Will Anderson came to the United States as a young man to become a graphic designer, but ended up becoming a male model. Over the period of six years, he moved from one agency-sponsored apartment to the next, living with hundreds of aspiring models. The whole time, he kept taking pictures and interviewing his roommates, and his new book “Apt. 301” (Yew Tree Press) is a sneak peak into the lives of these young men with big dreams.
How did the book “Apt. 301” come about?
WA: I became disillusioned with the idea of fashion photography and started to take pictures of everyday life of the models I was living with. It was my way of making some sense to a very surreal world I had been fortunate enough to enter.
At the time, did you intend for the photos to be exhibited or turned into a book?
WA: As soon as I received work as a model I decided that I should educate myself more in photography. As I came to the U.S.A. as a graphic designer the project naturally evolved into what I love, which is designing books. When I started to think in the form of a book then my ideas, pictures and interviews matured into a coherent story.
How did you get involved in modeling?
WA: I got involved in working as a model quite by accident. I lived in California first and while I was there my friends would play jokes on me by cutting out pictures from catalogs and post them above my bed. I guess they wanted me to sell me off and buy them all houses and fancy cars. They’re still waiting!
While I was in New York looking for design work I came across an agency and walked in to see if my friends’ jokes could become a reality. In a sense they did. I started to live in the agency apartments as I was saving to rent a place for my own when I first arrived in New York.
Was it anything like you expected?
WA: I did not know what to expect. It was very strange to suddenly become a commodity in that way; to make money from just being photographed was so alien to me. I had to change the way I looked, which was fairly ragged back then. I was very excited at the thought of not sitting in front of a computer designing for other people ten hours a day. That always left me with no energy for my own projects- so the small sacrifice of cleaning myself up was well worth it. I definitely expected lots of parties and made sure I took advantage of that side of the business too.
What do you think would surprise most people about the real lives of models?
WA: I think that most people are surprised about how long it can actually take to see any money, if at all. Most magazine shoots only pay $150 and that’s mainly the work that young models get so as to build a portfolio to go after advertising work. It can take along time for a young model to get into the advertising jobs which pay very, very highly.
The difference between the glamorous image and the realities of the industry hustle is pretty shocking.
WA: I think in any business, especially in the entertainment business, there are very high demands for a tiny percentage of people who are of the moment. If you take a model who is successful for example – they are a certain archetype. You’re going to find there are hundreds of people that could nearly fit into that small spectrum. Like in a race where the runners are all with in a few 100ths of a second from each other, no one’s really bothered about the runners up. The industry hustle is really the business of finding the top runners.
You’ve lived with over 250 models, any horror stories?
WA: Let’s see – someone dropping an air conditioner out of a window narrowly missing a sunbathing neighbor. Someone turning up with a cross bow and firing it at a cut-out cardboard deer over the heads of his sleeping roommates … Sometimes it’s sad to see how affected some new face becomes from day after day of rejection. You would be surprised how depressed some people have become. That’s hard to take when in reality they’re still so lucky to be even in that position, rejection or not.
What about positive memories?
WA: Entering into a world where I was able to suddenly have a second and third teenage. Seeing my first check for not really doing anything was a great memory. I went straight to the camera store!