For the Love of Mickey Mouse (Aka: Carmen’s Shoot)

Hey there! There is something about summer that just makes me happy. I mean, there are some little things that are irking me in my life, but there is just so much sunshine (or in the case of today, clouds) and I’ve got relatively more free time now (despite working 40 hours a week and taking a class). I’ve been going swimming about twice a week, and I started working out again…endorphins. That’s what this is all really about: endorphins. Actually, this is really about how I am starting to get around to being able to post all of this material I’ve collected for the blog. Today, we’re finally looking at a photo session I had with my friend and co-worker, Carmen, during spring break this year. And I think after seeing these photos, you’ll understand why this post is entitled “For the Love of Mickey Mouse.” Here we go:

When I get bored and have tons of time to kill before going to work at night, I do photography. And that’s exactly what Carmen and I did during spring break this year since both of us were still on-campus for the week (normal college students go on fun trips to the beach or help with things like Habitat for Humanity, but we are not normal college students, so we stayed behind and slept all week). I will admit, I’ve never really taken photos of any person of color, for the purpose of art, aside from photos of myself, so this was an interesting experience. I can also admit to never having taken photos of someone who is physically blossoming (not that Carmen is fat because she is not. She’s simply taller and fuller than most of my friends who are either tall/thin or short/tiny). This is what I like to call diversity, and it’s important to be aware of this because this played a key role in this entire photo shoot.

I love how springy this photo is. But back to diversity: Carmen is Hispanic and African-American. She likes to embrace the Hispanic side of her more so than the African-American side, but she enjoys being a minority. Carmen is just one of those people who stands out. She likes being different. But Carmen is also very self-conscious, more so than any model I have ever worked with before. The thing about Carmen is that when it comes to taking pictures of herself, she can handle it. She knows that she has the most control over how the photo turns out in that she can look at herself in a mirror and take the picture over and over until she’s satisfied.

That is not the case in a photo shoot. Especially in a photo shoot with me.

I don’t like telling people what to do in photo shoots (and yet I want to be a director of a theatre and own my own photography studio one day). But even more, I don’t like showing my clients/models the pictures that I am taking as we’re going along. Why? Well, for one, it slows us down in the since that on a non-professional level, I know my friends would stop me after seeing a photo and beg to take the shot again. But no two shots are the same, so that doesn’t really work. (On a professional level, my clients would be allowed to see the images, mostly because they would be paying.) But it also takes away from the relationship between me and my models. I want them to trust me, and part of that trust stems from their ability to realize that I will not do anything to make them look bad in a photo. If something needs to be fixed, we will do whatever it is necessary to fix it. It is the model’s job to dress themselves to a level they deem worthy of picture-taking. It is my job to ensure that they look their absolute best in the finished product. Both parties have to trust that we’ll uphold our end of the bargain.

So sometimes I have to coax my models into being comfortable in their own skin. For Carmen, Mickey Mouse is that comfort. I have met people in my life who have various obsessions. My college wellness professor is so into Snoopy/beagles that she got a tattoo of Snoopy on her ankle. Some of my friends are so into science that they sit around and tell each other chemistry jokes. Even I have my obsession with children’s media, so much so that I am making it my career choice. But Carmen’s obsession with Mickey Mouse is…I can’t even explain it. He is her life to the point that every chance she gets, Mickey Mouse is brought up…or put on something…or purchased in some fashion…normally I’d be all like, “Man, that is an odd obsession with a fictional character,” but in terms of this photo shoot, it was actually very helpful because it was something that Carmen could relate to and broke her out of her shell and made her photos much more entertaining.

See what I mean? Sheer entertainment. It’s important to me that my models have fun during our sessions. It’s not all about looks. As the photographer, I’m the one who should worry about handling the aesthetics. That’s my job. But it’s my models’ job to simply show up and have fun. They should embrace their personalities and be comfortable with who they are. Forget the flaws, forget the quirks. Those are the things that make people truly amazing, and that’s what makes photos worth taking. Once my models learn to embrace who they are, they work better in front of the camera. And once they master that, my craft becomes that much more rewarding for everyone.

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