In early 2004 I was just starting to become seriously interested in photography and was desperate for some instruction. I was working in a small town up by the border at the time and there was nothing like a continuing education photography course to be found. So imagine my delight when one of the local photo labs put up a banner over the door advertising free photo lessons when you got film developed and printed there.
So I got some prints and asked for my free lesson. He looked surprised and annoyed by my request. Maybe ‘free lesson’ just meant pointing out mistakes you had made like leaving on the lens cap or an orange filter? Anyway, he looked over my prints and pointed out a few things I could have done better. He also suggested I use slide film instead of negative film for better colour accuracy.
I didn’t go back for any more free lessons, but I did show up now and then to get prints made and chat. Then I left my job and the town. A few months later I was surprised by a phone call from him asking me to work on a photo shoot. I thought he meant “you can carry my tripod”, but he wanted to use me as a model. A model?
A fellow he knew had started up a business making mushroom liquor and he was looking to do some advertising. He was hoping to give the product some international appeal by including a foreigner in his marketing materials. So I found myself in the photographer’s studio one day with a young woman and the owner of the distillery. We did some shoots in the studio and also a few at a local bar where the woman and I were supposed to look romantically involved while enjoying a bottle of pine mushroom spirits. (I never saw the bar photos so I guess I was too broad and hairy to pull off Romantic). The photographer used a digital camera to judge exposure and then photographed everything using a 6×7 or 6×8 camera.
Later the photographer sent me a few of the test photos from the shoot and from a trade show in Japan.
As you might be able to see, each bottle comes with a slice of pine mushroom at the bottom. Pine mushrooms are thought to be “good for man’s symbol” (as it was once explained to me) and probably that’s the marketing angle. Alas, I just did a search for this product and couldn’t find it. Nothing to do with me, I hope . . . .
That was my only experience of being a model, though I once allowed a chicken restaurant owner to take photos of me for his new restaurant in exchange for a free chicken burger. I have no shame.
(These photos weren’t made by me, and it’s probably illegal to be sharing them. But I can’t remember the photographer’s name. Let’s say permission to share these on my blog was part of my compensation for being in them . . . .)