'I am your Mirror'
I met Roberto, the Brazilian model
And then I met Roberto. I call him the Brazilian model.
When I saw him I was fascinated by his beauty.
Roberto, the Brazilian model, 'I am your mirror' photography project, © Loredana Denicola 2013/2014
Without a doubt he is a handsome boy, tall, dark hair, big black eyes, fit body.
He does many sports, he wants to become a personal trainer, also he had a very fascinating smile.
Roberto is 28 years old, he is a fashion model. I've always wondered how he can interact with photographers when posing for them and people who work with him. I helped him in making the video. It was a success. We remain in contact.
Then, one day, I asked him if he wanted to take part in my photography project ' I am your mirror' like a model.He is the second subject that I have chosen.
I asked him if he had any obsession.
He said that his obsession has always been to be a model and that he lives the life of his dreams.
He just gives himself completely to the photographers and he likes to be photographed. He is very sexy.
Even the way he was talking with this Italian/Brazilian accent made him more interesting.
I remember, at that time, he told me, he was living with a female model, Jenny. She is English. He met her during a fashion photoshoot for a British magazine, few days before meeting me, and he lives with her temporarily.
He came back home only in the evenings.
They sleep together but they don’t talk much.
He doesn't speak English.
He told me that they were having sex and that the situation was perfectly ideal for him.
He could sleep somewhere without paying the rent. He was having lot of fun.
Then, he showed me some pictures of them together.
He told me he was in love with his life and his modelling work, because he had the chance to meet beautiful models, with whom to spend the night and time together.
So, life in London was generous despite all the financial difficulties and the lack of work. He was determined to break into the fashion industry.
He had the look of a Brazilian/South Italian male, masculine, not sure if his look was suitable for the British fashion market.
He likes having sex and has never had a hard time in finding a girl.
As beautiful as it was, it could certainly be like that.
He also told me about some sexual experiences he had in London, kind threesome he had with older women, drunk, finding himself at home after a long night of revelry.
He was living an exciting time.
Roberto decides to help me with my project and accepts my proposal.
We decided to meet in my place as we couldn’t find another place/location.
I always liked to go and photograph people where they live. Their place reveal their personality and make the documentation more intimate, interesting.
During this project only three encounters gave me the chance to photograph them in their place/flat.
The rest refused or preferred to meet me somewhere else.
Or preferred to no take part at all.
I had few refusals, 7 or 8 strangers put me down, at last minute, after meeting me. I was using mostly two locations, during all the year.
One was Epping forest and the other my small flat or my communal garden. I wasn’t well organised.
I wasn’t very happy, but I had to be positive and try to be creative as much as I could with what I had, which wasn’t easy.I didn’t have much.
Roberto told me that he was obsessed with sex, in that period of time, and with his work. Despite he was beautiful to see, he had that little shyness that is not normal or unusual to find in a male confident model.
I liked that side of his character, this sweet vulnerability.
I found that he was respectful, and a good listener.
I was captured by his beauty and smile.
It’s hard to work with handsome men.
I found myself few times, in situations like this.
I was imagining him with white balloons on his head.
I thoughts that the balloons could represent his hidden sexual thoughts. Or maybe my hidden thoughts, who knows.
We arranged to meet in my flat.
That day, he arrived earlier.
I prepared some coffee with my Italian coffee machine. The situation, this time was different than before. Because he was a model I decided how to represent him.
My first idea was to photograph myself and twelve strangers that I would find through the Internet.
These strangers, unpaid, would be free to choose a time and place to be photographed. They could express themselves as they wished, and could be anonymous, or not.
I asked the strangers to look at the camera as if a mirror. Then, I asked to write down a few words, that could represent them.
I was looking for people with obsessions, fears, paranoia, dreams that would love to pose in front of my camera like a mirror.
I would meet them and take some pictures of them.
In this case, I proposed him my project and I had to deal differently. I had to deal with few things.
He is a model, he knows how to pose. I had to be the photographer.
There were some definite roles here. The subject and the photographer, but I didn't want to create separation.
I didn’t like much the idea to direct him.
Then, the place where I live was very small, so it was hard to move freely.
The situation required a collaboration between us, but I felt that I could be myself with him, even if I didn’t know him well, and I could try to propose him new things.
'How are you today? 'I said
"Very well', he answered, 'I am happy to work with you'. 'How can you take pictures in this place?' He asked me.
'I don’t know how I do, I always tell myself', I replayed,' I am trying to use my imagination.I don’t want to waste more time. You are the 12th strangers that I want to photograph and I want to finish my project. More than a year passed and I feel that this project is coming to an end now. And you are my last stranger. With you all is different. I normally put an email on internet looking for strangers and they replayed to me and I met them straight away without knowing them. With you is a bit different. I said.
We know each other, we did the video together and you are a model, so you are not afraid of my camera and I am not afraid of you. I am a bit afraid of directing you because I don’t like directing people in my project.
So I am trying to be spontaneous, I don’t have much in mind.I am trying to see you as a model, something will happen, all has to come up spontaneously, but we can play together and this is what we will do today. The only think I know is that I bought some white balloons, nothing else. I don’t have nothing in mind, let's see what our connection will bring out.'
So while he was drinking coffee and looking around my room, I started blowing balloons.
He looked at me strangely. I blew seven of them.
I bought the balloons in a shop in Dalston, where they sell cakes, for children's parties.
They were white, I thought that in black and white would have looked amazing.
'What are you going to do with these balloons?' Roberto asked me.
'I have to create a hat to put on your head', I answered.
'A hat for me?' I don’t like hats'. He insisted.
'Well today you are wearing a hat'. I said with decision.
'I never wore a hat made with balloons'. He said a little bit worried.
'Well today will be your first time, I am happy that this will be a new experience for you, wearing a hat made of balloons. It is the first time that I make one!'
I took some white cotton, and I tied the balloons together creating a white pile of balloons. And I placed it on his head to see how he was looking.
I smiled. He was looking good.Attractive.
'I have to find a way to make you feel good with this hat, on your head, I said, since it's DIY, created now by me.' I insisted.
'I don’t want those balloons on my head,' he said.
'Well you are a model, you can wear anything. Don't be fussy!'.
'Are you sure?' he said Yes.
So, I place my fashion white hat of balloons on his head.
And I took some pictures of him.
I asked him to take off his shirt and trousers. He got undressed and remains with his underwear.
But I was not liking his underwear so, I asked him to take them off. He didn’t expect that. He didn’t like the idea, he didn't want to get naked.
I sensed a sort of embarrassment. I didn’t expect that too.
I thought he was a model and had not problem to get undressed.
But I was wrong.
I did not think he was ashamed. I thought he did it already since it was a model.
Gently I said, 'Roberto, 'do not worry, all will be fine. If you take off your underwear, I'll do nothing. I am used to see men naked. I'm interested in the final image. And your underwear don’t look great with those balloons on your head'.
So he took off his underwear. He showed all his naked beauty. He was beautiful.
Then I asked him to lie down on my bed and put a hand on his sex and look at me. He followed my directions.
I needed to adjust my tripod, as I was using my Mamiya 6x7, with one only lens, which was a 85mm, a standard lens. The place where I lived was too small, so my creativity was limited.But I carried on with determination.
Not happy with the result I asked him to sat at the edge of the bed with open legs, covering up his penis. Then I put some black make up on his eyes, a little bit.
And I saw the overall image.
The light coming from the windows was great, and I was very positive, at least I could get a couple of nice shots from the 20 I had.
While I was taking pictures I took a black colour from my desk, and I started writing sexual thoughts on the balloons, like ‘I want to fuck you’, ‘I want to see you in ecstasy’, I will make you scream like a bitch…etc.
Roberto, the Brazilian model, 'I am your mirror' photography project, © Loredana Denicola 2013/2014
I didn’t know why, I followed my instinct, sometime there are no explanations. I got closer, I sat on his legs, he was with his hand on his cock, naked on my bed, he didn't move and I started writing these phrases on the balloons, on his head.
Then I left him and went back to using my camera.
I was liking that image a lot.
Then, I went again, behind the camera, I looked at him with a smile, asking him to look at me in a sensual way, like a whore.
He did it.
Then, after my click, he went to look at himself in the mirror, reading what I wrote and saying that I am a crazy woman, that he didn’t expect this.
I said that I wasn’t expecting nothing, and that all happened because he gave me that energy to act in that way, freely.
I took then, some pictures of him on the stairs, outside my small flat, just to change feelings. I was living at the second floor, at that time, so I used the stairs.
The light was more dark there but he was feeling more confident now, he was getting used to my presence.
Once finished I open the door of my flat, went in , saying' would you like some dark chocolate Roberto?'
'Yes I would love some. I am starving. Are you angry? I can buy something, if you want. ' He replayed.
'I think we have done!' I said. 'Maybe we can go out somewhere, if you like, give me few minutes.'
I sat in front of my laptop, I had to answer to some emails.
He dressed up, put his shirt on.
Then, while I was in front of my laptop, writing my emails he began to touch softly my neck and then my back, making me tickle.
I am still, I don’t move.
I like what he is doing to me but I have to get back to control, I didn’t expect that. I don’t know what to do.
Maybe I got him excited with my behaviour, I thought.
'Damn and now what do I do?' I asked to myself, in that exact moment.
A lot of thoughts passed through my head in a fraction of a second, confusing thoughts.
I turned my head towards him and I looked at him, silently.
He is beautiful.
He looked at me back in a very sensual way.
For a moment I thought I would let go, but then I came back to reality and I was in control again of the overall situation.
'It is better if we end up here', I said.
'Why?' He nodded.
'I don’t mix professional life with a private one', I said. 'That’s not fair.I ruined few relationships in the past, and i don't want to do the same again'.
'Why not? You started,' he said.
'Did I?' I said
'Yes you did, when you sat on my knees.' he insisted.
Then, I realised that there was some truth in what he was saying.
It was true, I started, without realising it.
I was so caught up in the creative process, while I was photographing him that I didn’t keep my distance. Sometimes I don’t realise my attitude.
My creative actions are immediate, they come before my thoughts.
It is something natural, which is amazing, because actions create beautiful art, but also situations that are embarrassing, difficult to manage.
I should learn how to manage more professionally the relation with the subjects.
For me photography is always been an extraordinary experience, lived by the subjects involved. It is not a final image. It is the process which is behind.
This time, I put the guard down, I didn’t look at myself like subject observed and observer and I lost the control, because I wasn't aware of my actions.
Through my project, connections with encounters, I learned to connect immediately with the the subject. I found it an easy thing to do, innate knowledge.
But connecting at these high levels create an open field for all possibilities where everything becomes possible.
It was a lesson.
'Let’s get ready and going to eat something great!' I said 'I know a place where they do an amazing falafel.'
There, while I was talking, he grabbed me and he kissed me.
I gave him a kiss.
It was intense, young and sweet.
'Why are you running away?' He said.
'I am running away', I answered. 'This is not right.' Let’s go. Shall we?' I said again, with resolution.
I put my jacket on and I opened the door, waiting for him.
He looked at me laughing.
'What are you doing? I always thought that you are crazy! This is life Loredana. It is not good running away. Comeback, it will be great!Believe me.'
I closed the door, and went downstairs, leaving him in my room.
He reached me after few minutes.
Then, we looked at each other and laughed loudly.
'I don't want having sex with you Roberto! I am not one of your models' I said.
While we were walking to the shop to have a falafel I asked him to write down few words that could represent him.
He said that it would have wrote in Italian, because he doesn’t know any English.
I said that I would have translated all.
'When shall we see again?' He said.
'Soon', I answered.'When the pictures are ready. Do you want to see them, I imagine.'
'Shall we make love , then, next time?'He said
'Who knows?' I replayed. All can happen.'
He wrote me this:
I am very passionate about what I do, I give myself like an object to please the viewer.
Photographers can use me as they like.
This is my work, my life.
It is a job that brought me in different places and made me work for few fashion brands, both in Italy and Brazil.
Also I did a couple of TV's adveritsing campaigns in Brazil and here in London.
Now, I am here trapped in this picture, with the white balloons on my head and with you looking at me.
You can hate me or like me, but now at 28 years old, I feel tired and I decided to bring this adventure to conclusion at the end of this year.
' A model opinion seldom matters. The only time that he is required to open his mouth is when he is required to smile at the camera.
I don't smile often but I love provoking you.
This is Roberto, the Brazilian Model.
Written by Loredana Denicola, 'How I met my strangers, I am your Mirror' photography project .
©Loredana Denicola 2013/2014