Domino y Como una Flor / by Rebecca Tillett

At her request I recently had the opportunity to shoot a childhood friend of mine. In my fifteen years of shooting women I've landed in some fun, bizarre, fascinating, and one-of-a-kind places that have served as backdrops behind the beautiful women I photograph (for me, the setting is often as important as the model which is why I book shoots so seldomly as I rarely find places I love; also the search can be truly time-consuming which is hard when I work a full-time job), but I don't imagine I'll forget the story of this one any time soon. It's true and incredibly boring that this was just an empty condo that happened to be next to mine here in Denver. Over the years, I'd actually become pretty good friends with my neighbor who used to live there, but a sad yet fortuitous thing happened recently: she moved out in August (sad) and I quickly realized I still had a spare key to the unit (fortuitous; I used to water her plants when she'd leave town). It'd been several weeks since her and her boyfriend moved out and I hadn't noticed any activity over there, like, at all. So the night before my shoot with my friend I'll call Vee, I walked next door and knocked, hoping no one would answer. When no one did, I slid my key into the doorknob and got that unlocked, but then had trouble with the deadbolt. When my husband arrived home from work, I had him try it and voila, he got the door open. (I can often be not-delicate when I'm impatient and I'm rarely patient with keys and locks, especially when I'm trying to get into a place that doesn't belong to me, and/or that I technically wasn't invited into [read: minor trespassing]). Although I've done more than my share of trespassing, it was a bit nerve-wracking doing it so close to home.

So I asked my husband to re-lock the doorknob but not the deadbolt, since he wouldn't be around the next day when I planned to re-enter with Vee. The next day, I arrive home from work and start getting ready for my shoot as I had a few minutes to prepare before my friend arrived. Just as I'm getting my camera out, I hear the loud closing of the condo door next to mine. I run to my front door and take a peek through the peephole and see that a woman has just left the empty condo. This was the first time I'd seen or heard any sign of someone being over there in weeks, since my neighbor moved out, in fact! I was crushed. What were the chances that the very same day I'm planning on sneaking into the place, I see someone (either the owner or the property manager; the condos in my building are all individually owned) exiting?! And after WEEKS of radio silence! So I run to my window and sure enough, see her in her car, driving out of the parking lot. At this point I'm not sure what to do. Vee was set to arrive soon. Do we chance it? Knowing this person could return at any minute? My backup plan was to find a deserted field somewhere behind Denver International Airport which would have been incredibly cumbersome and even maybe impossible as Vee discovered at the last minute that she had another commitment that evening and we'd have limited time for this shoot. So indeed we decided to chance it. However, I had a feeling this woman relocked the deadbolt so I had one more hurdle to cross. Luckily, Vee helped and we were able to get inside. We spent the next hour or so shooting in that empty condo, and returning periodically next door to my own so Vee could change clothes or get another chair to sit on; all the while knowing someone could walk in on us at any moment, catching us in the act. Luckily no such thing happened. We weren't busted and the shoot was a success.

And the very next day? That woman was back with a crew of guys working on readying that unit for the next tenant. The timing of all of this was impeccable. And now I have another fun story to share about the shit I go through to ensure the perfection I'm often desperate to achieve in my work.

What's really interesting, is how simple this shoot was; the setting doesn't change, unlike many of my shoots in which a little variety is always desired and usually attainable. We basically had this one room (the rest of the condo was covered in carpet, and I had no desire to shoot with that), and yet, this has quickly become one of my favorite series ever. I'm in love with the results and I still can't quite articulate just why exactly. With that said, I usually pick a few favorites and share those in a blog post but the theme of this shoot was definitely motion, and more specifically, a woman changing. Nearly every photograph communicates motion of some kind, and so I thought it was necessary and crucial to show as many as possible, to truly convey the motion of the woman moving in this series. I've included some stand-out shots in this specific post, but to see them all in their rightful place in time, click this link:

Como una flor

I dreamt about you last night, honey, but I couldn't see your face. Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are? That's what I kept asking you. That's what I kept asking you until you finally said yes. But even without a face, I could sense your disbelief in such bold affirmation. I kept searching for your gaze while you found a hollow place to store the words because not believing and not wanting to forget are two very different things. I pulled out my old Canon AE-1, the one my father gave me in another lifetime, and I said, "el arte es una mentira que nos acerca a la verdad." You'll see, mi querida, eres tan linda como una flor. You'll see.