I spend twenty minutes in the ankle-deep snow, my feet covered with just a pair of tights, dressed in a summer skirt, tank top, and a very thin cardigan, hoping I don’t lose any of my precious toes to frost bite for the sake of a self portrait… I make the short, numb walk home, my tights sodden and unpleasant in the rubber boots, and after preparing a much-needed bowl of hot water to help thaw out my feet, I look through the images that I have just minutes earlier created. And what do I decide? That my favourite snap is this one – one of my test shots taken while I was still wearing boots and a cardigan… it’s typical, isn’t it?
Actually, that sentence is not entirely accurate; what i ought to say is that the cluster of images that were merged to create this final piece all happened to be test shots. I’ve posted a BTS editing post here. None of the ‘real deal’, boot-less images worked for me, and so instead, here we have it. I did for a while begin to slowly edit-out the wellington boots, cutting in legs from yet another image, thinking that if I had just risked the lost of several tootsies for the sake of a self portrait, at least you were going to see it. I gave in soon enough, however, and honestly, I’m happy with the final result.
This is a spot where I have shot many times now, being just a thirty-second walk from my apartment. It’s a quiet, peaceful old Victorian cemetery that no longer creeps me out – honestly – and inspires me. I’d never go there without a model, creative team, or in this case, a tripod, however. I’m not someone who can wander cemeteries simple for the solitude of it, nor would you ever find me perched atop a tomb with my ideas moleskine in hand, but when I’ve gathered a creative team and selected a model (even if that model is myself), I find a great source of inspirational energy, and everything always just comes together.
One evening after a photo session at my place, the usual crew and I sat around over sandwiches and drinks. It was a while before we noticed that Jim had left us.‘Hey, Jimmy,’ we yelled. No response… The next thing we knew there was a hell of a racket out in the street, complete with horns blowing and people yelling. We ran to the window and opened the venetian blind. There, in the middle of the street, sitting cross-legged in my chair, smoking a cigarette, was our boy, holding up traffic. As we flew out the front door, we looked beyond the chair and saw a long string of headlights and people getting out of cars. Marty and I grabbed Dean from the chair – and also from a tall, angry-looking guy with big hands who looked ready to pummel him. Jim acted like a rag doll when we pulled him from a chair, his arms and head flopping around, the rest of him just dead weight. Bob and Billy picked up the chair. Once inside, we all looked at the grinning Dean. ‘God damn it, Jim,’ I yelled… After I calmed down, I asked him, ‘Why, Jim, why?’ He took a fresh cigarette and sat in the chair that had been put back in its place. He lighted up and looked at all of us. ‘Don’t you sons of bitches ever get bored? I just wanted to spark things, man, that’s all.’ He got up and began bonging the side table. ‘Look at you. Before I did it, we were all sitting quietly eating and drinking, and outside a lot of nine-to-fivers were going home to their wives, like they do every night. Now you’re all juiced up, and so are they, man. They’ll talk about it for years.’
– Roy Schatt, James Dean: a Portrait