Business booming for balding models who specialize in ‘economic despair’ pose
It was a bittersweet phone call, but one for which Hank Hallman had been waiting years. It was Oct. 2, and Hallman recalls picking up the phone and listening to the message that every professional despair model longs to hear.
“I’ll be there,” Hallman told the caller, “briefcase — and head — in hand.”
Despair models have, until recently, had a rough go of it. The soaring stock market of just a few years ago favored high-end luxury-goods models, and many despair models were unemployed for much of the bubble. Before that, the 2001 terrorist attacks were initially greeted by despair models as potentially being a nice little earner, but the despair market was quickly glutted, “co-opted by amateurs,” as Hallman puts it.
“Ironically, we do some of our best work when we ourselves are out of work,” said Chris Flump, a despair model whose work can be seen this week on the front pages of USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Sports Digest.
But Wall Street’s recent losses have been gains for the despair modeling industry. Unbreakable, written rules dictate that media outlets are required to publish daily photographs “of a middle-aged man in state of shock, frustration or surrender” alongside stories detailing financial crises.
“Cha-Ching,” said Hallman, before striking a “No-No-Noooooo!” pose for New York Times photographers. The photographers guide him through a series of poses.
“You’ve lost all of your clients’ money, and are now switching religions, and mentally composing a prayer to your new dark lord,” the photographer calls out. “Try this: head down, staring at the ticker over the rims of your glasses, a centrifuge is pulling all the skin on your face toward the floor … good. Now, your brain is expanding and pushing against your skull … nice. OK, you’re watching your wife cheat on you on the floor of the stock exchange — Got it! That’s the one.”
Flump feels that work will be plentiful in the coming weeks.
“I’m having to come up with new poses, because the hand-on-scalp thing is just overplayed now,” said Flump. “It looks like the same picture with every story right now. I’m experimenting with the kneel-and-sob and the hand-over-heart mixed with a hateful leer, so I can stand out a little.”
In an economic sign-of-the-times, Hallman is taking out a large loan to purchase two condo units that are still under construction a little more than a mile inland of the Miami coastline.
“Oh, it’s a massacre out there in the financial sector, so my gig is pretty safe,” says Hallman, as he practices frowning while leaning his head against a corded, wall-mounted telephone, the same kind that legally must be featured in 40% of photographs of the stock-exchange floor. “I’m trying to diversify, so that I’m not invested entirely in despair. I’m looking into slack-jawed disbelief and migraine-nose-bridge-pinching, and for my safety backup I’m developing a pose in which I squeeze back tears by putting both index fingers in the inside-corners of my eyes in anticipation of complete molecular separation of my body.”
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