Secret Garden

After spending two weeks going to castings and not getting any jobs, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I started searching through the hashtag #milanphotographers and messaging anyone and everyone who I thought might be willing to do a free shoot with me. Sometimes photographers will do a TFP shoot (Trade for Print), which means you model for free photos. This is good for people who need to add more photos to their portfolio (aka me).

I also found a Facebook group for expats living in Milan, which had a few posts about people looking for models. Just my luck: there was a fashion student looking for a model who responded pretty much immediately! She emailed me her 'mood board', which shows the overall style of the shoot, and we scheduled to meet the following week.

"But then I realized that this wasn't about me; it was about these students building their own portfolios and gaining experience in their future careers."

Now before I talk about the shoot, I need to go off on a tangent about what happened to me while waiting for the stylist in the shoot location. I was minding my own business reading a book (Cold Mountain), when this middle-aged man came over and started speaking to me in Italian. I kindly gave the "deer-in-the-headlights-I-don't-speak-Italian" look, so he repeated in English that he thought I was beautiful and he just felt like he had to say hello. He didn't seem overly creepy, so I politely answered his questions about where I was from and if I was liking Milan. But then he started asking me questions about why I was in Milan and where I was staying, so I started to get a bit uncomfortable. He asked if I would like to have dinner with him and I said no, and then said I was waiting for my friend and walked away. Problem solved.

Nope. After about 10 minutes he came back and sat down beside me, this time talking rather frantically about the fact that he was a journalist and he was looking for models. During our first encounter I was polite, but now I was clearly showing that I was not interested in being a part of this conversation. I still tried to be polite when I told him I wasn't interested, but he pleaded that I look at some of his work and then make a decision. Then he proceeded to show me a picture of himself of his phone....naked. Needless to say I immediately got up and walked away, trying to ignore that fact that he spit in my direction as I left.

But back to the shoot.


Everyone eventually showed up at the location (Giardini della Gustalla), I brushed off my unfortunate encounter with the park creep, and resumed my feelings of anxiety about the shoot. There was going to be a videographer in addition to a photographer; something that I had zero experience with. Since this whole shoot was for a student project, I was pretty nervous about letting everyone down. Thankfully the whole crew was wonderful, and I had a lot of fun from start to finish. The videographer Andrea was this super muscular gym bro who was chivalrous despite our language barrier, and the photographer Giacomo reminded me of an eccentric movie director. Maria (the stylist) and her assistant/best friend - also named Maria - were so laid back that I immediately felt like we were friends. And the make-up artist Silvia did a such a great job that I could actually take a selfie without noticing my on-going acne battle. Hell ya. 


When we started shooting I felt a bit awkward, especially since there were a park full of people watching me. But then I realized that this wasn't about me; it was about these students building their own portfolios and gaining experience in their future careers. Just like that, the pressure I felt disappeared and the rest of the shoot was a breeze. 

The clothing was designed by Ayse Kaya, and it had these super tiny, intricate beaded details; looked amazing, but not exactly comfortable. In some of the shots I was sitting or laying down, which meant all these tiny beads were digging into my skin. Do it for the 'gram though right?

Afterward everyone went for pizza - my first in Italy! It was such a relief to be with people who weren't models, even if it was just a for a few hours and I couldn't understand the conversations 90% of the time. 'Grazie mille' Secret Garden crew!

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