The little school house gig

Ri’s first major photoshoot wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. We set out early to the hotel destination for hair and make up long before our scheduled call time. Sitting downstairs in the rental car, I contemplated calling our magazine contact early. Instead, I waited and allowed Ri to finish her car ride-induced nap. I watched as boxes were pulled from an overstuffed trunk – – and realized as the man and woman rifled through the pink and white contents that this was likely wardrobe and accessories for our shoot. For a moment, I though about following the two carriers to the meeting room rather than calling. I decided, however, to do as instructed. This was, after all, a shoot we needed to make good impressions with if we ever hoped to have another editorial opportunity with the magazine.

After countless rings, the editor finally picked up, and with a smile in her voice said, “Yes, RiAnne! Come on up,” and rattled off a room number. I grabbed the bag of contraban hair products I’d essentially smuggled past TSA, and carried it and Ri to the room.

Another model-mommy answered the door, and moved aside to let us into the tiny hotel room. On the bed, the outfits from the boxes had been spread out. Next to them were bags with sizes and names written on each. Two little girls sat in chairs as their hair was curled and styled. Another sat on the small empty space left on the bed. Eyes closed, she waited for a touch of eye shadow. In a corner sat another girl, already made up beautifully and with hair perfectly set. She was busy with rubberbands, weaving them into bracelets to pass the time.

The man I’d seen earlier, paced back and forth between the clothes and an ironing board, trying to make each outfit look camera-ready despite having come out of a shipping box.

Ri stood where I set her, taking in the scene. I was handed her outfit, which unfortunately did not look anything like what I’d imagined vintage to be. I changed her into her wardrobe and seeing her elastic headband, I determined I would toussle her curly hair with mousse for a “style.”

Another model protested her outfit. She threw such a tantrum about the little set, that the editor switched her into a gown meant for another model. Once in it, she stood in front of the mirror with a smile of smug satisfaction. I wish I’d complained for something better, too.

The location for the shoot was a preserved old school house about 15 minutes from the hotel. The curators turned the space into a museum and on weekdays – when the facility was actually open – a reinactor led visitors in a mock class. This being a Sunday, our small group of models and the editor, photographer, and parents were the only ones on site.

The photographer set up her lights in the tiny classroom, pointing them all toward the stage-like front where a desk, several benches, and a chalk board were positioned. Parents filed into the desks awaiting directives. And the models stood against the walls watching the set up.

Ri was ready. She was smiling. She saw the camera and walked right onto the stage, and right into another model’s shoot time. I moved her quickly, and she and I busied ourselves outside in front of a building that resembled a barber shop. I snapped pictures of her wandering around the space, and she flitted about with an uncommon happiness as though she’d found her element.

When finally she and another baby just a month or two younger were finally called to set, however, it was nap time. Though Ri was still ready to “perform,” the other baby was in tears and seemingly unconsolable. The attention, then, went to calming her and shooting her pictures in rare moments of peace. Ri finally tired of seeking out her spotlight, and by the time the cameras were turned to her, she was ready to leave.

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Who could blame her? She hadn’t eaten for hours (except for the shared grapenuts a veteran-model offered). It was growing colder with the rainy mists outside. And she was restless waiting for some acknowledgement.


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1The group photo – taken at the end of the two-hour shoot – was dismal. The baby continued to cry. She tried to taste the plastic cupcake given to her as a prop. And neither she nor Ri really wanted to sit where they were set (though minutes prior Ri had joined the older girls’ group picture and posed like a pro).

When we received the five promised photos a few weeks later, I was devestated. Ri is clearly face swapped! Her distorted image looks out of place with the other models around her. And the few single images of her suggest she was unhappy and bored with the entire experience, not the smiling and bubbly personality that danced around the set and was social with everyone.

I know they had to use the photo with the most “right” faces in it. But why is Ri so… wrong?

We’d traveled across the country for this shoot and it still doesn’t seem fair that all we have to show for it are photos I can’t even use in her portfolio.

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