Yesterday was one of the big photo shoots I had planned for the book. This was the last big one, the one with my model, Beauty Nicole. That's what I call her. She's also the most patient and the nicest girl in the world. Even though a porch swing she was sitting on fell out of the porch ceiling and she got hit in the head with a two-by-four (from the ceiling) six days ago (I didn't really know this until we were fussing with her hair and had to be careful about where she'd just gotten two stitches removed), she modeled five projects perfectly. I really, really hope she has the weekend off, poor darling. I wish I had baked her some cupcakes to take home, at least.
I get a little anxious about these photo shoots. The "vision" we're trying to translate is such a wily, capricious thing. When I am designing something, I almost always have a vision for it, a specific environment. It's a setting. I can hardly think of anything that doesn't inhabit a very specific setting in my imagination as it's coming to life. Since I was very young I have always designed things this way, whether I'm making embroidery projects or short stories: There's always a place. It often comes first. My friend Andy Greer once said to me after a fiction workshop when we were in grad school together, "Well, I'm not sure what's going on in your story, but I know what all the characters are wearing and what the wallpaper in everbody's room looks like." And I was like, "Oh good! So you got it, then!"
I'm getting more relaxed about photo shoots in general, I think, which is good, in general, for the almighty blood presure, but good aesthetically, too. I've been involved in enough of them now to know that holding on too tight just squashes the sponteneity and naturalness right out of anything. I "know" this, of course, but it still takes a conscious effort for me to remember that letting go is Good, not Bad. But you gotta let go at just the right amount, and that's the tricky part. It sort of feels like doing a triple axel (as if I could even stand up on ice skates, but we'll just say) — you let go enough so that you can lift off and spin, but not so much that you can't land it. And maybe even attempt a teensy wrist flourish: Ta da! [There. Skate on.]
Part of what contributes to the intensity is just the weirdness of working alone for so long, only getting to talk to editors and art directors on the phone, usually in abstractions and generalities, and then trying, when there's only that one day to get it right (since, trust me, rescheduling a photo shoot is not something anyone anywhere ever wants to have to do), to get something that pleases all of us equally, not to mention pleases our future audience. It's ultimately a collective vision and I feel a great responsibility for that, since a lot of people and a lot of time and a lot of effort (and money) is involved. Part of it is just simple performance anxiety, which has always plagued me. And part of it — maybe even the biggest part of it — is just something that comes with experience, I guess. Is that right? Because all of it, not just the phototography but everything about making a book, has been so much easier and so much better the second time around. I think I'm surprised I had the capacity to enjoy myself this much.
Anyway. These are just the things I think about, now that I am almost there, and almost done. Just two more project photos to go now. But I'll be far away from needle and thread, camera and computer this weekend: I'm digging in the dirt. If the weather holds out.