Misha had never modelled before. She was long and lean and beautiful, had eyes that sparkled like jewels and a smile to melt any man's heart, and yet no one had ever asked to take pictures of her before.
She had blushed when I presented the idea to her, had bit her lip and hid a shy little smile. She wanted to make sure it wasn't a joke played on her by her friends. I assured her it wasn't. How could it be? She was the essence of feminine appeal, in full possession of nature's gifts to her, reveling in them at the peak of her beauty. No, it wasn't a joke. Model for me, and I'll show you.
We went to her house so she'd be more comfortable, and I took several rolls of her in casual clothes, in casual poses, making her laugh and smile and helping her relax. But she was unaccustomed to this kind of attention, the too-forced smile told me that much. When we moved to the bedroom and I asked her to take off her clothes, alarm sharpened her lovely eyes. She wasn't afraid of me, or what I wanted - her fear was even more troubling than that. She was afraid of showing her body to the world. She didn't think anyone would want to see.
"You're incredibly beautiful" I tried to assure her. "Everyone will want to see."
She crawled onto the bed and kneeled in the middle of it, awkwardly, as though she'd never been on a bed before in her life. She hesitated before slipping the peasant blouse off her shoulders, but when she did I told her again how beautiful she was and tried to tempt a little smile from her pursed lips. She tried valiantly to let go and relax as she unbuttoned her jeans and slid them down over her hips. But her heart wasn't in it. This breathtaking, beautiful girl, with her luminous skin and heartbreaking smile, looked as if she were on the verge of covering herself up and running from the room.
I put the camera down and asked her to relax for a moment. She grabbed a pillow and hugged it to herself as she lay down on the bed, looking up at me with wide, wondering eyes.
"Tell me something, Misha." I said gently. "Do you like being beautiful?"
She laughed, letting her head fall forward. "I don't know. I don't think about it."
"Why not? You do know that you're a beautiful woman, don't you?"
She blushed, laughing again nervously. "Why do you ask these things? Who goes around saying "Yes, I know I'm a beautiful woman?" That's so conceited."
"It isn't conceit. It's pride. It's acceptance of who you are. It's reality."
She paused, reflected. "Well, I know I get a lot of looks from men. Lots of them have told me I'm beautiful. But I just figured..."
She shrugged, and lay back on the bed. "I just figured they say that to every woman."
"They don't. You have something special. And I just wonder if you ever let yourself enjoy it. Like right now, for instance. You could be luxuriating in your own beauty. You could revelling in your own femininity."
She looked at me, and I could see that she was thinking about it. "It just feels a little...strange. I don't know."
An idea struck me. "Imagine someone you'd really love to be beautiful for. Is there anyone in your life like that? Anyone special whom you'd like to drive to distraction with your beauty?"
She turned bright red, the colour rising to her cheeks in wave that made her hide her face. She laughed into the pillow, a joyous, delightful laugh of young love.
"You don't have to tell me his name." I said. "Just imagine he's here now, standing in the room with us, just taking in your beauty. Imagine you have all the seductive power of the most beautiful woman in the world, imagine he can only look at you, without touching. Imagine you have only the way you move your body to make him mad for you. What would you do with your beauty?"
She looked up from the pillow, a more natural smile on her face. To my utter delight she began to pose, stretching out her long, finely shaped legs, leaning back on her elbows and gazing directly into my lens as I began to shoot. I had expected to have to direct her, to have to ask her to move in certain ways, but as if she were dreaming of her fantasy love, she moved in ways that accented her beautiful curves. She lay back against the rose design of the bed cover and twisted her legs from one side to the other, with the slow graceful moves of a dancer, never taking her eyes off my camera. She sat up and braced her arms behind her, tucking her legs in beneath her, as if trying to draw my eyes to her full breasts. She succeeded.
"This is wonderful!" I heard myself saying. "You're a natural. He must be some kind of man."
"Oh, he is." she said, her smile lighting up the room. "He's the best man I've ever known. And I just realized, talking to you, that I can reward him for being so. He's never seen me like this, it'll be like a..." she bit her lip. "I want to say a gift. Does that sound stupid?"
"Not at all." I said, finishing the roll. "It sounds exactly right.