A Secret About a Secret

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.”

“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?”

“Sure.”

“And, I just have to ask, did Keri mention anything about your job?”

Lindsay nodded.

“So, you’re cool with total nudity?” Amelia asked.

“Yes.”

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.”

“Huh?”

“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?”

“No.”

“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.”

13 thoughts on “A Secret About a Secret

  1. Angela

    Really feeling for Amelia here, and find myself curious about her background, how she got into photography, and wanting to see her photos that are posted around the room. I also felt a slight sense of panic for the students and their first assignment…only ten minutes to pick one photo out of thirty, and then write about it? Yikes!

    I stumbled on the first sentence due to the first “that” – for me, it reads smoother without it – but otherwise I was completely in the story and enjoyed the flow of your writing.

    I am wondering how often you might want to respond to the responses you’re getting? I wonder if you read these and want to explain, or scream, or respond in some way… I am curious as to how you react to the reactions of others. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Shari

    This feels like part of something longer, is it? Still, I enjoyed this glimpse into a world that is completely foreign to me, and yet I am drawn in, like a voyeur into this nude photographing world.

    Reply
  3. Don

    As a lover of photography, and the human body, I enjoyed this very much. I also like (is that the right word?) Diane Arbus, certainly admire her work and her life as an artist. Have you seen the movie “Fur?” It was panned for the most part by NY critics (who cares, right?) but I was fascinated. Also, Arbus’s biography, written by Patricia Bosworth, is notable. Well done, Robert. Another intriguing topic. Where do you get your ideas from?

    Reply
  4. Theo

    I wanted to be a fly on the wall. Or one of the participants. Magnifique! The quote and the topic intrigues me very, very much.

    Reply
  5. david

    Gosh NY models can be such a pain in the ass.. they are like florida massage therapists on “slow” pills.. Like the whitest fat guy you ever saw with the bad toupee who insisted on covering himself in “Diar Kiss” powder at ever break.. I love Amelia and want to know more about her.. well done

    Reply
  6. Dez

    I liked this a lot, seemed like the pace picked up for me at the quote being read (which ties in to your title?) Also, when Lindsay shows up instead of the expected model. That twist was intriguing and felt like something sinister might happen between Amelia and Lindsay. Maybe that’s just me, but still, as you can tell, I am intrigued.

    Reply
  7. Yasmine

    This is wonderful and I want to know how it ends. But in reading through lots of your shorter works, there seems to be no ending. I guess that is the purpose? Some other writer told me to check out your site and I am glad she did.

    Reply
  8. JR Price

    I think you are a great writer. I have been reading your blog for over a month now and really look forward to it. Amazed that you come up with such different stories every single day. Impressed, too.

    Reply
  9. Cynthia

    I love Amelia and want to know more about her- how she got into this kind of photography (my line of work, too) and how she was booked by the New School to do this course. Also, what were some of those comments about the Arbus quote, and what is the impact of Lindsay showing up versus the originally booked model? I love your writing style, and how you build a scene. I felt like I was back in the classroom, wanting to learn more.

    Reply
  10. Mom

    good piece, always leaving me wanting more.
    Robbie, can you send me an email. My computer has crashed and I’ve lost your email address.
    Love Mom

    Reply

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