When I was 17 years old, that was a long time ago, I worked on the beach in South Carolina. When an attractive woman showed up on the beach wearing a bikini “bathing suit,” word spread like wild fire from one lifeguard or beach boy to the next. The bikini, named for the Pacific Atoll where the atomic bomb was tested, was as momentous an invention as the atomic bomb thought its inventor! It took a fairly long time for the bikini to move from the Mediterranean shore of France to the beaches of North America. Certainly one of its best sales representatives was Brigitte Bardot who made it the accepted women’s beachwear in Europe.
The “Itsy Bitsy Tiny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” was a hit in the summer of 1960, by then I had been on the beach working for several years. I recall lots of old and not so old guys snooping around with their Instamatic camera trying to grab a picture of any female in a bikini. Certainly the intermediate to long-range zoom lenses must have revolutionized this sort of photographic lurking. In doing a bit of research for this article (I admit it wasn’t hard work at all) I watched a video about James Macari the current SI Swimsuit photographer. He admits that this is his dream job, and he wants to hang on to it as long as possible. He sends his work time in exotic beautiful locations with exotic, beautiful young women. What’s not to like?
Yesterday I met a young photographer to buy a piece of gear that he had for sale. We met at a fast food restaurant between our hometowns. In our conversation he told me that he was doing model portfolios. He grinned and added, “I am now good enough that I can charge for them and I’m getting a much more attractive clientele.” He showed me some of his images, I thought they were quite good, a bit conservative, but still quite good. This is how one starts. You must have a goal, a quest to pursue. Then, you must work very hard at it. If you are not willing to get out in the public or professional circles, then you will fail. I remember a professor telling me, “All things come to those who wait, (if they work like Hell while they wait)!
The other issue is that you must be professional in your approach. The Edward Weston days are kind of over. Models are not looking to sleep their way to the top. And f they are. The photographer is hardly much o0f a stepping-stone for them. Treat them with respect. Karl Taylor, British fashion photographer, personifies this in his teaching videos that are available on YouTube. About ten years ago a student at my school went on a one week “internship” along with a group of upper classmen. She picked out a young-to-middle aged bikini fashion photographer to spend her week with. His first request was to make some shots of her. She agreed, and the next sentence she heard was, “Well, take your clothes off.” This ain’t fashion photography friends; it’s the rankest sort of exploitation. If there are no bikinis, or other clothing, how can it be construed as fashion photography? The line between glamor fashion and soft-core porn is very fine, but it is clearly identifiable. Don’t be a punk, show respect.
Not only is this work pleasurable, it is difficult. Still to be in an exotic location-beach or ski slope- working with a group of beautiful, intelligent women is not a bad gig. Active wear fashion photography is a legitimate professional goal.
About the author:
Now retired from practice of medicine. Also spent another dozen years teaching photography and traveling. Use Photoshop and Lightroom well. Undergraduate English major, took the pre-med classes as my electives. I enjoy reading, photography, and walking with my dog.