My call time today is 6:30. I meet with wardrobe and makeup and I'm on location (woodpile behind the old Weller's barn) by 7 a.m. Right now, I'm thinking the morning shoot should go pretty quickly. I'm modeling the classic Adirondack Barn Coat and the shot list calls for a standard Josh. For those of you outside the business, the Josh is a classic catalog pose. It's a mid-thigh to head shot of a ruggedly handsome man who's turning his head slightly to the right, as if to greet a ruggedly handsome friend who's just emerged from the timberline carrying some antique snowshoes. Most importantly, the Josh calls for a ruggedly handsome smile that looks as if it could break into hearty laugh at any second. (The Josh is named for Josh Caldwell, who pioneered and refined the look during his seminal work for Bean during the late '70s. Sadly, we lost Josh to AIDS in 1987, but his name lives on in this ruggedly handsome pose.)
As we're setting up, I'm cradling a cup of coffee between my hands just to keep warm. On a whim, I say to Steve (catalog photographer Steve Dinar), "You know, Steve, with the way this steam is rising off the coffee and swirling against the backdrop of this barn's weathered paint, I'm wondering if we ought to just incorporate the coffee mug into the Josh."*
Steve looks up from his filter case and says, "I don't know, Matt. It's not on the shot list and the cradled coffee mug usually reads a little more wistful. I mean, if this were the Rangeley Cotton Sweater and we were on the porch of a rustic cabin, I'd be tempted, but...hey, you know what? The hell with it. Let's take some chances here. We'll grab a few frames of coffee mug Josh and see if the client likes it."
Well, I guess they did like it, 'cause you can see me cupping the mug and striking a dazzling Josh on Page 47 of this year's catalog. It may seem like a small thing, but when you're working with the best photographers, real artists who've learned to trust a model's instincts, some pretty magical things can happen.
It's almost 10 a.m. and Rex has finally arrived. We'll be working together on the next shot, a whimsical football-in-the-snow scene for the Chamois Cloth Shirt. You may not know Rex by name, but you've definitely seen his work before. He's a 5-year-old yellow Labrador with classically chiseled features. We worked together last fall on a great spread for Men's Health ("Low Impact Hiking," October 2002), so I head over to greet him and catch up on things.
But once I get over there, he acts like we've never met before, much less done a three-day shoot in the Cascades. What's with this shit? And then it hits me, "Oh, Rex got his first cover two months ago (Outside, 'Apres-Ski In the Poconos') and now he's too good for the rest of us. What an asshole." I promise you this: When Matt Considine gets his first cover (and it WILL happen), you won't see me throwing attitude around my next shoot. Some of us remember the ruggedly handsome people who helped us get where we are.
I'm back in the trailer when I hear a radio ad for some company that lets you name stars after loved ones. And it strikes me as just about the perfect Christmas gift for my girlfriend, Melanie. First, it's so goddamn romantic (My angel girl's in heaven, where she belongs). And second, even if I buy her a crappy star, one that explodes in a supernova next week or collapses into a black hole in a month or so, it'll be like 12.4 million years before she knows it's broken. How sweet is that?
My friends often ask me how long I plan to stay in the modeling game. And it's a fair question. I mean, I'm only gonna be ruggedly handsome for 20 or 30 more years. But my theory is this: As long as they're asking me to model the Mini-Waffle-Knit Shirts or the Polartec Fleece-Lined Vests, I'll keep doing it. But when I become one of those ruggedly handsome old-timers who's relegated exclusively to the Wide Wale Corduroy Pants, I'll know it's time to call it quits. That's just sad.
For the last shot of the day, Lisa and I are working together on the Wildcat Parka tableau. In it, we're walking side by side with skis on our shoulders. And we're wearing confident smiles that say, "We're young and beautiful and privileged, but we think of ourselves as being only slightly superior to you, the customer. You probably won't look as good in these clothes. It may even sadden you a little that the clothes look so dreary and ordinary on you. But that's okay. Because now we're going back to the lodge for an Irish coffee and then to our cabin for some wholesome, athletic sex that poses no threat to the social order."
*No sooner is the coffee cup suggestion out of my mouth than Chris (photographer's assistant Chris Maniotta) says, "Umm, technically, steam is invisible. What you're seeing is condensation." This is apparently the kind of meaningless factoid you have to commit to memory when you're not the ruggedly handsome guy, but are instead the sad little man who holds the light meter up to the ruggedly handsome guy's face. What a weird, compensatory power to crave.