Mom, the photographer
Sixteen year-old me was tall, skinny and flat-chested. The tall part happened quite suddenly. In the span of a year, I grew four inches. I suppose this was due to the fact that I didn’t start my period until I was 15. I was convinced there was something wrong with me. My mother kept reassuring me that I was just a “late bloomer,” though I could see in her eyes she was concerned, too. That was proven when she took me to a gynecologist at that young age. UGH! But he assured both of us there was nothing wrong with me. I relaxed for about a minute, then a week later I got my period. Finally. Jeez. It was the year following that I shot up like a rocket and started to look like I was the same age as my girlfriends. Up to that point, it appeared they were hanging out with a little sister. Those were rough times.
It was right after my growth spurt that my mother kept hearing, “Your daughter should be a model.” She was thinking the same thing herself. This was right around the beginning of the “supermodel” era when models were becoming celebrities and the amount of money they were making was becoming public knowledge. They were being interviewed on daytime talk shows along with their agents and apparently my mom was paying attention.
There was a well-known agent in Los Angeles named Nina Blanchard who my mother saw on the Mike Douglas show. That night at dinner she said,”I’m going to take some pictures of you and send them to Nina Blanchard.” My dad snickered. I said, “With what?” We were a family of Kodak Pocket Instamatics. She said, “With that old Argus you bought.” Now I was snickering along with my dad. “I am!” She said indignantly.
The Argus she was referring to sat in the garage in it’s original carrying case. I paid $10.00 for it at a garage sale several months back because I thought it was cool. It was the first 35mm film camera that I had come in contact with and it was what we considered an antique. The person I bought it from told me it still worked, but there were no instructions and I had never tried to use it. My mom and I fiddled with it that night and by the following weekend she had bought film and we loaded it into the camera.
I stepped out into the backyard with my mom for my first “photo shoot” with neither one of us having a clue what we were doing. I awkwardly posed as she made suggestions. At one point my dad came out, but I made him leave. I could see his eyes smiling as he crossed his arms in front of him and held a hand over his mouth, shaking his head slightly.
We dropped the film off later that day and anxiously waited for the photos to be developed. To our surprise, the Argus did still work. About a month later, I walked in the door from school and my mother was beside herself with excitement. “What, mom?” I asked. “Nina called!” she screamed.
I recently came across the old photos that Nina handed back to us as we sat across from her at her agency in Los Angeles.