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Issue No. 18 - Humanity

Your Life In Pictures

Written by Cameron Alborzian

After hitting the snooze button for the third time, you realize that getting up past 11:00 might make you late for your appointment.  You start to roll yourself to the side of your bed, taking care to not bang your head on your nightstand like you did earlier that week.  As you find the edge of the bed, you lower your feet to the floor and grasp back at the nightstand for your cigarettes.  You fish the lighter out of the box and after two unsuccessful flicks you light up.  You look at the mirror in front of you.

You see someone who went to bed at 4:00 the night before.  You see large bags under this person’s eyes, perhaps due to a particularly late shoot and staying out afterwards with a client until last call at a nearby bar.  The person quickly puts their fist up to their mouth as they experience a series of hacking coughs and the ashes from their cigarette trickle down to the floor. You also notice a bandage on their right big toe from when their assistant dropped the tripod on their foot several days ago—at least the camera wasn’t still on it.  But, most of all, you see this person in the mirror for what they are: hunched over, tired, sick, and not even remotely ready for a prospective client interview at noon.

You get yourself dressed in a passable outfit for the occasion, and head out to get some coffee en route to your appointment.  There’s no way you’re going to be able to make a good impression without some coffee.  This new client is some sort of self-help personality who is to be featured in a major campaign to support her message.  You think it has something to do with yoga poses.  It’s definitely not your thing, but then, neither is failing to make rent.  As you order at the coffee place you wonder why you even have to meet with this hippie.  Shouldn’t her having seen your portfolio be enough?

After downing your latte you arrive at the meeting to find your prospective client already there.  She is sitting upright in her chair and offers you a warm smile.  You suddenly wonder if you smell like cigarettes.  She introduces herself with a handshake with both hands.

“I’ve already seen your work,” she says as you both take a seat.  “Of course it’s fabulous.  But for you to understand what I’m looking to do, I’ll need something other than your portfolio.”

“What’s that?” you ask.  You barely repress another fit of hacking coughs.

“I’ll need you to try the lifestyle I promote with my followers.”

“You…what?”

“I’ll need you to try the lifestyle I promote.  Natural food, yoga, breathing.” She then smiles slyly.  “And no cigarettes.”

“You mean, while we’re shooting?” you ask.

“For two weeks before the shoot,” she says.

After about a minute of hacking coughs, your lungs finally settle down and you get the assignment: You are to live as she lives. For two weeks.  Then, and only after you’ve demonstrated some ability to relate to the lifestyle, will the job be yours.

What a nut-job, you think.  But then, shooting this particular nut-job could keep you in the black for another few months.  You agree to the terms and as the food is placed on the table you look at what you’ve ordered in comparison to what she’s ordered: you, a hamburger and fries, and her, a plate of cooked vegetables and rice.

This is going to be a long two weeks.

While you do feel this is a nutty process, you are a person of your word and you follow through.  You wake up at 6.  You go to bed at 10.  You eat only a couple of times a day—and an entirely vegetarian diet at that.  You quit smoking cigarettes and drinking (alcohol, coffee) and start each morning with some hot water.  Throughout these two weeks, you experience headaches and the shakes from caffeine withdrawal for three days, and cigarette cravings for four.  You experience anger and resentment for the hippie for five.  You still start each morning with hacking coughs, but as the days go on the episodes become shorter and shorter.  Your body—initially sore from even just a couple of postures in the morning—now feels open and strong.  As you enter your second week you find that you look forward to starting your day with a cup of warm water.

Finally, you wake up on the last day of the second week.  The day before, the client sent you an email that you are to meet and discuss your experiences.  This is to somehow relate to what you do to capture her in the campaign.  If she feels you’ve related to these two weeks and can convey that in the shoot, that should be all she needs to make it official.

You consider the person in the mirror as you swing your legs off the bed and onto the floor.  This person doesn’t have bags under their eyes.  They also seem to be far less bloated and puffy than the person from two weeks ago.  They’re also sitting up straight, and even seem…content.  You look over at the clock to see if you’re going to be late for your meeting with the client and notice that the alarm clock is blinking 12:00—there must have been a power outage last night!  You scramble for your phone and realize that it’s only 5:45 in the morning.  And yet, you have no need to go back to bed.

The first picture of you was of someone tired and sick.  The second one was of someone else entirely.

How have you related to these two weeks?  You smile as you think what the client may say when you tell her that you will be sustaining this lifestyle for another two weeks—and perhaps many more thereafter.

THE AIPAD PHOTOGRAPHY SHOW NEW YORK

MUSÉE TALKS WITH STEFANO TONCHI, PART 3