Curious & curiouser
Every week on Thursdays I work at a place called Launchpad on Franklin Avenue, which is open to freelancers, writers, and anyone who wants to use it for non-profit purposes. I’m often the only person there, and I tap away on my keyboard, interrupted only by local artistic types coming in to ask questions about the space.
Mike, who runs and, very generously, finances Launchpad, allows a selection of artists to display their works for sale on the walls. At the moment, several of those works are nude photographs — a black man silhouetted in a revealing splits pose; a white woman plucking neatly-placed grapes off her own body and putting them into her mouth. This has somewhat influenced the character of the people who’ve been turning up with queries.
Thus, last Thursday, a middle-aged man came in with a portfolio, accompanied by a smiling younger woman. Below is a condensed version of our conversation.
Man (who, it quickly emerges, is a photographer — and, I’ve since learned, quite a famous one): ‘I just wanted to show these to Mike again, because when he agreed to put them up, he’d had a few drinks. I want him to see them again.’
Me: Turning pages, sees an unclothed girl in yoga poses, who looks quite like the woman before me.
Girl (who is evidently a model): ‘Haha — in fact that’s me. This is a bit embarrassing.’
Photographer: Complains about his pay-the-bills-job, which is exhausting; he works through the night.
Me: ‘What do you do?’
Photographer: ‘I’m a train driver. I work for the MTA.’
Conversation turns to the matter of how to take nude photographs on the subway. Apparently a discussion thread is ongoing on the subject at Model Mayhem, the site for all models in New York. I learn that not all subways have cameras or police, and MTA staff are luckily apathetic in the early hours of the morning when such activity normally takes place. The woman wears a trench coat, quickly takes it off for the picture and puts it on again.
Me, to the model: ‘Do you have another job?’
Model: ‘Yes, I’m in the army. I’m in the National Guard. I play in the band.’ The worst place she was ever stationed, she says, was Alaska.
Photographer: ‘A lot of women in the army do modelling, nude and mainstream stuff, on the side.’
After a while the pair bid me farewell and go off to the local Thai restaurant for lunch. I type up a file and call it NudeModelGuy.doc, and think how everything they say about New York is true.