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Taking photos for an Agony Aunt series

Taking photos for an Agony Aunt series - James Vellacott was asked to shoot a series of photos for The News of the World's 'The Sex Files'.

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Portraits and People

Words and images by James Vellacott.

There is a great British tradition that has been running for decades – the agony aunt. There have been many newspaper agony aunts; Marjore Proops, Miriam Stoppard, Dear Deidre, Dear Jane, even the Guardian had agony aunt column written by Ann Widdecombe! These aunts (and some uncles) read letters and emails from people who have personal problems or dilemmas often about sex issues, in which they ask for confidential advice.

Sex Files shoot

The News of the World have had a fantastic agony aunt column entitled ‘Dear Jane’ for many years and more recently ‘The Sex Files’ written by well known sex guru Tracey Cox. This column is always accompanied by a set of photographs posed by models and used in a comic strip layout in the paper. Although the images often raise a smile in the reader, they represent real life issues faced by people who write in for honest advice.

I was asked to shoot a ‘Sex Files’ column for the News of the World a couple of weeks back. The shoot itself is no small affair. A location house is booked, a make up artist, 3 models and the director. The theme for this week’s problem was a guy who, shall we say, had a problem with controlling himself in the bedroom department. Ok, you might smile but the shoot had been commissioned due to people writing to Tracey about this condition.

The photographic models are regular to this column, and it being mainly about sex issues, are used to dressing only in underwear and acting in accordance to the script. The Director explains the storyline whilst I set up my lights. Although I regularly use my Elinchrom flash heads for similar shoots, this location house was small and had very white decor that would bounce the light around too much. I opted for my dimmable 300-watt halogen heads that would give me great light control in the short time I had for each of the 6 sets within the two-hour slot for the shoot.

Agony Aunt shoot

The shots included two girls drinking tea in the kitchen talking about their boyfriends, a male model being cuddled by his girlfriend on the sofa in the lounge and also in the bedroom, and a shot of a disappointed girl waiting for her boyfriend to call.

This was a fun assignment to cover and kept me busy setting up each scenario, all the models were very professional they took the work seriously and in good humour. Writer Tracey addressed this week’s problem and gave her advice in the newspaper.

Long may the agony aunt continue.

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