There were still plenty of variables following our meeting over dinner. We’d made wild guesses about how many pictures I can produce in a given timespan, and made vague plans to use Harriet’s place as a setting. She’s got a nice flat that’s centrally located and for reasons best known to herself was most insistent that I use it as a setting for photographing porn. Her place has got this sleek, minimalistic look that naturally looks like a set as well as being fairly open-plan which gives room for lighting and moving and so on.
And so it came to pass that on the next Saturday I cycled over to Harriet’s house. I’d left late, finally getting there around two hours later than planned. She’d been on the phone complaining at me – how she was ready to be photographed, the flat was ready to be used as a stage, and I was ruining her mojo. Suitably chastened I made my way over to her place, where I sat on her sofa for an hour while she actually got herself dressed and made up.
Harriet, like many of my friends, is a trifle odd. One of her oddities is that she holds herself to be a fat ugly pig. This is not the case – she’s practically waiflike and generally quite attractive. In short: she would look delicious with her clothes off, but she believes otherwise. So much otherwise, in fact, that she spends a lot of her time dressed in either baggy clothing or showing as little flesh as possible. So how are we going to do the test shoot?
We made pretend porn instead.
Harriet was dressed in black riding jodhpurs, a black top, and tan knee-length boots. This was, for the purposes of our test shoot, her skin. On top of that she wore a variety of other outfits, which she could then gradually strip off while posing and revealing her black outfit underneath, which through the power of imagination becomes her body. Yeah, it’s not going to get anyone off, but that wasn’t the point. I needed to find out how many images I’d be taking per set, how flexible her flat was for shooting in, how long a shoot takes, how much time to leave for changes between rooms and outfit changes, etc. I’ve never paid a model before – I’ve been fortunate enough to have a steady stream of volunteers and a pool of willing friends – so I’ve never paid that much attention to the clock. The style of photography is much more different when shooting porn too – the time interval between pictures is much smaller.
Despite her aversion to removing her clothes Harriet is not shy. She pranced around the flat flaunting her body parts at the camera. We both got attacks of the giggles at various points. It also showed up some problems. I thought we’d be able to shoot in the hallway – it’s got these mirrors at the end of it that I thought could be fun – but it turned out to be hell. The mirrors were awkward to use, the space was a pain in the arse to light, there were distracting background elements, and it was quite cramped. We tried our best but I don’t think we’ll be using the hallway that much, if at all.
After the shoot was over Harriet and myself got talking about camera gear. She remarked about how awful she found the viewfinder on her camera even after adjusting it. This reminded me of the dioptre adjustment on the camera, and I discovered that mine was hideously out of whack. That’s why the viewfinder in my camera was so unremittingly awful, and I found it so hard to focus on things, and my eye started to hurt after extended shoots. For those of you who don’t know about it the dioptre is a small wheel that allows you to adjust the viewfinder to suit long and short-sighted people, letting them use the camera without trying to squint through glasses. If you’ve got an SLR go and check yours now – most of them click when they turn, so if you count the clicks in one direction you can put it back how it was if you don’t find it improves the quality. I felt like such a fool when I rediscovered this control but I’ve since talked to several other friends and found they’d forgotten theirs too. A quick adjustment later and they were raving about how clear their view was now. It is a genuine revelation.
We’d shot for a little over three hours, and I’d walked away with 800 images. But were they any good? In a word: no.