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The photographer leaned against the bathroom door, studying the room for the next shot in the series through her camera. The theme for the series was contrast and the room provided plenty; water and steam, marble and silk, shadows and light. The subject of the picture would provide the centerpiece, her pain and triumph serving as an anchor. For months, the photographer had been searching for faces and stories that showed such contrasts. Faces hidden behind the ordinary. Policemen and women, soldiers, mothers and fathers, doctors and nurses, Kay's latest photo-essay focused on those contrasts within ordinary people. No temperamental musicians or petulant movie stars, just men and women who survived a nightmare and emerged, for better and worse, on the other side.
"Slide that towel to the right." An arm appeared in the frame and pulled a heavy white towel off to the side. Kay lowered her camera and nodded. "OK, let's get the steam started." In a few moments, thick curls of steam began to fill the room. A smoke machine stood ready to fill in any gaps.
"Kay, they're here." A voice called from the main room. Kay emerged from the bathroom and smiled at the couple walking through the door, holding her hand out the woman. The woman's posture was relaxed, her body loose. His was tight, tension clear in the set of his shoulders. They were dressed casually in neutral colors. After a round of introductions, Kay invited them to sit, offered refreshments. An assistant appeared with green tea as Kay began to share her vision for the cover of the book and the woman's portrait in the essay. Fifteen minutes later, they were standing in the middle of the steam-filled bathroom, Kay setting up the shot.
She walked around the couple, studying the light and angles. She moved the camera to face level and took a few shots. She caught both large and small moments; his hand resting protectively on her hip, her hand wrapped around his wrist, her fingers resting against his pulse. Framed in the lens, Kay recognized the vulnerability as a private moment and slid her finger away from the shutter release. She knew as soon as she announced it was time to begin, Mia's hand would drop from her husband's arm, the line would return to his shoulders and the private would be hidden. The man looked up from his wife's face, directly at the photographer. When their eyes met, Kay abandoned the set up. The steam suddenly seemed contrived, the water unnecessary. "Mandy, close the blinds. Let's get hair and make-up for both of them." Kay saw his shoulders tighten at "both" but ignored it. A make-up artist appeared, moving quickly to remove the sheen from the summer heat. Other assistants moved quietly in the background, adjusting light shades, moving objects around to change the shadows in the room. As soon as the makeup artist finished, the hairstylist appeared and worked her quick magic, taking the woman's hair from a casual bun on the top of her head to a loose cascade of dark curls held up with a silver barrette.