Barbed Wire Safety Net

Jun 20, 2010

“So, there’s going to be barbed wire underneath me, just in case I fall, right?” my model asks.

I blink. Several seconds go by in befuddled silence. Perched in the makeshift suspension rig a few feet above my studio floor, I stare down at the metal plating below. My imagination takes hold, envisioning a vicious net of barbed wire beneath where my model will be hanging. No, no I couldn’t possibly have heard what I thought I just heard.

“Uh, no?” I stammer, almost at a complete loss for words. “Um, uh. NO. We won’t be doing that.”

Shauna bursts out laughing, cheeks red with embarrassment.

“Wait, that didn’t come out right!” she giggles. “Oh, wow, that’s not what I meant at all!”

“Good,” I nod solemnly. “You were starting to scare me there.”

We laugh, the insanity of the miscommunication hitting home. She points to where several pre-stretched barbed wire lengths lay to the right of the set, explaining her concern about where the extra pieces would be when we actually started shooting. With good natured humor we attend the safety concern, making sure nothing but hard metal plates will break her fall if something goes terribly wrong.

Hours of setup later, Shauna and I stare at the completed barbed wire suspension rig, psyching ourselves up to the final challenge. Nine Inch Nails blasts on the stereo. The lights are set. Every safety check made. Twice. We’ve rehearsed the sequence several times, training our motions to the nest of barbed wire. The risks are very, very real, and we have no spotter. Just the two of us. We really shouldn’t be doing what we’re about to do.

In a long history of dangerous shoots, It’s a rare thing when I can feel my heart pounding and adrenaline spiking my veins. The forgotten rush. Not the reason why I push, but a welcome friend returning in the moment of action. I smile, looking at my model and seeing the same energy pulsing through her.

“You ready for this?” I ask

“Yes I am.”

“Let’s Rock.”

Twelve hours of setup. Five minutes getting her into the nest of barbed wire. Thirty seconds shooting. Get the image in one take.


I rush in, moving supports to take up her body weight while the most vicious strands of metal are cut away, falling at my feet on the floor beneath her. Shauna is breathing hard, red welts and scratches already visible on her skin. But, there’s a triumphant smile on her face despite the pain. She glances down, and my eyes follow to the one part of the exit strategy we hadn’t rehearsed. Coils and strands of sprung barbed wire lay about the floor beneath her. We laugh.

“Don’t worry,” I admonish. “That wire will totally cushion your fall.”

“And to think I was worried,” Shauna laughs, eyes aglow. “Looks like I got my barbed wire safety net after all!”

Cross-posted to deviantART.
Copyright 2010 by Adam Chilson

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