By Martin David Edwards
The camera club organiser tapped at his watch. “Five minutes for our next wizard,” he said.
George stepped forward from the waiting photographers onto the set, his camera at the ready. Isabella sat astride a pair of black and white woollen stools. Her jet black hair waved in the breeze from a fan.
“Checking my focus,” he said and extended his zoom lens towards her face.
“Prime lenses are sharper,” Gregory called out from the group of photographers standing behind him.
“Amateurs,” George muttered to Isabella. Gregory was demonstrating his superiority but George didn’t need to respond. Through a volley of shutter clicks, he demonstrated that no other man could come close to equalling his passion.
Isabella gazed back at him, her smile poised over perfect white teeth. He would not need Photoshop when he magnified her face five hundred percent on his laptop at night.
The organiser’s watch beeped. “Gregory’s next in line,” he said.
George waved his fingertips goodbye at Isabella while she only smiled at him. Angels didn’t need to communicate with mortals, he consoled himself.
“Make way. Fixed length supremo coming,” Gregory announced, bustling through the photographers to the set.
George shuffled aside as Gregory took his place in front of Isabella. His rival’s lens was barely an inch long, he estimated. Isabella would need a magnifying glass to see him among the studio lights.
“Excuse me,” Alexei squinted at him. “I’m looking for advice with my shutter speed.”
“One hundred and sixtieth,” George beamed at the Russian. In front of Isabella, he was the god of friendliness.
The model turned her face slightly.
“I’ll show you which dial to turn,” George added and fussed over the Russian’s camera. He could be generous in Isabella’s eyes too.
The organiser’s watch beeped again. “That’s a wrap until next Saturday. Let’s thank the model for her efforts,” he announced.
“Beautiful work,” George said loudly.
“Gorgeous posing,” Gregory added, nearly shouting.
“Don’t forget to post your work on our Facebook page. Now we can go outside and enjoy the rain,” the organiser said and dimmed the studio lights.
“I’ve got an umbrella to protect you from getting drenched,” Gregory said to Isabella.
Before she could reply, Gregory reached into his camera bag and thrust a travel umbrella into her hands. George grimaced. Next Saturday, Gregory needed to be taught a lesson with his inappropriate offers.
During the week in his office, Gregory finalised the plans for the next camera club shoot.
“How’s the photography going?” his colleague asked from a neighbouring computer screen.
“Ready to hatch the master stroke,” George replied.
The colleague’s face popped out from the screen and she removed a lollipop from her mouth with a smacking sound. “You’re so determined to get out and make new friends. Being lonely is so demanding,” she said.
“I’m not lonely. I’ve got complicated photographic logistics to manage,” George replied, dreaming of thick black wavy hair.
“You boys are so sweet with your toys,” the woman said and bit her lollipop in half.
“Cameras aren’t for children. They’re creative instruments,” George replied.
At lunchtime, he took the Tube to his favourite photography shop. He walked past the camera displays and straight to the rental counter.
“Hallo again George,” the assistant said. “Enjoying the craft?”
George leaned over the counter. “My lens isn’t big enough. I need to hire an extra large special prime for the weekend.”
The assistant winked at him. “Shooting birds in the wildlife sanctuary?”
“Angels actually,” George replied.
“Church work. Architectural details are fascinating to photograph,” the assistant said. “You’ll be wanting a 600mm lens. We’ve got two available to rent. Have your credit card details changed?”
George shook his head. Nothing changed in his life but angels could yet deliver miracles.
On Saturday George returned to the camera club, wheeling a shiny aluminium carry case across the studio floor with a whirr of rotating wheels. Isabella was crouching on the studio floor in blue jeans, while Alexei handed her a faded denim jacket.
“Going travelling?” Alexei asked, squinting at the case.
“In a manner of speaking,” George replied. He snapped open the case locks and imagined Isabella gasping with disbelief as he pulled out the thick, white lens from the bed of grey foam. But his attention was distracted by the whirr of another set of wheels.
“A wonderful day for shooting,” Gregory said, laying his matching aluminium case flat.
“I might need a monopod,” George replied, opening his own case. “My lens is too large to hold single-handedly.”
“You can borrow mine if you ask nicely,” Gregory said. He opened his case to reveal an identical lens. “I wanted to give my super prime a try out.”
Alexei double squinted at the two identical lenses. “You are like twins, going for a camping holiday together. In English, you say that birds of a feather lay eggs together.”
Isabella giggled and inspected the denim jacket buttons.
“I’m an only child and the expression is flock together,” George said to Alexei. Then he remembered his resolution to appear generous. “But you can try out my lens later.”
“Magic calls. Gregory first,” the organiser said and tapped at his watch.
Gregory screwed his lens to a grey pole and swivelled his camera towards Isabella. “Let’s go for closeups,” he said to Isabella.
George watched Gregory giving Isabella instructions and rolled his eyes. He had no idea how to use his lens with the model.
“Lovely.” The organiser’s watch beeped and he nodded at George.
“My headshots will crop perfectly for the Facebook page,” Gregory said. “Ready for my monopod?” he asked George.
“No thanks. I’ll use my image stabilizer,” George replied. He shifted his lens onto his hand and advanced towards Isabella. But as he clicked away, he realised he had left his memory cards in his bedsit and was too embarrassed to ask for help.
On Sunday afternoon, George returned the lens to the camera shop. He saw Gregory at a vintage counter inspecting a large, wooden camera and hid behind a lighting stand. After Gregory had left, George went to the rental counter.
“Our long primes are getting popular. We might need to buy a third for our stock,” the assistant said, taking the case.
“Big lenses are so yesterday. I need to go to the next level,” Georg replied in a hushed voice.
The assistant wiped a line of spittle from his chin. “Medium format is the ultimate choice of professionals.”
“Precisely.” George paused. “There’s one condition I need to make before I give you my monthly salary for the rental.”
“We can offer free of charge familiarisation sessions.”
George shook his head. “I want a camera with only one in stock. I’m counting on being exclusive.”
The assistant tapped at his computer screen and frowned. “I’ve got one Hasselblad from the 1960s in the rental store, like the cameras they took to the Moon.”
George imagined himself wearing a space suit, clambering over moon rocks to rescue Isabella from aliens who were copycats. “I’ll take the camera on Saturday morning.”
“Do you want the sessions too?” the assistant replied.
“I don’t need help. You can find anything you want on YouTube,” George replied.
On Monday morning at the office, George’s colleague greeted him with a wave of a replacement lollipop. “Made any progress with your photography?”
“Next week I’ll have results, guaranteed. There’s no competition for professionals in the camera club.” George buried himself in a search of YouTube videos.
“You need glasses to see the obvious,” the girl sighed and returned to her own computer browsing.
George returned to the camera club on the following Saturday. Isabella was straightening a string of pearls over a white polar neck jumper. In the corner Alexei was hanging a white pom pom decoration from the ceiling.
“We’re shooting a winter wonderland theme today. Can you help with the snow?” the organiser asked George.
“I’m ready to take on any weather for the sake of photography,” George declared to Isabella. With a blur of a broom, he brushed polystyrene snowflakes across the set.
“Good morning my fellow camera lovers. I’m going back to the old days,” Gregory said to the studio. He opened a case to reveal the wooden camera George had seen in in the camera shop. “Film plates are the best. You can’t beat the detail.”
The organiser called for the shoot to begin. George waited, imagining himself leaping across the Moon with the camera. When his five minute slot came, he lay on the studio floor. Isabella towered above him in the jumper and the pearls, swinging as she moved to his instructions. The white pom pom bordered her hair like an angel’s wingtips.
“You look like you’re praying in church,” Gregory said behind him.
“Quiet on set. I’m concentrating,” George tutted. With the studio hushed, he turned the dials and knobs on his camera.
“You’ve left your lens cap on,” Gregory said to titters from the group.
“I was checking for light leakage,” George said and removed a black circular cap from the front of his lens. Isabella was pouting as if she was sorry for him. Gregory could make fun of him and pretend his plate camera was superior, but Isabella had just been snapped.
After his five minutes were finished, Gregory bowed to Gregory for him to continue. He spent the rest of the shoot ignoring Gregory and his plate camera. His mind was concentrating on higher priorities. Isabella needed to be treated properly, he decided. She would want to ask him out for a date but would expect him to make the first move. He would suggest a coffee for them to review his photographs together. She would understand the pretext and would accept with an angelic smile. Coffee finished, he would declare that he was hungry and remark that modelling must be calorie-crunching work. Of course, she would be delighted to join him for a pizza. They would share a glass of wine but not a bottle. Angels did not want to know about his bladder problems.
“A round of applause for our winter star,” the organiser said at the end of the shoot. “I have to pay my parking before I get a ticket, if you don’t mind cleaning up.”
As the photographers clapped, the organiser dashed out of the studio. Gregory dawdled packing his plate camera. George edged towards the set, in case Gregory wanted to talk to Isabella.
“Where does the pom pom go?” George asked her.
“The recycling bin,” Alexei said.
Isabella pulled out a phone from her jumpsuit She tapped at the screen and looked up, her eyes as wide as a startled rabbit.
“Battery flat?” Gregory asked.
“I’ll buy you a new phone,” George said.
Isabella shook her wavy black hair. “My yoga class has been brought forward half an hour and I’ll miss the start,” she said.
“Don’t worry, petal. I’ll drive you to yoga and we can have a vegan takeaway afterwards, just the way you like it,” Alexei replied.
The Russian left the studio holding Isabella’s hand. George and Gregory cleaned the set saying nothing. After they finished, they stood on the pavement side by side with their cameras.
“The organiser should change models for more variety on our Facebook page,” Gregory said.
“You can’t fault Isabella’s enthusiasm but her hair is hard to expose for dynamic range,” George replied.
“A model who didn’t get distracted so easily would also be beneficial,” Gregory said.
George’s stomach rumbled. “I was thinking about a pizza and a bottle of wine, if I can disappear every five minutes to the bathroom,” he said.
Gregory stepped away from George and then paused. “I might be partial to pepperoni and the occasional beer. These shoots are thirsty work,” he replied.
George checked his watch. “I suppose I could spare half an hour.”
The two men walked down the street talking about cameras, the Moon race and never mentioning Russia.
Martin David Edwards is a writer and photographer based in London. He likes combining writing with image-making. When not working, he has a soft spot for cats. Martin has published short stories in Bento Box, The Metric, Psychopomp, Sein und Werden, Storyboard, Street Cake and Winamop magazines, and in the collection “Allusions of Innocence” by Solarwyrm Press. For his photography, Martin has exhibited in three solo shows at the Red Gate Gallery in London in 2009 and 2010, and in group shows at AE Studios in New York in 2009 and at the Liquid Arts Fair in March 2012. Martin’s website is http://www.storiesbymartin.com and his Instagram is @storiesbymartin.
Photo credits x 2:
Photography: Martin Edwards
Model: Olivia Jameson
Styling: Leisel Vella
Makeup: Sheryl Raj