We finally arrived at the ranch. Immediately Terry and I left with the ranch manager to scout locations, while our two precious and fragile girls were left in the van with the rest of the crew.
This was my first really really big mistake. I am used to working with stylists that I know well, who I trust and who know my tastes. They get a little bored with me because I am so predictably classic and hopefully elegant, but I totally trust them.
Also, usually I would go over the wardrobe, hair and makeup and other details before we begin to prepare for the shoot.
But I was dealing with a general’s daughter as a stylist, who was used to commanding everyone around and we were so late that I ran out of the van leaving all the girls to themselves. I was trying to quickly find a few places to make some pictures.
The ranch manager was wonderful, gracious and actually quite a normal, good spirited person. He only wanted to help and off we went on a tour through the most glorious and majestic landscape I had seen in a very long time. There were long undulating fields of wheat, beautiful pastures, mountains and I felt like the “Sound of Music” must be filtering through my head as we continued our tour. The problem was not that there was not enough good locations, the concern was where to begin.
I had trusted my instincts that there would be a great landscape, without scouting it. And for this part of the shoot, the Gods had been very kind to me.
I think it’s important to remember that I have always considered myself partially a landscape photographer. I can feel a relationship with the earth, and feel at one when I find myself in the right place at the right time. Today was such a day. I felt the call of the wild and it felt exhilarating and I was full of anticipation.
With the scouting complete and my excitement for the beauty of the location reaching expansive proportions, we drove back to the van to grab the girls and start our day of shooting.
As I walked into the van full of good cheer and ready to air kiss anything that moved, I stopped dead in my tracks as out stepped two of the ugliest vampires I had ever encountered. If these were supposed to be attractive women, I’d roll over dead on the spot.
Firstly, the hair was pulled back so tightly. I was surprised it was still attached to their scalps. It was made into one tight square topped by another. It looked like an unattractive Christmas present.
Then, the makeup. It was so black and so ominous around their eyes. If looks could kill, I’d be dead. Their cheeks were bright red, their lips purple and the clothes only got worse from there.
What had happened in two hours? I left these people to their devices and they come up with King Kong’s mistress.
Well here is where the rubber met the stylist. I told her this was completely unacceptable. The hair and makeup people must have thought that this was a Dracula movie and everything looked wrong. I took the stylist’s hand and took her outside and said, “Look around you. This country is so beautiful. The hand of God is at play here and we have two girls that look like Satan is in control.”
And with this, in the spring of 1996, a comment was made to me that has lingered with me ever since. I was told by my friendly stylist and art director that she was put on this earth to do “intellectual fashion” and that’s what we were going to do.
Now I have been around the fashion world since I’ve been a boy of five and never have I ever heard someone describe what we do as “intellectual fashion”.
With this brilliant comment, I was now ready to strangle not only the two models but the hair and makeup, stylist and every other person on that crew. They were all so excited. To them it was new and fresh, and to me it felt so ugly and inappropriate to this place. We fought and screamed. They toned things down but the battle was lost. The energy and enthusiasm dissipated.
During the course of the day we would move the van to various locations but no matter how much I tried, my heart had left my soul. We finally ended up on a hilltop late in the afternoon, where everyone except Terry and I were inside gossiping about celebrities, sex and other significant topics. Right at this point I felt I was in one of the most spiritual places I had ever been.
It was so serene and peaceful and beautiful. God had placed his hand there today and somehow I could feel it but I couldn’t reach out with this group to touch it.
I ran into the van and told everyone to come outside to feel how beautiful it was, but they showed no interest in the outside only the gossip that was going on inside.
With that I said my goodbyes. I’d had enough. I said Terry and I would get back to the hotel ourselves. I spent almost an hour there finding some peace from the day. I was so disheartened by what could have been but was not meant to be.
As Terry and I were reluctantly getting ready to leave, two cowgirls on horses came riding up to us to ask us how the day went. They were beautiful. America at it’s best. Unpretentious, unassuming, and straight forward and Terry and I both thought, these are the girls that belonged in these pictures. Although they didn’t know it or probably care, they had more style in their fingers than the models had in their whole bodies.
So this is how the story ends, not with a bang of great pictures but with a whimper of what could have been.