Horizontal Lives

True Tales of the Infamous Courtesan: Persephone N. Hades and her Horizontal Life underground. How she got there, her mis-adventures and her struggle to re-surface.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Eighty-Twenty Odds: A Week in the 20%

Sorry. It’s been a while. I know.

Think I mentioned the battle I am waging with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Leprechan Doctor tried a new medicine that 'sucker-punched' me deeper into exhaustion.

Thus, part of my failure to write.

Aside from this constant tiredness, I was very fortunate to complete two wonderful photo-shoots for my website but am now trying to get them onto my site.
Photos have to be picked, touched up, and so on.

Meanwhile, had bookings all week that one after another stood me up.
So there I am, rushing to work, setting up, telling others I am booked and then the time comes and nobody.
I’m sure these people do the same to others so I try not to take it personally but ugh!

There are plusses and minuses to working for an agency as opposed to being an Independent as I am.
There are plusses and minuses to seeing a lady from an agency as opposed to seeing an Independent.

From a client's perspective, one of the good things about ordering from an agency is speedy service. Call up, get descriptions of the ladies working at that time, pick one and ding-dong, like Dominos Pizza, within a half-hour, she is at your doorstep. Get an itch, it’s scratched. Not necessarily the girl you thought it would be, but a girl none-the-less.

Agencies can sometimes charge a bit more than an Independent as they split the fee 50/50. But then again, if you're a ‘variety-lover’ there is usually a lot on the menu to choose from. The girls don’t take it personally if you see others because all they need to do is sign on and go out the door on any particular night. There is not a huge stake in claiming regulars.

Some clients like to see girl’s through agencies and then offer to lure them away.

Or vice/versa.

The girl will offer to see the client ‘on her own’ for a lesser charge.

This is called stealing.

Girls do it, but over the many years I’ve been in the business, the ladies I still work with and stay in touch with have never thieved.

Nor have I.

It’s not only unethical and unkind, but sooner or later, one’s reputation within this very tiny bubble of a business, gets around and no one will work with you anymore.

Guess you could say there is honor amongst thieves.

As a WG, the nice thing about working for an agency is that your time is your own. You sign in whatever nights you choose to work and that’s it. When it’s over, it’s over.

On the other hand, to see an Independent, a client usually needs to go through a screening process and most Independents (at least I know it’s the case for me) are booked in advance so one would need to plan ahead for an appointment. The service however tends to be more personal as the Independent has a reputation to uphold and builds a business based on return clientele or positive reviews.

Although an Independent will usually make more per hour than an agency girl will because she doesn’t have to split it, there are many more costs involved—both time and money.

Usually an Independent will maintain a separate apartment to work from which incurs costs of two rents in the city as well as utilities, and etc. Candles, linens, laundry, liquor, bottled water, and the like.

And then of course, advertising. Agencies foot the cost for this, which is why stealing from them is unfair.

Advertising sites can range in cost from $100.00 a month to $800.00 per month and one normally has to belong to several of these sites to get enough exposure.

But the major expense is photos that have to be updated at least every six months to keep things current and to hold interest. Which brings me finally to my current story of the week.

Most Independents have had to build, at great expense, a website complete with photos.

Right about now you’re wondering: "Why is she telling me all this?"

Okay. It’s a prelude to the latest horror story with a photographer.

In April of this past year (2004) I knew it was time for a photoshoot.

I hated to spend the money as things were tight, and I was experiencing the beginnings of my illness. We knew my sickness was nothing contagious or sexual, but we weren't sure it wasn't fatal. My health was costing me in time and money for doctors and tests. But there was no choice. I had to work and to work, I needed photos.

I had had some fine photographers in the past but wanted a 'new look' for the site. Just as I was about to look into new photographers, one via my website contacted me.

His name was Valentino.

He directed me to his website where I was very impressed by the shots there, which included Carmen Electra. We decided to meet in person at The Royalton Hotel where I would take a look at his book.

With all I had to do in my day, somehow, I was on time.

As I am (annoyingly) wont to be.

He was over an hour late.

That should have been clue one.

He had several excuses, all of which seemed plausible so I let it go with a minor warning that I felt uncomfortable when someone was late.

His Portfolio book was rich in a variety of styles, all gorgeous shots of published photos in magazines.

We set up a date for the shoot.

He lived in Jersey City in a new building and we could do the shoot in the Clubhouse on the roof there with the skyline of Manhattan in the background. He would bring a makeup artist he trusted and I would pay her separately.

Getting excited.

On the day of the shoot, I hire a car service roundtrip as I have a suitcase full of 'costume' changes. (One that the airline would charge me extra for.)

I also bring a bottle of Champagne as a token of good will.

The day is rainy and cold but the Clubhouse is all windows so we can shoot indoors and still get the sky line.

He escorts me to the Clubhouse and directs me to lay my outfits over the sofa, which I do.

He pops open the champagne and we toast to a good shoot. So far so good.
Okay. Time to get ready.

Will the make-up person also do my hair? She’s not here yet.

Luckily, I can do my own hair and brought my curlers.

He directs me to the public bathroom located down the hall on the same floor.

I am in my bathrobe.

I had assumed he had rented out the Clubhouse for our private use that day. I had assumed this because I knew some of the photos would be topless if not entirely nude. I also assumed this because he led me to believe he was a ‘big-time’ fashion photographer, published many times over and had used this same Clubhouse for several of his other shoots.

Silly me.

The public bathroom is attached to the building’s gym, which is quite busy at this time. (Imagine going into your public bathroom and seeing a half-naked girl with hot curlers plugged in, doing her make-up as if she had no home.)

Embarrassing. But hey. I’ve been an actress and had my dressing room in stranger places. I go with the flow.

Returning to the main room curled and made-up, the make-up girl sits me down for some re-touching as Valentino sets up his lights. Two. With no scrims in front of them. And short cords that seem to make the lights topple at inconvienient times. It is not what I have experienced in the past, but everyone works differently. I stay jolly.

We begin.

Is my hair okay in this position?

Usually it is the make-up person’s job to keep an eye out for hair in the eyes, etc.
The blaze girl nods, unsmiling and we continue.

Is this position okay for my breasts? Sometimes in this position, they can come out uneven in photographs.

Fine, Fine.

Suddenly, the door to the Clubhouse opens. A sales person from the building is giving a tour. Valentino throws me a robe and we hide. Why are we hiding? Why are people coming in and out when I am naked?

I laugh and play along. Oh how funny is this!

What else can I do? We are mid-shoot. This 'shoot-&-take-cover' ensues for the rest of the day.

Our last location is in the conference room. For this I don a very sexy black pair of skintight slacks and a black corset with black ceiling walkers.

Even I think I look hot.

Valentino helps me to get atop the table, which I do. We start.

Flash. Pose. Flash.

'Take down your top', he instructs.

I do but as I do, it occurs to me that it is unnecessary for this shot as this is for this particular outfit.

Then it occurs to me that he has been saying this all day and when I look at him, he is a bit drunk. All the champagne is gone and I personally have had only two glasses. Hmm. Oh well. Nothing to be done now.

Finally, five hours after beginning, we are done. I pay him $595.00, which I understand to be all-inclusive. Meaning, it covers the shoot, the photos I choose, and the ‘fixing’ of those photos—touch-ups.

I also pay the fairly useless make-up girl and the car service for a total of $1040.00.

Okay. Taking a deep breath, I let the number go.

Once a year I have to do this, so okay.

But then there is the web-designer’s fee of $125.00 per hour to load them onto the site. Will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Valentino knew, or so I thought as I told him so, that I needed the pics ASAP. With that in mind, we made a date for the next Saturday. I took the day off of work. He would come to my apartment. We would peruse the photos together, pick out the best ones and he would finish them and return them to me with in a week.

And now, the drama begins. Take your seats. Our theatrical production takes place via email:

Saturday. No call. No show. I call him. Leave messages with no return calls.

Saturday May 1, 2004 8:11pm
From Valentino to Geisha:
Hey Girl…Down with a head cold today…How is Sunday…pick a time…and I will be there…10am…12noon…2pm…4pm..or 6pm…Just e-mail me back and I will confirm with you in the morning…you are going to love the pictures…val (and then there is a logo of a heart)

Saturday May 1, 2004 10:29 pm
From Geisha to Valentino
HI and so sorry you were ill—I understand completely but it is better if you call me as I planned the day and evening around you coming here. Sunday I am in Pennsylvania working all day and evening. I have Monday uptown but I need to know in advance what time you would come. Alliteratively, I have Weds, in the early day.
Thanks love.

Sunday May 2, 2004
From Valentino to Geisha
Hey baby…how about if I mail you the slides with instruction, etc…on 9am Monday morning..i will have them in your hands on Tuesday…that way..you can have a glass of bubbly…smile…and review the slides..then when you have looked at them..i can go over the ones you want to re-produce in person with you…how is that for a plan…let me know…I will be on line for the next few hours…let me have your complete address and I will mail them to you…your full name..and your zip…it will be out Monday morning…have a nice Sunday…(logo of lips) Val

Sunday May 2, 2004
From Geisha to Valentino
(My Address and full name)
Yes love. I’ll call you Weds. After I look at them. Do I need a loop or anything else to see them better?

Wednesday May 5, 2004
From Geisha to Valentino
Hi Valentino,
I never received the photos…did you fedx them to me? Do you have the correct address? Please call me in the day tomorrow and let me know.
Thank you!

Thursday May 6, 2004—12:30am
From Geisha to Valentino
Suject: getting concerned
Hi Valentino.
I have tried calling you and left you messages and email regarding my photos but haven’t heard from you. I am getting a bit distressed, Could you call me and let me know what has happened? Do we need to re-shoot? The photos and photo session with you was of great importance to me—that is why I chose you—your book was so wonderful that I had hoped you could make even a non-model like me look good! At the moment, money is very tight for me so the 595 plus the 150 for the makeup artist and the car-ride round-trip was more of an expense than you know. I will also need to pay my webmaster to place them on my site as well and we are under a time deadline for that due to his schedule. Please let me know what is happening.
I thank you.
(My phone number in case he lost it)

Thursday May 6 --2:29pm
From Valentino to Geisha
Hey sexy..it’s val…it is Thursday…did you get the pictures..val (heart logo)

Thursday May 6 10:39pm
From Geisha to Valentino
No. Did you fedx them? Do you have the tracking number? I will call them with it.
Thank you

Thursday May 6 10:41pm
From Geisha to Valentino
No. I called and wrote many times over the past three days but never heard back from you—I even sent my correct address twice but didn’t hear anything—if you give me the tracking number I will call.
Thank you

Thursday May 6, 2004 11:03pm
From Geisha to Valentino
Hi Valentino,
I have voice mail on all my phones so you can leave a message if you like (I give all numbers)—I have received no messages from you and no photos—Please advise.
Thank you

Thursday May 6, 2004 11:50 p.m.
From Valentino to Geisha
I wrote you earlier..and tried to call but no answer on your cell…HAVE YOU RECEIVED THE PICTURES..PLEASE ADVISE…VAL (flower logo)

Friday May 7, 2004 10:10pm
From Geisha to Valentino
HI Val
I received the photos tonight.
Thank you

Friday May 7, 2004 11:44 p.m.
From Geisha to Joel
(Joel was a photographer I used in the past)
HI Joel,
I know you are busy but I have a question and a problem maybe you can help solve…remember I told you I had just completed a shoot with a photographer about two weeks before? He finally sent me back the slides and they are terrible—the makeup is bad and so are the poses—there are just a handful that might be saved and viable…even then, I am not sure as they are in slide form and it is difficult to tell as they are not blown up. If I were to send them to you, could you get them on a disk and PhotoShop the ones that might work? I would of course pay you to do it…I could go to a place here but I think you are probably much better at all of it and I only trust you at this point.

I think the photographer must have used other photographer’s photos in his book and I knew his make-up artist was terrible even at the shoot but I figured she knew how things would look on film better than I did so I let it go…The pics he took are almost on the level of an amateur, but at this point I am very low on funds and I only get to do photos about once a year if that, so to throw them away would be a total loss—I would rather try and salvage what I have.
Please give me your advise.

Sunday May 9, 2004
From Joel to Geisha
Hi Geisha,
I would be happy to do it for you. I would rather you keep the slides and send me a disk I don’t like handling negatives. The sooner the better.

The next day I take the slides to a professional photo shop. They put the twelve I think are salvageable onto a disk for $120.00 but they hand them to me with a disclaimer: None of them are usable. Why? Because, as I would find out, none of the slides are in focus.

Wednesday May 12, 2004
From Geisha to Valentino
Dear Valentino,
As you know, I now have the slides.
I imagine, based on what I know now, that you might not want to hear my reaction to them, but for my own sense of closure, I need to let you know.

I am not the litigious sort, as I believe in honor, and I also know that sometimes in life, we get taken. If happens. As we get older and hopefully wiser, we try to avoid it but it is always possible. So I was taken. I understand that.

The work you presented to me in your model portfolio was powerful. It showed a photographer who understood the best was to pose his models for a shot, a skill at cropping and photo-shopping the work, and a make-up artist t hat brought out the beauty in her subjects, I trusted you could do the same for me, as, although I am not a model, I am not terribly ugly either.

When we spoke at The Royalton, you assured me your price was all inclusive. You told me that when the photos were processed we would sit down together and pick out the ones we liked and then you would airbrush them and crop them in a way that made them special, I believed you. I should have gotten a contract.

The day of the shoot, if you remember, we also spoke of the same agreement. During the shoot, I joked and said "You’re gonna get rid of this cellulite on my thighs, right?" and you responded, "Don’t worry! We’re gonna make you look great! Once I’m finished with them, it’s all gonna be beautiful!" So it was my understanding that you were following your contract that we had already established.

The makeup artist worried me a bit. I didn’t care for my own makeup in the mirror but I know that one looks different in photos than in ‘real life’ so I trusted that you knew what you wanted from her work. The other worry I had about the makeup artist was that, during the shoot, she never looked after my hair or make-up unless I asked her to. This was not usual in my past experiences.

Also of concern was, not that we shot in the Clubhouse, but that it hadn’t been rented out solely for our purposes, leaving me half, and sometimes fully naked in front of strangers and scrambling like a criminal for my robe when the e next tour came through. I am a good sport in general and not too modest and it was in the middle of the shoot so the point was mute anyway, but it was odd and uncomfortable. As well as having to change in a public bathroom and do my own hair—thank goodness I brought my own curlers—usually the makeup person does everything if you are not told otherwise.

Through all of this, I said nothing because I wanted the shoot to be a warm, friendly one and because I kept remembering the quality of the work I saw in your portfolio.

I paid you upfront, the makeup artist up front and the roundtrip car fare which was expensive because the directions to your place were so unclear that I was charged an extra hour for the time we were lost on the road.

The day you were supposed to come look at the slides with me, I had to take off of work and not only did you not show, but you never even gave me a courtesy call so I could do something else with my time. Your next correspondence was via email late at night saying you had a head cold and that you would fedx the slides and I would receive them by Tuesday. Of course, Tuesday came and went and it took me numerous un-responded-to phone calls and emails to finally get a response from you.

I was willing to let all these frustrations stay unspoken, as I was sure you would be just as talented as you promised. Then I got the slides. I nearly wept. They were possibly the worst photos ever taken of me since I was sixteen.

The makeup was terrible. My hair was odd in many places. They poses were so unseemly as to make me look unattractive. One pose in particular that I had high hopes for was the one on the ladder. I remember asking you several times as I was hanging on it, if my breasts looked all right. You assured me all was well. They are hideous. One breast is bunched way up and the other hanging awkwardly way down. This entire set is lost. Of the entire group, the entire day’s shoot, I will be lucky if I can use any at all.

Then you informed me that I mis-understood the contract. That now, once you gave me the slides, you were done. This was a shock—not only is it not common practice in my experience, but it also went directly against what we had spoken of several times. Not wanting to throw good money after bad, I though I just salvage what I could so I took them to be placed on disk (costing over a hundred dollars) and took them to another professional photo place that told me the photos were out of focus!

I thought about this all week, trying to imagine what could have happened and whether to express this to you. This is all I could come up with: either the photos in your portfolio were not actually yours and in that case, well, I was fooled—and you needed the money and didn’t mind fooling me a bit…Or for whatever reason, you just weren’t paying close enough attention to my positioning.

I am not a model. And I’m sure models know how to pose themselves—their lives and livelihoods are in front of the camera. But I know you must do shoots with amateurs like me often as well. And in that case, I know from working with other photographers, that you need to be more involved in the poses, the hair and the makeup, to get a good shot.

Any way I look at it, something went horribly wrong at great cost to me. As I mentioned earlier, I am not litigious. I have to believe that now matter what job one performs, there are those that perform it with all their hearts—with honesty, integrity and energy…and there are many who do not.

And I do believe strongly in Karma.

You cannot possibly know, nor most likely do you care, the cost to me in what happened financially, time-wise and emotionally, but I know this either has happened to you before and thus you re-created it with me.. Or if it hasn’t happened to you, it will.

And if it does happened to you, I hope you will understand, like I do in this situation, that sometimes people don’t do things out of malice (as I’m sure you did not) but just because they don’t know any better.

I am sure you are a nice person Valentino. I am sorry our work together was such a loss.

I am telling you all this as I think it is not only fair for you to know but also may be useful to you in your continuing work.

May 14,2004
From Geisha to Valentino
Dear Valentino,
I did not hear from you after my last letter. Not even a call with concern. Any professional would have been concerned that a client was so unhappy and offer some sort of remedy.

I took the few slides I thought might be ‘workable’ to a specialty photo lab to have them transferred to disk before I sent them on to a photographer I’ve worked with before to see if he could salvage them.

The photo lab called and said they were almost impossible to scan because the images were not clear in most of the shots. The photos were out of focus.

Out of our entire shoot, I have no photos. Had I been able to come away with at least 10, I would have let it go. But to have none? That seems incredibly unfair.

I would like you to reimburse me for this shoot.

I will be happy to send all the slides back to you as soon as I receive payment.

Please contact me in a timely manner.

In the meantime, it was discovered that I did not have a fatal illness. Just an incredibly difficult and delbilitating one, and one that would require constant care.

I also, out of necessity, had two more photo-shoots done.

One by a photographer I used in the past and one from a new woman I mustered the courage to try out. Both sets of photos are so lovely; they don’t even look like me. I spent the week trying to pick out the best ones and get them to my webdesigner who I hope will put them on my site by February. Long time coming.

Then a reply from the illusive Valentino:

Email #1:
From Valentino to Geisha
You are amazing!! First of all I am a photographer…not a magician…I Can’t make you out to be someone you are not…those shots were done professionally..don’t give me this crap about you could not see the pictures..that’s bullshit…Go to Spectra Photo Lab on LaGuardia St. They will do whatever needs to be done…you are a big baby..trying to say that the makeup was bad…the photography is no good..out of all those pictures…none of them is any good…Honey…I have been shooting for over a decade..maybe even two..and I know for a fact…that I would not have sent those shots to you unless they were good…and one more thing..ask your photographer friend…(most guys don’t even give their clients the slides…they show the slides to the client..and the photographer makes the reproductions and charges for them…) Me…I let you have the slides to re-produce anywhere you wanted,,, and you tell me that none of the pictures! are any good…BULLSHIT!!! THERE IS NO REFUND!!! THERE WILL BE NO RE-SHOOT!!! I DID MY JOB!! JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF COULD HAVE SHOOT YOU…AND YOU WOULD COMPLAIN…GOOD LUCK!!!..p.s. the reason I did not get back to you right away was I had a death in the family…if that is okay with you…You have to remember in life…life does not revolve around you and your crazy antics…Go bug someone else…

Email #2: (eight minutes later)
From Valentino to Geisha
O and by the way…you should not be taking my work to another photographer…you should have dealt with me directly..do you do the same to your doctor..lawyer…dentist…I bet you do..you did not get a response back from me right away so you take my work to others…you did not call me on the phone..you emailed me..which I only check maybe twice a week…so you get bent out of shape that you proceed without me…you mentioned you took a few slides to be developed…so you don’t like those…you have 100’s to choose from…Right...look don’t write me back…I am not interested in tossing the ball with you…Just go to the lab I told you and they will fix whatever you need..but don’t bug them out and nit-pick..i have warned them not to put up with any of your crazy shit!!!

Email #3 (Two minutes later)
From Valentino to Geisha

O and one last thing…what the fuck am I going to do with your slides after you send them back to me…you will give me back the slides after I give you a refund…are you retarded!!!

And so, he won. That was that. Perhaps he was right. I can't tell anymore.

I could not take him to court, as I could not risk him bringing up his knowledge of my profession.

Just like I can do nothing about the people who stand me up.

It simply has to go under the file of ‘just one of those things.’

So, it was just one of those weeks.

But I think, if you can look at your job, and say you like at least 80% of it, then in the end, it’s all good.

This was just a week in the 20 percentile.


At 10:13 AM, Blogger Zefrog said...


I have been reading your blog for a few weeks now and wanted to tell you how much I enjoy it. Very well done.

I also wanted to give my support. (I think) I know how frustrating it must be for you. I hope this guy gets is come uppance soon!

All the best for the new year.


At 12:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear N,
It gives me great peace to write it but lots of joy to know that someone out there gets pleasure from reading it..thank you for your support...

At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not do it yourself? Just entertain a few concepts and see where they lead you.
galmour photography is 90% technique & 10% inspiration , desire and passion.
technique you can get from a book: anybody can You already have a lot of the tools to be a successful glamour photographer already as stated in this post. A little knowledge of photography, lighting angles etc(again technique, buy a book, take a class in photography) coupled with desire and passion and viola!
I can tell you right now I could accomplish the level of competence that you recieved right now withthe knowledge I have of photography and I am by no means even a talented amateur photographer. Finda close friend (who is comfortable with who you are and what you do) buy a couple of umbrellas, clip on floodlights,
silver paint (for inside of umbrella's) a neutral light grey or ooff white bedsheet for a backdrop mix with friend with camera and flash and have fun. Will you get proffessional grade photos the first time - nope-
But I'll bet you'll get better photo's than your buddy the rip-off artist sent you and all you'll be out is the cost of supplies, a roll of film and some time. And you might be surprised with the quality of the
photography you do get. I'd volunteer myself, but logistics would make this problamatic. Besides if you do decide. you'lll have talented amateurs lining up. Give me interest, involvement and desire over proffesionallism and indifference , any day of the week
You've been to plenty of shoots you know how the lights backdrop and fill lights are arranged. You're intelligent and observant. You do the math.
sorry to hear about the CFS. If I find anything out in my reading and surfing I'll give you a yell
kallisti to you persephone
(it's not a name it's a greek phrase) kind of a departing observation if you will.

At 8:30 PM, Blogger Samurai Warrior said...

Never had a WG give me a discount to see her out of the agency -- must be "hard pricing" in all my cases

At 9:14 PM, Blogger Samurai Warrior said...

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Sounds like some thing I had. I wonder if its something like mono? They say that is the kissing disease...

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got here through a technorati search, I'm a photographer starting out, read through the whole thing.... saw it as a fine cautionary tale, kept making mental notes on how to be better than this guy.... by his penultimate email I was convinced he was a master con..... but then by his last i was not sure .... if I may, I would suggest you do as he says, take 2 or 3 of the best slides and give it a shot, he may be right, just may be, and the slides are fine. Have to say, I may be starting out, but I'd never send unedited work to client. All the best!


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