded. I knew if I could get into the window, the framing of it would be amazing. I’d be able to squeeze in and have enough room to fill out the window by pushing out my legs and arms and working with the massive vines that had grown in. We couldn’t have staged it better.
Never mind that I leaned my head back into a huge cobweb that stuck mercilessly to my hair when I tried to pull way. Or that I broke my shoe. Or that it was so warm that evening that they probably had to Photoshop out entire droplets of sweat on my face. The lack of fuss made for some stunning work.
My thanks to Tami LaNunziata, Scott Halford, Mitch Ward and all others involved. It was a spectacularly creative evening.