Adam, unsuspecting Adam Usden, arrives as I finish my second pint of IPA in Belushis Bar. We greet and I invite him to climb into the back seat of the black CRV with smoked out windows which has silently, one might say malevolently, glided up to the pavement.
During the ten minute drive I explain that he will be photographed, fully clothed, sitting in a shower cabinet under running water. Following this he will probably be asked to climb into a full bath and exhale gulps of air whilst under water. If he blanches at this I don't notice as he is in the back seat. He acquiesces without a discernible quaver and we arrive at the gates to our house.
Did I mention that there are large security gates? I hadn't told Adam either. They close with a satisfying clang and we enter the compound I call Camp Koresh, though few people get the joke now, and fewer laugh.
In a theatrical aside Adam muttered ‘this is probably the closest I’ll get to being murdered by two complete strangers’.
Probably. I liked that.
While I splash around in the shower room happily cursing studio lights and cables, Adam changes into his other clothes at a safe distance. I unscrew and remove the shower door, sit him in the cubicle and turn on the water, forgetting briefly that it runs cold to start with. Adam reminds me.
'No matter, you're a writer', I say, 'plenty more where you came from'.
I’m not big on reassurance.
I suppose it’s hard to draw the line having agreed to sit in a complete stranger’s shower, so Adam is soon writing underwater scripts at my behest, his spectacles steam up, water drips off his nose and ink runs .
More importantly, lighting is tricky, pose and angle are too complex and one of my cameras fails.
We move to the bath where I stand above him screaming UNDER… GET UNDER the water….now breath OUT! Blood… we need BLOOD... red ink? Ribena? Okay, we can use Ribena. Not my first choice. I take the picture and am instantly aware it’s a cheap shot.
That’s how it works. You only know after you've taken them.
Often just as the shutter clicks.
I can tell it isn't really working, and we only have one chance at this before I return to photographing other writers at The Book Festival and Adam gets his train South. Our hearts are in it, I, at least, am having a great time and Adam is proving a real gem, but it’s just too complex a shot for the time we have and the details aren't coming to life.
I move the monolight to my studio and, clamping a snoot on it, climb to the top of a step ladder with a wide angle.
This works quite nicely, I start to feel happier and after a few moments we agree we have something.
If he leaves now he will still be late. It’s time to go.
Adam packs his wet clothing and works at clearing his now badly blocked sinuses.
‘Um… I’ve had an idea’ I say. ‘Come and sit at the kitchen table’.
I take three or four quick pictures with a slow shutter speed and wide aperture, doing everything wrong as usual, and yes, at the time of writing, that is probably the one we’ll use.
The only explanation I can give my sterling writer was probably not helpful,
‘I had to break your spirit before I could steal your soul’.
I wasn't meant to be involved as a photographer in this project, but someone dropped out early in the process and I willingly pulled the short straw.
The process was ridiculous, chaotic and hilarious but the wonderful thing was meeting Adam and creating a new thing with him.
A complete stranger, he allowed us to abuse him shamefully, he agreed to all my notions, though most were pretty awful, and he did it with absolute charm and patience.
So thank you, Adam, you are so much more than I could begin to capture in a photograph.
Writer Pictures - Traverse Fifty Exhibition opens on October 21st in The Traverse, Edinburgh