Each photo session was filled with anxiety. Though I’d brainstorm ideas before each shoot, collaborating with models was preferred. Suggestions were always considered. But they didn’t always go as expected—some were complete flops.
I once rented a boat. Two fishermen sailed a 2-spirit person (a transwoman in mainstream-lingo) named Cíntia and myself near Forte de São Marcelo just off the coast of Salvador (Brazil). Our photo shoot was scheduled to take place just off shore. However, turbulent waves swayed our vessel, leaving me one wave short of regurgitating on deck. And just when my stomach was ready to topple over the fishermen received my direct order to hastily return our party to dry land.
Another incident occurred during a photo session on my veranda. Perched over Rua do Carmo, this very public viewpoint attracted the inquisitive eyes of several neighborhood men, some of whom were the same ruffians who’d opened a can of whup-ass on a third rate thief a few weeks ago. Amongst the crowd was Gregorio, a beloved street-wanderer based in the local community of Santo Antonio. Excessive intake of cachaça and other alcoholic drinks was his preferred method of escape from so much tolerant oppression and daily depravities in Brazil. However, the mean streets of the historic center couldn’t have found a more upbeat soul than good ol’ Gregorio, regularly intoxicated but rarely, if at all, pissed-drunk. Somehow he always seemed to be in my apartment, offering random advice about life or what not. My roommate had furnished him with a spare key to look after the place while we were out and about. Well, after my photo shoot, Gregorio pestered me time and time again about his superior sexual prowess and how his participation would drastically improve each and every one of my photo sessions.
I travelled to Rio during this intense period of photography. Previous contacts in Salvador had afforded me the phone number of a potential model named Adriana. Raised in the heartland of Bahia, she’d relocated to Rio. We scheduled a photo shoot roughly three days after my arrival in the self-proclaimed marvelous-city.
Most of the 2-spirits I photographed had a unique gift of gab—stating an arranged meeting hour that had no relation, whatsoever, to the actual time in which we’d eventually meet. But, at the end of the day, who really cares? It was so refreshing to encounter people who, despite receiving honorariums for photo shoots, refused to swing to the beat of a globalized-mercantile timeline. In fact, at this point in my life, no longer did I believe that time is money. I always seemed to be running behind less of it.
As previous photo shoots dictated, this photo shoot treaded through my trusty 2-spirit timetable. If a model claims she’ll arrive in ten minutes, that really means she’ll show up thirty minutes late. If a model claims she’ll arrive in thirty minutes, that really means she’ll show up two hours late. If a model has the audacity to claim she’ll arrive in two hours, then I should promptly cancel the photo shoot until she can positively confirm an arrival time ranging anywhere between ten to thirty minutes.
In pops Adriana—beautiful from head to toe, friendly and, to top it off, punctual—with a capital P. She had claimed an arrival time of thirty minutes during our cellphone chat. In lieu, I jumped in bed for an hour snooze. Surprise, surprise! Adriana rang my doorbell a few minutes prior to the timeframe we had agreed upon, catching yours truly off guard.
We connected along Avenida Nossa Senhora. Her personable demeanor eased my pre-photo-shoot anxiety. We returned to my makeshift studio. I felt reassured, even confident about the ensuing essay.
A little fizz here—some buzz there—lights—camera….. FaiLure! The photo shoot turned out to be one of those freak bombs where only a handful of images, if any, could be salvaged. Could it be that the stars weren’t aligned in our favor on this otherwise lovely night?
Post photo session, Adriana and I cruised along Avenida Nossa Senhora again. This time we popped into a local pizza joint for some health drinks. Soon enough she’d shuffle off into the night, but not before enlightening yours truly, a photographer with maladaptive insights regarding clocks. Her early arrival had put my 2-spirit timetable to shame. Nevertheless, it became apparent that she, like so many other so-called transwomen I’d photographed, was one leg free from the rigid, western paradigm of binary genders and one leg bound to its insidious rat race.
The photo shoot was a disaster, however, the encounter had a rejuvenating effect. My confidence remained rock-solid. I wanted more—much more—but only time would tell if stunning, star-aligned photo shoots would grace my future. I looked above and into the distance as I strolled back to my studio. The moon perched majestically over the famed carioca skyline. Suddenly, collateral vices that permeate the lush, topographic beauty of Rio recoiled through my senses. Echoes of rapid machine gunfire pierced a cool night breeze. There I stood. Was Adriana simply a cameo appearance in this whirlwind called life?
The “I” that the world sees unwillingly returned to a clockwork normalcy. The other “I”—eye of eyes—continued drifting. The latter sustained until a few days later when my next model arrived well over two hours late. “I’ll be there in thirty minutes,” she said. My timeline was restored and I was relieved.
A few days later I’d depart the marvelous city—“Ciao, ciao Rio!”
Jun Cola is a translator based in Brazil, who has translated everything from Marvel Comics to academic papers, travel & tourism magazines to fiction, real estate contracts to poetry, and then some. Jun is working on bringing Brazilian voices to the world stage.