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November 21, 2001:
Behind the lens for Esquire magazine
"I'm looking good, and I certainly have hair."

By Benjamin S. Farmer '01

I will soon be bald. Though my older brothers scoff that I have more hair-retaining genes than they, the fact remains that within 20 years I will be combing over or facing fate. And so it was with great joy that I learned I would soon be able to retort my grandsons' cue-ball jokes with more than family photos or threats of genetics, but a full-page, color photo in the October 2001 issue of Esquire magazine.

Delightfully bored one afternoon in late May, almost a month after handing in my thesis and still two weeks away from graduation and while I was setting up for the department picnic outside of 1879 Hall, I was approached by two fashion casting agents. Others will tell you that these chic New Yorkers were interested in photographing the majority of students and faculty who attended the picnic, but in my story they asked if they could take a few casting shots of me for an upcoming photo essay on Princeton's students and campus, then abruptly left. A few days later, flyers went up around campus announcing an open casting call for an Esquire photo shoot, and while I universally avoid such events, I was nevertheless quietly satisfied I would still be considered. Plus, I could always tell the department picnic story should things not go my way.

I don't understand the motivation behind a fashion essay. "This Side of Paradise," Esquire's version, contains 13 photos over eight pages and captures each model in a scenic or fashionable pose wearing merchandise that costs between $1,000 and $3,000. The confusing part is, who justified paying a staff of at least 10 expensive professionals for three days in order to photograph very expensive clothes on average looking Princetonian—but I digress.

If you take away the diet and exercise and never-ending traveling and long hours, I think being a model would be great. During preparations for the shoot, I was able to relax in a RV, watching movies with friends Matthew Hyder '01 and Preston Bottomy '01, while Esquire staff picked out my clothes, combed my hair, applied make-up, and fed me. Take away the make-up and it would stand as a perfect morning. Being photographed was a little bit unnerving, I'll admit. And not even $475 shoes make posing for nine rolls of film comfortable. And yes it was hot in all those layers, but you'd really be surprised at how well a thousand-dollar wool parka breathes. And then there was the $50 pay.

All in all, the folks were nice and the shoot was fun. Plus, over the summer I was able to brag to a few select family members, especially those with less hair, that I'd traded in my upcoming corporate job to be a male model (read: been delayed nine months). The real joy, though, was learning that by early summer my grandmother had already pulled aside the owner of her local drug store and requested 10 copies of the October issue of Esquire because her grandson — Ken's third boy, the one from Princeton — had his picture taken for it. And years from now, when I've succumbed to the genes her husband gave me, we can pull out a photo of a well-dressed man with long, full hair and I'll tell her the story one more time.