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May 29, 2009

Mark Connolly: Worst Photo Shoot Ever

They don't look miserable. Do they? 
Photo: Sheila Metzner / Conde Nast Traveler 

You all met Style Director Mark Connolly when he was in Milan and Paris for fashion, fashion, fashion. The Daily Traveler felt like you needed a proper introduction, so we cornered Mark for a Q & A session right before he left for his next photo shoot in India. In today's follow-up to that interview, Mark tells us the story of his worst photo shoot. Ever.

"Chile started off badly. I knew it was going to be a nightmare trip. Our flight to Miami was delayed--fortunately the photographer and I were on the pointy end of the plane, and the gate to Santiago was just three gates down from the gate we landed at--but they were not going to let us on the plane, let alone the three assistants running behind with tons of equipment. The photographer had to sit down and block the doors being closed, even though you could see everybody running down the corridor toward the plane. We just managed to get on, very late. Of course no baggage arrived in Chile.

"So we arrived and we had a long drive during the middle of the night to get to our final destination, which is San Pedro de Atacama. We all had to go shopping in a Chilean mall at 8 o'clock at night, 28 hours later, for survival clothing. Then we get to the hotel, and it's a tiled affair--tiles on the walls, tiles on the floors--and it smells like a public toilet. It looks like a public toilet. So I vow that we are not going to spend more than one night in this horrendous place. The producer has to find another hotel for nine people for the next day, which he duly manages to do. We all move into this tiny hotel in the middle of town.

"The town is all terra-cotta earth; there isn't one paved road. It's very bohemian; it's quite cool, actually. We go for dinner that night, we've been scouting for locations during the day, everybody's really tired, we get to bed kind of late-ish, and we are woken by the sound of an oompah band that sounds like it's next to your bed--a big brass band, tubas, you name it, people wailing, explosions&"

"Three of us independently got up and decided there was no way that we were going to sleep that night even though we had to be up at 4:30 the next morning. We decided that we were going to find out what all the noise was. And we discovered it was some kind of fiesta going on, for several days that week and the brass band was playing every hour on the hour until 4 in the morning. So we just had to go with it!

"Then the next day, we desperately waited on the arrival of our models, who were coming in from different parts of the world. The female model arrived, exhausted from Holland or whatever, and has a cold sore the size of a golf ball on her mouth. Then the male model arrived wan, pale, gaunt, and exhausted, and he had some form of pneumonia and a sinus infection. At one point he refused--we were shooting at this glacial, kind-of-Icelandic lake--and he would not put his feet into the water. He had to be carried to his position on a rock in the lake. And the makeup artist had to work really hard; we had to shoot around this giant, golf ball cold sore.

"Then one day during shooting, we had a blowout in the middle of the desert. And of course there's no one around--we're in the middle of Patagonia, the most incredible landscape I have ever seen in my career in this magazine, I have to say--and we had a blowout with no one else around to help. So we were stuck there for a couple of hours trying to repair the tire and the engine, wondering if we would ever make it out alive.

"And then the next day, one of the photo assistants had to be rushed to hospital. He was violently ill with some sort of food poisoning, and nothing was going to help except rushing him to hospital.

"And then, at the very end of the shoot, when it comes to settling all the bills and working with the producer and working on expenses, it took eight hours of going over bills and receipts to discover that he had underestimated my spending by $4,000. So I had to pay an extra $4,000 and somehow justify it when I got back to the office. But it took eight hours, in the blistering sun, before we left.

"It was one of the most brutal shoots I've ever done in one of the most beautiful places."


You should have had Blue Parallel do your trip for you!! Serious miracle workers - and it's thanks to Traveler that I know about them!! (Have been on that list for last few years.) From experience, they probably would have found replacement models or waived a wand and made cold sores, gauntness and the darling band go away. ;) Next time maybe...

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The editors at Conde Nast Traveler answer questions and share travel secrets, tips, and dispatches

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