Following text and pictures by Tim Gallo.
“We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds”
In fact I hate nude photography. So far it destroyed my private life, brought me attention I don`t deserve and put me in a creative struggle I never experienced before. Nude photography stays on a thin line between art and anything else. If the girl is “likable enough” then it doesn`t matter if the picture is good or not – cause you watch it out of desire. I hate it.
But on my creative way as a photographer and movie director, I realized that if you hate something it doesn`t mean you have to ignore it. On the contrary, doing something you hate helps to understand yourself and to find a subject that is as interesting as disturbing. So when I met Cay for the first time I knew that she was the perfect one to guide me through the dark tunnels of my soul.
We met at an exhibition, she was looking at a portrait of herself taken by another photographer. I made a few comments about the picture and so our relationship started. Cay is a one of the top class pole dancers in Tokyo, she is also slowly becoming famous as a V-Cinema actress (mainly R-Rated yakuza movies, that go straight to dvd). I have to tell that pole dancing here in Japan is not like in other countries. First of all girls don`t get naked and the show is more concentrated on the dance itself. Funny thing I never saw her dancing, but just by looking at her you could tell she was one of the best…
As I usually do before any private shoots (when there is only me and the model) I ask my model for a date. And so I did with Cay… we went for a lunch now and then, talking about different stuff. Cay was different from all the women I had known before – fearless, over intelligent, lost in life and full of pain, that forced her dance to be more expressive and thus more entertaining.
Slowly we got to know each other and when she felt comfortable enough I talked her into the shoot. At first when I told her that I was interested in shooting her naked she refused, but when I explained that nude photography is something I don`t like and my reasons about it she said (as I expected her to say) that maybe it`s time to open a new door. We didn`t discussed the details of the shoot thus making it more exciting. I told her only one thing which was the hardest to say – that after this shoot I might loose interest in her as a model and that our friendly relationship may change after that. More to it, if our relationship don`t change then probably we did something wrong and I definitely will fail in creating good pictures. Now it`s always hard thing to say, but I`ve been taught by my sensei (teacher) to always be sincere with the model, slowly getting from her something that she didn`t expect herself.
I chose a small and cheap love hotel in Kichijoji, administred by two old ladies and called Inokashira Hotel. It is a perfect place for a shoot – old-fashioned, unpredictable – all the rooms are different and you never know what room will be introduced. Since shooting inside love hotels is a prohibited thing I had only one umbrella light (300w, Comet monoblock), which was easy to bring unfounded. I took zoom lens and 50mm lens.
I installed the light, made few test shots and we started…
Cay was moving around me, slowly getting her clothes off, smiling and giggling to me. I moved around her with the camera, changing position of the umbrella according to her position, bouncing light from walls, mirrors, tables, even from the tv screen.
I don`t know, maybe I was too tense or maybe she felt uncomfortable, but after 30 minutes of shooting inside the room I couldn`t concentrate and I didn`t felt good about the pictures. I know that photography is supposed to betray, that there is nothing interesting in getting pictures as you expect, but still it was too different from what I had in mind. It was all too simple, the pictures were too guided, unnatural – just a beautiful naked girl and nothing else. There was just no me inside it: “I” was the only missing in the subject.
I told Cay sincerely that I didn’t feel good about the shoot and maybe we should have a break. Cay was very nice and understanding, so we ended up drinking japanese tea (there is always coffee or tea pot prepared in this hotel): she absolutely naked, me all dressed up with the camera put aside. While drinking tea I couldn`t help mentioning the bruises and marks on her body and that is when she told me that she has this thing about scars. Pain and struggle excite her, she said. She also decided to show me her pierced tongue, which in retrospective decided the fate of this shoot. I never kissed a girl with a pierced tongue and I always wondered what it feels like. I had to ask her…
– I wonder how it tastes – I said. And our eyes met.
Now I knew that she was seeing someone, and I also had a girlfriend at that time. I knew that both of us were supposed to act professionally. But those were my dark days…
In no time we started kissing, forcing each other to bed… and when we both get excited enough to make love, somehow I found the strength to stop and to take the camera in my shaking hands. Making love was not exactly what I had in my mind. I told her that I wanted to make love to her through the camera and that I was going to try to get her out from my mind and from my body. Now, when I think about it, it was the stupidest thing I ever said. But at that time it worked and the shoot was tense enough.
Finally I knew what I wanted to portray: The darkest side of my soul. A foolish attempt to trick my loneliness, to cure it. I wanted to portray the Absolute Cure for Loneliness, a cure that never exists. Probably she felt the same… as shoot progressed we both got more silent and in the end there was just the sound of the shutter and of her body moving in the water.
I wanted to show her the way she was – alluring, dark with the skin full of bruises and marks that she left on herself. And the way I wanted her to be – pure white skinned, transparent and pure.
After the shoot was over she slowly put her clothes on and we got back to drinking tea. We both felt exhausted, with nothing to say. I took a cigarette and finally recognized the sound of rain beating on the thick windows of the room…
I received all kind of comments on the series with Cay. Some say it’s dark, some say it’s erotic, some say it’s dirty, some even say it is not “photography”. As for myself, I believe it’s the worst sincere photography I did. I know a photographer should lie to express things he feels… Cause sometimes reality is not as pleasant as we expect it to be, not so watchable. But I couldn’t do that in this one. And now that time has passed I am glad that I didn`t.