This was nowhere close to what people had expected from Bethany. This was not her style. She was breaking a trend here. She was coming out of her comfort zone – a zone that he had excelled in for years. She was emerging out of her mould. And she was doing it in such a style. The people who were attending the opening night of the showing knew that they were going to indulge in a visual treat – an artistically beautiful visual treat. But this, this was something that was way beyond their imagination. Bethany had stunned them all.
Bethany Hill had her own distinct style when it came to photography. Nude woman form was her specialty. She was rated very highly by critics as well as her audience for nude photography. She had a way of capturing the beauty of female form in its unique way. Each model for her was different. At times she would capture their inhibitions. At times she would capture their carefree flight of freedom. Some of her shots reflected their insecurities. Some shots reflected the killer attitude of a feral wild cat. There was a raw beauty to all her shots. She understood her subjects like no one else. And even the models submitted completely to Bethany’s vision of them. They transformed into a whole new being. It was as if Bethany was wielding her camera like a magic wand and bringing out a whole another side to her models.
But what the audience was witnessing today was something that the brunette photographer had never done before.
This time the photographs had women as her primary subjects – like always. But this time there was one woman who was weaving a basket. There was one who was surrounded by a 10-15 kids holding onto her with love. Then there was one woman who was feeding dogs. There was one who was nursing someone. And each shot had a raw energy to it. This was certainly unexpected from her.
While the audience was wandering around, the press liaisons surrounded the photographer bombarding her with questions. She tried to answer most of the questions as honestly as possible. Some questions were fielded by her loyal assistance Benjamin.
Everyone was moving around and mingling. Benjamin was busy making sure that the guests were being looked after. Every now and then he would look at Bethany who was being approached by people. Some wanted to know about the photos while some wanted to know about her process. It was hard to make out whether the people were in awe of her or her work.
When it seemed that handling the press individually was going to be a tough task, Benjamin came up with an idea. He excused himself and pulled his boss along him.
“B this is going really great. People are shocked and in awe”, he gushed.
“Hmm”, she hummed.
“Oh come on B, this is a huge success”, he insisted.
“I know Benji”, she replied.
“You don’t look happy”, he noted.
“I am. It’s just that this show reminds me of a few things”, she said in a voice tinged with longing.
“Aww B, you have done all you could. Don’t beat yourself up now”, he rubbed her shoulders gently.
“Thanks Benji. You are a sweetheart”, she placed her hand lovingly on his cheek.
“Ms Hill, we have a few questions for you”, a few media liaisons came up to the couple.
“Yeah go ahead”, they both replied.
“Ms Hill, why did you name this collection Footprints”, one of the guys asked.
“Well, like Benjamin said earlier, these are people who have inspired me. These are women who have left a mark in my life. So I decided to call it Footprints”, she replied honestly.
By now the crowd surrounding Bethany had increased.
“Why did you deviate from your popular style of nude photography”, one of the patrons asked.
“To be honest I was facing a creative block before I came up with Footprints”, she started.
“No I am serious. Just like a writer goes through a writer’s block I was going through a photographer’s block. I was losing interest and faith in my art. All my life what I had done was I had captured sides to a woman. I had never captured the entirety of a woman. All my work that you have seen so far has been shots of women and their different sides. And that’s all. But then somebody inspired me to look for stories in my subjects. And what you see today are not mere shots or models. These are stories”, she finished.
“Are you telling us all these photographs displayed today are stories”, somebody asked from the crowd.
“Yes they are”, she nodded her head. “The woman with the basket is a lady who has dedicated her life to looking after her ill mother in law after her husband’s death. The one with the kids is a woman who was abandoned by her husband and family when she got diagnosed as HIV+. Living on the streets, she started sheltering the homeless kids and looking after them. She works hard and paid for their education. The one with the patients is a corporate woman who let go of her lucrative career. She has spent time in the jungles of Amazon nursing the natives to health and helping them connect better with the civilized world. The one here with piano is a blind woman who was told by everybody that she was an invalid. Well turns out she is not! These are all women who have displayed the power of silent perseverance. Their beauty lies in their heart and their mind which gives them the ability to do their thing. They are modern day heroes that often get overlooked. I wanted to bring this beauty to the pedestal today”, she finished.
The place erupted with applause once again.
“Are you ever going to go back to your original style of photography”, somebody asked.
“Uhm it’s too soon to think about that. For now I just want to focus on right here right now”, she answered.
“Have you thought of your next collection at all”, came the next question.
“Like I said right here right now”, she answered patiently.
“Ms Hill, this show has been excellently put together. It’s safe to say that this is your best one so far”, one member commented.
“Well the credit goes to Benjamin. He has been the one who has put all of this together”, she shared the credit with her assistant.
“Talking of success, we now have the champagne flutes being brought in”, Benjamin announced.
“To Bethany”, they all toasted in chorus.
Benjamin and Bethany moved away from the crowd and he congratulated her once again, “That was great boss. And it was very nice of you to bring me up there”, he said adoringly.
“You deserve this Benji”, she sipped from her flute.
He noticed that she looked a bit lost. There was something playing on her mind and he knew what.
“B, I know what you are thinking but let’s not go there. At least not tonight”, he insisted.
“You are right. This is your moment and I don’t want to spoil it”, she emptied her flute.
“It’s not about me B. It’s about you”, he held her hands.
“I know”, she smiled and walked away.
He stood there noticing her. Anybody who saw her right now would see a celebrity photographer enjoying her moment of success, basking in the glory. But he knew that was not the case. He knew all Bethany wanted to do right now was get away from all of this. She had always been uncomfortable with attention. And it was showing again today. He sighed. If only he could help her more. But that was not going to happen. So he decided to stand by her through the night.
“So Ms Hill what would you quote as a price for the woman with the kids”, asked one of the patrons.
“Mr Rogers, the price tags are already placed under each photograph”, Benjamin replied.
“Yeah but since I am a regular at Ms Hill’s showing, I thought I might get a little discounted quote”, the man tried.
“Mr Rogers, half of the price that we have quoted is going to go towards funding the education of underprivileged kids. That’s our commitment to the lady in the picture. Do you still want a discounted rate”, Benjamin was controlling the discussion now.
“Well looks like I pay more than the price tag in that case”, the man finished. “And what about that one”, he pointed at another photo. It was that of a woman sitting in front of a bonfire. Her face was not visible since the picture had been captured from behind. “There’s not price tag there”, he said.
“That’s not for sale”, Bethany interjected.
“Oh I see”, the man commented. “You know that’s a very different way of capturing a photo. All you can see is a silhouette of a person.”
“Let’s just say it’s an apparition”, Benjamin replied.
“Are you sure you don’t want to sell it because I am interested”, the man tried again.
“I am sorry Mr Rogers but that photo is not for sale”, Bethany stood her ground.
“Why not”, asked a familiar voice from behind.
Bethany froze. She knew that voice. She didn’t have to turn around to know who it was.