The model sat on the brick ledge, legs spread with casual contempt. The stylist moved to unbutton her dress and the assistant adjusted a mirror so that a harsh reflection highlighted pouting red lips and tousled blond hair. The sun was hot and the industrial landscape dusty and dry. The make-up artist had to struggle to maintain just the right amount of sweat.
Gabriel Cummings looked into the lens and then to the model. ‘I want you to look bored and defiant’.
The model was doing a good enough job. She was young, just turned seventeen, but as was so often the case for this magazine and its target demographic, she was styled to look ambiguously younger.
‘Now lean forward. Yep, that’s it.’ As she lent forward her unbuttoned dress opened to reveal a small, pale left breast and a pierced, rosy nipple. Gabriel fired off a Polaroid. The model looked like she might move so he gestured for her to hold the position. He checked the Polaroid, nodded and his assistant changed the film pack to standard film. He fired off a couple of shots. ‘Okay, next outfit.’
He cast his eyes over the deserted wasteland. It was an abandoned factory complex: derelict machinery, tufts of rugged grass and weeds, large horizontal concrete spaces that contrasted with dramatic verticals created by corrugated iron walls and rusted support columns. He found just the right combination of shapes and took a few shots of abstracted machinery. These would be included in the fashion spread – a conscious decision to cross the boundaries between commercial fashion photography and art photography.
A few moments later the young blond model was ready, joined by a thin, androgynous boy with greasy black hair. The make-up artist had smeared the girl’s arm and cheek with oil. The idea was to go deliberately grunge to give the hint that these models might be street kids lost in a decaying, post-industrial purgatory, even though the clothes, a combination of message t-shirts and designer jeans, were each well over the hundred dollar mark.
‘Okay, I want you to unbutton her jeans and make sure the fly stays wide open.’ The stylist moved in with some doubled-sided tape and carefully folded the jeans open, placing the tape so that the fold wouldn’t move. The open fly revealed a temporary tattoo on the girl’s left hip. A rose with a thorn designed to give the impression that it had pierced her skin, so it included a trickle of blood: the symbol of the label, Rosethorn.
‘Right, cool, now just pull the jeans down a bit more so we get a hint of pubes. You okay with this Nadia?’
The model nodded diffidently. Gabriel knew she was unlikely to object for fear of being labelled difficult. The make-up artist gently pulled at the jeans and with a small comb teased at the Mohawk thin line of light pubic hair so that it stood up provocatively.
‘Yep, cool, just right. Now Nadia turn your head down and to the left and let your hair drop over your face. Okay, cool.’ Gabe waved to get the stylists attention. ‘Yumi, see if you can part her hair so we can see her left eye, tease it apart. Gently.’
The male model sat down and waited. He muttered something conspiratorial and flirtatious to the girl and she smiled.
‘Okay good, wet her top, you know, she’s sweating, reveal the nipple more. It would be cool if we could get a hint of her piercing. You might have to peg the back to pull it a bit tighter. Maybe press on the area Nadia to leave an impression. And Nathan can you squat in front of her and carefully grab the jeans. Carefully, don’t pull at them, just look like you are.’
Gabe looked at the shot carefully, moved a little to the left and angled the camera to make sure the verticals were right. He smiled to himself as he noticed the corner of a splintered window frame with shards of glass mark a diagonal that drew attention directly the model’s pubic area. He was pleased because it summarised the theme of the shoot: futile, furtive sex in a post-apocalyptic cityscape.
‘Okay, I want sultry, angry and bored, like you’re about to spit on me.’
The model sneered. He took a Polaroid, checked it, the assistant changed the back and he made three more shots, varying the exposure.
Just then the wind sprung up. He looked across the wasteland, over the shimmering concrete and metal, and noticed a small whirlwind picking up dust and newspapers covering the sharp, bright cityscape with a dusty haze.
‘Okay, that’s it. Good job. Wrap.’