An undisclosed number of years ago, I was working as a PA. On the totem pole of professional photography, a PA ranks slightly higher than an unpaid intern. Around sunrise, I found myself in the parking lot of Mel’s Diner on Sunset Boulevard amid a detachment of motor homes. Martin Schoeller was in Los Angeles to shoot Jordin Sparks for the cover of In Style magazine. Most of what we shot happened inside the diner, but Schoeller’s assistants had rolled out a 14 foot grey seamless in the parking lot for the cover. As Ms. Sparks grinned and twirled on the backdrop, I bobbed and weaved through the crew, seeing if anyone would like a bottle of water or coffee, or an up close look at the kind of servitude one can expect on the road to success. No takers.
I had rejoined my employer, a young, attractive producer, near the edge of set when a rustling in the tree tops above Sunset caught my attention. With pin point accuracy, a huge gust of wind blew through our makeshift studio and tore the seamless in half. It was all hands on deck as photo assistants, producers, and stylists ran to grab falling stands and lights. Jordin, trying to keep her skirt down in the breeze, giggled hysterically as the crew went about the business of not letting the youngest Idol winner in history become the youngest Idol winner in history who immediately died in the parking lot of Mel’s Diner, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For great food at reasonable prices, better make it Mel’s.
As a C stand fell into my hands, I looked over my shoulder and saw Schoeller. The set was falling apart, and the crew was in full disaster mode, but his eye never left the viewfinder. He didn’t see a disaster. He saw a beautiful woman laughing as a photo shoot came crashing down around her. So he shot it.