Hello Ms. Rubber, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Road…(or, scorn is easy, respectful communication is hard…)

A hard day at the salt mines today!

I think it must be the hardest thing for your work to be a spectator sport. I feel that way when I teach, and I have the same feeling about models and photographers and folks who have to perform their job in front of a bunch of gawkers, well-wishers (and no-so-well wishers.)

And it becomes clearer to me why there are so many art shots of sweaters in books and magazines, and so few good, clear shots of the knitterly details that make a sweater comprehensible to the average knitter. You see, it’s all so – well – J. Jill… (I’ll explain later)

We all like to feel that we can express ourselves in our work, be creative and artistic. But there are restrictions and parameters, some of which can feel tighter and more constraining than others. Hand-knit & crocheted design is like no other kind of designing; aside from the creation and execution of the garment, instructions must be written so that an average knitter can decipher them and recreate the sweater. Key are the visual clues; schematics, charts, and not least, the actual photo of the sweater.

It’s like writing a sonnet – rules must be followed, but within those parameters there can be great creativity. Finding a way to bridge the creative and the pragmatic is the hard nut to crack.

No one likes to feel like they’re an automaton – mechanically dishing out what someone else has cooked. We determine if this is how we view ourselves, though. I realize that it must be very hard to be a photographer and have folks tell you what shot they need, what’s vital to be communicated, when all you want to do is take a beautiful and compelling picture. However, making needs known is not a show of disrespect – it’s communication.

So what have I learned in the past two days? Here are the unspoken lesson I’ve gleaned:

The lowest form of photography – to an artistic photographer – is catalog work.
A knitting book is just slightly above catalog work in the evolutionary scale of for-pay photography
It is possible for a hairstyle to be too J. Jill… (who knew?)
Questioning two styling choices (out of dozens) is a sign of disrespect. (once again, who knew?)
When a photographer says, “What detail do you want here?” there is no right answer. Or at least there wasn’t today.

The real difficulty began and ended with two styling elements I questioned: The White Cloche Incident of Thursday spilled over into Friday when I made matters worse by questioning a pair of pants.

The lace peplum top had been styled with a pair of tattersall trousers, but because of the lace ruffle that runs around the bottom of the piece, the pairing looked very busy around the crotch area. This particular sweater is a really hard garment to style – it has odd lines, it’s unusual. I felt that – being one of the more feminine pieces – a skirt would work better (and would provide a flat background to show off the lace.)

By questioning the pants I had crossed some invisible line, which was unfortunate. I brought in a few skirts, one of which we ended up using for this shot, and apparently that compounded my sin. Shoots are hard – so many raw feelings, such a heightened sensitivity permeates everything. At the end of the day the work was done, I think the photos will be absolutely gorgeous, and although I had to struggle for some of the shots which I hope will demonstrate the techniques clearly, we got them.

It just feels a shame that I had to push hard for some of them. Why asking for a skirt instead of pants for one shot should be the cause of so much grief is both a great mystery, and also painfully obvious – artists have pride, pride can get hurt.

The frustration of the photographer was palpable. It was the frustration of somone who had control of all of the details of the shoot (from the location to her stylist) only to find that she also had the input of a wacky and strong minded designer who felt it was vital to communicate knitting details in the photographs. I felt bad, the photographer felt stifled (hence the J. Jill crack, and other comments about catalog work…) but oddly – the day was still enjoyable!

I absolutely adored the hair and makeup woman, we laughed all day, and the models were so sweet! Our escort at the gardens, Hazel, was terrific and the stylist and I were able to carve a working relationship and even feel a nice bit of respect for each other at the end (I hope…) The book designer and I bonded a bit – and everyone breathed a sigh of relief that the last day of the shoot – mostly still life shots – will be designer & art director free.

Having been in this situation from the other side (as a stylist) I know how hard it is – sometimes the hardest thing in the world. I do appreciate that.

However, I have to admit that the absolute best moment in the day came when the assistant photographer looked up at the model as the above outfit was being shot and innocently commented to the stylist, “I like that skirt – it’s really nice!

That was priceless.

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