Despite having done quite a few of them now, I still always end up being pleasantly surprised when I am contacted to do a photo session – and Mike’s email was nothing but genuinely lovely. He actually had discovered my work while perusing google one day and found himself on one of my older blogs, and began investigating all of my work across the far-flung corners of the internet until he decided that I was the one he would like to pay to document the physical changes his body had gone through after four years of rigorous fitness training and dieting.
His request wasn’t an unusual one, however it was one of my first experiences photographing a cis-male in an intimate (read: in nothing but skivvies and a smile) setting… Despite my apprehension however, I agreed to a consultation to feel him out and make sure he wasn’t an axe murderer.
Much to my surprise (although I had a feeling it wouldn’t be terrible), Mike was a charming, attractive, and intelligent individual, and I was instantly put at ease by his smile and genuine demeanor. I agreed to do the session, and his excitement to work with me was palpable – always a good sign for a photographer.
On the day of the shoot I was greeted with chocolate chip cookies with fleur de sel and a fresh hot mocha with coffee beans he had roasted himself, and after satiating my sweet tooth we began the shoot. While I don’t often find myself in the presence of bodybuilders and fitness buffs, I have always been fascinated with anatomy and aesthetics and Mike provided a compelling example of both. The first half of the shoot was spent indoors with artificial lighting doing form studies (which I suppose is the best way to describe rather objectifying images of intense musculature), which was surprisingly fun – especially with me being the still-life fetishist I am and Mike being so skilled at standing still in stressed poses for extended periods of time. As the shoot progressed I could feel him getting more and more comfortable in front of the camera, and less concerned about the fact that he was essentially traipsing around in his undergarments in front of a member of the opposite sex, who was holding a camera and bossing him around, nonetheless. I think it was a pretty good exercise for the both of us. (fitness pun, zing!)
After the first half of the session we crammed into my car and drove up to one of my favorite spots along Highway 70 for some grittier, dirtier, metal-encased manly man photos. This part of the shoot was a bit more of my idea, and definitely a bit more up my alley as far as what I prefer to do when photographing people; and the shoot location was a mecca of beautiful, even-toned natural light. Despite being a bit of a neat-freak, Mike was definitely a trooper when it came to tromping around in the dirt and rust of the terrain and repeatedly buttoning and unbuttoning his fancy dress shirts and flexing his plethora of muscle-parts, which made my job pretty much the easiest thing ever.
As is common in the majority of my photo shoots, I teetered on the edge of finding myself in an internal battle to ensure that I’m not being overly objectifying with my subjects (lovely peeps I’ve worked with previously, if I ever made you feel like a light fixture or start posing you like you have interlocking joints I am seriously sorry – it’s not entirely my fault, I’m a product of my environment), but the rapport I was quickly establishing with Mike ensured that I was really able to capture his personality and quirks and the way his eyes lit up when he smiled, which was very much a good thing. By the end of the shoot, we were both sweaty and dusty and thirsty but very very pleased with our results.
There were also some post-shoot waffles involved, which was both delicious and entertaining, as Mike hadn’t eaten any carbs in a heinously long time and treated the greasy-spoon diner waffles like they were legitimately the best thing in the entire universe. I’m pretty sure his enthusiasm made my waffles taste a bit more gourmet.
All in all, I felt very fortunate to be able to work with someone as engaging, pleasant and interesting as Mike. His outlook in terms of self-improvement and his ability to set and meet goals for himself and not for others is exceptional, inspiring, and a trait I won’t soon forget. I look forward to the privilege of documenting his progress and physique again in the future!