Other People's Jobs: No5 the photographer
Sunday 07 November 1993
Andy, the Professional Photographer (established in fine premises called the Coach House; formerly, in fact, a cow-
shed), is moralising. He's moralising because he's just been on the phone and someone has asked him (successfully) to fit a rush job into his already rushed schedule.
The model ('I'm the sort of model who gets a lot of check-shirt jobs') crouches patiently by the open bonnet of a car. He's been wiping his hands underneath it to make them look nice and oily. 'Do you think my hands are oily enough, Andy?'
The idea is that Paul (the model) is a DIY car mechanic who spends time getting his hands nice and oily. But, no problem. Because now there's a new product: Spit and Rub (not its real name). You pour a tiny sachet of blue crystalline powder on your hands; briskly spit on them; give them a good rub. Dirt and oil falls off; your hands are left spanking baby-clean.
'Can you hold the spanner a bit more to the front? Give it more glint . . . Yeah, that will do. No, it doesn't matter that it's not connecting with a nut. It looks right.' But then the rush job arrives in the hands of a smooth, pink-shirted, slightly ruffled man. He wants some photographs copied. Suddenly there's a lot of bending and crouching in a different part of the studio. There's also a little bit of bantering of the tense and humourless variety.
Andy: 'Have a look Jim.'
Ruffled Man: 'It's all right, I'll trust you.'
Andy: 'You're the first person to trust me. Ha. ha. Ha.'
Together: 'Ha, ha, ha . . . ha ha.'
Back to the main job of the day. 'We need a bit more texture. A bit more mood,' says Andy. The model looks like a Vermeer painting with the addition of an axle-jack. Light is flooding under the car from a spotlight. The photographer's assistant, Mark ('This is a realistic situation. This is real. This is the real thing'), is busying himself removing fat cables out of the shot. Then the Creative Director arrives.
The Creative Director, wearing a shirt that looks as though a wigwam has collided with a vegetable stall, says: 'It's a lovely day,' in a dull voice. He moves to the darkest and coollest part of the studio to take stock of the situation, then hops around the set a bit: 'How are we doing then?'
'We're not a million miles away now,' says Andy.
'His hands aren't oily enough.' So we start again.
Three o'clock and there's a problem with the lighting. Creative Director: 'I want something really subdued. Really moody. Is there a problem with doing that?'
Andy: 'No problem, but his thumb's out of focus; it doesn't seem as crisp.'
Creative Director: 'Well kill his thumb then. But I don't want overkill.' Once everything has been killed and the test Poly (Polaroid) has come out okay, Andy loads a film and clicks. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.
It's half past six and after much clicking the job is over.
'Greeeeat,' says Andy.
'Yeees, greeeat,' says the Creative Director, not to be outdone.
'Ace,' says Andy.
'Bloody hell. Ace,' says the Creative Director.
As Andy flicks through the Polys, something strange happens. His face slips from its bearded pink to a bearded puce.
'I don't believe it,' he says.
'No, I don't believe it,' he says once more. We wait. We wonder. Andy's jaw drops a bit. We continue to wonder.
Eventually he points to a infinitesimal bit of blue and red on the Polaroid. This bit of blue and red is wedged between tiny bits of green, orange and transparent things which are arranged on the amateur mechanic's work-shelf set up for one of the shots.
'What's wrong?' asks the Creative Director.
'That's the Polaroid box. It's in the shot. I left the Poly box on the shelf.'
'No one will know,' says the Creative Director truthfully, 'it's microscopic.'
'I know,' says Andy. 'But it's not professional.'
The young photographer's assistant who has spent his day 'dumping' power packs (which involves setting all the flash guns off so a little humble lightning fills the studio), shifting props around, fetching sandwiches and making coffee, looks admiringly up to Andy. Given the disparity in height he actually looks down admiringly on Andy but with a quotient of respect writ large enough on his face for everyone to be aware of it. He doesn't mind staying another hour, or another 10 hours if necessary. This man Andy is a Professional. -
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