For two weeks I had been going out every day looking for subjects to draw, scoping every (safe) place I could think of, and one evening I ended up wandering around a college campus, peeking into classrooms. If an instructor noticed me lingering at the door, I would smile sheepishly and wave, like I was lost, and tip toe away.
When I wandered into the art building and peeked into a figure drawing class, I saw Tanapon (Billy) Piajessadakul at an easel. As soon as I saw him, I thought he would make a good model.
I approached Billy during a break, and although he seemed somewhat surprised, he was very open to the idea.
A few days later, Billy came to my home and we did a photo shoot. I thought it went well, but after he left, I examined the images more closely and I felt I could have captured something deeper, more psychological. So I went back to the college to see him, and he came out in to the hall to speak with me.
"I need something a little different," I said, staring at him hard.
"Sure," he shrugged. "What do you need?"
We went into the men's restroom so we could both look in the long mirror there while I guided him through different emotions to get different expressions.
Billy is good-humored and laid back, and at first, although we tried to remain serious, we could not stop laughing. But after a while, I could see in his eyes a complex intensity, and I knew this could work, so we scheduled a second shoot.
Billy brought his sister, Sutira, this time. Here they are checking out the images.
The second shoot yielded about seventy shots, many almost identical except for subtle changes in lighting or facial expression.
How do I choose the photo? I examine each image, zooming in on the best to look closely at the eyes, then put my favorites aside into a folder.
I do not look in the folder.
Over the next few days, I repeat this several times, looking at each photo, zooming in, choosing favorites, and dropping them into the folder.
Finally, I open the folder to see what I have chosen.
It never fails that I have saved the same image over and over again, yet this always surprises me, because the shot taken immediately before it and the shot taken right after it are almost, but not quite, identical to the one I prefer. What makes me continually zero in on this one shot? I really don't know why, but I feel strongly about it.
Last weekend I finished the portrait, and Billy dropped by the studio to see it.
All images © Mary Borgman, 2009