of the models featured at Domai give us a pleasant, easy smile. I
sometimes wonder if the photographers ask the models to hold certain
thoughts as they pose in order to show us the natural smile. I don’t
know any Domai photographers but I have an old friend who is a busy
commercial photographer, so I asked her. Janet said that she mostly
shoots objects, especially food, for websites and glossy magazines. She
said that when she does photograph models it is usually for fashion
stories and there is almost always an art director there who has
already prepped the model and knows what look he wants.
But then she smiled a little crookedly and began to tell me a story
from the late 1960’s, when we were both attending art college. We had
both done some posing for life drawing classes but the instructor was
always more interested in the pose and placement of limbs and how the
light and muscles worked together. The expression on our faces was of
Janet said that one day one of the instructors asked her if she was
interested in posing for a local photographer who was working on a
project for a photography magazine. It would be several afternoons a
week through the winter. It would not be Playboy-type material (just as
well, Janet said, as she did not have that kind of figure). She agreed,
and went off the next day to the man’s shop. He had run the town’s main
camera store and photography studio but had now turned the business
over to his son and daughter-in-law. The old fellow wasn’t really
needed at the shop but his wife was not well and he needed something to
do, so he dreamed up this project. The store was on the first floor and
the studio and office was on the second floor, but the man had a
workspace and darkroom on the third floor, and that was where Janet
went to work.
She said that the first couple of sessions were really quite strange.
Mr Forsith had never done figure photography before . She said that he
was very gentlemanly and professional and she never felt awkward, but
she said that for the first several days she felt like she was sitting
for her high school graduation portrait except that she was naked.
After her third or fourth session Forsith gave her several sheets of
contact prints and suggested that she take them home and study her
expressions. He said that she would find it useful in life to know
which face she wished to show to the camera. Look at public figures and
politicians, he said. They know that they will always be photographed,
so they decide which expression works the best for them, and they learn
how to put on that face. Big smile, wry smile, no smile, lots of teeth,
closed mouth, knowing eyes, amused eyes, whatever. Forsith said that
you needed to have a state of mind and attitude that went with the
face, so that you could summon the same face by summoning the same
attitude. Janet should practice that. Practice in the mirror, and they
would practice with the camera at the next session.
Another time, he wanted her to laugh. He wanted delight on her face,
and he wanted her to work at showing that. Janet said that he
tried telling her jokes and funny stories but she said they were so
lame that she groaned more than laughed. One day he played some Bill
Cosby and Bob Newhart records during the session, and because he knew
all the stories he was ready with the camera just as the big laughs
came. Janet said that he got lots of good shots that day.
Janet said that she was pretty sure that he did not know what his
project was to be. She could tell that he was reading the back issues
of his photography magazines because he would try new lights and
lighting, and he was always adjusting the settings on his camera. It
was all black and white film and he was developing all of his own
negatives and prints, and he was always playing with the process,
shading and burning as he printed. (Janet said that she wished that she
had been interested enough to pay attention to his techniques, but
colour photography was new and that seemed to be the way of the future
to her.) Sometimes there would be big blow-up prints hanging in
the darkroom, and there were often snapshots pinned to the wall with
little notes written on them, suggestions for a different approach or
She said that he was very gentlemanly and respectful, and quite formal.
At the end of each session he would pass her an envelope with her pay
and perhaps a few prints, and he always said “Thank you, Miss. You are
quite lovely.” Always.
Janet said that at one point Forsith definitely began to take glamour
photos. He began to direct her limbs, looking often for poses that were
not exactly provocative but not exactly casual either. He had done so
much portrait work that he knew how to balance lines and angles, how to
turn the head just so, how to show the body to best advantage. He said
that no matter how much of a subject is in the frame we always look at
the eyes, and for a good shot they always have to be in focus.
And then he started asking for face acting. Forsith began to ask Janet
to imagine herself in particular situations. Scolding a naughty dog.
Greeting a friend. Seeing a beautiful flower. Trying to open a stuck
jar lid. Relaxing in the sun. Singing a familiar song. Sitting up
straight in church. Trying not to look bored during a sermon. Watching
a sleeping child.
Janet said that these were fascinating afternoons. All of this was
before electronic flash, so Forsith would set up his studio lights and
reflectors and screens to get the lighting he needed. It was also
before digital photography or even motor drives, so Forsith had to wind
the film forward between each shot, and he had to change the film after
every 50 exposures or so. He set Janet up on a low dais and gave her a
stool for a prop and he asked her to turn away, enter into the mood
they were working on, and then turn to his camera, composed. He made
his shot, and while he advanced the film she turned away, reset, and
then turned back. She said that they got into a rhythm that became very
easy and natural, broken only when he had to go into the darkroom to
Janet told me that she was amazed at how much the face and the body
both expressed emotion. She would look at prints from previous sessions
and could see how her body language and her face language mirrored each
other, and how incomplete one looked without the other. She also said
that she had no idea that she had so many “faces”, nor that her body
had so many “faces” either.
Towards the end of the winter Forsith decided that the most beautiful
part of a slim woman was the soft pouchy part of her belly, and
especially the small white hairs that grew there. The second most
beautiful part was the small of a woman’s back, and he decided that his
project for the photography magazine would be closeups of these
Janet said that those were peaceful afternoon sessions. Forsith brought
in a padded table and he set up his lights and screens for closeups. He
was using magnifying filters and lens extenders to get a close focus,
and Janet got to just lay there in the warmth of the lights and
daydream. She said that for these pictures he kept her modestly draped,
which was just as well, she said, as his camera was pretty near. On the
second afternoon he got his equipment all set up and focused, and then
he threw open the window to let the winter air in. Turns out he wanted
to see if goosebumps would make the little white hairs stand up!
That was about the end of the project. He had her come in for a few
more sessions, but she said that there wasn’t anything new in the work.
Janet said that she thought that by that time Forsith just liked having
her around with her clothes off, and she said that she was liking that
Forsith gave her a little present of a few weeks’ pay on the last day
and he gave her a few photos from their previous work. He had made some
prints of images from the day that he played comedy records for her,
and he had caught her in that instant when the eyes register the joke
but before the laugh distorts the face. Janet said that they were
beautiful portraits, but ever-so-slightly odd because her face and body
were relaxed but her eyes were not. She said that she had never seen
quite the same effect since.
"You and the DOMAI site spoil me as a member. I could not imagine being
satisfied with another site such as this ever again... All the models
are extremely beautiful: each in their own way. They all seem to
possess a genuineness and honesty that is very appealing. They all seem
approachable, the kind of women that one could talk to without feeling
intimidated and the kind of women one would not feel a need to try to
intimidate them. I know I have said this before but Thank You again for
all the hard work you put into making DOMAI the quality site that it
is. It is appreciated." - ROBERT A
<dreamweaver40m[=at=]webtv.net> [e-mail address used with permission]
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