Somewhere in the middle of 1998, I booked my first professional photo shoot. There hadn't even been a casting, the department store client (Edgars) had chosen from our Z-cards and on the strength of agency recommendations. So it happened that I was one of a bunch of models, a photographer, stylist and a hair and make-up artist who set off for the coastal town of Langebaan on a cold, rainy day in the middle of winter.
We were off to shoot the Edgars summer catalogue, swimwear edition. I remember being shy and quiet on the trip out there, even though I was very pleased to meet an acquaintance, Chia, there too. I was excited to be working on something that was going to be seen by thousands of people, physical proof that I was finally getting closer to being a real working model. I was also quite scared. What if they weren't happy with my posing? What if the bikini's didn't fit? What if they thought I was too skinny or that my breasts were too small? I tried to blink away my fears and keep smiling, trying to appear confident and nonchalant.
We were shooting on a houseboat in Langebaan, and although it was not as wet as it had been in Cape Town when we left, the day was still cool and cloudy. We all cramped into the small space, trying to stay out of the way while it was someone else's turn in the make-up chair. Eventually we were all ready and the shoot got under way.
My first shot was me on my own, and the photographer (the brilliant Gerda Genis) told me to just relax against the rails, looking comfortable and dreamy. This seemed impossible to me, as I was shivering with goosebumps from the cold, the rails were too far apart to lie against and covered in splinters. I could feel the team's frustration rise as we struggled to get the shot, wind blowing hair all over my face and my pose just not relaxed and dreamy-looking enough. Eventually Gerda called it quits, moving on to the next shot. Urgh, I could only hope the next shot would be easier.
The rest of my shots were all in groups and as Gerda wanted us to be really natural and unposed, it was much easier to just hang out, chat and smile. The clothes all fit and I felt much better, confidence growing as the day wore on.
Just when I thought I had it all under control, Gerda told us to jump in. We stared at her in disbelief. At the best of times, in the middle of the long hot summer, the temperature of Langebaan's Atlantic water doesn't get anywhere near a pleasant swimming degree. Now it was cool, mostly overcast, the middle of winter and the water was freezing. While we remained shocked into silence, the rest of the behind-the-scenes team started yelling "Go on, jump, for goodness sakes, just do it already! You won't melt!" And so we jumped, into the icy cold, coming up gasping for breath, teeth chattering.
None of the jumping or swimming shots made it into the catalogue - we were probably looking far too blue and outraged! But as the sun was setting, peeking out from behind the clouds for a minute or two every now and then, Gerda captured some sun-soaked images.
I can hardly explain to you just how cold we were in the picture above, but with a bit of photographic magic and some seriously strained smiling skills, you'd never guess!
A few days after the shoot, my agency called me to say they'd missed one crucial shot and that I'd been booked to re-do it. I made my way into the city to meet the team at Gerda's studio. They'd been shooting all morning and were just ordering lunch as I got there, so they offered some to me. I was given a menu from a place I'd never heard of, Kauai. I ordered the first sandwich on the menu, the Healer. This is significant because twelve years later it's still my favourite take-out in the whole wide world. Healthy and tasty and filling and scrumptious, yum. After lunch, hair and make-up we drove out to the nearest beach and spent about twenty minutes taking this picture:
Not really mind-blowing or obviously important, and who could tell that I'm even on a beach? It's a strange industry for sure, I got paid half as much for this one easy shot as for the whole trip to Langebaan and the icy experience that proved to be!