A bitter pill to swallow.
It had been suggested that I submit some writing to the local gay paper. I started with a review of a local gay play which the editor said he enjoyed but the paper didn't print play reviews and they had enough people working on theatre. He did say though I should try something else.
I wrote two pieces, one a summary of my cruise and the other was about my gay photo workshop experience which I reproduce below. The editor said the cruise piece was too old and they didn't really publish travel articles, and he said both pieces were too long. He suggested I focus more on something local to Toronto.
I didn't understand so I wrote back saying the photo piece was from Toronto and could always be shortened. I received a shorter, terser response, saying "I really like to have pieces that are as close to complete and ready to run as possible. The photo piece is good but it’s quite long and could use with a bit more density."
Thinking about what's in the paper, there are some columns with opinions but these are all from regular contributors, not outsiders. Without a fresh take, why would they publish my opinions? The rest of the paper is mainly news related and I'm not qualified to comment on any of that. So there doesn't seem to be a place for my kind of ranting, and while he did say he'd be happy to look at anything more, I don't really see any option I could have from here which is disappointing.
The good part is I tried and I have to give myself credit for that.
The photo workshop piece:
I saw an ad in Xtra for an erotic male photography class and thought to myself what a great idea it would be. A chance to combine my two loves, photography and naked men, and what a great story to tell at parties!
The fee listed was $100 and a sample model photo was enclosed with a handsome model that was shirtless in a pair of shorts. I had some doubts, would the model be keeping his shorts on? Would the level of photography be too advanced for a relative beginner like me? Would I be able to convince any of my friends to come with me? So I called all my slutty friends, figuring they’d be up for a bout of naughty fun. Alas, being cheap also means being poor and everyone balked at the $100 price tag. I figured the model would be getting more than $100 so the whole thing seemed cheap to me.
I called and spoke to Dave Smith, which has to be the most generic name ever, the owner of Limelight Books and Photography and he explained the way it would work. The article had said the next session was Friday and I had visions of the instructor and I leering and snapping photos in a dark grim basement somewhere late into the night. Would there be semen? Would I get nude? I figured I was up for everything and what better than to have a filthy night of reckless abandon?
It turns out the whole thing was much more on the up and up. Dave explained that the course would be a two night session, one this Friday and one next Friday. On the first session I would bring my camera to his studio and we’d go over the features and settings of the camera model I had and discuss what I could expect the following week. Week two would be the actual shoot, with me, the photographer, another student and the nude model.
The first Friday couldn’t come fast enough with me telling nearly everyone I met how I was now a pornographer. Yes, I was still amateur so far, yet I was sure my big break was just around the corner.
I got there after work Friday night and took out my camera, a standard digital SLR, and the instruction manual. I really had no idea how to use most of the features; I had wanted a camera with a good zoom lens and had received this model for Christmas a couple years earlier. I knew it took good photos, but I didn’t know how to make them better.
What followed was a fantastic couple of hours of discussion. Dave the instructor had prepared a manual for the course which we reviewed including the model release form. It turns out the model would be receiving $50 for posing for us for about an hour and a half, and in exchange we the students agreed to send the model our photos so he could pick any he liked to add to his modelling portfolio. For that little money there needed to be some reciprocity. Also the model had to agree to have his picture used each time I wanted to release it and I couldn’t use the photos for commercial gain.
I spoke to the instructor and he said he would never spend over $100 on a model, that when he shot he generally wasn’t looking for erections and there was no hanky panky, so he didn’t feel he should be paying hanky panky prices. This seemed reasonable in the abstract, but the concept of paying someone only $50 to stand around naked while I took photos of them still seems hard to swallow even now.
We discussed my camera with what seemed like just the right amount of depth. When he went too far on the technical side and my eyes started to glaze over there was a practice session taking headshots of each other with the studio and lights, which I had never used. After this we discussed the problems I had faced in the past with my camera, possible solutions, and we were done.
I again spoke to everyone I met for the coming week’s shoot. I alternated between excited and nervous and horny and artistic-minded. I had seen some sample shots from other students and what struck me about them was how each time the model was framed in the centre of the shot, lots of open space on either side, just a stick in the middle. I had been told to have a few ideas for the shoot and thought about how the model could stretch or reach and take up the whole of the shot so he wasn’t lost in the middle.
The other thing the instructor told me was to find a shot I liked in a magazine, book, or on the internet, and bring that in, show it to the model, and try to duplicate that pose. I looked around on Flickr and found a shot I wanted to replicate – a construction worker with his pants open and his dick out – but I didn’t know if I’d be able to show it to the model. There was still in me a worry I would show the model the photo and titter with giggles like a school girl. A part of me was still thinking “Would he really let me take these kinds of photos?”
I spoke to one friend who suggested props which I thought was a great idea. I armed myself with a construction workers hat, a drill, a colourful tie and a Trilby hoping to recreate an 80’s cheesy porn shoot atmosphere with high camp outfits. I brought along the new Scissor Sisters CD to set the mood.
When I arrived at the studio I met the other student and we started setting up. I had been told the model would be a German guy, about 35, with a huge uncut cock so I was surprised when a young Asian fellow walked in. He was about 25 and half-Asian, half Native and seemed nice enough. I was to shoot first so I showed him my photos of the nude construction worker and he didn’t bat an eye, but also I don’t know that he really understood. I put on the Scissor Sisters and asked if he liked the band which resulted in about a five minute conversation consisting of me trying to over accentuate my words and dumb down my vocabulary. Breaking the ice was not going to work due to the language barrier.
The model took his position and I noticed he was wearing track pants – not ideal for my construction worker fantasy series. I had hoped to have a few shots of him drilling or working with his jeans open and his cock out and that wasn’t really going to happen. As I started to take the photos I noticed his face and eyes were dead – no expression. I get why he wasn’t jazzed up about being there. He didn’t understand English and was only getting $50, but how to not let that show in the photos?
I talked to him, showed him a photo I had taken, and suggested he try an aggressive face. He had no idea what that meant, or I think the concept of what I was talking about. I decided in the end to go for a laugh, I mimed laughing and the shoot continued. So now I had a man in his underwear with a drill laughing hysterically which was all I was going to get.
I asked the model to remove his shirt which he did to reveal a fantastic chest. That picked things up for me. After several more shots the instructor asked the model to remove his underwear and thank god for him otherwise I’d probably still be there trying to pluck up the nerve. The hardest part for me once he was nude was thinking of poses. The studio was very small and I had an excellent camera with auto-focus and light so I didn’t have to spend time on settings. I’d think of a pose, get the model into it, take the photo, and that would cover about 10 seconds. For a 45 minute shoot, the ideas can dry very quickly.
Afterward it was the other student’s turn and I really enjoyed watching his shoot. I could jump in and take the odd photo without having the stress of thinking of new poses every 10 seconds and trying to give direction to someone who didn’t speak English.
At the end of the session the model dressed and we all left. On the streetcar on the way home I felt great, I had a real sense of accomplishment. I knew I had taken quality shots, I knew my model photos weren’t going to be centered sticks in the middle of the frame, and best of all I felt I had been able to do something with the lack of expressions through the laughing but also with turning the face to certain angles, a trick I’ve seen many photographers use since.
I’m not sure I’d do it again, especially if I’m the one who has to organize the shoot. When you look through the internet for models, it’s very similar to online dating, and I’m looking through thinking “Too cute, can’t afford him” or “Not cute enough, ugh” for every model. It’s a lengthy process, setting up a profile, finding a model, convincing them to come, finding a studio, paying for the whole thing. I was glad I had the opportunity to do it with a real professional!