Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vamptress LeeAnna, Los Angeles, California, October, 2010

One month before my visit to California, a few dozen messages are sent to models in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco. Out of those few dozen messages, two dozen responses are received. Out of those two dozen responses, a handful respond in the manner of the young woman above.

Her name is LeeAnna. As my messages are sent out her messages arrive. She is precise and dedicated to the thought of our collaboration. She reaches out to other models in my list, shares with them her vision. She never gives up, even after two then three then four models fade out of communication.

On the very day that we are to photograph, a model informs me of her cancellation as we are driving to the location. It seems that her boyfriend feels that this location is secluded even though it is a popular park and tourists abound in addition to the park authorities. The compassion that LeeAnna shows me and my work erases such negative experiences for me and restores my faith in humanity.

She has photographed with accomplished photographers, has worked on extensive projects. Yet she makes the time to meet me almost two hours away from her home, without a hair stylist or a make-up artist on location. She agrees to be photographed in the sun and with the wind in her hair. We select one location only to find clouds over that location. We then make a spontaneous decision to meet at another location, near a place called Mormon's Rocks. All this is done while driving separately from different locations.

We meet at the local McDonald's and look around only to see clouds again. My experience, although limited in the area, tells me that the sun will be shining twenty minutes further up the highway. With an unlimited sense of faith in the project, LeeAnna and her wonderful companion decide to follow me in search of light. We drive twenty or so minutes and find that sun, albeit in between clouds.

We take an exit and drive to find a neutral background. We park on the side of a building and organize ourselves, me with my equipment and LeeAnna with her attire. We make close portraits of her, waiting for the sun in between clouds to shine. We are fortunate to be able to expose a few rolls and then decide to make full body images. A small electrical box serves the function of a stand and brave LeeAnna stands on top of it for the last series of images.

She is proud, she is elegant in her stances. In the middle of suburban sprawl, she shows us a most beautiful spirit, shows the other girls and women in my portfolio their sister from California. She looks past all of the buildings, all of the plazas. She looks to her compatriots in Asia and in Africa, shares with them her smile and her strength.

She is an inspiration to me, to them.

We conclude our session and cannot find enough words to thank each other. This most beautiful of women and her companion on this day have shown me the meaning of friendship, of kindness and of love. This will be shared with the others in my portfolio, they will feel it through her portraits.