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What would you do if you had too many beautiful women to choose from?
The Ukrainian girls in these photographs attended casting calls in Kiev, Ukraine over a two-year period. They were asked to arrive 100% natural. Some did. Many did not. Some were selected for photo shoots. Many were not.
In order to accommodate as many girls as possible I scheduled castings that began late in the afternoon and continued into the early evening. This way students and girls with jobs could all make it. We also used a location close to two metro stations right in the city center. Anyone coming or going just about anywhere was a quick stop away.
When the girls arrived at the casting, or go-see as it's known in the fashion industry, they had to wait in a small room with other prospective girls. Because I was utilizing a number of different scouting options I had girls of all types. I asked for a certain type, but once word got out there was a casting all types came. There were art students, musicians, university girls, high school students, exotic dancers, international fashion models, and probably even a mother or two. Upon the immediate shock of being integrated with girls outside their familiar milieu, some girls walked out. Most stayed.
A casting call is often a strange event. You start off in this small room with all of your competition, but you're expected to act friendly. Sometimes the wait is over two hours. After waiting the girls have a moment to meet the photographer, and in my case, also a preselected translator with experience as a model. It helps her to relate to what they're going through and what options may lie ahead.
The process was very democratic, up until the point it's totally authoritarian. We would greet each girl and ask to take a few simple snapshots. Front, side, back, side, and then a close-up. I would often demonstrate in sort of a robotic manner. It was a good icebreaker and got the girls laughing.
It was fun. It tuned what can easily be a clinical process into a collaborative one. Instead of just picking girls from model agency composite cards or social media profiles, we could actually get to know each other for a few minutes and get the wheels spinning together. The girls were a great help. Eager, smart, and totally buying in to the process.
Because we scheduled such long castings, inevitably there were periods where no girls were on-site. My assistant and I would leave the underground casting studio and go out for some air. We saw girls in the parking lot changing from their walking shoes into high heels and things of this nature. Preparing to sell themselves to the "American photographer." It sounds kind of goofy, but being a Westerner really does wield a lot of power.
And being a Westerner was only one of three forms of power I had. Being a Westerner. Being a man. Being a photographer.
I wanted to flip that upside down. Instead of being a photographer doing photography, I wanted to use photography as a tool. A tool to convey a message.
Over the last few years I've received a lot of emails from other creators. Creators in many fields. Making friends in these other creative fields is one of the best parts of being a creator oneself. But it's not just the friendships of the other creators that make this all worthwhile. It's the sharing and friendships with those who consume what we create. It's your support that makes this wheel go round and often inspires us to do what we do.
We're all in this together. The creator. The created. The consumer. And for this project I am the most insignificant part. It's a good thing. I'd rather step back and let the girls do their thing and invite the viewer to be a part of and enjoy the process. We're all in this together, after all. And for that I must say thank you.
It's great to have you on the team.
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