First Ever Commision


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Posted on Thursday 25th of January 2018
Posted by Zanussi0 comments • Read 101 times • 4 minute read



My first ever commisioned shoot was in 1986. Prior to that I had won some competitions, earned a few hundred contributing to Reader's Wives (not really my wife, LOL) and so on. But all stuff done on spec and submitted as such.

My first ever commision occurred shortly after I was married, I entered a competition in Portsmouth for local photoagraphers, the them was "Lines" and I submitted a black and white of my new wife in a French Sailor T shirt, the type with horizontal lines. And nothing else. I got criticised inevitably for the suggestive content, but as nothing was actually showing and other entries were far more brazen I went on to win best of category, I forget what category it was but the prize was an illustrated book on nude photography which struck me as funny given the criticism!

What did surprise me was when the exhibit folded I found my piece had been sold, I had not even realised that was an option! The gallery asked for and got a weeks wages for it. Stunned at my success I was even more elevated when I got a letter about a week later from the buyer, complimenting me on my work and asking if I would do some more for him for his private collection.

Of course I agreed and asked for some guidelines of what he might like. The response startled me - I was very naive in those days! I received a bundle of sheets of paper, on each was a pose, spelt out in minute detail, what makeup, what clothes - or rather lack of them. The position of every limb, what props, even what expression was to be on the face, all had to be of the same model in the original picture - my wife.

This presented a problem. Getting her to pose in the T shirt had been hard enough, while not a prude she was very gun shy in public, nothing above the knee, no cleavage, etc, I used to call her the Nun she was so conservative. These poses even listed the underwear, some of which I had no idea about, what was a quarter cup bra for instance?

In my defence at this point I should say it was not the money that was motivating me (well.... mostly not) it was the incredible boost from someone liking my work enough to want more, I was very eager to fulfill that wish.

I worked hard and subtle, drawing up a shopping list of the underwear (pre-paid by my client!) and taking the wife to town and peeking at the list and making suggestions, I used the excuse of selling the photo and said the money had to go on her, and she needed new underwear, in fact deserved it. Some she balked at, like the quarter cup bra when I eventually found what one was, I simply noted these items and went back to town alone and bought them anyway.

I waited for the right day to do the shoot, my wife is to this day a moody model who will scowl and hide her face if not in the mood to be photographed, she was even worse then, she was incredibly shy. But finally one Sunday the omens were right, the mood was good, she agreed to dress up and go out for lunch and on our return with several brandys mellowing her she sighed but did not protest when I brought out my beloved Minolta MD5 with shoe mounted and side mounted flash, cokin filters stacked handy and a pocket full of Fuji 35mm film, which I liked for it's flesh tones.

The list of poses caught her curiosity and I lied that it was notes I had made for myself, to which she commented I had never needed them before, but then became remarkably compliant, I had expected her to point blank  refuse many of the explicit poses, which included my profile pic, legs high and wide, on all fours with bum high, shots I would never have dared to suggest without prompting. We both got heated and some of the later shots include camera blur from my shaking hands.

On the whole the shoot was a huge success, for many reasons. I have no doubt some will utterly condemn me for my underhand trickery and they will be right, I  was a cad - and still am, I will sink to any depth to get the shot I want!

Sending the completed work was an incredible excitement, as was the enthusiastic response and appeal for more. I obliged with several more pose to order sessions until I was transferred to Scotland and my wife and I led a largely seperated life for two years.

There is a postscript to this. Years later we were packing up to move abroad, we had to be drastic in what we took and what we got rid of, we had no intention of returning to the UK then. I was going through my albums one by one, battling to try and justify keeping them when I came on the one where I had kept copies of the pose to order sessions for my collector client.

My wife, aware of my distraction, peered over my shoulder at the poses that now seemed rather crude and over explicit, I had developed a more teasing style. "Get rid of those," she told me. "You have better ones of me now."

She took the album off me and flicked through the pages. I said "I cannot believe how easy it was to get you to pose like that!"

She glanced up at me. "Well I had steamed open the letters and memorised the poses long before you got up the nerve to ask me, I practised these in the mirror for ages!"









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