The Original Hustler

May 7th, 2006

Monday, May 1 – TORONTO, CAN. It was one a.m. and I had lost steam. The couch was pushed cockeyed into the kitchen and I was passed out on it. A blue seamless was rolled out across the dog hair littered hardwood and Paddy was shooting away, the pop of the strobes seemingly timed to the music and her yips of excitement. Cooing like a fashion photographer straight from the movies (“yes! that’s so hot! oh, that’s IT!”), she was encouraging both professional and amateur models alike. (At left: “Photographer and Muse” by Paddy Jane)

(Camillo gets oiled) I was only asleep for a few minutes for I had to run out to the borrowed car to get the vintage hats on loan from Cabaret, the store where the show would be hung. That’s the way it had been since four in the afternoon; fetch this, carry that, set up the strobes to light like such and such. Hurry up and wait; the photographer is brainstorming, the models aren’t ready, and on…the work of an assistant (though I was later told I had taken on the job of an assistant director).

A few years ago I would have been more of a hindrance than help but I’ve borrowed and rented enough lighting gear to educate myself in some basics. It’s been fun, something different than reportage, and because I’ve learned the skills it’s freed me from some of the creativity-stifling anxiety and self doubt.

That evening the challenge was not the labor, but trying not to make it my own shoot. There were too many rich image possibilities.

(Lindsey and makeup) We started at Stone’s Place; first Kerry picked me up then we grabbed Paddy at Cabaret where she had just finished selecting $20,000 worth of one-of-a-kind vintage clothing. Makeup and hair had arrived, a couple of the models were there, and more were on the way. Nine in total.

(the triplets) Stone’s Place is an endless living room; a long bar guides guests deeper into the darkness where ancient table lamps light velvet couches, their 20 watt bulbs hiding the ripped upholstery.

(the Diva on a Dime film crew) Paddy, with the skill of a professional procrastinator, had managed to put herself in the position to shoot, print, mount, and hang a show in a matter of five days for the CONTACT festival. Monday evening started with a mad rush that wouldn’t stop until Friday night, with wine and hors devours being served around a TV film crew for the show “Diva on a Dime” at Cabaret. The rest of the press lined up to interview Paddy? TVO, NOW Magazine, and the Fashion Channel.

Again, I got to help with editing another photographer’s work. For the most part Paddy and I disagreed on all the images. “I think you and I even see expressions differently,” she said in between the more frequently re-curring refrain “I’m so tired.” But some of my favorites made the show, although I gave up at 2:30 in the morning on Thursday, the night before she was going to hang the show. I’d been cutting, gluing, and stretching; the images were mounted on vinyl records and printed on canvas then stretched across frames. I left Paddy at Kerry’s to print the last of her images. It was late enough that the street cars had stopped running and, being too cheap to take a cab, I walked the 40 minutes back to the condo.

(Melody serving) Paddy’s friends came together for her; Rebecca, a long-time friend who owns an organic store in one of the city’s upscale neighborhoods, showed up Friday afternoon with organic treats for the show. Tao, who’s father owns Cabaret, had splurged on alcohol. Melody, a co-worker from the Over Easy restaurant on Bloor Ave, was the pinup girl serving drinks and food. Friends had stepped up for modeling and Kerry, recently working long days as an assistant to one of the major commercial photographers in town (think large, large studio with lots of lights for shooting cars), sacrificed her time to assist and her studio space for the mayhem of printing production.

The opening went well and, having been in town for over a week now, I actually knew some of the people. The purple dress Lindsey wore was even being considered by customers, causing Lindsey to rush over protectively…until she saw the hand-beaded garment was priced at $325.

Kevin and Pam Oiye (more of my distant family) arrived with their artist friend Shelly for the wine, the art, and to pick me up and to head to MOCCA for a show titled Imaging a Shattered Earth. There I met John Gannis while looking at a little slice of home: a clear cut in Washington.
(John Gannis, at right) I also had the opportunity to be the “rude” American and get a hesitant woman’s book signed by Edward Burtynsky, a Toronto photographer who has made what I consider hands-down the most beautiful images of ship breaking in Bangladesh. Among other things. I would say, if you’re going to visit any one link on this post, go to his site.

(Pam chats up an artist) Later we hit up the Gladstone for the Magenta Foundation Exhibition (the last opening was only their book launch) followed by Ethiopian at the nearby Addis Abba.

And then came my wait for the key so I could go to sleep…Paddy was AWOL. With the key.

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