The first stop on my 30 hour trip to Seattle for Dancers Among Us was about an hour outside of town in Edmonds, WA. I was due to shoot a young dancer named Claire Conaty. Her mother, Leanne, had contacted me, asking if Claire could participate in a photo shoot. My schedule was already booked when Leanne emailed me, but once she mentioned that Claire attended Holy Rosary Catholic School, I took the bait.
"Can you get me access to the school? I'd need lots of students in the shot. Will they wear their uniforms? Oh boy, this could be AMAZING!"
The students all gathered in a classroom and waited. And waited. I was two hours late. By the time I arrived, they were feeling a bit stir crazy- I could tell by all the debris on the ground.
As I explained the purpose of the shoot, they were all respectfully quiet. And boring. I needed crazy energy, and they looked ready to fall asleep. I saw a paper airplane on the ground, and it gave me an idea. I told them all to grab some paper and throw it at the teacher- it was time to live out every student's fantasy. They stayed still, not sure what to do.
"I'm serious," I said.
"I'm serious," a boy's voice mocked me under his breath.
"Who said that?"
Everyone looked at the same kid. He smiled sheepishly.
"Perfect! That's the kind of attitude I'm looking for," I told him. "Come sit up front in Cyrus's desk, and be a real pain in the butt. Everyone follow his lead."
It didn't take them long to warm up. They all improvised masterfully, right down to a boy sleeping on the desk and two girls whispering in one another's ears. The teacher was a great sport, and Claire seriously rose to the occasion- she jumped off the desk thirty times, and nailed her pose every time!
When I really love a photograph, I will often say to myself, "Thank God I got that shot." This time, I mean it literally.