In 1987 the great Francesco Scavullo was the last photographer to shoot my portrait for the cover of my novel, Flash, published in '88 by S&S. Scavullo, sadly so, is no longer with us, but his longtime companion Sean Byrnes is and handles his archive of which I am proud to be a part. Scavullo also had photographed me for a Cosmopolitan cover in 1971. I worked with him as a model all of these years which was a real pleasure. He liked working with me as well and wanted to put my picture in his book of the most beautiful women over 45., but he did not live to see this dream.
On April 26, 2010, twenty-three years later, Joshua Bright, who frequently works for Vogue as a reportage photographer, again took my portrait. It was for the New York Times Style Section, to be published May 6, 2010.
The setting was Gallagher's Restaurant at 228 W. 52nd Street in New York City -- Norman Mailer's favorite restaurant. For nine years from 1983 to 1991 Norman and I had a love affair which I wrote about in my memoir, Loving Mailer, which just has been published. Almost every week he would visit me and edit a chapter of my novel Flash. We would then make love and afterward, go to lunch. Often he chose Gallagher's, and in Loving Mailer I describe some of our lunches there.
Now, twenty-three years after having been photographed by Scavullo, my last foray into modeling, a top fashion photographer was going to do my portrait. I was a nervous wreck.
On Facebook I met Colleen Delaney, a charming documentary filmmaker, who helped me to find a New York salon and make-up artist to bring me into the 20st Century.
Colleen, who would be a great guest for TV show The Apprentice, helped assist Josh Bright with the shoot and helped me with my many last-minute, insecurity-driven needs.
At high noon on April 26 the interview had been conducted at Gallagher's by the Times dapper reporter Alex Williams (who reminded me a bit of Clark Kent). I nibbled a steak and asparagus salad while fielding questions familiar to me from my own days as a journalist.
Since Alex was writing for the Style section, he asked what designer I was wearing. I hesitated as what I was wearing was whatever had been buried deep in my closet. My idea of going shopping today is to look further back in my closet. I hate shopping and throwing things out -- especially items of sentimental value..
After a long pause I said, "Richard Tyler designed my jacket and my blouse is Mary McFadden."
"Vintage," he replied.
I had not wanted to mention the award-winning Richard Tyler, as we had had a long affair.
Four hours after the interview, after my hair and make-up had been done, I returned to Gallagher's to be photographed.
A handsome, sprightly Joshua Bright introduced himself and then went off to explore the possible locations within Gallagher's to take my portrait, Colleen assisting him.
He decided to begin in the refrigerated room that contained steaks hanging on racks as they aged. It was very cold, but very interesting. We also did some shots outside. Then some in the back of the restaurant. But my favorite was a picture with a waiter who remembered me from the mid-1980s when I would lunch here with Norman.
I do not own a digital camera or any dvd equipment and have missed this whole era.
Intentionally. Too confusing. I like instant cameras that you buy and throw away when you're done with them.
In any event, after Josh clicked perhaps 5 or 6 shots he would pause and look down at his camera, hold it at a certain angle, seeming to inspect it. Each time he did this I thought that he was checking to see if my image had broken the camera.
After a few of these episodes, I asked, "Is your camera broken"
"No, why do you ask?' he said.
"Because you are always looking down at it after a few shots."
"I'm looking at photos of you to check the lighting."
I was shocked. In my modeling days, the photographer used Polaroid's to check the light before the proper shoot began. No longer. I had been living in the Ice Age when it came to modeling. Today, as a writer, I no longer cared about such things as photographs or even what I looked like.
Still, after Josh told me what he had been doing, my emotions somehow missed contact with him and I resented the time he took looking at the pictures of me in his camera In the old days a shoot was not interrupted ...no matter what ...because it would disrupt the relationship that was building between the model and the photographer. A model's expressions were directly related to her interaction with the photographer and this relationship made the photograph. Similarly, the emotions of the photographer were somehow engaged during the shoot, and this affected the photographs as well.
Today I look at it like this: while technology now offers a quick fix as to lighting and editing, the process did not inspire my emotions, my confidence, my expressions, my rapport with the photographer. Nothing against Josh Bright -- it's technology I'm talking about. While it offers a quick fix to many problems, the long intimate uninterrupted session of my relating to a photographer while creating a picture was absent -- and it was sorely missed. Give me the good old days of doing a photo shoot any day. Technology just doesn't encourage intimate emotional rapport with the photographer, in fact, it prevents it.
Still, the picture Josh took was beautiful. Maybe this is all that matters and I should pack it in and be grateful. But something has been lost.