In the spring of 1996, Things were chirping along. The buds were on the trees and unlike Mr. Elliott; I was finding April to be far from the cruelest month. In fact, the promise of spring has always been my favorite season. It always seems to hold out a potential for renewal and beauty.
Anyway, I received a call from the New York Times magazine to do a fashion shoot in California. That was great, with camera in hand and with my trusty long time assistant Terry, off we went to Los Angeles.
For those who don’t know, an editorial or magazine shoot is in some ways quite different from a commercial assignment. Firstly, the magazine provides the stylist, and all the production, wardrobe, models, hair and makeup, etc. that is needed for the shoot. I am generally very involved in the process, but obviously not enough on this shoot, as time would tell. For commercial assignments, we do most, if not all of the production.
I think in this case it is best to keep everyone’s names under the paper, as all involved, are very well known, flourishing more than ever, which goes to show you how much I know.
The shoot was to be at Tejon Ranch about an hour and a half northeast of Los Angeles. I had never traveled to the interior of California and really had no idea what to expect. What I did know was that the ranch was over 250,000 acres and they had been willing to help us secure the use of one of their bi-planes for an hour or two. I never would normally proceed to a shoot without first scouting the location but as this was only to be shot on the landscape, I agreed to spend the day on production in Los Angeles. Money and times were tight at the New York Times and they simply did not have the funds for me to spend an extra day to scout.
I had received some old scouting pictures and the landscape seemed quite majestic, quite beautiful actually. I must admit I was surprised and happy. I had feared a barren, dry desert.
Now let’s return to the story. As agreed the call time for the shoot was 5:30 AM at a location van parked outside the hotel. It was close to a two hour drive in the van, and then at least two hours for hair and makeup and of course an hour for the models coffee and before you knew it, it was lunch time before we had even taken a picture.
We had two exquisite long legged girls, whom we had brought with us from New York. Los Angeles, the swimsuit capitol of the U.S. has more silicone filled, brainless blonds than I can stand; so we brought (I thought) rather unpretentious, beautiful girls.
Well 6:30 rolled frantically into 7:30 and by 8:30 AM the morning of the shoot everyone is in hysteria. One of the girls has not shown up. One of our beautiful, professional, Polish wonders of the twentieth century, had gone out late the night before and had found the love of her life, slept with him somewhere, and no one could get a hold of her.
We were now approaching 8:45 AM, with the gentle kind photographer (that is me) throwing up in the back of the van. The airways are abuzz with trying to find a new girl when quite nonchalantly our Polish beauty walked sleepily into the van and asked for a cup of coffee as if there was no reason for hysteria.
Well upon the sight of her I thrust out for her neck to disengage it, or at least knock something of value into it, but I was restrained and off we went on our day, three hours late to begin with.
I was told by the stylist (who in this case was both the art director and stylist for The Times) that these girls are very fragile and delicate and need to be taken care of. Yelling at them would do no good, despite the fact that I thought they are complete airheads, intellectually vacuous, and unprofessional to the core. She was convinced that they were great at what they did, which forgave their sins. And they were to be adored. We must make amends, and we all hugged and air kissed all around and slept for the next two hours making our way slowly to the Tejon Ranch.
The fun is really just beginning. Stay tuned.