One of my photos

Strip Tease

May 25th, 2005 · Posted by Skuds in Life/Work · No Comments · Life, Work

The most remarkable thing happened at work today.

I popped out of the front door for a well-earned smoke break after a meeting and saw a young girl sitting on the step to our fire exit (which is about 12 metres away at the other end of the building.) She had a chap sitting a metre or two away from her and another milling around taking photos. The photographer then went over the railings to take some pictures from the road – which was either brave or stupid. Or both. None of them knew it, but its the girl who was being inadvertantly being stupid, as that step is usually a puddle of tramp’s piss.

He was crouching down very low, and I did wonder if he was trying to take pictures up her very dress for some specialist web site or something. The other chap then unfolded one of those silvery reflective screen things while the photographer took some more snaps.

On its own this was unusual enough. Certainly a change from the normal endless and dull procession of taxis, buses, and downtrodden commuters filing past the place. The girl was wearing a plain, but very smart brown/bronze dress, while the men were dressed like impoverished students but carrying professional-looking photographic equipment. Hardly worth making a fuss about, but a break from the routine.

At this point, one man gave the girl something which she held up. It was a very small black dress, which looked from a distance like it was crochet. Lots of holes anyway. I was wondering if she was going to attempt to change using the putting-swimming-trunks-on-under-a-towel method so familiar to anyone who has been to a British beach. But she didn’t. She just whipped her dress off and was standing in the street, in full view, in broad daylight in just her white underwear.

I know what you are thinking – this sounds like the start of a bad porn story or something. In an alternative universe where this is a bad porn story they would have invited me over for a wild dogging event, but here in the real world, what actually happened was this:

My cigarette was finished, so rather than start chain-smoking I reacted to this semi-nudity by retreating into the building sharply. I legged it straight to the help desk and alerted them to a potential health & safety risk, viz somebody obstructing our fire escape route, and suggested they change the monitor on our CCTV system so it showed camera 7 and thus enabled them to assess the situation.

I did this for two very good reasons. I am not selfish – if some presentable young lady wants to get her kit off in public I will share the pleasure if I can. And on top of that, I needed someone else to see it because otherwise they would never believe me.

By the time the camera view was changed, she was now completely topless, facing the wall in a nod to modesty and pulling her bra on. The only female in the office went outside and told the gang that we have a CCTV system and that there was a room full of hairy-arsed engineers following their activities with great interest. The girl decided that exposing herself to every passing taxi and bus driver, their passengers and any passing pedestrians in person was fine, but a group of trained telecoms professionals watching in badly-focused black & white was too much, and they all scuttled off.

So she was not totally shameless after all!

The thing is, I am really curious to know what on earth was going on. Why did they choose our fire exit? Why such a busy road? What was it for – a college project? a magazine? an advert? Was it for reasons of art or commerce?

It reminds me a bit of another event, which also involved cameras, and which was also like seeing one part of a story without ever knowing the context. This earlier event happened when we were on holiday in Crete.

Jayne and I were having a coffee, or possibly a beer, at a table outside a taverna, and noticed a chap with a very big and flash camera and a companion carrying a pair of large, heavy-duty, aluminium camera boxes. The chap took a photo or two of the fountain in the little square and handed the camera to his assistant. So far, so good.

The assistant handed him another, equally professional-looking SLR camera, and he took another photo or two of the same fountain. Maybe one camera was loaded with a different speed film, or black & white film or something, I idly thought.

Then he handed the camera back and was passed a third camera, noticeably smaller than the first two, which he used to take more pictures of the fountain. This was starting to get weird.

After a few more cameras had been passed over and used, the case was all shut up, and they started on the second case. By the time he was on the sixth or seventh camera he was using pretty rudimentary cheap cameras. I honestly lost count of how many different cameras the man used to take exactly the same picture.

I’m sure there is a perfectly rational explanation for all this behaviour, but I don’t know whether hearing it would have spoiled it all for me. Situations like this are what make me really enjoy life.

But how many times do you find yourself doing something perfectly rational, which would appear to a passer-by as bizarre? Like the time Jayne and I had to cross York city centre in full medieval dress? (for a theme wedding at a place with no parking provision). I think Tom Stoppard did something about this in a play. I can’t remember its name, but either in the introduction to it, or in an extended stage direction (probably the latter. He goes in for long-winded and detailed stage directions) he explained that the curtain was to go up on a scene which was so obviously ridiculous and weird that there could be no good reason for it – and then the action proceeded to explain everything so that it all seemed sensible – obvious even. I think he went into some detail about how some event can be logical while you watch it unfold, but anyone just seeing the conclusion would just see a surreal and unlikely tableau.

In a way Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is a similar piece, where a particular scene or series of events is totally changed by having a different point of view or emphasis.

How I got from a girl getting her kit off in the street to Tom Stoppard I am not sure. It must be a sign I need to get some sleep. Its going to be a busy day tomorrow: I have to make 50 copies of our CCTV tapes for security purposes…

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