top of page
Girl Taking a Photo
Week #8

It was my first gig as a professional photographer. Well, I was technically the third support photographer, but this was the first time I was getting paid to take photos. I didn’t care I was the spare one at the set. If even one of my photos end up in the magazine from the shoot it’ll do wonders for my career. Even if they don’t show in the printed, the online version might carry it. End of the day, I was just grateful for the opportunity.

“What’s the shoot on?” my roommate, Jackie, was in her PJs eating breakfast still. Her office work day didn’t start for another few hours. She woke-up early because of the racket I was making while packing.


“I think it’s for the cover story next month. All the instructions I got was that it’s a feature story which is always the glittery world of some celebrity’s life. But given the magazine, I’m sure there’ll be lots of wardrobe changes and setting changes and all that.”

I was incredibly excited. Even though it will be a very long day of standing around I still loved the glamorous world all this represented. I had never thought this would be my first paid gig. I had expected a long line of baby pictures, graduation parties and family portraits before getting this kind of a break.


“I hope it’s not one of the stuffy celebrities that look good on a cover but has the personality of a paper weight. Or even worse, some rude narcissist that thinks the world goes around them. I’d want my first shoot to be of someone charming and nice both on the cover and off.”


“That’s nice. But I can’t be that picky right now. Plus, I don’t think there is such a celebrity. This can be my big break with the magazines. When I’m the hottest ticket in photography and everyone’s lining up for my time, I’ll make sure to make a personality test part of the selection process and we can find out if Mr. Nice Celebrity is out there.”

“That sounds good. I’ll help you write the personality test and even help you administer it Ms. Sarcastic… who knows, we might find that rare celebrity out there with substance and we can see if you can capture that part of their personality in your photographs. Now that would be some good photographs. We can put them up under the theme of… the heart of charming” Jackie laughed.


“Jacqueline Martin, stop daydreaming and making trouble. I want to stay excited and do well today. Now be helpful and help me find my tele-photo lens. I don’t know where I put it.”


“Why do you need a telephoto lens? Isn’t the guy going to be like two feet away from you?”


“I don’t know what I’ll need so I’m taking all my equipment. Stop asking questions. Just help.”


Jackie did help. I had all my equipment packed and ready to go in the next 10 minutes.


“Good luck today. You’ll do great no matter how crummy the celebrity is. Your pictures always capture the best of people…”


“Thank you, Jackie. You know just what to say.” With a quick hug I ran out the door.

The ride to the studio was uneventful. The security check was, however, eventful. I had to take out every piece of lens and camera body part for inspection. I didn’t know if this was routine or if it was because of the particular celebrity. The anticipation to find out who it is was killing me.

The studio was set up inside a massive three-story warehouse. The front of the building looked like regular offices but the back was staged in various settings – everything from bedrooms to boardrooms. They were all just a little bit glitzier than what you find in real life.


The production assistant that was escorting me kept walking past all of it until we were at the very edge of the building.


“We are starting the shoot in the loft area. Ms. Richards is in the back corner over there. She’ll be doing a briefing to all the photographers and support staff in about 5 minutes. Pick a spot on that table and put your gear down there and you can walk over to the briefing area.”

I found a spot at the edge of the table to put my equipment down. I quickly looked around to see what others were doing. The other photographers had picked spots along the table. They had their bags open and were selecting a camera and lens to carry with them. Everyone seemed sure of what they were doing. I didn’t want to look any less confident. I picked my basic set and put the strap around my neck. But leaving the rest of my lenses was hard. The equipment here was worth more than everything else I possessed. On second thought, I turned around to get the wide angle lens my parents had bought me for last Christmas. It was the highest end, most expensive item in my bag.

I must’ve been more nervous than I thought because while trying to exchange the lenses I dropped it. My heart stopped as I watched the single most expensive item I had, slip through my fingers and gain momentum in its inevitable flight towards the floor. If time hadn’t slowed down in my despair, I would’ve missed the hand that caught it last second.


“Oh my gosh, thank you so much. I was sure the lens was a goner. You are a life saver.”


“You should be more careful. These things are expensive, aren’t they?”


“Huh?” When I looked up it was to see Oppa holding out the lens for me.

“Or did I save a cheap one? Is that why you are not taking it back?”


My first photoshoot is of Oppa? I’m going to have real photos of Oppa that I get to take myself?... the string of questions screaming inside my head made it hard to focus on what he was saying for a moment.


“Well, I’ve got to go over there for intros in a minute. I’m going to attach this lens to your base because you look like you might have butterfingers right now. I hope that’s what you were doing?” He spoke slowly as if talking to a 5 year old child. When I continued to stare Oppa picked up the base that was hanging around my neck and screwed in the lens.

“Get my good side today, will you?” With that and a wink Oppa was gone.


I stared at his back for a moment. I still couldn’t believe this was my first gig. I should be paying someone for letting me do this. I couldn’t wait to tell Jackie.


“Ms. Richards will begin the briefing in a moment. Please make your way to the back corner quickly. You all know she’s not the most patient person” The production assistant poked her head in and reminded.


I quickly packed the basic lens in the bag and followed the others out.


“Let’s get started then.” Charlotte Richards was the most sought-after photographer in the fashion industry. She had risen to the top over a career that has spanned more than two decades. She's been my role model since I was old enough to hold a magazine. “As you all can see the cover story is on Oppa and his return to the big screen. This is his first shoot since he completed military service. So, we have to capture his maturity but also remind the world he’s still the world’s sweetheart, which I know is not hard to do.” Charlotte’s smile towards Oppa was a mixture of pride and love. “Now the assignments. Leo, you have the left of me and Rapha you have the right. You’ve both worked with me before. You know how this works. New girl, you have candid shots. What that means is you need to be on your toes at all times. The cover story will need unexpected moments – the human-interest side. That’s what you have to do. I need at least a hundred good shots by the end of the day to choose from. Is that clear?”

“Yes, ma’am.” As scared as I was of disappointing Charlotte, she had just handed me my dream job. I have the license to follow Oppa for a day and chronicle his day from dawn to dusk. What else could I ask for in life?


The next couple of hours went by in a flurry of lights, set changes and wardrobe changes. I was able to capture Oppa’s stylist fixing his hair and his make-up artist touching up the shiny spots in-between photos. Though the people interacting with Oppa changed, the expressions they all wore felt the same. Each one had a smile coming in and never left Oppa’s side without a laugh. From behind the camera, I couldn’t hear the conversation but it was obvious his staff enjoyed the work.


I finally inched myself close behind Oppa’s left shoulder when the stylist was changing his hair once again. I wanted to capture that moment when the stylist’s eyes twinkle and her face lights up in a delighted smile. I’ve seen it happen with everyone over and over the whole morning but my focus had always been Oppa’s face till now. The stylist was mediocre in her looks but in that moment when he made her laugh the pure joy that came out made for a beautiful, happy picture. I took at least ten successive photos with the hope that one of them would have captured the moment.

“I thought your job is to take my pictures. Why are you lurking behind me and taking my stylists photos?” Once the stylist was gone Oppa turned his head to ask as I was quickly scanning the pics.

“They all end up laughing the same way whenever they are close to you. It transforms their faces. I wanted to catch that. And I was curious to see how you make that happen.” I absent mindedly responded while continuing to go through the pictures I had just captured. The transformation was truly mesmerizing.

“So, you were eavesdropping then?”

“Sorry, it wasn’t intentional. But I hope the article will cover how you tell jokes to your staff to keep them entertained as they work. That’s really sweet.”

“Their days are long, and I imagine boring, having to wait around fixing hair and make-up. They are just kids. Least I can do is make them laugh.”

I stared at his back as he walked to the next set. All I could think was that he didn’t know the meaning of boring. 

Lunch break was almost done when I noticed Oppa slipping out of the studio back doors. I followed, hoping to capture a few shots outside. It paid off. Oppa looked like he was sun bathing. He had lifted his face up to the sky and closed his eyes. His hands were in his pockets. I could see his chest lift in slow and deliberate breaths. It was like a veil had lifted and he was back to being a carefree teenager just enjoying a walk in the sun. It however felt like I was intruding on a private moment. I decided to turn around and walk back. The world could live without this picture.

“I know you are there.” Oppa spoke without changing his posture.


“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude.”


“Don’t worry. I know you are just doing your job. You are just more committed than most.”


“You know how it is… first time gig… extra enthusiasm… all that good stuff.”


“Oh… I didn’t know this was your first gig. It makes so much more sense now. It’ll wear off in time. All the celebrity faces will start to blend and it’ll become just a job soon enough.”


“I somehow don’t expect every face will blur together. I love photography because it gives me the chance to keep every memory fresh in mind. So, I’m really hoping it doesn’t all blur into one big blot.”

Oppa had turned to watch me speak. The intensity of his gaze was almost uncomfortable.


“Maybe I’ll get to ask you about it when you are a big shot like Charlotte. Say in 10 years?”


I followed him back into the building soundlessly. I wish I had taken the photo of sunbathing Oppa to remember this moment. I wouldn't have submitted it to Charlotte even if I had taken it. 

The afternoon went fast. I got pictures of a relaxing Oppa chatting with his manager, a pensive Oppa staring into space in between set changes and a tired Oppa stretching his muscles. End of the day I must’ve caught a thousand moments easily. Together they told a story of a hardworking, kind human that would be perfect for Jackie's Heart of Charming portrait.


Finding a hundred for Charlotte won’t be a problem. Limiting myself to a hundred, however, might be.


The sun was setting when we were all dismissed.


Charlotte gave a cursory thanks in her, now familiar, efficient manner and asked all of us to upload our photos by the end of the next day. Oppa’s thanks was more heartfelt.

“I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to all of you. Today was an important mile marker for me as I take a turn, as Charlotte said, to be a mature adult. All that you’ve done today I know will help me in that transition. I really appreciate your time and hard work. I promise to do my best to repay your support. Thank you!”


The thirteen-hour day suddenly felt well worth the effort.


I packed my bag and cleaned up the desk space I had used before taking leave. As I was leaving the studio I saw Oppa and his team loading their bags into a van. Knowing this might be the last time I will see them I decided to say my farewell.


“Oppa, thank you for putting up with me today. I think I got some great photos thanks to your patience. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with you and your team.”


“I’d love to see the pics when you have them ready. Here’s my manager’s card. Will you let me know when you can share?”


“Of course.” I was happier than words could tell.


As I turned to go Oppa stopped me and asked, “I’m taking my team for ice-cream. Wanna join us?”

Week #8
Week #5
bottom of page