SHOOTING NUDES or: Stripped & Shot; Ass & Aperture; Legs & Lenses; Cans & Cameras; Flesh & Flashes; Tits & Tripods; Boobs & Boots; Derriere & Development
(a recollection of making the Creative Writing Society Literary Icon Naked Calendar)
I always wanted to be January. Not because it's the first month of the year, and not because my birthday is on the 7th, but because I like the word. I like saying it. It tastes melony.
It took two sessions to get a passable shot of me. The first was a dry run for everything else (how could I expect others to be photographed in the nude if I didn't lead the way?) and I kept Colin's cape on throughout. Tried to show some leg, but the end result was still too discreet. Beth's comment on the resulting photos was, "Not enough cock." Also, the light was too strong.
I got Siān to do the photography for the second shoot, so I could waltz around the room with nothing on but gloves and a musketeer hat, and not feel self-conscious. I also experimented with water and sunflower oil as a body grease, to make my skin shine, but it didn't work well enough to recommend it to anyone else.
I like my legs and feet in the final shot. I generally like them when I kneel. They're curvy. The only other part of me I like is my face, but only backwards, in a mirror.
Colin also needed two shoots to get it right. In the first, he made the same mistake as me, staying thoroughly under the cape. He wore circle-framed spectacles from a joke shop that made his eyes different sizes.
He did the second shoot entirely by himself, in his own room. He knows a lot more about setting up cameras than me. He removed the glass from the spectacles, and wore nothing else but my long Winter scarf from Posh Shop. Colin's body is notable for being rich in hair, without verging on gorilla territory. The girls love it. I find it threatening.
After the last session, Colin and I went through all the photos, sitting at the bottom of the stairs.
"I'm just too used to them," he said, when we got to the naked girls. "They don't do anything to me anymore."
"We've become over-tolerant of nudity," I replied. "Don't worry - it won't last."
Cliff (described by certain girls as a "big sexy lion") was the first model to get it right first time. He broke the cape trend. He even said, "I'd be prepared to do a full frontal, as long as you covered me up before it went public." Colin and I said, "Oh.that won't be necessary," because neither of us wanted to see Cliff's schlong.
He was worried about his Keratosis Pilaris, a skin problem that causes a slight blotchiness on his upper arm and shoulder, and also about the birthmark right at the top of his crack, but you can't see them on the photos unless he points them out. He was also worried about his hair, and didn't like the lighting in any of the crouching shots.
We were short on props; I'd given up trying to get convincing ones, and decided it was best to edit them in later. Thus, Cliff held a Galia melon as a stand-in for what would eventually be Yorrick's skull. The melon never got eaten.
I try never to regret anything, but all the same I regret casting Kirsty as the Little Mermaid, because I had to mask her legs with a tissue paper fish's tail when we were editing the photos. She has, we all agreed, magnificent legs. Just the other night, Colin and I, drunk as Lords, were recalling how stunning she looked naked, how taken aback we were.
Kirsty was the first girl we shot; she also provided faery wings for the other models, and fake blood, which I later used when dressing up as Johnny Depp in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, to play guitar at a talent contest. I had to look like my eyes had been gouged out.
She arrived in the morning, and left before Beth and Megan arrived, so she had no real proof that anyone else was taking their clothes off for the cameras. She got on with it, and followed our instructions without fuss.
There was one point when she was lying supine on the bed, legs crossed; I went forward to move her hand because a nipple was showing, and somehow we still got a photo of it. It lives with Colin now, although I could just go and look any time I want.
Beth's photos were problematic - many were almost sublime, but with one unworkable flaw. In the kneeling shots and garden shots, there was too much muff and not enough tit. There was a great one of her lying prone with her legs in the air, and Siān's boots on, but she didn't like her arse or expression. The ones of her in the chair by the window featured her tattoo, but were shot from a bad angle. Even in the snap we finally used, the boots were indistinguishable from the bed, so we had to cover her feet with the curl of a leaf.
I don't think anyone looked more like their character than Beth. She was destined to be Tinkerbell - if not now, then in some future pantomime. I forgot to edit her ears so they were sharp-tipped, like a faery's should be.
She was the most visibly nervous of all the models, and asked me and Colin to look away while Megan helped her with her poses. In between shoots, she tried to firm up her bosom. She would face away from us, open the V of her dressing gown and usher in cold air, first from the fan heater, at its coolest setting, then by kneeling in front of the sash window, which we could only open a fraction.
It took some convincing to get Megan on board, but I'm glad I worked on her. On the day, her brashness was most welcome; she wore nothing underneath the dressing gown we provided, while Beth initially kept her underwear on. They drank vodka in the kitchen while Colin and I were setting up, and it was they, not us, who both suggested and showed the most enthusiasm for doing a shoot in the garden.
We did plenty of shots of Megan by herself, but ended up using one with me in as well - a Bottom to her Titania. I surprised myself by being the more coy of the two. I didn't really lean in much. I remember thinking how funny it was that nerves seem to pool where skin meets skin. I guess that's why people say they feel an electricity when they touch. But it is all the more electric when I think the contact is a mistake, and there were no mistakes here, so I remained composed.
Megan's make-up and facial expressions were impeccable - sexy and smoky - but she was the worst for stray nipples. We just couldn't keep them out of sight. In the end, I duplicated flowers to glue over her left breast. In the photo - not the flesh.
I'm sorry, but I must mention legs again. Siān's are the smoothest and snowiest I have ever encountered. Her shins are like beams of moonlight. I have complimented her on them many times. And they are also complimented by the dark swooshes of hair on her shoulders.
We had a number of ideas for Alice in Wonderland props. First we scattered playing cards on the bed and had her lie down among them. Then we tried having her sitting up, with the queen of hearts between her toes. We ran out of film, and tried shooting her again a few days later. This time we balanced on her the two wooden hearts I had bought her as a Valentine's Day present earlier in the year. Finally, we cut the last white rose from the trellis in our garden, splashed red paint on it and told her to clench that between her toes, as she had with the playing card.
I had another, more private shoot with Siān. Seeing her in the bath one day, I wondered at the idea of recasting her as Ophelia, and went to fetch the camera. She didn't like any of the photos I took, although there were a couple - wet limbs, or breasts rising from the water - which I really wanted to use.
Colin said they were "maybe too steamy." I wasn't sure if he was making a joke or not.
It would have been wrong to produce a naked calendar which didn't feature a man who has earned the nickname 'Naked Matt'. The moniker arose from his eagerness to strip down to his boxers and run into the North Sea on a cold, October day, in front of a coach party of friends and acquaintances. Annually.
Matt, displaying similar zeal for our project, considered various characters, including Don Juan and Don Quixote, before electing to play the Phantom of the Opera. So the infamous cape came back into play, this time securing a starring role alongside one of my hats. We also experimented with using Siān again, concealed by her Gainsboro grey dressing gown, as Phantom's victim.
In the end, however, Matt proved striking enough on his own, one foot on the bed, lurking charismatically. We used suitably dramatic lighting. I'd wanted to devise some reason for him to pose with his motorcycle helmet, or maybe even the bike itself. But we ran out of time before inspiration struck.
Most of the models, I would like to think, were pleased with the result, but only Matt was proud enough to buy ten copies of the calendar for members of his family. I'll say it again: it would have been wrong to do it without him.
Ian arrived with an assistant - a girl called Jo, who I knew from the talent contest where I dressed up as Johnny Depp with his eyes gouged out. She had sung a beautiful, laid back version of I only wanna be with you by Dusty Springfield.
Colin also knew Jo, from Nightline. Ian had enlisted her to mix chemicals and food colouring in glass flasks, using funnels and a steady hand. For Ian was to model as Dr. Frankenstein.
He had seen some of the pictures we'd already taken, and voiced concern over looking bad alongside the others. Like Matt and Colin before him though, Ian turned out to have quite the firm, furry torso. I always imagined this to be a more desirable trait in men than the scrawny smoothness that almost frightened him off.
When the idea for the nude calendar came up in the pub, many moons ago, Ian had been one of its most ardent supporters. He said he liked being in a society that was ostensibly serious, but actually more geared toward fun. The comment still warms me to this day.
I also smiled at Ian's email when the calendar came out:
"Love the calendar. Job well done! (Mr.August! 31 days and a bank holiday too! I'm flattered!) Have y'self a merry old pagan-fest."
We shot the three remaining men on the same day, though they arrived and left separately. Matt came in the morning, Ian in the afternoon, and Joe in the evening. Alas, he had no bow and quiver, and while these could be edited in later, we needed him to hold something that resembled the weapon, in order to get the pose right. So we tore off a long branch of the rose bush, and tied it tightly with twine. Siān braided his blonde hair, so he looked elfin. As with Beth, I forgot to edit the ears.
Joe expressly asked for a bum shot, so all the photographs were taken from behind, while he stood at ease, drawing back the string of the bow. It was a good call; the girls would later coo over the pertness of his bottom.
In fact, even Colin and I remarked, afterwards, on his body. "Not an inch of fat," Colin said. "Pure muscle and limb." True enough, Joe was the tallest and leanest model, and his long, pale muscles shone. A real Adonis. And when the photos came back, everyone had their own favourite. Mine was overruled.
Curious note - Joe and Kirsty are the only two models, to my knowledge, who regularly cycle.
At one point, I had six or seven girls lined up for modelling, but some of these were promised by middle men, and when I got the chance to ask them myself, they politely (sometimes laughing,) declined. It was Megan who suggested some of the already featured girls get back together for a second shoot as the witches of Macbeth. This brought our Shakespeare count up to six characters from three plays.
The sky blue Celtic warpaint was my plan but I had intended that it be put on their faces. It was only when Beth refused to do this (because she was working later,) that we switched to torsos. Thus, Lizzie and I spent half an hour painting lines and swirls onto breasts and arms with our fingers. We used Snazaroo body paint instead of actual wode, since it was easier to obtain, and did not include semen as one of the ingredients.
We used a box on a stool as a stand-in for the cauldron, and Lizzie put a lamp inside, so a volcanic glow was cast across the bodies of Siān, Beth and Megan. We didn't bother trying to keep nipples out of the shot, since they were painted blue anyhow.
Colin was away for this shoot. I could see the ire in his eyes when he saw what he'd missed. Incidentally, I have never in my life been witness to such a panoply of boobs. In the course of the project, I noted the following variations in colour: firebrick, rubra, lavender blush, misty rose, seashell, coral light, raspberry, burnt umber. The shapes were equally ranging. It was an education.
Dear little Lizzie was only convinced to pose at the last minute, and the shoot went largely under Megan's supervision. The guiding idea was to have her as a Ghost of Christmas past, with me standing in as a startled Ebenezer Scrooge. There was some debate about how far back the sheets should be thrown in order to imply my full nudity.
We tried some shots with me in a chair, Lizzie leaning over me, and at one point I had to cross the room to help Megan with the camera, so they definitely could have checked me out this time. Don't think they did though.
Lizzie was mostly quiet, except when voicing uncertainty about the flick of fringe Megan wanted straying onto her forehead. She kept herself more covered than the other girls, and I didn't see that much of her.
The prevailing judgement on the bed photos was 'post-coital'. Scrooge's horrified reaction to the Ghost was interpreted by one buyer as 'wondering whether now would be a good time to ask for a bj and deciding, no, it probably wouldn't'. So we switched the character to Moll Flanders, then to Lydia Bennett, when Lizzie said she'd prefer not to play a whore.
Very few people seem to know who Lydia Bennett is.
About the author:
Jon Stone is a graduate of UEA, where the motto is 'Do Different'. Hence, as well as literary nude calendars, he writes X-Men poetry, makes art from old clothes, and has recently become poet-in-residence at The One Account.He has published one book, 'I'll Show You Tyrants', which involves Caligula in the modern world, travels in East Africa, espionage and snooker. Reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated.
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