- I tell you what. Fuck you!
Alfie stood up and left, not waiting to be dismissed. He just wasn’t into doing this anymore, this work, this stupid pretending act that he had begun two years ago. Yeah, he loved being a photographer. But that didn’t meant he had no voice of his own or a clear opinion of the world. Of course, she had a point on thinking he wouldn’t mind doing anything she asked: the other photographer’s were just as simple-minded and shallow as she was. They would ever stand up to their beliefs, if they had any that is. They were just empty heads, filled with glamour and sparkles.
Yolanda stood up right when she saw Alfie walking her away. She didn’t need a word from him, she knew her friend to well to need any statement. He only smiled at her and she answered by pointing at her phone and saying in a low register “Later”. He nodded, walked to the staircase and, moments after, walked down the street. The good thing was that his contract was about to expire, so he wasn’t really losing anything new. He was just appalled that someone would ask him the same things over and over and would not even look at his proposals.
As he walked to the bus stop, Alfie went through it all in his head: he had woken up that morning very happy because he knew this was the day one of his proposals was finally going to end up being actually done. Normally, someone else’s idea was chosen but this time, his boss had told him it was going to be one of his ideas that would be chosen as the other photographers had all had a shot at it. And Alfie was not mediocre at all, he was a person that loved detail and accuracy so every proposal was just on the spot, with every single information needed to make a proper photo shoot for the brand that needed their work.
So he just went crazy with ideas and chose three that he thought were best suited for the product. The first idea was just about the makeup related to the product. He had investigated the colors he wanted and the faces he wanted to portray. The second idea was all about the dresses, explosions of color and imagination that he knew would attract a lot of people to watch the publicity. The last one, however, was the most daring but the one he loves the most. It involved a group of four people. All stark naked and with different body proportions and personal styles. All the proposals had something in common though: he wanted to work with real people.
As he took a seat on the bus, he looked around. Those were the people he had wanted to use for every single one of his ideas: real folk. Just everyone and anyone. Old or young, fat or skinny, tall or short, black or white… It didn’t matter. He needed real people.
But no. He got angry, remembering the meeting he had just come out from. Apparently the company had decided not to accept any of his idea because they were “too radical”. At first, he asked his boss to define that because he didn’t found anything radical about his work. If anything, he thought it was real and true to his ideals. And then came the real argument: the women that was his boss told him that the owners of the product had not asked for ideals but for their product to be well promoted.
As calmly as he could, Alfie asked if he needed to apply other ideas but she said they had already gone with a shelved proposal by a photographer called Harry. But his name wasn’t Harry. It was Percival. But he had decided to call himself Harry because he told everyone he looked like Prince Harry. Of course he didn’t but no one told him that because he was one of those star photographers. Everyone wanted to work with him, he knew everyone, and he always had ideas that people would qualify as “marvelous” or “genius” but that were rather stupid in Alfie’s eyes.
Harry, or Percival, would always make the same photo-shoots: a bunch of “perfect” male and female models, all in underwear and disguised as angles or something like that. Or maybe just shirtless and doing that stupid “duck face” Alfie hated so much when taking pictures. His ideas were what the boss said was “what the people wanted”. If people wanted to stare at perfect faces all the time, Alfie thought, they would just watch porn 24/7. And even porn had different types of bodies and faces, for everyone.
He laughed alone on the bus at the memory of an idea he had had when beginning in the firm: he had made a whole proposal using porn actors to promote condoms. And he had looked for all kinds of actors and actresses who ere actually thrilled with the idea. But his company, and actually all other companies he tried to sell the idea to, were not interested in showing people that were not attractive enough “for the camera”. The good thing was the Association of Adult Films had contacted him and he finally did the shooting, as he wanted. The money was great but the audience wasn’t that big: the pictures were only used in sex bars and discos.
Alfie, nevertheless, was proud of that work. It had been his only real job, the only one he had done that showed his potential and his urge to do something new with photography. But when he came back to his job, he realized that just wasn’t his real life. Everyday he would shoot pictures of mediocre TV stars and local movie people. Maybe some professional models, who had great stories but not much deepness in their minds and souls. The number of interesting models he had worked with was certainly very low.
Yolanda, who worked as an assistant, knew very well who Alfie intended to be as a photographer. She had worked there for several years and told him, right away, he should be doing something more with his skills. But Alfie needed the money and decided to sacrifice his ideals for it, because he needed experience first to be considered good. That, for them both, was a stupid thing. Some people have had many jobs but that doesn’t mean they’re good, it just means they’re better at being annoying.
Alfie stepped down of the bus and walked home. Before he entered his place, he stopped by a bakery and bought something to eat later. When paying, the young man realized he needed to check his financial condition because he needed to pay rent and having quit, he wasn’t going to collect unemployment. The moment he got home, he pulled out his laptop from the backpack he had went with to the meeting and started to check for jobs. But after a few hours, he realized it was a waste of time. Nothing.
The phone then rang. It was Yolanda.
- How are you?
- Guess everyone knows by now, right.
- Kinda, yeah. She’s not as pissed as I would’ve thought.
- Good for her.
- What are you doing now?
- Looking for a new job.
Yolanda giggled. That annoyed Alfie but she had her reasons.
- I need you to call the following number. – Said Yolanda.
Alfie noted the number and his friend told him he had to ask for Peter Hurt. He was a teacher in a university and he often needed assistants and so on so maybe he would have something, at lest temporary, for Alfie.
The young man called Peter and they decided to meet that same afternoon. When they did, Alfie realized he was, what he called, a real photographer. He had done everything: fashion, publicity, journalism, art… But he had decided his thing was teaching. He told Alfie it was a miracle he had called because he really needed a replacement right now. To Alfie’s stunned face, Peter explained he had received a great offer abroad to do a series of shoots all over the World for a prestigious magazine. So he needed someone to teach class for a year in his behalf.
Alfie had apparently lost his ability to speak. Teaching, he thought, was a very good answer to the question “What the fuck I’m I going to do now?” He asked Peter if he needed references and so on and Peter laughed in his face. He explained Yolanda had called earlier and told him all about Alfie, his current situation and talent. Yolanda had even sent a few proposals she had on digital format. Peter showed those to Alfie and he realized Yolanda must’ve taken the files he had left for his boss.
- The job is yours if you want it. Of course, I can help you with some of these ideas and you could use the university studios for them. I think these ideas would make a killer exhibition.
Alfie took the job, still a bit surprised. In one day he had lost a job and got another one. And he had Yolanda to thank. But also, he knew he owe it all to his ideals and being true to himself.
Going back home he realized he would never have to do a stupid shooting anymore. No more gods and monsters of fashion for him. It would only be about real people, the ones that mattered and wanted to recognize themselves in the subtle art of photography.