By on Apr 13, 2010 in Fiction

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Camera with woman in lens

It began as a simple assignment. As an upcoming — read struggling — photographer, I took whatever jobs I was offered. One of those happened to be taking pictures of women. When I told my friends, they laughed and raised their glasses. They slapped my shoulders, stinging my skin. I laughed along, though I didn’t find this funny. I told myself it was experience, and I mentioned it on my resumé without drawing too much attention to the details. So the gig became a fixture, the fixture a job.

It wasn’t sexy. Some of the girls who arrived were scared witless, desperate to be something they were not, despite all their beauty, running away so quickly my camera barely caught them. Fleeting girls, trapped for a few hours in my lens, and then gone, disappeared back to their lives.

There were addicts, too, the girls whose job was the highest rung of a ladder they were balancing on. I asked the make-up assistant, my friend Georgina, to cover the track marks as best she could, despite her objections. She argued it would feed their problems; I countered by reminding her what they would do for cash if we turned them away.

This job, for all its faults, did show me how the camera lied, if nothing else. I would look deep into the lens, see the image, these beautiful girls next door, forever 21 and beaming, a friend, a seductress, every sensation to every set of eyes; the props — a little sand, an umbrella, a beach-ball — all at hand and shining. And then lights would fade, the girl would step out of the light, and she would return to who she was — huddled in a blanket, shaking, trying to smile and trying not to scream. That was the cruelest part of all, I think. To see for a second what they could be, before they returned to what they were.

Was I exploiting them? No. I never tried to seduce them; seeing them all up close, willing and needy,  left me cold and unmoved. I was falling in and out of love with Georgie every other week, and she was enough for me, when she stormed out and when she slowed down. But between us we tried to look after them, as best we could. And I drank in circles and knew enough to know we were intervening and keeping them as best we could. I was trapped as much as they were, my agent giving me just enough to keep pushing. My life pushed me just enough to keep needing. I was trapped in the lights as much as anyone else. And then came Eve.

I opened the studio early, as I always did on Friday. Georgie had called in sick, or tantamount to it by going on a bender and passing out in my toilet. I looked at the schedule: the regular girls and a new model. I smiled; it looked as if I could be up and out by the afternoon, just as Georgie usually resurfaced and was ready to meet me in the city. I prepared the props and made myself swear I’d be out by three.


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Chris Castle is English but works in Greece. He has sent his work out in the summer of 2009 and had been accepted over fifty times as of October. His main influences include Ray Carver and the films of PT Anderson.