Tuesday, 28 June 2011


Photographer: Neil Huxtable "Talkingdrum"

I have a TV but I dont watch it much. However the other night there was a programme that was interesting and really got me thinking. For Crying Out Loud was introduced by comedian Jo Brand, who confesses to find it incredibly difficult to cry. "Everyone is crying these days" she was saying "and often for the most trivial reasons. What has happened to the stiff upper lip?" The programme followed her  around as she tried to understand what  makes people cry and why.

Photographer: Andrea Fernandes

I cry a lot. I come from a culture where people can be quite emotional and can wail, especially at funerals. As a would be therapist I also witness a lot of crying amongst my fellow trainees and amongst clients, the crying you do when you suddenly feel a burden being unloaded. I cry when something upsets me and these days I often cry  when I think of my mother struggling to make sense of her life now that she is almost ninety and affected by Alzheimer - her decline is heart rending.

As a child I cried to get what I wanted, as most children do. My father could not bear tears and would get agitated to the point of yelling at me to stop. This frightened me and I would cry silently and make myself small,  hiding behind a door or under the bed, forgetting what it was that had made me cry in the first instance. I loved my father intensely but I equally feared him, he was so distant and so difficult to reach out to.

Photographer: Andrea Fernandes

Crying is not something I do only when hurt or in pain. I cry when I hear soulful music or  see a beautiful picture. I cry when I watch movies. I cried when my son was born and the nurse gave him to me, soon after he had taken his first breath.  When I held him I thought he was the most beautiful baby ever. I could not quite believe he was mine and I burst into tears, feeling this tremendous wave of pure love surging within me. I cry and laugh when I am in love out of the excitement I feel when my lover is around me.

Sometimes I cry because I pick up other people's sorrow and make it my own.  I never know exactly how or why it happens but it does. I am finally learning how to contain it and recognise it as not being mine.

Photographer: Andrea Fernandes

In the TV programme there was at some point a scene shot at an acting workshop where the students had to do an exercise involving conjuring up tears of compassion. Good actors cry real tears. They are not their own  tears, about their  personal circumstances, they are tears related to the character and  role they are interpreting. But the emotion is real and the tears are real.  As spectators it is that real-ness that hits us and makes us respond, often with tears of our own. This is the cathartic experience of performance.

 And the best perfomance ever is life.

(All photos modelled by Alex B.)

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Love, light and resilience from Japan

Models: myself and Enkopte

Tuesday was summer solstice day. The energy on the longest day of the year is always very positive for me. Good things happen too. I planned to go to a solstice celebration in the evening at one of the sacred spots in London - there are quite a few, all on hills. The one I chose was in Southeast London. It was a bit of a journey across town  but I wanted to be there because I knew several of the people who were celebrating, with Omming and a drum circle, and various other offerings, including yoga and dance, and of course, delicious vegetarian food. I would have loved to go to Glastonbury, one of the most famous sacred spots, and stay on for the music festival, at which one of my favourite musicians is playing this year, but that could not be done.
Tuesday morning I was caught up in a long and rather dull meeting. Thoughts about the forthcoming celebration were not enough to give me the necessary psychological sustenance to get through it, I was simply mindlessly bored.  As someone was waffling on and on,  I surreptitiously started checking my FB wall on my iPhone. I suddenly spotted a message left there  at the end of last week, by Oliver Morris from Fashionaires - for those who don't know about it and in Oliver Morris' own words, he  created Fashionaires to change the perception of fashion as a lifestyle, bringing a fresh new approach to photography, video and events.  "We are not cutting edge, we cut the edge" says Oliver. 
In the message Oliver was asking for someone to help out with interviewing a Japanese designer, his assistant and his manager, who were currently in London and had overcome all sorts of hurdles to be here. They were due to come to London in mid-March but their original collection was completely destroyed by the March earthquake. Finding the courage to continue, redesigning the collection and then raising the money for their trip rather than giving in to despair, getting everything done in such a short time, was an amazing feat. Fashion for them has become a symbol of beauty and grace, in a place that has seen horror and devastation.

A million thoughts raced through my mind.  I LOOOVED the story, but it was Tuesday, the message had gone out on Thursday afternoon, and a voice inside my head was telling me that the position must have been filled, knowing the network that Fashionaires has. It would have to be done on video, Oliver is making a film, but the interview questions had to be thought and written up in advance. I knew I could do it, I really wanted to. I must get in touch with Oliver, I said to myself. Now. Last time I saw him it was at the Tree of Hope fashion show and he had given me his number. Trying to be inconspicuous, with the phone on my lap, I texted him "Are you still looking? I can do this. I have good writing skills". As the coffee break was nearing, I felt greatly excited and already began to think of questions I'd ask the Japanese trio.

I checked my phone. Damn, Oliver had not texted back. Then I looked at my messages again. Oh no, I had sent it to the wrong person and as fate would have it, it had gone to that very special man who is so obsessed about me harassing him and stalking him at his 'work place' (i.e.the drum circle for which he plays and from which he has banned me). I wrote about his paranoia in another post. He is a lovely man, don't get me wrong, quite laid back too, good photographer, good drummer, good everything. But I have bruised his ego a thousand times, he can't take it, and his reaction to me currently borders on insanity, with a little cruelty thrown in.

Oh s*it. It was a genuine mistake. I wanted to send a message saying so,  but I could not do that, this guy is so unreasonable, he'd immediately go to the police station, for all I know he may have already (but is there not such a thing as wasting police time?)  You know, when fear grabs you and you feel a hand round your neck squeezing it ? I felt just that. I did not relish being in a cell, it was quite traumatic when it happened and I would not want to repeat the experience, certainly not for such a trivial thing as a message sent to the wrong person. There is something called PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and following my experiences of the past couple of years  I have developed a mild form of PTSD. Certain things act as a trigger and I panic. When that happens I begin to cry no matter where I am and can't stop myself. I could feel many people's eyes on me. I had to excuse myself and get out of the meeting. What shall I do now, I thought, as I got out of the building for some air.

I took a deep breath. Fresh air always feels good. Well, forget about Mr Paranoid, I told myself, I cannot communicate with him, if he runs again to the police I will deal with it, but not now. I could not help  thinking it would make a funny comedy sketch, a big guy with long unkempt greying locks looking like an old hippie, running to the police station and asking for help because someone has sent a text about interviewing some Japanese designers. I am open to  suggestions for developing the sketch.
I re-texted Oliver, the right number this time,  and even called him to leave a voicemail, then went back to the meeting, after grabbing a coffee. It's the day of the solstice, I thought. Let's have happy thoughts. The meeting continued to be boring but I amused myself sending tweets (and was caught at it at some point, but that's a story for another post).

Photographer: DG
Oliver did respond. To cut a long story short, I will do the interview with the Japanese trio tomorrow and then leave for Exeter to do a photo shoot at the weekend with Alan Bassett. I am very excited about being filmed, could not even sleep last night. And inevitably, the question: what shall I wear? Oliver suggested jeans "and whatever you wish to be seen in". I can't decide. Maybe I should go clothes shopping this afternoon.
Oh, I did go to the solstice celebration in the early evening of Tuesday. The sun did come out and it was beautiful. We chanted in a big circle at 18.16 on the dot, the time of the solstice. Later, I told a couple of my  friends there about my experience with the other drum circle, about being banned from attending and all that. It just came out, as they asked me why I was not at the last big event, an all day of dance and meditation which  I had really, really wanted to attend. I began to cry and blurted it all out. Amazing how things surface when you least expect it, even if you try to forget about them with all your might. They hugged me and it felt good. And you know what? I was intrigued to find out that I am not the only one who has had this experience, apparently it has also happened to someone else attending the same drum circle, though in her case it did not quite turn into such a high drama, with police involvement...Interesting, something to mull over, but not today.

 I dont normally do this but I have here a personal message for a-would-be-legend who keeps on chirping in her blogposts about maturity and my mis-use of the English language. Lady, please concentrate on achieving model-legend status, you are not quite there yet, and as you do that, let me get on with my more humble pursuits. Remember, you do not have to read my blog if my opinions on mature models and internet models offend you.

Photographer: Richard Plumb

*DM Direct Message
(All photos modelled by Alex B. and taken by Samuel Pidgen with a Hasselblad 500, unless otherwise stated)

Monday, 20 June 2011

More about mature models

Installation @Clarke and Reilly. Photo by Mike Harris via Instagram

Some time ago I became embroiled in an argument with another model who maintained that the label mature, as in mature models, was derogatory. My point was that it was not, no more than any other descriptive tag. In fact, I personally don't even mind being labelled older as it simply means older than average and that's how I interpret it. The label  COULD be used derogatorily. But then most words can be, depending on the context, the tone in which they are uttered etc etc.Over the past couple of decades the idea that women do not lose their allure when they get older has gained a little currency. The baby boomers care about their appearance and they may be professional women with disposable incomes. When shopping for anything, but mostly clothes and beauty products, they want to see a model they can relate to, still beautiful and soignée but a little closer in age to themselves. An anti-wrinkle cream ad modelled by someone barely sixteen will not have credibility, if however it is modelled by someone in their late thirties or early forties, immaculately coiffed and made up, it  might just appeal. Remember, sixteen year olds do not buy anti-wrinkle creams for themselves, their mothers do. So following this logic, the commercial sector has opened its doors a little wider to older models, euphemistically called classic or mature, sometimes  referred to as 'character' models. To some extent and with great caution fashion has followed suit. All this with an abundance of caveats which I am presently going to detail.

Photo by Mike Harris via Instagram
But wait, I hear you say, there have always been classic models. Look at Carmen dell'Orefice, modelling for Vogue at age 70, with a modelling career that began when she was 14. Hold on. Miss Dell'Orefice belongs to the legend category, an exception on a par with divas such as the late Marlene Dietrich whom she somewhat resembles. If you are a legend everything is exceptional about you. But here I am not discussing legends. Most models, especially internet models, do not fall into that category. I mentioned caveats. By this I mean that the industry by and large views mature models as a specific category and occasionally, with suspicion. First of all there IS the need for labelling, it seems crucial. It does not matter that mature embraces any age after the model's thirtieth birthday and therefore can seem a little meaningless. The point is that the industry views anyone over thirty as older than the 'normal' age for modelling and the label sticks, no matter what.
As a mature model you are likely to find work with an agency even if you are not an amazon. Agencies look for good proportions, a look that can be identified with a type i.e. yummy mummy, yummy granny and off you go, you are likely to be signed if you are persistent enough. Signed for commercial work, that is. You will have to compete with former fashion models, with tons of experience, who might be returning for the odd job just for the fun of it , the ones who never need to carry their 'book' because everyone has seen them - think Sandra Howard -  and hundreds of actors who have the great advantage of voice training, thus they can speak in TV commercials.

Photo by Mike Harris via Instagram
Dont expect to be making a living out of commercial modelling alone, though. The demand for mature models has its ups and downs. I know a model with a top agency who alternates between taking photos and doing photo shoots, she has turned into a fashion/editorial  photographer but continues to model when she can. If you look right for fashion - and as a mature model you are right for fashion if, apart from having good proportions,  you can exude class, which seems to be a major requirement  - expect sporadic catwalk work and mostly charity shows. They can be quite high profile but as a mature model - in fashion they often say a 'returning model', to emphasise that you have had a long connection with the industry, even if you have not  - you will simply be the icing on the cake, the card that is pulled out at the very end to demonstrate how equitable and forward looking fashion is - it is not, we know that. So Gaultier had Inès de la Fréssange at his show in 2009 and she was 51. What people forget is that she was involved with La Maison primarily as a business woman and advisor, after giving up her modelling a long time ago. This appearance was more or less a one off, even though it caused a mild sensation. Again, if you reflect on it  you will see that the key word here , once more,  is class. Mme de la Fréssange, is 'naturally' classy and chic, the kind of chic that  is part of the way she is and the social context she belongs to. That's why fashion loves her. Since then she has made a couple more appearances.

Photographer: Samuel Pidgen
What about internet modelling? Apart from the odd catalogue job, casting calls for commercial modelling jobs requiring mature models are not usually available through the internet. So you will not find much commercial work as an internet mature model. Period. You can do art nude - if your look appeals to the individual photographer and if you can pull it off. Some photographers are intrigued by the character of an older face. Some are not, regardless of whether they are themselves in the older men category. In fact the older photographers tend to prefer younger models, not necessarily a conscious decision on their part, but they see themselves as doing work with an aesthetic content and in their aesthetic vision beauty is young. It might also be a psychological thing. A photographer I know started off photographing older models then switched to models who are younger than twenty, no reason, just a preference, he simply likes his models to be child like and angelic, recapturing some childhood dream. Art nude is not an industry, it is not even a profitable proposition. Most photographers that do it, do other things as photographers  (or an entirely different day job) as well as art nude which they do primarily for themselves, thinking of the possible exhibition they are working on (oftentimes a dream) or the book they might be self publishing. So they choose whoever they think fits their vision.

Photographer: Samuel Pidgen

As a mature model you can also do adult work and be paid for it - and no, I am not being judgemental about it, it is a choice. I  do not have first hand experience of it, but someone recently posted on Model Bitch  about the adult industry and mentioned the mature market as a niche one. Don't expect however to be doing any fashion or editorial work, not even a charity show, if you are openly involved in adult work, it is not the kind of work that  is perceived as classy and chic. I know, I know, this is all based on hypocrisy, what goes on behind the scenes in fashion may well be close to being seedy, but the whole thing is about image and perception and these don't  change overnight.
Far from discouraging mature models from doing any modelling (after all I am a mature model) what I am actually saying is that if you stop thinking of modelling as a career or your only source of income you can actually explore  a number of possibilities, try things out  and have fun in the process. All you need is a striking face/physique, intelligence, persistence, the ability to do something interesting with yourself in front of the camera, and the ability not to take yourself too seriously (unfortunately something that for some people, the more 'mature' - shall I just say older?- they become, the more difficult it is to do)  et voilà, you can  model.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

@ Clarke and Reilly

Photographer: Schwanberg
Jewellery designer Lika Moore, from Los Angeles, recently advertised for models to take part in her installation at Clarke and Reilly in London W2. I replied to her casting call, got hired, and suddenly found myself involved in an amazing project. For three days, since Friday, I  have been modelling jewellery  together with model Genevieve. It's an interesting concept. Covered with diaphanous fabrics from head to toe but completely naked under it the jewellery is placed on our bodies in an imaginative way. We sit on chaises and strike poses which we imperceptibly change as the visitors come into the gallery space. The jewellery is for sale. It is everywhere in the room, on the mantelpiece, in a glass cabinet and on our bodies.  The pieces are all unique. Lika is a sculptress who works with silver, bronze and gold.
We start at 1 pm and go on till 7.

Photographer: Terri Lee Shield

People come in, look at us, try on the jewellery, some buy it, have tea and cake and chat with Lika. All the while Genevieve and myself are sitting very still, no word uttered, like two living statues.
Not everyone notices we are 'real'. A young woman walked in with her three year old. She did not see us. It was her little girl that immediately spotted us and pointed us to her mum.
It is strange to be sitting there totally motionless. I have done plenty of life modelling but this is different. We are not posing for artists to draw us or sculpt us. In fact despite being apparently immobile there is a lot of movement going on at micro level. We shift and we do so over a period of time so we might end up facing a different side of the room within the course of an hour and no one notices. Our heads are also covered by the fabric which is  chiffon silk of an earthy, stone colour.  So holding the same pose is not a requirement. The requirement is to balance the jewellery on our heads, our hands and legs: the bracelets are not necessarily clasped round our wrists but they may be on our feet or balanced on a hip.
I did my first session on Friday.  When I got back home I was so exhausted I just had to go to bed straightaway. All the while I was thinking to myself,why am I so tired? I sat there for six hours and did nothing. Not quite. I held poses and that requires a lot of effort.
One more session to go. If you are in London come and see us, we are in Porchester Place, near Marble Arch.
We have have had some photos taken, I hope to post them soon.

Photographer: Terri Lee-Shield
(All photos modelled by Alex B.)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Men behaving badly

 Photographer: David John  Green

An article by Marlo Thomas in the Huffington Post* comments on some recent instances of men behaving badly - Schwarzenegger, Strauss-Kahn, Edwards, Weiner.
What emerges, says Thomas, is that women STILL find it hard to complain when men sexually harass them. It takes guts.  There is a power imbalance and it is difficult for women to counter that. Sometimes women do want to speak out but they find that men are able to manipulate the law in their favour, so all they can do is bow their heads and move away in silence, as the men laugh and dismiss them as being liars or worse, of unstable mind. Hence we must applaud the chambermaid who had the courage to report a man as powerful as Strauss-Kahn for attempted rape.

Photographer: DG
We have seen a number of 'Slut Walks', everywhere, the latest one in London on 11th June. Apparently, if women get raped it is because they dress like sluts, said a Canadian police officer, so they are asking for it. In an overwhelming  response, women from all over the world have staged the walks, to protest. Even in New Delhi there will be one of such walks in July, the first ever in an Indian city,where rape is apparently the norm and women cannot walk around without a trusted male escort.
Rape is an extreme form of sexual harassment and it is good to see it is finally being understood to be  a serious crime.  But it is not the only manifestation of sexual harassment. There are other ways which are more difficult to prove as being harassment, more insidious, from mind games to persistent suggestions, groping and so on.
Photographer: DG
I remember when I was a student, in the days when colleges did not have any sexual harassment policy, a tutor of mine regularly groped female students during one to one tutorials. We did not know what to do, it did not even cross our mind we could complain, we were all worried that protesting might have repercussions on our results. Or worse, that we could be accused of soliciting his attentions. The groping always seemed to be accidental and the first time it happened each one of us thought we were dreaming it, seeing too much into something quite casual. Then we compared notes and realised these were no accidents. So we started  going up to his office in pairs and use all sorts of ruses to keep the door open, making sure the friend we had taken with us was outside waiting. We used to laugh it off, but it was a real ordeal, not at all pleasant. He is harmless, we used to tell each other. Still, we did not like it. The man WAS harassing us.
Photographer: DG
The modelling world is full of such stories and here I am thinking in particular of the art nude 'milieu'. Modelling nude is never easy, there are boundaries which should not be crossed. The issue here is one of professionalism, choice and trust. Almost every model has had a negative experience or another. Very few models are actually raped, that is an extreme occurrence. But many are 'accidentally' groped or  'helped' to undress. There's plenty of suggestions, double entendres, mind games, you name it. Every modelling site forum will have 'negative experiences' as a topic of discussion among models. I don't even look at those threads anymore, it is enough to put one off modelling, except that nude modelling is not just about that and it should not be reduced to that. I continue to  believe it is a form of artistic expression. Luckily, I am too old and wise to be manipulated by any man, I can see through it immediately so I am not in danger. But younger models, younger women are.
Sometimes  I come across stories that really make me see red. A few days ago  I received a note from a lovely, bubbly young model, whom I interviewed for a forthcoming piece I am writing.  I read it as I was having my morning 'cuppa' and I nearly choked.  She was writing  about her first modelling shoot, answering some of my interview questions. When she began modelling she was just about to turn eighteen and keen to start, having been a deviantArt member for nearly four years. She contacted a well known photographer whose work she admired.  "I wanted to be an art model and be part of the artistic process, I was delighted to be booked by someone with such a wonderful reputation", she wrote in her note.  They did two shoots together and on the second shoot he was physically abusive to her. "I could smell him on my skin for days after.  A few days after we shot together, he asked me by text if I wanted to do another shoot featuring him ejaculating on my face". 

Photographer: DG
Did you go to the police? I asked her. No, there would not have been any point, he did not actually rape her.  She could not prove he had molested her, because she had been alone with him and had been modelling nude.  She felt violated but there was nothing she could do except walk away. 
Who is this creep who thinks that young models are meat? He is a famous photographer, she said and sent me a link to his website. I recognised him. Indeed he has won accolades, has thousands of fans and travels regularly between continents. The kind of man who knows exactly how far he can go before actually breaking the law and who is able to get away with 'things' because he is an artist. His work is good, he has talent, he has won awards. It would have been a case of her word against his and she felt her word would not have had much weight.
Still, the experience did not put her off modelling as such. She is now enjoying her modelling work and has learnt to say no. But what a terrible way to start. Someone less level headed would have been totally broken by the experience. Not her.  She is wonderfully resilient, intelligent, pragmatic. The hassle of having to prove the harassment, of having her whole life scrutinised was just too much for her to take on at that point in time, she was too vulnerable. She decided to get on with her life and not dwell on the experience. Except that such experiences leave scars.
As I said, if you ask most models they will all have a story or two to tell. Model Bitch blog a while ago had posts and comments  about negative experiences. Models are often too scared to leave bad references for photographers on model sites where they have accounts. Only a handful of them will have a list of photographers they have worked with with the note "please contact me for a reference if you wish to work with this person", a neutral phrase which is however a code for 'bad reference'. But most do not bother. 

What enrages me is that such men, because they have talent and are successful, can get away with murder.  Because eighteen year old women who want to do nude modelling can't possibly complain. Why should they? They are not children, they are consenting adults, so everything is perfectly, perfectly legal...Just a misunderstanding or two and  pushing a couple of boundaries, that's all. Boys will be boys. But as Marlo Thomas writes, the new mantra is "Boys may be boys, but it's time for men to start acting like men."

*have begun reading it thanks to Anne Enke's  AOC
(All photos modelled by Alex B)

Monday, 13 June 2011

A wedding season

Weddings have been very much in my thoughts of recent. First there was my photo shoot wearing the gowns designed by Lucy Tammam for the House of Tammam. I was really pleased with the images. The weather on the day of the shoot was quite uneven, with a few showers, which meant we had to interrupt the shoot at several points. I nearly despaired of getting it finished, but eventually we did, the sun came out again and we were able to complete it. I am most grateful to Shannon Hyne, my MUA  who also doubled up as stylist, without her I would have ended up looking very dishevelled due to all the running I had to do to seek cover whenever it began to rain.
Then on Saturday a friend of my son's got married. As my son was frantically trying to help out with the organisation and the planning, this being one of his best friends,  I was witness to all the preparations and felt quite exhausted by reflex .

June is the month for weddings and one can see brides coming out of churches and town halls almost every week end.  As I was on my way  to the House of Tammam on Saturday afternoon, to return the gowns,  I saw a couple of newly weds standing by the local town hall. She was wearing a beautiful white lace gown with a very ample skirt and a tight bodice made of red and white lace, no train. Her little bridesmaid, about seven or eight years old, wore a lovely long white dress, complete with flowers in her hair. She looked somewhat grumpy and hot. The bride too seemed to be hot but looked radiant. I congratulated her and the bridegroom and  realised they were from Russia.  I conveyed my admiration for  the dress and she volunteered the information that she was wearing something inspired by  Russian traditions.  It was a very brief conversation, they were soon whisked away in a car. 

I love weddings, of other people, let me clarify. Where I come from weddings are still very much a grand affair regardless of social class, with a considerable expenditure involved. This particularly applies to those who marry the first time round. What happens to those who do it later in life or maybe are having a second or third go at it? It's usually a more discreet affair. I wrote in an earlier post that it is most unusual, generally,  to see older brides wearing white gowns with a train. Thus it was most refreshing to read on a website that specialises on giving advice on how to plan a wedding that 

"Just because you're getting married for the second time doesn't mean that you have to have a 'low key' wedding. After all, this is a wedding and you're a bride! If you haven't been married before but your partner has, there's no reason why you shouldn't wear a traditional white gown. If you have been married before, you might feel that you don't want to wear a traditional gown and would perhaps prefer something a little more contemporary. Choose a coloured dress, a suit, or a dress that's perfect for the beach if you're escaping to sunnier climes. It's a great opportunity to wear something that really suits your personality"

Attitudes are definitely changing, but slowly. I was most amused by the following remarks however:
"It's also wise to avoid anything similar to your first wedding -- whether it's the cake decoration or the flowers in your bouquet. You don't want anyone to start drawing comparisons, so make sure it's a very different day".

Easy for me. The first time I married I wore jeans - which I have not kept. If I ever do it again there will be no jeans - and that will not require a supreme effort!

(All photos modelled by Alex B. and taken by David J. Green.  MUA Shannon Hyne. Designer Lucy Tammam for House of Tammam)

Friday, 10 June 2011

The healing power of women

Photographer: David J. Green MUA&stylist: Shannon Hyne Designer: Lucy Tammam for House of Tammam Model: Alex B.

As I was having breakfast this morning I checked my Facebook wall and found a wonderful video-clip shared by Anne Enke, the woman behind Anne of Carversville - I was featured by AOC last December, as you may recall, and continue to read AOC as well as being in touch with Anne through social networking sites.
The video-clip, which you can see below, is made by Max Dashú, who also writes the blog Veleda.
Max's project is fascinating. She has been  involved with the Suppressed Histories Archives since the 1970s and is reclaiming women's past history as shamans and healers, something that has always been associated with men. She has collected evidence from the art imagery of different cultures to support the proposition that it was women who were the original healers and this occurred cross-culturally. Indeed she has amassed a wealth of archaeological evidence and is currently engaged in making a film about her research.
I welcome Max Dashú's project. Women need to be reminded that patriarchal values can be opposed. There is an alternative to the war-mongering culture we seem to be living in and that alternative, which is for both men and women to share, is rooted in revalorising the immense and active contribution of women to cultural history, an input that has systematically been undermined and suppressed.
Max Dashú is fund raising for her film project. I am myself donating and I would urge you to consider doing the same, her target is $7,000. You need not give a huge amount. Every little bit helps.
Why do it?
I will quote Max:  "We've been taught that women spiritual leaders didn't exist, or were rare exceptions, or insignificant. We've also been told that the shamanic cultures were superstitious, backward, ignorant. Woman Shaman: the Ancients shows the reality, making visible the long and rich cultural record of medicine women, diviners and oracles, trance-dancers, shapeshifters, and women who journey through the worlds. To experience the beauty and power of these spiritual legacies is medicine for the spirit, especially for all the women who have been pushed down, marginalized and silenced in the name of religion. And it's an offering for everyone who knows the immeasurable value of aboriginal spiritual ways. They are our birthright, however far back we have to go to reach it...Contributing to Woman Shaman is a way for you to vote for media you would like to see". 

Please do give and spread the word. You can find out more about the project by visiting the Woman shaman website

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Older brides and the dresses they wear

I am more or less officially entering the summer vacation period which anyone involved in education relishes as one the perks of the job. A time which for me will be spent doing more writing, more modelling and more dancing, as I now fancy creating a longer piece for my next assessment, the solo foray left me hungry for more - just to remind you, I teach but I am also a student, as I am retraining.
Over the past fortnight two things happened which marked a major change. First, I am now officially with a well established model agency, one that ModelBitch would recommend - not left the other one, this is in addition to. I am in the classic (i.e.older) division. I want to do more commercial/editorial/fashion shoots and the best way to get those jobs is through an agency, the internet castings are simply not good enough, financially, and quality wise. The internet castings, at least in the UK, are very good for glamour and art nude, though, and of course, the 'other' jobs, which I DON'T do.

The other thing is that I have been able to finalise a shoot for bridal wear which I will do early next week with photographer David J. Green - his pictures of me ended up in the Observer last year and we have a fabulous location to shoot at. I went for a fitting yesterday and took three outfits for the shoot, a traditional gown, in pure white silk, with a train, and two less traditional garments. The designer, Lucy Tamman, a graduate of St Martin's, was interested in having an older bride in her catalogue. These days people get married more than once, the second marriage is often in their forties or even in their fifties. What can an older bride wear? What would I wear if I were to marry now? Note that I fully accept the label older bride.

It is a good question. When I got married in 1984 I wore jeans, so did my now ex-husband. We only had two witnesses and noone knew we were getting married. We went to the registry office and then back to the flat we were sharing and had champagne with the witnesses, who were close friends.

If I were to marry again now I'd like to wear something glamorous, that shows off my best features and to celebrate the fact I am a bride, making a commitment. Would I go for a traditional wedding dress with a train? Possibly not. The dress worn by The Duchess of Cambridge on her wedding on 29th April is too 'young' for someone my age. I know that other people feel that it is not OK to tell someone that they can no longer express their inner selves because they turn 50, 60 or 70 or 80, so by that token if I wanted to wear a dress with a five metre train and a veil, I certainly could. But would I not make myself a

laughing stock? ?

What if I felt that my inner self was a child of five? Parading in ringlets tied with pink ribbons might not do me any good.

There is something called good taste and yes, ageing gracefully is part of it. What does ageing gracefully mean? simply that it is all right to claim you have the right to do anything you want, but there IS a difference between being 20 and 50. Acknowledging that is a strength not a weakness.

I will be photographed in the traditional wedding gown and will post the photo here but I will perfectly understand if Lucy decides that it is not right for her catalogue. I am grateful to her for letting me have a go.

(All photos by Andy and modelled by Alex B.)

Friday, 3 June 2011

Tweeting (or the bliss of tweets)

It had to happen, sooner or later. I have discovered the joys of Twittering or Tweeting, as they say. Like falling in love with someone you have known for a while suddenly discovering he/she has a lot more to offer than you first thought.
I opened a Twitter account two years ago, yes, two whole years ago. I chose a user name, put up a photo and then that was it. I just could not understand how it worked. I was more of a Facebook person. Then recently I went back to my old and dusty Twitter account. I spent a little while over it and finally realised that unlike FB comments, which can usually be read only by your 'friends' - unless you are one of those that make their wall public and even then only friends can comment - tweets are in the public domain -unless you lock your account.

Photographer: Marcello Pozzetti
This means that you can reply to any tweet that captures your attention. Interesting. Celebrities mix with the "oi polloi", it's all to do with how funny the tweet is. Once I got that, I started tweeting and replying to tweets. I discovered the incomparable Elizabeth Windsor @Queen -UK. Her latest tweet is "Mr Clegg is on the phone. Very excited about the sunshine. Says he's filling up the Downing Street paddling pool as we speak". And of course the wonderful ModelBitch uses Twitter to comment. Where would we be without MB?
Then came the iPhone application. And now Twitter is firmly embedded in my life.  Oh no! I think I am addicted to it!

(All photos are modelled by Alex B)