The Girls!

Gabrielle Begun

Published AuthorSan Francisco, CAPhotos by Lauri LevenfeldStory by Gabrielle Begun

How many girls out there have always dreamed of being in a photoshoot? Where the camera is ready, everyone respects you, people make way for you on the streets, and all the attention is on you. As a little girl, well at least before I published my book, I had always dreamed of being in that position; being respected enough to get my own personal photoshoot and for my pictures to be swiftly thrown out into the world. The problem was, I was an extremely shy kid. I didn’t

have stage fright, but I was shy in front of the camera and other people. I had no trouble performing but I had trouble meeting people and holding conversations without breaking a nervous sweat, and I still sometimes do. It might sound strange saying that I feel at home on stage but when meeting new people and starting conversations or talking with adults I feel like a turtle who wants to crawl back into her shell.
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When my book came out an amazing woman and photographer, the one I’m working with right now to create The Project for Girls, reached out to me and offered me a photoshoot and a column on her website about me. I was excited but horrified at the same time. When she came over to my house with her big cameras I freaked inside. I instantly became my shy self and would end each conversation she started. But after a while she found the right trigger to help me open up to her and share my writing with her. Still, in the pictures, I can feel how tense and uncomfortable I felt. It bothered me a little bit, seeing how much I took a photo shoot for-granted. It bothered me how I could have been so closed off and introverted when I was offered such a rare opportunity. No matter how awesome it may have seemed beforehand, when the camera was pointed at me and I was put in that position to do something, everything broke away and the shyness kicked in. If you are not the least bit shy or scared of being in the spotlight, I admire your courage.

 

When I started working on The Project for Girls, Lauri offered another photoshoot to replace the pictures she had taken of me two years before for my book. I had become a completely different person during those two years; going through many tough times and becoming a stronger girl in general. I became less shy (apart from my unescapable social awkwardness), I improved in my writing, I became obsessed with Phantom of the Opera, Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp, and I became more confident in myself (with a lot of help from a lot of people). So this time, when she offered me another shoot, I told her it would have to shout WHIMSICAL at the top of its lungs because that was the person I had become. And I have to say, this photoshoot was an unforgettable experience.

I’m going to tell you all the hidden top-secret information you need to know about a photoshoot. First, you and the photographer decide on the location and time. Lauri and I had decided that the best place to capture whimsicality is either a really awesome coffee shop with all my strange accessories on me, the streets of Noe Valley and my guitar, and this beautiful graffiti wall in San Francisco that I had fallen in love with while I was interning for her. The thing about finding a location is it has to make you feel comfortable. It has to be your favorite place. Now, I do know how professional photoshoots work, with professional make-up artists and models and everything. I’ve interned with Lauri and I got the honor to assist in four photoshoots with professional models, and it was awesome getting to meet all these famous and awesome kids. I’ve never actually participated in one though, so don’t you think that I’m some runway model or print model, because I am the complete opposite of that.

 

So we’ve got location and time. Now, you pick the clothes, which is one of my favorite parts. In real model photo shoots, the photographer and the stylist pick the clothes out. I got to pick my own clothes out, along with the help of my mom. It was tough but we found four outfits that I really loved and loved wearing including my favorite; overalls with pink pastel combat boots. The fun part was getting all the clothes in the car and changing into them. The first two outfits were easy since I was able to change in the café bathroom, but the rest weren’t. It was still fun changing in the car trying not to be seen.

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Then comes along the part we’ve all been waiting for; the actual “photo shooting”. I have to say, I have never felt more honored and incredible in my life. This time I didn’t hold back and I showed who I truly am, because that is what I wanted people to see. I wanted everyone to feel like I’m not scared anymore to be myself, and that they shouldn’t be either. It is the person being shot’s job to be the photograph, and the photographer’s job to create the photograph. It’s a rewarding effort, I have to admit.

 

What I love about Lauri’s photographing style is that she lets you be yourself, quirky and all. I got to do so many things and explore so

many different ways of expressing myself I would have never dreamed of. If I told my eight year old self that I would be in a photoshoot, the eight year old would back away slowly and escape hastily into another room with my jaw dropped to the ground. It was such an indescribable experience, and I wish everyone in this world got a chance to live it. Personally, I don’t like it when kids are made into dolls and are put in different positions. But when a photographer lets you be who you want to be, everything seems so complete. It feels like you can do anything. I wish. I wish that people could feel that way without a camera and one hundred likes on their photo. Do you feel like you can do anything?
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