I’ll never forget the first piece of advice ever given to me by Patrick McMullan. “Don’t get photographed while doing high-kicks on a stripper pole,” he admonished while snapping pics of me doing my best impression of a “sexy lady,” a la Liz Lemon.
“But I’m having fun!” I whined as I made another one-legged hop around the pole at The Box. Besides, I was having my photo taken by New York’s premier nightlife photographer, so I must have finally been doing something right. I’ve even been considering handing over my Bat Mitzvah photos for Mr. McMullan to slap up on his site, since as everyone knows, the number of images of a person on Patrickmcmullan.com precisely reflects their social status, emotional well-being and innate value as a member of the human race. (I had 3.)
It’s even better if you can actually have your moniker appear in the caption, instead of the haunting “?” symbol reserved for the smiling no-names. (Double points if the spelling’s right.) Ben Widdicombe even deemed the man a verb in an article for The New York Times last year: “‘To Patrick’ somebody means to look them up on the Web site of Patrick McMullan, the ubiquitous society photographer,” he wrote. “It’s part social networking, part Social Register.”
I had begged Mr. McMullan to tell me his secrets—when does he click the shutter, and when does he give his index finger the moment off?—and he’d agreed to tutor me for a week, which was a little like having the world’s best sensai agree to train you in the art of whatever they did with those swords in Kill Bill. It would not be easy; in fact, it would be some of the hardest physical and mental labor I’d undertaken in awhile, though complaining to friends about having to schlep to yet another gala or $1,500-a-plate dinner earned me little sympathy.
Perhaps the most important lesson I gleaned from Mr. McMullan was this: I had to quit smoking. And drinking. And would probably need to start going to the gym. Not for health reasons, mind you, just so I could keep pace with the 56-year-old photographer.
If you’ve ever seen Mr. McMullan at a party, you know what I’m talking about. He is the world’s most sociable Tasmanian devil, and if he isn’t running over to kiss you hello and tell you how beautiful you look, it’s only because someone else has grabbed his arm first to entice him to their party in the Hamptons. Well, either that or you are not important.
Another lesson: A new lady on the scene should strive to be photographed with handsome, eligible young men more famous than herself. Patrick had no problem imparting that lesson in front of the men he was talking about, which made for some awkward encounters (“Hi, we’ve never met, but apparently you are more attractive and important than me, so say ‘Cheese!’”). On our first two outings, Patrick had me pose with male model (and baby socialite) Nick Hissom as well as Gagosian Gallery co-director Kenny Maxwell.
A final word of advice: Ask to see every shot someone takes of you. “And don’t be scared to ask them to take it again if you don’t like how you look,” Mr. McMullan told me while buzzing around the room. “First of all, more photos equals more photos. Secondly, you want the best photos of yourself out there, and when photographers have more poses to choose from, they’ll pick the one that looks the best.”
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