I spend an inordinate amount of time coming up with weird ideas for photo shoots. I don’t do it on purpose, mind you, it just kind of happens. Case in point: today’s post. I’ve no particular affinity toward teeth or brushing (at least not anymore than the rest of us), but I do like crazy, silly photo shoots. In fact, I keep a long list of funny and wild ideas, and I was deep into that list when this idea popped into my head one evening while, you guessed it, I was standing in front of the mirror brushing my teeth.
As far as I know, there isn’t anything inherently amusing in brushing one’s teeth, at least not aside from the obvious act of staring at a your reflection with your mouth agape. But that night something just clicked. I’ve learned enough to follow my gut when it comes to crazy ideas.
It wasn’t long before I put in some calls and pulled together the cast and crew.
We prepped the studio with all the essential gear, plus the addition of a large plastic sheet. This proved to be essential. In hindsight, a spittoon would also have been nice. Word to the wise.
While working on all the preparations for the shoot, I spent a lot of time considering the direction I intended to give the subject, Yusef.
He is a comedic actor and so I knew I really only needed to point him in the right direction and he would run like a thoroughbred. The idea, as I saw it, was that he was an ordinary bloke who awoke one morning and was going about his bathroom ritual when he realized that the tooth-brushing experience had somehow changed. No longer a boring, utilitarian act, this brushing episode was euphoric, tantalizing, sensuous. Here, I’m explaining a bit of the process without making eye contact. (That’s important when working with models.)
And here is the result.
As we progressed through the shoot, I asked Yusef to go deeper into the pleasurable sensations of running sharp bristles back and forth across the enamel-covered blocks in his oral cavity. After that, it was just a matter of evolving the emotions through each shot.
During pre-production, our M/U artist, Lisa, struck on the idea of using baking soda and vinegar to enhance the visual experience. We had started with toothpaste, but soon made the switch and, within about two seconds of application, Yusef was foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. I had difficulty shooting the pictures between fits of laughter.
This is the beauty of personal shoots. The only limits are one’s imagination. Below, I’m saying as much to Si, who was shooting our behind-the-scenes material.
Here you can see some of the expelled foam. Don’t look too closely; it’s not pretty.
At some point in the process, we switched out the baking soda for whipped cream. It proved not to have quite the necessary consistency, but it was far more palatable to Yusef, which I believe he appreciated. Here we see Lisa sticking it up his nose, because this is what we do to models on our sets.
Then again, some times the models get hungry. Here, Yusef feeds.
In the end, it was a day of laughter and messiness and fun images. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Of course, collaboration is key. Without my incredible cast and crew, none of this would’ve been possible. Thus, my thanks to Ken for the assist and the behind-the-scenes photos; to Lisa for the M/U, baking soda, whipped cream and wonderful feedback; to Si for the BtS footage (to be released on my main site soon); to Jason at Two Dark for the studio space; and to Yusef, for helping us to fulfill every dentist’s worst nightmare.