Recently I was approached by Kate Battersby, a journalist who writes for The Daily Mail. She left a message on my voicemail saying she was writing a piece about women willing to pose nude for a photographic portrait. She got on to me through a roundabout route. A journalist friend had remembered that about two years ago I was in the process of setting up a business venture, which I had named FineArtNude Photography, whose aim was to provide precisely that service to women. I meant to work with a number of photographers I had met through modelling for them. I would find the ladies through social networking, advise them, help them do their best in front of the camera, find the right photographer whose style in my reckoning would match their needs, get them photographed (negotiable fees, depending on the package selected). I had been inspired to start this after listening to Jane Lancashire on BBC Woman's hour. Jane runs a successful venture called Liberty. She is a photographer and she often takes portraits of women in the nude. Yes, I thought, this is truly empowering. I am a mature model, I have had a lot of experience in front of the camera, I can truly make something of it by sharing it. I was really all fired up. At the time my local paper even featured me, with a photo taken by Schwanberg. I had a website in no time, cards, and a number of photographers were interested in participating ("if you get me the clients, I am on it"they all said).
Photographer: SchwanbergBut...running a business is not easy. The photographers I approached after a while lost interest, I lost interest too, caught up as I was in other things, including my own modelling.
But now Kate Battersby wanted to interview me! I was doing a shoot with George Swift when I got the message and kept on boring him while rehearsing what I was going to say to Kate - sorry George! I could not tell her my business had never taken off the ground, could I? I was trying to find an "angle".
I eventually spoke with her. The moment I said I was a model she shrieked she did not want to speak to "a model"(slightly disparaging tone). She wanted to speak to a photographer who would be interested in taking pictures of her - "I have just posed for a painter, it was wonderful". I was put out by her rudeness and unwillingness to even hear me out, so I wished her luck and ended the call. Later, I read the piece and I gathered she did not actually get a photographer, she believed that the images would be used over the internet without her consent.
Photographer: Jan MurphyWell, Kate, had you done your research you would have found Jane. You are trying to discover your beauty after shedding off two stones. Jane could have helped you. Or Wolf Kettler. Or Neil Huxtable who is wonderful with newbies...or Jan Murphy who, having gone herself through a process of reshaping her body, would have perfectly understood your concerns. I have such a long list of photographers I could have introduced to you.
Never mind. Thinking back on the whole episode some interesting questions arise. When I did my shoots with Wolf and Neil I had not had any experience of posing nude in front of the camera. I liked it so much that I went on to model - and when I started as a photographic model I was quite old, to put it bluntly. I could have stopped soon after my fiftieth birthday, but I did not because the camera fascinates me and because I am a performer at heart.
Whereas there are some styles of fine art nude that require a knowledge of conventional posing and require that the model should know such conventions and go beyond them i.e standing on tiptoes to gain length and height, point one's feet, curve and bend, there are also styles of art nude which are based on the way the light bounces off the model's body or on capturing a spontaneous expression. For these styles all you need is a relationship of trust between model and photographer and being able to overcome the fear of being looked at i.e. the fear of the camera. A relationship in other words which any woman, any subject, can have with their photographer and their cameras.
Photographer: Neil Huxtable "Talkingdrum"Reprocessed by meFor example, I am very fond of the portraits Neil Huxtable took of me, regardless of how well/less well crafted they are, because they are often akin to snapshots, only a lot more sophisticated, technically - I can see "myself" in them and they reveal an empathic relationship with the subject which is typical of his work. This is why I was always loath to part with them, edited or not. Similarly, I love the portraits Wolf Kettler took, again they reveal an empathic relationship with the subject, the hallmark of a good portratist
Was I a "model"then? am I a "model" now? I dont even think the question is relevant.
So Kate, I guess you missed your chance...
(All photos modelled by Alex B)