In this Richard Avedon photo, we don't see backsides, not the elephants', not the model's. She's svelte, sylph-like. What was she thinking? Was she allowed to speak? These questions may sound trite to those who know more about fashion photography than I do--I don't know much. When I saw a fashion shoot on Ocean Drive I was shocked: the model was almost completely mute, though I heard her murmur a few words just before she and the crew changed location, crossing the street to the Versace house.
There, near the steps where the designer was murdered, the model relaxed a little, shifting her weight before the shoot continued. She was silent. The tag shows at the striped sweater's back neckline.
While the photographers conferred, she did not speak. Mid-day in hot Florida, dressed for fall in long sleeves, she waited, alone. Plump, scruffy, in short sleeves, clothes rumpled, the photographers worked to get the best shots.
She worked too, obeying, keeping her cool. I wondered about the final shots: would she look powerful and perfect? The goal is to sell a product. I'll take for free the backside tag, hair-shifting breeze, plump belly. Will I be open enough to let my subjects speak? Photographers whose work I admire often record their subjects' words. Others I also admire, shoot living subjects with such empathy that I don't miss the words. Empathy and also the shock of recognition: Arbus shows us herself in her subjects. Do you worry about such things? Do you let your subjects speak?