There’s a printed-out note on the table, sandwiched between vegan purses and a MacBook Pro. “DO NOT INCLUDE FACE” it reads. The photographer looks at me. “Guess we won’t be needing your head today.”
Welcome to ecommerce, the model guillotine.
I’m all too aware of my role as a walking coat hanger, but at least when they keep your face in the frame you can pretend that they’ve hired you because you’re special in some way, not simply a torso with movable arms. When you’re booked as an “unrecognizable” – which is the proper term for jobs like these – it is that you are simply easier to dress than a proper mannequin, known to be stiff and uncooperative, with metal joints where the rotator cuffs should be. This is about as replaceable as it gets in the modeling world.
We start shooting and I stand in front of the camera, lame and motionless, listening for the telltale sounds of the shot being taken. Click. My eyes wander to the shelves lined with shoes, belts, sun hats. Click. I squint at holes in the ceiling and don’t move much. Click. I stare down at the angry pink shade my feet have already assumed, trying to escape through the leather straps of a pair of too small shoes. “Okay, next,” the photographer says, and I pull on another shirt. It continues like this for a multitude of hours, my eyes lolling about while someone makes sure my pants are pulled down beneath my calves, that the shirts are tucked into the pants just so.
A lazier person might think that this sounds like the best job ever, being dressed like a doll, not having to worry about what your face is doing or how you look when having a photo taken. And sure, it’s not coal mining. There are about 4,879 jobs in the world that are loads worse than this. Still, when an already simple enough task has been pared down to the barest of bones, when you don’t even have to concentrate on making sure you’re not drooling, you sort of want to kill yourself.
Without the ego-boosting thrill of misplaced vanity, when the fancy photographers and the makeup and the hair and the expressive posing are taken away, you become painfully aware that you, as a model, are a waste of human being. And I’m not being dramatic; I’m being honest. A piece of wood could do this job. At least this ecommerce job. A piece of wood could not pose in Vogue.
The photographer says “next” and I pull on a pair of stretch trousers, a silk top. I put myself into the corner for the 200th time and stare aimlessly, listening for my cue.
I mean, click. — Jenny Bahn