Working with the Working Girls: Yasmina


Part two on my series  (previous chapter: on working with the highly successful, most notorious NYC escort company which was eventually felled pulling Governors from office and administrators in jail. I was the inhouse photographer for a year. When I was lucky some of the girls would throw me extra photos for my own files and sign the releases. Names have been changed.

This isn’t a sexy story. I didn’t bang this chick. We didn’t fall in love. This shoot ended in tears and embarrassment:

I’ve photographed alot of people. At last estimate almost 2,500. And not big group shots, either. I mean one on one moments with the sole purpose of having their picture taken. Granted alot of this was when I was younger still learning how to take a portrait, and I’ve done duty shooting artists, actors, ran a headshot company for awhile, celebrities, nudes, porn and as this: ( )  previous entry explained, shooting for the busiest, most lucrative escorts in NYC history.

Not all these shoots were winners. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a talent for photography, per se. But I did have a talent for learning and knew, even from the beginning what I was interested in capturing: a genuine moment in sometimes sexualized situation that wasn’t always sexual. An authenticity that looked beautiful. Because the women in my life have been beautiful, in body and spirit. I’ve been pretty lucky. I digress.
I generally make it a mission to make the subject the object of focus, adoration and celebration on a shoot. Most especially if the shoot is geared towards beauty or sex. But sometimes out of sheer volume, mass, just the number of people I (or others) have shot not every shoot can be as inspired as the next and I do have offdays. I’m always hoping to make an vital connection with someone (both new and long standing muses) but sometimes it’s not there, or I’m tired or worse involved in my own life while during a shoot. This is a problem, because I don’t think a shoot should be about me.
I dug up these photos tonight hoping to continue my series on escorts in NYC. I’m aware they’re probably unremarkable. I was a much greener shooter (maybe 7 years ago?) and this in particular was a rough day.
This girl was on a conveyor belt of girls that day, shooting quickly at late hours in the Hudson hotel. And while yes sometimes I’ve forged fantastic connections with my subjects, many of them hookers, she wasn’t having any of my just add a smile charm or pre-rehearsed hustle. I placed her as Eastern European. She had a hardness to her (as many of them did) but she exploded with charisma and sexual presence. I was supposed to be shooting promo photos for the company. Some of the girls were more at ease doing this than others. She was not
 “Who are you?”, she said. ”I’m Josh, I’m the photographer”  I reply. 
“Why are you wearing a tie to a photoshoot?” she scoffs. “I dunno, I like to dress up, make a good impression” I say. I do try to do that when I can. Girls are getting naked for me, it’s the most I can do. 
“It looks stupid” she said. She meant it. It did. I had been working 12 hours and maybe it never looked good in the first place. 
 ”Ok, let’s shoot” I suggest.
“No nude!!!” she demanded. I say: “Ok”. “No nude!!!” she reasserts.
“Ok, whatever you’re comfortable with.” And that had been the memo. Shoot as sexy as I could within their comfort level. They understood the sexier (more explicit) the shot the more sales they would probably make.
We started shooting. By route, girl pinups.  Nothing of note.
“Don’t show this angle” she commanded. “OK” I would say. “Don’t show too much of my face”, she says. This is where, after working around the clock shooting maybe 18 people I’m beginning to strain. “Let me see photo” she started saying after every third frame. If you’re imagining vaguely Russian accent, you won’t be far off.
“Sure, yup” I say. I’m sweating and genuinely need a break. “Why do you stop!” she demands. “I need to clean this tattoo of mine”. She looked baffled. I had just gotten a tattoo a few days earlier and it was wrapped in plastic around my arm. It had needed new ointment and wrapping and it was an opportunity to take a mini break.
“Let me see”. She came into the bathroom where I was cleaning it up and she nodded. It was some text from a play I had done recently. The lettering had been made by my ex, who suggested I get it and had done the design.
She showed me a tattoo she had herself in some effort to bond I think. I took her cue and thanked her. “That’s really sexy” It was. I realized I didn’t know her name.
“This is ridiculous but I don’t even know your name”. ”Yasmina” she offered.
I missed a breath.
“What?”, I said. “My name is Yasmina” she said.
In a flash the room began to spin when one tries to understand extreme coincidence or chance. Yasmina was the name of my ex who had helped design the tattoo and also had recently passed, tragically from cancer at a young age.
“What is the date today, do you know?” She mentions the date. Tears instantly well up in my eyes. It’s the one year death anniversary of my own Yasmina. I hadnt even remembered. Consciously, that is. Somehow I had felt off and sad the entire day. Of course now, I’m shocked and embarrassed
I took a moment and relayed the story. She considered it for abit:”I understand” she ventured.
We sat in mostly silence for a couple minutes. I arbitrarily asked her if she liked her job. She gave me the favour of passing on that conversation and then she came in to give me  a hug. We held each other for a second until I pulled back to wipe my tears off this sweet hooker-strangers cleavage. We have a laugh.
“Come, we’ll make sexy photos. A little only” She offers.
I smile.
“But no showing pussy!”
I didn’t show her pussy.
Strangers in NY. Sometimes you fall in love for a moment. Sometimes hookers do have hearts of gold and can create shelter  and solace for an hour.
Thank you Yasmina.
Clicking on the gallery above makes the photos larger.
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