Taking the artist/model story in a supernatural direction, the photographer finds more than he was looking for when his model portrays a witch. enjoy
by David Cain
She asked me what I wanted her to wear for the photo shoot and I told her I needed pictures of a witch. She asked me what I meant by witch and I laughed as I considered the infinity of images that word could evoke. I hadn’t thought beyond clichés so I told her to wear whatever seemed appropriate to her. She sounded a little annoyed and then became distant, lost in thought, I assumed. The conversation faded away.
I figured we could work with whatever she wore or maybe persuade her to change, if it was really bad. I thought the environment, the backdrop and props would suffice to identify the character sufficiently, no matter what she was wearing. I also hoped that by inviting her to participate creatively, it would help to break down the inevitable feeling of creepy created by interposing an aggressive lens between us. By asking her to wear something she was comfortable with wearing, it was more likely that she would open up to the camera, express the comfortable relaxed feeling essential to photographing a friendly character. When she feel good, the smile comes naturally.
I would have never imagined the costume she wore, but it was perfect. The cloth was dark and luxurious and a barely visible pattern seemed alive, so that her clothes seemed to be more than part of her. I assume she wore make-up, but a ferociously insistent beauty seemed to be untouched by powders, creams or inks. I didn’t remember her looking this way. She’d done her hair, I’m sure. It had lots of body.
We chatted for a while. This kind of photography requires the model and photographer to get into a place, mutually eager for collaboration. As usual, our conversation came easily; she was a nice, interesting young lady with ambitions and troubles. I shared, commiserated and passed along bits of worldly wisdom. We got along and I had high hopes for our work together. We would produce some good product. We’d both earn our pay.
I couldn’t help staring at her dress. There didn’t seem to be anything high-tech about it and the movement of the patterns were subtle but I kept seeing it happen, dark lines in the darkness of the fabric, like figures passing or faces peering out of deep nothingness. An energy took hold of me. I felt disassociated; the pleasant companion part of me continued speaking to the nice lady while my inner being, the man inside sat mesmerized by this hypnotic living dress.
She suggested that we get started and moved to sit on a stool surrounded by comic witch décor, ravens and straw, jack-o-lanterns and even broom. It seemed unworthy but as she began to pose, I didn’t want to disturb the moment by striking the set. I started taking pictures as fast as my camera would allow. The lighting didn’t matter. The framing didn’t matter. The pictures seemed to take care of themselves. I watched myself work. I watched the movement in the fabric of her dress.
She began to undress. The camera captured everything. Gil Elvgren gave way to Bettie Page as her shoes and stockings, dress and panties, fell away. The living patterns of her black velvet dress revealed themselves as patterns living in her pale naked flesh. I couldn’t take my eyes away. She stretched and strutted, bent and twisted. I studied her nipples, I immersed myself in her vulva. The witch danced and laughed and the camera caught it all.
She left and took her money. I sent the photos on and received a bonus for my work. I tried to call her, to share the wealth, for part of the bonus is certainly hers. She hasn’t answered.
I haven’t thought of anything else, since that day. I have barely eaten. I can’t talk to people. The vision remains in my mind, fed by the infernal photographs. For in the pictures, I still see the patterns move, in the dress and in her flesh and I can’t stop staring, watching them dance in the darkness of nothingness. No one else can see them and that makes me glad. She, the witch, my witch, she belongs to me.