I went on my first nude shoot this past week. Talk about diving in headfirst: my second professional photo excursion of all time, and it’s a nude shoot. When Wayne asked me to assist, my initial reaction was a polite-as-possible “no thanks”. But I knew better. There’s no part of my personality that will allow an opportunity to learn something new pass unconsidered. When he told me that he had decided to involve me on purpose so I could experience the nuances of working with this type of subject, I was sold.
As was the case on our first shoot, there was much time spent in gathering and positioning gear. Lights and lights and lights - so many lights. Cables, stands, cameras, computers - cases and cases filled with gear. Every time I’ve ever taken a picture, it’s been a simple matter of pushing a button on my camera or my cell phone, then dropping it back into my pocket and moving on. Not so with Wayne. With Wayne it’s a production. (This must be the difference between the pros and guys like me.)
The shoot took place at the subject’s house. The subject’s name is Troy*. We roll up - we being Wayne, myself, and ‘Boats’ - and it’s my job to begin unloading the (two!) vehicles bursting full of gear. I line the lights and accessories side by side along the walkway leading callers to the porch. On one of my trips, Wayne introduces me to Troy, an unassuming young guy, likely even younger than myself. He seems quiet, and kind, and intelligent. I don’t know what about him informs me of these qualities, it’s just a feeling in my gut.
Wayne is preparing a series. I don’t have all the details, but from what I’ve been able to gather, he hopes to portray a relationship between the artist and his or her own living space. The nudity will not be gratuitous; it’s meant to expose something of the artists’ vulnerability in self-expression. It’s a metaphor to describe the way the true artist is stripped of everything when fully invested in his or her work, the way the individual ego dissolves into something more visceral, more universal, less manufactured - the creation superseding the creator.
I don’t know anything about Troy or even whether he himself is an artist, but by the stacks of books, half-completed drawings, discarded canvases and scraps of paper scattered everywhere across the house, I’m confident he matches Wayne’s direction. For some reason, I’m surprised that Troy doesn’t answer the door naked. I don’t know what my pea-brain expected, but to find someone normal, even very similar to myself, volunteering for this shoot still catches me by surprise. Troy quietly sits on his couch rifling through a magazine while the three of us position lights and cameras all around him.
I don’t want to go into detail about the specifics of this shoot. For that, you’ll have to wait until the showing. But at one point, Wayne invites Troy to come and see a set of shots. Troy pulls on a pair of jeans and stands beside me at the computer. The pictures are good. Very good. Troy turns to Wayne, surprised. “I’ve never done this sort of thing before, you know,” he says. “I’ve never even taken a picture of my dick before.” We all laugh. But this is all the more telling: the truest possible impression of the image Wayne’s envisioned. This young man - modest in his own way yet unflagging in the face of such exposure. There’s an absolute honesty to it. I am impressed.
After a multitude of photos and poses and lighting adjustments, Wayne calls it a wrap. “We’re out!” he says. The three of us unload Troy’s house of all our gear. Thirty minutes later, the vehicles are packed and we’re shaking Troy’s hand to say our thank-yous and good-byes.
Back at the Monorchid, we unload the gear one last time. I can’t remember when I last felt quite so tired. Back at Troy’s house, Wayne made a point of saying that, despite all the many times he’s done this work before, it never fails to sap him of his strength. Everything he has goes into this: the act of attaining in his mind an original vision, the backbreaking work of re-creation.
I can’t speak for Wayne; but whatever this series portrays, it will inevitably carry the weight of his own courageous exposure. I have felt that, and seen it, and feel it even as I write this little story. This series will describe something inherent to each of us. I’m excited for you to see it once it’s done.
*Troy Farah is a talented local writer, and we were very pleased to collaborate with him on this project.