Tuesday, July 30, 2013


DAY 16, JULY 23, 2013
I woke this morning to the to the gurgling of the pool cleaning system, a motorized little vacuum cleaner that automatically travels the bottom of the pool eating all the bacteria. It’s become a white noise that gently wakes me as the sun begins it cresting from the far side of apartment bedroom. We sleep with the windows open but the screens shut. This morning the hand of a godly painter had once again begun brushing the sky above the distant hills with strokes of pink and lavender. Twenty-three has always been a superstitiously scared talisman for me, a good luck charm in numbers. Even if I glance at a clock and the digital numbers come up twenty-three it can turn a bad day into a better one. Today I was glad to give all that good luck to Emmy. It was her day today.
There’s an American tradition that high school seniors now participate in lovingly called, “Senior Pictures”. I fully meant to capitalize “Senior Pictures”, it holds that much importance to Emmy. A High School yearbook for me meant a single picture taken by the local portrait photographer who held a contract with the school so everyone’s picture looked pretty much the same, a black and white image shot against a gray background with little more than a pasted smile or a blank stare differentiating the photos.
Now the senior picture is an entire portfolio worthy of an Elite model. It can require hair and make-up, several locations and a professional photographer. We some how promised Emmy she could do hers in Tuscany. So this is what consumed our day.
We had compiled a list of photos she wanted to take. She had to have a minimum of six. We had informed Stefania of this a month before we were to arrive. She, of course, knew someone in the village who was a professional photographer up to the task. Diego spoke no English so Stefania acted as our go between, translator and negotiator. Through this chain of telephone we worked out a price for photography, hair and make-up. Stefania kept on repeating how excited Diego was to do this job. He hadn’t done anything like it before. These were not encouraging words.
We had settled on a starting time of three in the afternoon. Diego wanted to capture the best light of the day. I wanted to make sure he could capture six shots before the sun went down. I figured it was going to be touch and go given that in the heat of Italy nothing really happens on time and even though the Papacy resides nearby I don’t think they had the power to extend the number of light hours in a day.
They arrived promptly at 3:30. That meant we were starting out with thirty-minutes of lost time and light. As each member of the team walked in the door we offered our hand and our name. This worked with Diego and the make-up artist but the hairstylist didn’t take the hint. We never did find out what her name was. Make-up went first. We managed to have Stefania translate that we wanted a fresh look, not too heavy and definitely not too hoochie coochie. Make-up did a commendable job.
When it was our unnamed hairstylist’s turn we asked for some soft waves. Emmy even had a picture of what she wanted. The girl kept on saying, “Si, si” and then proceeded to crimp the back of Emmy’s head, burning a piece of her scalp, and making sausage curls instead of soft waves.
She left the whole thing in rollers until we got to our first site, the narrow streets of Buoconvento, before she began to undo the Farah Fawcett meets eighties pop star end result. By then it was too late to turn around so Emmy held her chin high and went on with the shoot.
The look was real Toddlers and Tiaras but if anyone could pull it off it was going to be Emmy and Diego and they did. I bit my tongue with my displeasure with her hair until we got back in the car heading to our second location, a sunflower field just outside town.
Emmy and I explained that this look wasn’t her and it wasn’t. She is not beauty queen material; she’s more elegant than that. Our hairstylist relented and for the sunflowers we pulled her hair back to simpler more tamed look.
With the new hairdo break we were racing the clock now to get all her pictures in before the light was completely gone. With each passing minute the sun was sinking lower and lower in the western sky. It was full speed back to Armena. Emmy sat in the back seat frantically pulling pins out of her cement-like hair-sprayed do. Once back it was a quick wash and blow dry returning Emmy’s hair back to its original silky straight look. Our problem now was really the light. I had been nervous about the starting time given the list of photos we were trying to accomplish but our Italians were all sure we could get all of our shots in before we ended up doing the last half of our list with a candle and a prayer.
Never and I mean never consider doing a shoot with animals without giving yourself at least an extra hour of fudge time. Our horse was beautiful but despite assurances that he was calm as bath water he reared and skittered every time one of the kids jumped in the pool or splashed too loudly.
We desperately tried to get in a couple more shots poolside and by the entry to our apartment. We semi succeeded but the last two shots relied more on the beauty of the sunset and artificial lighting than the natural light that had made the first part of the shoot so beautiful. We needed Diego’s talent to get us through to the end.
Diego said we would have a disc by the end of the week. Diego kept turning the camera to Emmy so she could see the results as we went along, the advantages of digital photography. She was very pleased.

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