A Secret About a Secret
The room that Amelia had wanted to teach her photography course at the New School was not available, so she had to use the smaller studio. She’d arrived in Manhattan early that Saturday, and closed all of the folding chairs, setting them against the back wall. She opened her notebook and took out several of her nude photos and posted the images in various places on the walls. She remembered to place blackout paper on the glass window of the door to ensure privacy. On the blackboard behind the dias, she scrawled ‘Welcome’ and below that, a Diane Arbus quotation.
She glanced at her watch and there were only fifteen minutes before the class began. Where were the students? She’d confirmed that there were actually twelve participants registered, but this was New York. Everyone was on a limited time budget.
She stretched her arms above her head, wondering if her model would arrive on time. She forgot to confirm Keri, but did speak with her a week prior. Her notes said she was a dancer and very comfortable with nude modeling. Amelia only hoped that would be the case.
The last time she’d attended a photography course in a Stamford gallery, the model had frozen at the last minute when she realized there were six people who would end up with her naked photos.
During the next ten minutes, nearly all of the registered students had arrived. They sat on variously placed mats, blankets, and pillows which Amelia had spread out on the floor. She estimated the range of ages, and tried to figure out if there were any perverts among the three guys in the group. It didn’t seem that way. When it turned 10:00 a.m., she greeted the students. After her brief introduction she turned to the board behind her.
“One of my mentors and among the most inspiring photographers is Diane Arbus. She started in fashion photography with her husband. But as their relationship dissolved, slowly she turned to booking her own gigs. Her work is highly original and very unusual. She once said this quote that I wrote on the board in a rare interview.” Amelia turned and gestured toward the blackboard behind her. “Would someone volunteer to read it?” When no one raised their hand, she joked, “Don’t everyone jump to volunteer at once!”
Finally a willowy towheaded woman sitting close-by said, “Okay, I will.” She read the quote. “A photograph is a secret about a secret…the more you know it tells you, the less you know…”
“Thanks. So, you see about thirty photographs placed around the room, all taken by yours truly. You’ll choose one, and take out a piece of paper and see if you can answer the question that Diane proposes: Determine what your chosen image tells the viewer. And what possible secrets remain? If you have any difficulty getting started, call me over and I’ll help you. You’ll have about ten minutes for this. Any questions?”
A prematurely balding man raised his hand. “I didn’t bring a pen or paper.”
“There’s a pile of them on that desk behind you. Anyone else? Okay, go!” The students rose, and began selecting their images. She glanced at her watch and just as she wondered about the model, a woman arrived at the door.
“Amelia?” she asked.
“Yes, are you late for the course?”
“No, I’m here for Keri. She chickened out.”
“Oh, great,” Amelia muttered. “What the hell am I going to do without a model?”
“Well, I thought you might be able to use me? I’m Lindsay.”
Amelia was confused. She thought this woman was just there to inform her about Keri’s absence. She nodded. Amelia summed her up as Lindsay took off her backpack. She was tall, possibly five ten, extremely skinny. She wore a Danskin wraparound burgundy skirt and camisole top, her jet black hair was in a simple bun. Her skin was alabaster and Amelia worried that it might be too white for regular speed daytime photos, but there wasn’t really another option.
“Okay, if you’re willing, Lindsay, while the students are all working on a warm-up for the next five minutes or so, let me go over some stuff with you. First of all, I’ll need you to sign a release form.”
“School policy, straight up stuff.” Amelia handed the form to her. “Read it and sign on the bottom.”
Lindsay handed the signed form back to Amelia. “It’s a little chilly in here.”
“Well, you’re in luck. There’s a space heater and also once we get to work, the temperature will heat up, I guarantee it.” Amelia smiled. “Can I take a Polaroid or two of you before we begin?”
“And, I just have to ask, did Keri mention anything about your job?”
“So, you’re cool with total nudity?” Amelia asked.
Amelia got out her Polaroid camera. “No birthmarks?”
“Just on the bottom of my foot.”
“No skin rashes or anything I need to know about in advance?” Lindsay shook her head no. “Okay. Thanks.” She placed her hand on Lindsay’s shoulder, then took a couple of photos. “Also, thanks, in advance, for supporting my ideas about the beauty of the human form.”
“Never mind.” Models! She turned to the rest of the class. “Okay, everybody, wrap up your notes within the next minute or two, and we’ll discuss your observations.” She turned back to Lindsay. “You can get comfortable, relax.”
Lindsay glanced around the spare room. “Got anything to eat?”
Amelia shook her head no. “Sorry. Did you bring something to read?”
“Well, I won’t need you for another ten or fifteen minutes.” She thought about asking her to walk around the block a couple of times, but feared Lindsay would disappear into thin air. “There’s a Vogue magazine in my bag over there if you get bored.”