“I want to shoot something like the photo where you’re turned sideways, looking down and with your hands in your pockets. Do you happen to have that same shirt?”
It’s pretty funny when photographers ask this but it makes sense. It’s a great image and definitely one that helped my career early on. But I don’t want to re-create it; I already have the best possible version of that image in my portfolio and there’s no need for replicas.
I met Taschka over a year ago in LA via Model Mayhem, a networking web site for models, photographers, makeup artists, and stylists to display their work and collaborate. Taschka contacted me to shoot as part of her “Q Candy” collection and upon visiting her web site I was in complete awe of her work. I was surprised that she’d even want to shoot me as I had just started modeling 2 months prior and had a very limited portfolio to my face. But I jumped at the chance and our shoot was quickly arranged.
I wandered outside her building in Downtown LA looking for the entrance and couldn’t even find her name on the call box. I called and texted her but received no response. Carrying a large bag of clothes under the merciless Southern California sun I began to worry if she was even home. I didn’t really know what to expect as I never do with photographers I haven’t met before. Usually we meet in a public place where they find me because obviously they know what I look like. You see countless images from a photographer’s portfolio to try and get a sense of who they are but you can never guess what they’ll look like or how they’ll behave. But on this blistering hot LA day I was met with a giant hug from a sassy multi-racial woman with blue hair and whose arms were covered in little tattoos depicting a Mickey Mouse head and flowers. She led me up to her giant loft/studio filled with natural light and ample shooting space. The first thing she did was have me wash off all my makeup and wet my hair. I felt a bit insecure about being photographed without any makeup but she reassured me it would look better given that we were shooting an androgynous look. Duh.
Taschka pretty much styled the shoot, the prize piece being a blue tank top with arm openings all the way down to my waist. It was definitely not something I’d ever wear outside. She kept telling me to “go with it” and trust that everything I was wearing looked amazing.
Up until this point I had done a number of photo shoots with photographers of varying directorial styles. While some were very communicative and specific (to the point of physically posing me like a puppet) others hardly said anything at all leaving me to own devices. Taschka was a whole other level. As soon as she had the camera in her hands she immediately transformed into a robot. To be fair, she had forewarned me that this would happen so I wasn’t totally surprised. Behind her lens she knew every line, angle, curve, and flat surface on my face and body and intricately posed me (verbally and physically) into what felt like awkward positions for me. All I could think was, “I sure hope I don’t look retarded like this.” She coached me through various leg positioning to make me longer, head tilts and turns to elongate my neck and sharpen my jawline and facial movements to make me look either more feminine or more masculine. I was quite amazed at how tailored her directing was to my face and body until I realized that she’s shot so many types of models (occasionally non-models), both male and female, that she’s kind of a master at finding everyone’s best angles.
Despite my overall trepidation, Taschka was nothing but warm and professional which made all the difference in our 5-hour shoot. Once I added her photos to my portfolio, a whole new level of photographers reached out to shoot me.
Since that first shoot over a year ago Taschka and I have shot several more times in both LA and New York City, where she is also based. She’s also become one of my closest friends and allies and an endless source of inspiration. Whenever we shoot I still learn so much from her. She’s also become something of a career consultant (which she should seriously consider charging me for, but shhh…) that I always go to when dealing with other photographers and agencies.
Our most recent collaboration was something I had been wanting to shoot for some time but couldn’t quite figure out how to. My portfolio was lacking in a particular look that I had been interested in experimenting with but couldn’t find a photographer I was comfortable enough with to take the maiden voyage. So I asked Taschka if she would shoot it with her signature style and she agreed. It was definitely a learning experience for me, one that pushed me out of my comfort zone in many ways, but I am so grateful to have been able to shoot it with her.
In addition to being a talented photographer, Taschka is also a jewelry designer, stylist (though she would not admit to it), graphic designer, poet, writer, and filmmaker. She is filled to the brim with creativity and never ceases to amaze.