The Photoshoot That Started It All…

The first nude photo shoot I ever did was on December 23, 2005.

Spending time at home on holiday break was a fairly boring time, with most memories pretty much surround going back to school as soon as possible. One of my close friends, Jaye, had gone back and forth with me about doing a nude shoot. This was an idea that appealed greatly to me because I had always been a fan of Jaye’s body, more specifically, her breasts.

I had done a test shoot with her before, around one of the lakes where I lived, which incidentally was my first experience using a digital camera, the Sony Mavica, a camera that printed straight to floppy disks.

The images are archived far, far away, so unfortunately, there’s nothing to show from that shoot. But, it was from that shoot that the idea to do a nude shoot was born. Now other than a Polaroid of a girl I used to date years before, I had never even broached the topic of getting someone to take their clothes off for my camera, much less know how to even set a shoot like that up. I had no idea about lighting, composition, color balancing or any of the things someone who would pretend to call themselves a photographer should know.

No, I just wanted to see boobs.

So, during the first week home from school, I get a call from Jaye who let me know that if I had the time, she was finally ready to do a nude photo shoot. I couldn’t have been happier. For me, it was not only a dream come true, but hopefully the start of a long career of taking naked pictures. Sue me, I was idealistic back then.

All I had at the time was my trusty Pentax K1000 SE, a camera I bought used for $125 from Sunny Schick in Fort Wayne, Indiana (where I lived at the time). This was my first SLR, and this thing was made like a battle tank. Once, while taking some random pictures, I accidentally dropped it on my car, and the only dent was on the car itself.

As far as lights went, I didn’t have any, nor did I have access to a studio with backdrops. No, my first nude shoot would have to be done on the very cheap, using my bedroom and some dark sheets which I spent the morning tacking to the walls.

One of my friends was a videographer by trade, so he graciously lent me his old light kit, and by old, I mean dusty and barely working, but I had to make it work. The night before the shoot, a thousand things raced through my head. I was about to take pictures of a naked woman, who was my friend, no less. How would I react? I mean I having a naked girl around wasn’t new, but those situations were never meant to be professional. Would I pop a boner? Would I come on to my friend because she was naked? What was going to happen??? Luckily for me, those were all just thoughts, and by the time I woke up, I was calm and ready to get to work. I was determined to make this as positive an experience as possible, and to be honest, I think it was the thing that started the mindset that I kept to this very day when it came to shooting nudes.

On the morning of the 23rd, Jaye showed up at my place, and we talked a bit. We’d been friends for some time, and so we went into the shoot with a level of comfortableness that I think, looking back, was necessary for both of us.

I had the place ready for the most part, all I needed was her to strip down and off to work we’d go. She came up with the idea to do a bathtub shoot, which was something I wasn’t expecting, and I certainly wasn’t expecting her to be gung-ho about the whole deal, but then again, the shoot was her idea after all.

She disappeared into the bathroom, saying she wanted to take a shower first. I thought nothing of it and continued setting up the rickety lights in the bedroom. After a few minutes, I hear her say “I’m ready”, all the while wondering whether or not I was ready myself.

I walked into the bathroom, and there she was, dripping wet in all her glory. This was that moment. The moment when I went from being a guy who just wanted to see girls naked to a guy who wanted to spend the rest of his life taking pictures of beautiful women.

Looking at her dripping wet in the shower, I had to spend a moment taking my friend in, looking at her; the whole “fantasy” of seeing Jaye naked being fulfilled right in front of me. And then, almost as soon as I recognized that, I snapped back into reality, and the shoot started.

From there, it really was a blur, because it went from me looking at her to looking at her through the lens of the camera, and for some reason it was different. I wasn’t looking at her, I was looking at a potential picture. Shooting on film back then didn’t offer the conceit of editing in the camera. I had no idea how any of the pictures would look, I just had to see what I thought would be a great picture, and then snap it.

After shooting in the bath for awhile, I let her towel off, and we went into the bedroom.

Of course, as this was the first shoot for both of us, no one was thinking about make-up or hair or anything that would resemble a true shoot, and why would we? I think it was equal parts adventure and curiosity, part of what I think it is that gets women to shoot nude in the first place. To this day, however, I think Jaye is still a naturally beautiful woman, and so for what we were doing, I don’t know that it even mattered that she was sans makeup.

In about an hour, we were finished. I’d shot three rolls of film, and I think for her, the novelty of being naked was beginning to wear off.

Of course I didn’t have access to a photo lab for my own use, so I had to do the next best thing: drop the film off at CVS, which was kind of scary to me then, but rather hilarious now. The thought of some 16 year-old kid seeing a bunch of pictures of a naked girl was kind of embarrassing, because I would have to pick the pictures up, and I didn’t want to be looked at as a pervert or something weird…oh youth.

I picked a CVS that was way out of the way for me, the idea being that if someone was going to look at me like a pervert, I didn’t want it to be in my neighborhood. And to be honest, I didn’t even think they would print the images, I would come back, and they would say…”Oh, we don’t print this sort of material.” Let’s just say I was slightly paranoid.

I paid extra for the one-hour service, and to have the images also printed to a floppy disk. I never left the CVS, opting to sit in my car out in the parking lot. I remember sitting there the whole time thinking: “This isn’t going to work, this isn’t going to work…” In an hour, I casually sauntered out of my car, walking back into the store with my eyes closed. I gave my claim ticket, the woman (god, it was an old woman…she probably thought I was a sex maniac, I thought) went back and  got the three photo packets. “Oh my god, it actually worked,” I thought. I paid the money and out the door I went.

I couldn’t wait to go home, so I turned the dome light of the car on and started looking immediately.

She was amazing.

Well, at least that’s what I thought at the time. We shot somewhere close to 100 images and of those, most of them were terribly lit, but hey, it was my first time, and I figured it came off without a hitch. Jaye didn’t get to see the pictures until the next day, but for the most part, she was happy with them as well. Her main complaint was that she looked fat (which she had gained weight since we first shot by the lake), but she was pleased with the ones she really liked.

We’d talked about shooting again, but it never happened. She ended up moving to the east coast, and after a time, our friendship went pretty much like most friendships do when separated by distance and time.

I still have the pictures, still sitting in their now faded photo sleeves. I scanned a couple to show here; they are as they were, unretouched with all their imperfections. Every time I look at them, I wince and wish I had a chance to go back with the equipment and experience I had now, because the result would be oh so different, but I stop myself and just think: This is how I started. This is where I began and this is why I kept shooting, kept practicing…so that one day I could look back on this, appreciate it immensely and know how much better I have become as a result.

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