2017.01.01 These Arms are Snakes, starring Priscella

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I originally wrote this story for Junnnktank!.

I took a business trip to Los Angeles a little while ago. Whenever I travel I try to set up a few shoots since it gives me an opportunity to shoot people I wouldn’t get a chance to work with otherwise.

I sifted through dozens of Modelmayhem profiles, trying to find a girl who is worth the time and energy. Evaluating each girl, staring intently at her photos, trying to see what she really looks like. I never trust a model who disables the “Credited Photos” feature of Modelmayhem. Girls disable it so nobody can see the bad photos taken of them by photographers they are embarrassed to have shot with. But I can’t shoot a girl if I haven’t seen any bad photos of her. It’s too risky, like meeting a girl who doesn’t have any full-body photos on Tinder.

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I found Priscella and said yes, she’s the one. That’s how it starts - the quest to get a random person from the internet in front of my camera. She’s good looking, but there are a lot of good looking girls that I have no interest in shooting. With her I sensed something under the surface - it wasn’t just her eyes, or her butt, or her terrifying tattoo. I’m always looking for some base molecule underneath a girl’s exterior that meshes well with my style, and I felt like she had it.

I was shocked by how shy and proper Priscella was. It was 90 degrees outside and she was wearing mom jeans and a turtleneck. Her voice was really quiet. She had the vibe of a nerdy girl who reads erotic poetry by candlelight on Saturday nights. But she was really into the wardrobe I brought and chose to wear some particularly titillating stuff.

Priscella had a vulnerability that came across in her expressions, which clashed with the glamourous-ness of her body. Some girls can stand a certain way and give the camera a look and it’s like seeing a majestic animal in the wild. I tend to think of this look as occurring naturally - some girls have it and some girls don’t. Very experienced girls can fake it, but Priscella didn’t strike me as particularly experienced. For her I didn’t think the look was natural as much as the emotional state that generated the look was natural.

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Some people have a chaos inside of them that manifests visibly. If you ask girls about it many of them will respond that everything I just said is bullshit, but I think some of this is subconscious. And photographers tend to project their emotional state onto whatever they are shooting, because I think that’s just a part of what photography is. So maybe I’m doing a bit of that here. But I don’t think that I am.

I tried a bunch of stuff as we shot. I laid on the floor and asked her to look down at me, and she did it. I asked her to stand on the desk and move around, and she did that too. She owned whatever I asked her to do. Some girls give me the side-eye, implying that what I’m asking them to do is stupid, or silly, or not tasteful. They don’t trust me, so they don’t allow themselves to fully submit to what I’m trying to do. Priscella was with me, she was on board, she bought in, she created, she thrived.

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I can remember sitting at a bar after the shoot, drinking a cocktail of tequila, jalapeno, and cactus or some weird fucking thing and thinking: “man, what a shoot that was.” But you can never really tell how good the photos are going to turn out until you’ve spent some time editing them. Sometimes your eyes lie to you in the moment, during the shoot. You think you have something good but the end result is mediocre, out of focus, overexposed, not framed well, not well thought out, the wardrobe didn’t work, the model looked bored, etc.. But I’ve now spent a great deal of time editing these photos, and I can still say that this shoot is one of my favorites.

Photography is always about creating memories, even when they are somewhat contrived memories of a girl dancing around a hotel room in her panties while posing for glamour photos. Priscella and I will probably never shoot again or even see each other again, but on this day, in this hotel in Los Angeles, something magical happened, and hopefully everyone enjoys the results of it. Thank you.

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