Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Season greetings

I have been busy and have not been able to post at all. Christmas has already gone and we are getting ready to celebrate New Year. I will be offline for a while, as I will be travelling, and would like to wish you all a wonderful break with your loved ones. This is the time of the year we all spend cocooned away with family and those nearest to us.
I have been watching musicals, as one often does around this time, when TV channels tend to rehash old movies.
This is a clip from one of my favourites, The Bandwagon, with the incomparable Fred Astaire and the beautiful Cyd Charisse.

Belated Christmas wishes to all my followers and hope that 2013 will be a prosperous and peaceful year for everyone!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Red, red, red

Over the past three weeks or so every time I got to my local tube station to catch the train my eyes always fell on the stunning billboard size photograph, across the platform, advertising the exhibition of Valentino's dresses at Somerset House. There he was, the master of couture, surrounded by six beautiful models in rather dramatic poses, all wearing red gowns, in different styles,  all his own creations. That's an exhibition I will not miss, I keep on telling myself, knowing that I have plenty of time to view it, as it ends in March 2013.

But ever since I saw those gowns l have fallen in love with the colour red and have been hunting down red garments. I bought a red beret and a scarf, I also got myself a red tunic. Not quite Valentino, but I can luxuriate in the colour.
It is a Christmassy colour, I know, and thus it is seen around quite a lot at this time of the year.
At the end of November I did a photo shoot for The Guardian, for the Fashion for All Ages feature. Imagine my delight when I was given to  model a RED skirt by Ira von Fürstemberg with a matching red polo neck by Joseph. All that wonderful red filled me with warmth and joy and it made me want to surround myself with even more. Or was I pining for Valentino's gowns and trying to recreate the feel?

Photographer: David Newby for The Guardian Model: Alex B
So what is it with this colour red? I did a little googling and came across colour expert Kate Smith's website. Here she has a fascinating entry about red which I truly recommend. Red, she says, affects us physically, by stimulating us. It is the colour of the root chakra - all of you into yoga will nod in reading this - and thus it grounds us and increases our feeling of trust. Kate goes on to give us the significance of red around the world, with various snippets of trivia, utterly fascinating.  I did not know, among other things, that red was the highest arc of colour in the rainbow!
I love the popular phrases Kate has collected - 'red carpet treatment', 'caught red handed' and many more. Of course red is not always positive, as we all fear ' being in the red', when checking our bank statements  - and there will be quite a few 'red' statements  after the Christmas binge.
What is missing from that long list given by Kate is a statement about  red being a truly elegant colour. I never  realised it until I saw the Valentino's poster. Maybe it's the gowns and I am fixating on  the colour as a substitute. Maybe. The bottom line is that I will be wearing a lot more red in the coming year. And who knows, Father Christmas might decide to bring me a red Valentino gown!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Women's misogyny

The spate of derogatory comments on Yasmina Rossi's hair and general appearance in the Daily Mail was particularly distasteful as it came from other women. At 57, Yasmina, one of the models in the M&S Autumn/Winter campaign has long, grey hair and a figure that shows that apart from being blessed with good genes, she also cares about her body. She is all natural, no cosmetic surgery anywhere. Her face is not full of botox, she has wrinkles and her hair is luxuriant. The women who left vicious comments were particularly offended by this and recommended colouring and a haircut "to look younger".

Yasmina has been an inspiration to me, I grew my hair long after seeing pictures of her mane. I too embrace grey as a colour and a choice. I am not saying that women who colour their hair are wrong, I am saying that not accepting grey is wrong.

But what is this misogyny displayed by women towards other women?

"I frequently see women react with thinly veiled jealousy when they see other women stepping up and claiming a level of entitlement they can only dream of. An entitlement they either don't know how to, or don't feel entitled to claim for themselves" says Rosjke Hasseldine. This is echoed by Vivian Diller, who observes that "We seem so ready to judge the choices our fellow sisters make, from how we handle our relationships, children and careers, to how we deal with our aging appearance. Remember when we used to question, "Does She or Doesn't She?" Now we wonder, "Has She or Hasn't She?" You would think we would tire of all the scrutiny, maybe even try to stop it, rather than continue the cycle. I plead guilty at times, too"

So do I. I remember being at a lecture given by a woman, which I recently attended. The paper she read was beautifully written and very evocative, yet I could not help being distracted by my own mental notes on her outfit, her youthfulness, the fact she was wearing  red nail varnish and punctuated almost every sentence she read with a flourish of her hands, her  hair neatly blow dried and jet black in colour. Rather than focusing exclusively on her paper, I could not help taking in her appearance and implicitly comparing myself to her. I was suddenly aware that my outfit was not as stylish, I was not wearing nail varnish and I had not just stepped out of a salon. And as I became conscious of these shortcomings  of mine I hated her for being a step ahead of me. And I caught myself out attempting to find faults with her. 

Women internalize the dominant mode of gazing at women's bodies.

"Remember", says Vivian "by comparing, competing and then devaluing others in order to boost our own shaky sense of self, we join forces with the very culture that has created the need to do just that!"

I cannot help thinking here of French psychoanalyst and thinker Luce Irigaray who argued, in her (in)famous Speculum of the Other woman, a controversial book that cost her the expulsion from the University of Vincennes and the Ecole Freudienne de Paris, that women are the other, and only men are subjects. In Speculum, Irigaray uncovers a female subject position and discusses
the predominance of envy in women's mental life, an envy that sustains the cult of "the fetish prototype". She uses the image of the speculum, a curved mirror reflecting back on itself, to claim the position of the feminine, through "mimesis", a process of "resubmitting women to stereotypical views of women in order to call the views themselves into question".

Worth reflecting upon...

(Photos by Stuart Hendry and Antony Crossfield modelled by Alex B)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Beautiful Adolescents

Photographer: me
Angel Sinclair of Models of Diversity recently posted a link on the Mature Models page on FB to a BBC viewpoint by Sara Ziff.
I found the piece very enlightening. Models are under pressure to be thin and are often subjected to unsolicited sexual advances, says Sara. This is something we have known for a long time, it is the ugly side of modelling.
But what really struck a chord with me was that far too often we seem to turn a blind eye to the fact that these girls that grace the catwalks and appear made up and dressed up in fashion magazines are more often than not, children. Sara discusses the "Peter Pan" syndrome in fashion:
"For a long time the industry has relied on a labour force of children, and they are valued for their adolescent physique. It's this obsession not just with youth, but really with extreme youth, that's the problem. A 13-year-old girl can be naturally skinny, like a beanpole, in a way that a grown woman, who has hips and breasts, generally can't - and shouldn't aspire to be. And I think we need to ask ourselves why that's become the ideal. Why do we have this perverse fascination with images of such young girls who are so small and inexperienced and really quite vulnerable?"
She continues: "It messes with the glamour if you stop to wonder, is this girl 13? Is there a clause in her agency contract that she cannot gain more than 2cm on her hips? Shouldn't she be in school?"
I'd like to reflect further on this issue of extreme youth and beauty, and the exploitation of young people it leads to, as also the fascination our culture has with adolescent beauty, a fascination that is historical.
Back in the 1970s the Italian film director Luchino Visconti made a screen version of Thomas Mann's novella, Death in Venice, written at the start of the 20th century. It is the story of Aschenbach, a middle aged, married, musician in the film but a writer in Mann's novella, who falls desperately and obsessively in love with a young Eastern European boy, Tadzio, while holidaying in a cholera struck Venice. Mann's book is full of symbolism and is a story of aestheticism and decadence, a meditation on ageing as a process and the loss of youth. To Aschenbach, Tadzio is the incarnation of an ancient Greek ideal of beauty. Nothing ever passes between them, apart from glances and Aschenbach dies of cholera on the day of Tadzio's departure.


The film is superbly acted by Dirk Bogarde and the beautiful Tadzio is fifteen year old Bjorn Andresen, who at the time became famous as "the Most Beautiful Boy in the World". And beautiful he was. Visconti had scoured the whole of Europe to find him when planning the film. But that was a stigma as far as Bjorn was concerned, something that affected him for the rest of his life. In 2003 he was interviewed by the Guardian, following a controversy with writer Germaine Greer who had used his photograph, without asking for his permission, as the cover of her book The Beautiful Boy, which was about "the boy as the missing term in the discussion of the possibility of the female gaze". Greer had requested the photo from the copyright owner, who granted her permission to publish it. It never occurred to her to ask Bjorn, who was "the model". "I feel used" said Bjorn "I have a feeling of being utilised that is close to distasteful".
And during the interview out comes the story of how while filming, Visconti and the crew took him to a gay bar and how he was being looked at, scrutinised by those present. "I am not homophobic" he says. But being subject to the gaze of adult men who saw him as "a nice meaty dish" made him very uncomfortable to say the least.
For Bjorn being the Most Beautiful Boy in the World became a burden, throughout his life.  Nothing he did after Death in Venice could quite match the fame and attention he received when he was fifteen. As a grown man he was not that interesting to look at. A fate that many a young female models also encounter when they grow up.
 The issue here is that of the gaze and those who are no longer children but not yet women or men. What do we make of it?

Friday, 23 November 2012


Photographer: me

Videocalling is all the rage, especially with Skype. People will call at all hours and enable video. I absolutely hate it. I dont mind being on the phone after 10 pm but being on a video call ? No way.
Recently a woman that was recruiting models for her project insisted on Skype video calling at an hour that did not suit me. I declined to be interviewed. She accepted that and I believe she settled on somebody else for the job. All good, we agreed to be in touch for future opportunities. I had, by this time, accepted her as a Skype contact. A few days later, at 10 pm - my time and also her time - she tries to videocall. I declined the call and sent a message asking whether anything was the matter. She replied that nothing was the matter she just wanted to say hi. By videocall. No way. I immediately dropped her from my contacts and will not accept a videocall from her ever again.
What's the problem you may ask?
I am sure this lady is very nice and meant no harm BUT the problem is PRIVACY, which videocalling seems to be at odds with.

When I am at home I like wearing little. I like eating while using my laptop. I often answer phone calls while busy with something else. I do not want to have the video on! I do not want to see my caller nor do I want them to see me.
If it is someone that wants to hire me for a modelling job then they can first look at my website. If they really insist, they can set up a videocall at an agreed time. But I will not take videocalls just like that, not even from family members.
Call me old fashioned, but videocalling is simply not for me, unless absolutely necessary.

Photographer: Neil Huxtable

(All photos modelled by Alex B.)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Tango, therapy and psychoanalysis

Last month my son announced he was learning to tango.  I was taken aback. He is a great mover and even did some ballet when he was a child, courtesy yours truly, when I still had a say on what he could/should do, then got hooked on martial arts and that was it, he never again wanted to wear his ballet shoes. Dancing the tango was the last thing I thought he might want to do, for I knew that unless something was about improving kicking and punching techniques, it just was not worth a second glance. But, clearly, I was wrong. It turns out that, like me, he is constantly looking for different ways of moving the body. A girlfriend keen on salsa made him try salsa for a while but he then saw a tango demo and  was bowled over. "It's just like sparring" he said. Is it really?
It made me feel like reviving my tango skills - I used to go to classes once upon the time but did not get very far with it. I thus decided to go to a tango class myself, a different one, as I dont particularly want to be with my son and his girlfriend - they are lovely but I dont want them around during my tango class, a sentiment which is pretty mutual.
In fact a group class was not enough for me: I booked a private lesson, one and a half hour just to myself. And I loved it! I turned up with stilettos which were too high - my pole dancing sandals - so had to do it using dance socks. My teacher, a Frenchman who has done years and years of tango, introduced me to the basics and I learnt a huge amount during my first class. I can dance a full tango!
What is so special about the tango?

First, you learn to trust your partner, who has to lead you. You learn to sense when you need to move as most of the time you look away from each other - at some point my teacher asked me to close my eyes and I had to take a leap of faith. Trust your body, that's what you need to do. And trust your partner.There are 'three' in a tango: your partner, the floor and the music.
Sparring and tango: I now begin to see the commonalities.
Argentinian tango is different from ballroom tango. The latter is more showy and involves more back bends (which, by the way, I love doing), whereas Argentinian tango is more subtle and intense.
Tango has also developed as a 'therapy': people suffering from Alzheimer, Parkinsons and other illnesses can do the tango and feel better. You can explore the website of Inner Tango to get a sense of what tango therapy is about.

(This is something I would like to come back to, in another post, as it seems to me that anything can have a therapeutic value. But let's go on).
I was intrigued  to find the website of Dr Susan Kavaler-Adler, a psychoanalyst who has written prolifically and who is also a tango dancer. Inevitably, Dr Kavaler-Adler brought the two together and so she has written about tango as a metaphor for the analytic process. Now this has really made me think:
"In Psychoanalysis, the analyst, like the female follower, needs to surrender all agendas, allowing free floating attention that opens the analyst's unconscious mind to being a receptive organ for the unconscious of the analysand (patient), as first spoken about by Sigmund Freud. The female follower in tango needs to relinquish anticipation of the leader's next moves, similar to the analyst surrendering "memory and desire" (British theorist, Wilfred Bion), when listening to and responding to the analysand (patient). The analyst allows all theory to be in the back of his/her mind as she surrenders to the moment and to tuning into where the patient is within that moment. The patient, like the male Argentine Tango leader, must be in the moment of the dance, allowing free associations to flow from the internal and unconscious life, not inhibiting himself with the defense of conscious controlled thinking through agendas. When this cannot happen resistances must become conscious and be addressed so as to open the avenues to true self spontaneity in the moment. The analyst, like the male tango leader listening to the music, listens to the music of the patient's internal life through associations, as well as through emotional and body feelings"

What else can I add?

(photography by Ama Saru, modelling by Alex B)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Posing nude and body image

I was intrigued to read a post by PhotoAnthems about a UK photography student who is doing some research on posing nude and its effects on the body image of the model. The young woman in question has also contacted me to hear my views. I was about to email her but I then decided to share such views in this post.
As Terrell points out there are no specific studies linking posing nude with positive body image. I know of life model Esther Bunting who runs workshops for would be life models and who is very passionate about life modelling as being empowering for women and their self-perception. But though the women who do these workshops find the experience very positive it is not clear whether their body image actually changes as a result of the experience.
The same could be said of art nude photographic modelling, that it has positive effects on the model's body image. I emphasise the 'could' because it is all very much a potentiality. In other words, there are many factors involved. Posing nude for an artist or a photographer can be a very positive experience and the woman who models (not necessarily a professional) may feel that she is 'a thing of beauty, a joy forever'. But it can also have the contrary effect of emphasising a sense of inadequacy and the constant feeling most women have of being  'not beautiful enough, not slender enough, not tall enough' once they begin comparing themselves to other women.

It happened to me. When things turned sour with someone I was close to, he began to list my physical shortcomings publicly, comparing me to other women who had modelled for him. It was humiliating and I would constantly hear a little nagging voice repeating inside my head "you are not good enough, why dont you stop?"
But I was truly in love with modelling as performance. I was also getting offers to pose from other photographers, so in the end I decided I would continue anyway, for my own enjoyment. In other words, I validated myself and that was what allowed me to carry on and feel comfortable with my body.
This act of validation does not come from the photographer, nor from the camera. It comes from within and it is this which allows you to develop a relationship with the camera that leads to beautiful results.
So yes, posing nude can have very positive effects on your own body image, your perception of yourself,  but only if you are already somewhat confident about your own body.

(Photos by Paul Ward modelled by Alex B)

Friday, 2 November 2012

Over half a million

My blog has just gone over 500,000 hits. It's hard to believe that so many people have come across it since it began in June 2010 and that they have read a few entries or looked at a couple of images. 500,000 is the number of inhabitants of a medium size city! I am quite galvanised by it all. I confess that writing posts has not been uppermost on my mind for a while, caught up as I have been with life offline. I do other things apart from modelling  and as from September I have been formally studying psychoanalysis, so I have a lot of reading to do.
But I dont want to give up writing this blog, I like the thought of interacting with so many people online.
I really should thank Unbearable Lightness for getting me started on the idea of blogging. She has been writing  a blog for some years and invited me to guest post in December 2009. I then decided to start my own blog -  Lightness continues to blog but privately.
Recently,  she emailed me one of her posts in which she asks  a question that seems easy to answer but is actually quite complex. Who is a model? Can anyone be a model?

On the day when a long awaited interview given by supermodel Kate Moss is finally published in Vanity Fair, it seems appropriate to have a post about modelling.  Kate's career has been unique and seems to have been guided by two maxims, to which she has adhered throughout -  dont complain and dont justify, because it keeps the mystery. The advice was given to her by her former lover Johnny Depp. And she has stuck to it. She does not blog, does not tweet, never speaks to journalists. This is a first and I wonder whether it marks a change of career. She has been modelling for 25 years.
Endowed with a most photogenic, not necessarily most beautiful, face, Kate has been modelling since her teens and  has learnt to model by modelling. There are no schools, no classes that can turn you into a model: you simply have to do it in order to master the necessary skills.
What are these skills? "I know a model when I see her" says photographer Ama Saru.
I turn to Moss, who says "I don’t want to be myself, ever. I’m terrible at a snapshot. Terrible. I blink all the time. I’ve got facial Tourette’s. Unless I’m working and in that zone, I’m not very good at pictures, really,” And a little later she talks of her need to become a character.
This is it, then. Modelling is performing.

But is modelling an art? I hate it when people label themselves 'artists' because there is more to being an artist then claiming the name.  Who is or is not an artist is an entirely contextual matter. I used to know a musician that was very skilled and played beautifully, yet he would never refer to himself as artist, though for some he was. "I am a musician by trade" he would say.
I dont think Kate Moss would call herself 'an artist'. Yet she has appeared in stunning images, clothed, semi-clothed and nude, lending those images her allure and her ability to transform herself, visually. Without her, those pictures would not work.
Is a model born or made? To which I can only retort: is a photographer born or made?

 A bit of both, I think.

(Photos from top: A street in Bath, photographer myself; Alex B by Ama Saru: Figure work by Paul Ward, model Alex B)

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Cult leaders

I am playing the role of cult leader of a fringe religious sect in a short play by John Casey, on at The Wayward Gallery, Bethnal Green, on 31st October - Halloween night! Doors open from 7.30 pm. It all happened quite fast, I originally applied to audition for a different role but the director thought I'd be right as cult leader, so I agreed to do it. I could tell you about my anxiety about learning lines and all that, but this is not so important in the larger scheme of things. What I am really concerned with is how to portray a cult leader without indulging in histrionics. This begs the question: who is a cult leader? How do people become cult leaders? what are the qualities exhibited by a cult leader?
"My" cult leader is scholarly. When describing her, John said "The character is a very spiritual academic so to some degree has transcended gender, I'd imagine her very controlled and serious, though also passionate about her research and spiritual endeavours, a comparable person from recent history might be Marlene Dobkin De Rios ".  He then added: "Dr V. (the character) was originally a research psychopharmacist for a major corporation, but founded the cult in the 1960s after the mythical alchemist, Hermes Trimagus, visited her in a dream and revealed to her the formula for Nigredo, the primal essence of the universe. She left her mainstream work and started a radical therapy group to treat certain supposedly incurable mental patients with Nigredo and other alchemic elixirs, from these medical/therapeutic origins, the cult formed as the various members of the group became spiritually attached by their experiences. Niam (another character, a priestess) is the Dr's star patient as she can become One with the symbolic deity Nyx (who is significant in a semi-mystical psychoanalytical process for accepting the vast coldness of the void and the inevitable destruction of the universe, and exalting in it with laughter and a sense of spiritual affirmation)."

This is quite a brief, Dr V. still eludes me, all that Dr V. and myself have in common for now is a mane of long white hair and an inquisitive mind.
Two films about cult leaders, quite different, spring to mind:  The Master (2012) loosely based on  Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, and Sound of My Voice (2012), about a mysterious woman claiming to be from the future and gathering followers around her through her charisma and seductiveness.
From my reading, the power of seduction seems to be an important and essential quality of cult leaders.  Cults, especially modern day ones, seem to be  based around their personality and they need to be able to fascinate you, intrigue you, stimulate you, for you to be willing to suspend your disbelief and follow them wherever they take you. It is not the case that only troubled people and people with poor judgment may get involved in cults, it could really happen to anyone. As John Stacey writes, no one joins a cult, cult members are recruited. It follows that the effectiveness of recruitment techniques is what makes a cult.
Some research on the topic led me to a 1993  article by James T. Richardson in the Review of Religious Research in which he sheds some light on the sociological meaning of the term. 'Cult' has negative associations today, but in the past it was a more neutral term, denoting developments within religious and spiritual traditions. However, one cannot deny the tendency to associate cultic developments to messianic messages and to specific personalities.  In ancient Greece the cult of Dionysus, God of wine and sensual pleasures, was prominent, later exported to Rome and becoming the cult of Bacchus, with the word bacchanalia becoming associated with it (i.e celebrations of Bacchus, lasting several days and involving excesses of all kinds. Interestingly,  the early bacchanalia were celebrated in secret in the grove of Simila by women only). They were not personality led, but clearly there were cult leaders, members of the serving sacerdotal class that led these events and who were  endowed with the  power to 'commune' with the deity and receive the deity's  theophany.
All this makes interesting background to my character. I am still working on her...

(Photos by Ama Saru modelled by Alex B)

Monday, 22 October 2012

From recent shoots

Since my return from New York I have been really busy, and I find I dont have much time to write. I am taking part in a production called 'The Sanctuary' by John Casey, to be performed on 31st October, featuring an installation and a short play and once again I am busy with rehearsals. Plus it's that time of the year when I feel somewhat lethargic. It's raining and  days are getting shorter...

I have received quite a few photos from my recent shoots in New York.
So this post is about showcasing them.
First there are those taken by Ama at the Met - see my earlier post. They are all on film, some taken with a M/F camera, others with a 35 mm.

Then there are those taken by Paul Ward. Very different in style, but for me it was wonderful to work with both artists.


Once I get a little more settled I will write longer posts.

(All photos modelled by Alex B)

Monday, 15 October 2012

Looking the part

Rehearsing The Bridge Photographer: Katja Vaghi

Acting confidently and courteously allows you to get away with more or less everything.
I have been away for the past week, in New York to be precise. I first attended a conference at the lovely Siena College in Albany. It was a gathering of people whose work has been informed or inspired by the theory of Bulgarian-French literary critic, psychoanalyst and novelist Julia Kristeva.
Then I had a day and a half  in NYC and am getting ready to fly back home tonight. While in NYC I arranged two photoshoots . The one I did yesterday was quite eventful.
I teamed up with Romanian artist and photographer Ama Saru. She came to pick me up at Penn where my train from Albany arrived. We sat in Starbucks planning the shoot - she had a couple of dresses she wanted me to wear, I had brought some stuff too and had a heavy suitcase. Ama had two cameras, including a heavy MF Pentax. 'Lets go to the Met' she said. 'I have done shoots there before, the light is just perfect on a sunny day like this" It was a great sunny afternoon. So off we went and of course we could not find a single cab that would take us, so we had to carry our heavy bags on the subway and then a bus.

We got to the Met and we were flatly told we could not get in as checked luggage is not allowed. Oh my God, what shall we do? We went to Central Park and sat despondently on a bench. I was going to stay in Brooklyn but could not get there before evening, and I could not leave my precious suitcase unattended.
Then I had this idea. "Lets go to the nearest hotel, it's worth asking if they can look after my case" "There's only the Carlyle" said Ama. Oh, the Carlyle. Look it up. It is definitely well beyond my means.
At that point there was little choice. "Let's try". I took a deep breath in and went up to the concierge. "I am leaving New York tonight" I said "and I desperately want to see the Met. No cases are allowed in  the museum, can I please leave my suitcase here?". "Of course Madam" came the reply. He clearly thought I was a resident of the hotel, just checked out. He took my case and my heavy coat and handed me a tag. It was that easy.
So we got back to the Met. I changed in one of the restrooms, did my own make up and wore the beautiful jewellery Ama had brought. We did the shoot and noone bothered with us, some people stopped and watched but we were not asked to leave at any point.

At the end of the shoot we went back to the Carlyle. I took my bag and tipped the man that brought it to me, as one would normally do,  then I said, loudly enough to be heard, to Ama "I dont really want to wear this outfit, let me change into something more practical. Let's go to the restroom by the coffee shop then we can have coffee there before leaving". So we did . Noone stopped us, it all seemed so perfectly normal.
Later when we were out and having coffee and cake at another cafe, where we were not going to be charged a hundred dollar per cup or similar, we laughed at the whole episode.
Was it luck? A bit of luck was involved, definitely. But most of all we both acted naturally and effortlessly and I think this is what helped us to get away with it.
So next time I am in NYC I will definitely go and stay at the Carlyle. I just have to find a sponsor.

(Photos modelled by Alex B)

Monday, 1 October 2012

Anna Karenina: when beauty kills emotion

I went to see Anna Karenina, the newest cinematic adaptation of the literary masterpiece by Lev Tolstoy, with Keira Knightley as Anna. I have read the book several times: as a teenager first, though I confess I did not understand it so well back then, and then again a few more times in later years. I also saw the movie with the great Greta Garbo as Anna and I remember sobbing non-stop during the film and afterwards, every time I remembered the tragic scene of Anna's suicide.
This film is absolutely stunning, it was a stroke of genius to set it in a theatre - how ironic, considering that Tolstoy thought, in a Platonic fashion, that the Theatre was bad. Beautiful costumes, beautiful music, beautiful choreography (by Sibi Ladbi Cherkaoui) beautiful photography: the film is stylised in the extreme. Tom Stoppard managed to cull out of the thousand pages novel all the most significant moments, Joe Wright's direction is superb. Jude Law as Karenin gives an outstanding performance, Vronsky as a character is a bit flat, Keira Knightley manages to bring out some intensity, despite her irritating mannerisms. I loved Kitty and Levin and the scene in which a newly married, virginal  Kitty, without a thought for the strict conventions of society, nurses Levin's very ill brother together with his outcast common law wife. It's a scene almost straight out of Caravaggio's Deposition from the cross, with the two women washing the dying man's naked body to the sound of a very haunting melody.
If there is a problem with this film it's that it is so beautifully crafted and so stylised that somehow it takes away the intense emotion. I could not cry for Anna, instead I found myself looking at the folds of  her beautiful red silk dress as she jumped under the train: everything in that scene was beautifully composed, the view of the train, the smoke, the red silk contrasting against the blackness of the huge wheels. There dies Anna, I thought, and her despair, in all that beauty, seemed very unreal, I felt quite detached from it.

The passion and raw emotion of the black and white 1930s - 1940s versions was not there - Vivien Leigh was another unforgettable Anna in the 1948 adaptation. But those films were about Anna, everything and everyone else was secondary. This film is more true to the complexity of Tolstoy's novel, it does give a sense of what he was writing about - Anna is an important character but the novel is not about her, it is about his disenchantement with the values of Russian society of his time and his exploration of love in all its facets.
But the film for me raises an important question about art and aesthetics: does excessive beauty kill emotion?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Therapeutic or artistic - a response

In my last post I asked whether there was a difference between artistic and therapeutic and received a few responses, including one from Unbearable Lightness in her private blog - which I am not allowed to link to - and a few stray comments either on deviantArt or here.
I thought that rather than replying individually I should post again. Thank you so much for engaging with my question!
Let's recap:  by and large I agree that creative therapies are based on the idea of making something artistic, but I maintain  that their primary purpose is therapeutic, by which I mean a whole range of effects that are connected with a sense of well being; many have some curative effects. This does not mean that something created for a therapeutic purpose cannot have an artistic value. But being 'artistic' is a secondary feature of the work.
Of course, as usual in such discussions, invoking the 'greats' and making statements about them is de rigueur:  e.g  Leonardo did not mean to make great art.
 I'm not sure about that. Leonardo was certainly aware of his own position as artist and made work that would be explicitly regarded as artistic, congruent with the aesthetic ideals of his time. I doubt it very much that Leonardo made work to express himself or work therapeutic for his soul -  the very notion would have been alien to him.
What is missing from most responses to my question is the acknowledgement that art is a discourse, or at that, a series of interconnected discourses and as such it is heavily involved - imbricated -  with institutions - thus society and its politics - and their time. What is also missing is the acknowledgement that there are many different views of what constitutes art and, again, those views are contextual.
The idea that art is for self expression is only one way to talk about art and its purpose, it is a discourse about and of art. It is inscribed in a broader modernist discourse and is what the Expressionists championed. Not all artists explicitly embrace Expressionism - not today - but Expressionism has definitely left its mark. The art therapies took their cue from Expressionism and its engagement with the depth psychology of Jung (please note, Jung, not Freud) and were developed by artists whose debt to Expressionism was substantial.

Not all art is meant to be expressionist/expressionistic. In fact there are those who totally dislike Expressionism and expressionism (I use a capital E when referring to the historical movement, and a small e when referring to the legacy of Expressionism, i.e. when people talk of creative self expression in relation to their creative pursuits. Some artists dont give a damn about self expression and instead use purposely their artistic medium to explore the medium itself or use it to comment on societal issues. Art is never divorced from politics and as such it is always of its time. Even when it claims that it aspires to Universal Beauty and it cannot possibly have anything to do with base things such as politics it is extremely political in that it embraces a very conservative ideology and discourse.
I am about to adjourn. I just want to add for the purpose of clarity what I mean by discourse and for this I shall refer to Foucault, for whom discourse is the :
ways of constituting knowledge, together with the social practices, forms of subjectivity and power relations which inhere in such knowledges and relations between them. Discourses are more than ways of thinking and producing meaning. They constitute the 'nature' of the body, unconscious and conscious mind and emotional life of the subjects they seek to govern.
Once again I am hoping for a stimulating discussion. Have a good weekend!

(Photos by Nobby Clark of scenes from the play Hysteria written and directed by Terry Johnson, with Antony Sher, Will Keen, David Horowitch, Indira Varma as main actors)

Friday, 7 September 2012

A big cheer to M&S

Marks and Spencer A/W 2012 campaign. Source: Google

This morning my friend the photographer David Nuttall emailed me to say he thought he had seen me in a M& ad, only when he looked more carefully he realised it was not me. I was almost fooled, he said.
Artist Alexandra Gallagher, for whom I posed, also sent me a note through FB. Is it you? She asked, referring to the same ad. You can see the commercial here
No, it is not me, it is Yasmina Rossi, to whom I bear a resemblance.  We are FB friends and we have emailed each other about the resemblance. "It's the energy and the hair that are alike"  she says. I agree. It would be fantastic to do a shoot together! I posted about her last year, see my post  Ever met yourself?
I am delighted that Yasmina has been selected to appear in  this international campaign, replacing Twiggy. This is the first time that a fifty plus woman with grey hair can be seen in such a prominent ad. Sure, we had the Dove campaign but the grey haired woman featured in it was not a professional model (she is now). As for Twiggy, she is a legend, the face of the 1960s - and does not have grey hair!. M&S has relied on celebrities in the past, but has now decided to employ professional models with whom real women can identify. It has definitely embraced diversity - only last month I was involved in a shoot for its beauty products, again with a group of diverse models. This was a much
more low key shoot than the A/W 2012 For every woman you are, the international campaign that features Luisa Bianchin (20), Sandra Ellinore Shiotz Erichsen (22), Marquita M Pring (22), Eden Micael (24), Marie Meyer (27), Candice Joy Huffine (27), Anne-Flore Trichilo (34), Rachel Boss (42), Angela Dunn (48) and Yasmina Rossi (57). Still, it was thrilling to be part of it.

Photographer: Derek Anderson. Model: Alex B

I feel quite strongly about seeing older models in fashion and advertising and I know I am not the only one who does. When I say models, I mean models - neither celebrities, nor so called 'real women' (as if models were not real women) but women who can pose, walk on a runway and can really show the clothes they are wearing - it is an acquired skill .

It is wonderful to see models such as Yasmina and Angela appearing in such an important campaign. It really marks a trend and it opens up opportunities and possibilities for other older models.

In the past I would not have thought of M&S as a place where I could find interesting clothes. I take it back now: I would love to wear what Yasmina is modelling. I think it would look good on me.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Osteoporosis and a lovely surprise

Photographer: Martina O'Shea

As I grow older I become more and more conscious of osteoporosis. I don't have it but I have seen the devastating effects it has had on my mother. She is ninety years old now and not in very good health.  She has shrunk a good few inches and has a very curved back.  From being a relatively tall woman, keen on swimming and other activities she has now turned into a shadow of her former self. I watched her decline with immense sadness. Various events in her life made her lose interest in her own well being and from the time of my father's death she just gave up on almost everything. It's been over ten years now.
So I have become quite paranoid about losing height and losing flexibility in my spine. Compared to my twenties I am now about half an inch to an inch shorter, depending on what time of the day I measure my height - apparently we are taller in the morning, it's to do with gravity and spine compression. We lose height at the rate of one cm per decade starting at the age of 40 but I also know that it is possible to slow down this process or even stop it by watching our posture and maintaining a good diet (calcium and glucosamine sulphate are excellent supplements) and of course exercising for flexibility - this explains my fixation on stretching.
I have noticed with dismay how easy it is for young people to sit at a desk or in the car and curve their spine. At some point that curvature becomes permanent and people walk around protruding their necks and slouching.  A few years down the line that is their default posture. A yoga teacher of mine suggested sitting with a yoga belt strapped across the shoulders, to keep them well back. I sometimes do that as well as sitting with a book on my head for a few minutes to get 'to feel' a good  posture in my body, how to hold myself.
I find Pilates really helps. You work on movement details, on performing very small movements in sync with your breath. I love it. Swimming is another good way of stretching the spine, as also yoga.
I work on the principle that I only have this one body and want to take good care of it, once it goes I will not be able to replace it. The Romans used to say Mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) and that has become my motto.
It is not out of a desire to look good. It is out of a desire to feel good, a desire to be healthy, knowing that life is a lot easier and infinitely more pleasant if you are well and feel good in your own skin.

A huge thank you to model Ella Rose. I have never had the pleasure to meet her but I have admired her photos, especially those taken by Neil Huxtable such as the one below:

Photographer: Neil Huxtable Model: Ella-Rose

Ella-Rose took me entirely by surprise today by sending me a lovely message on MM. I was feeling a little tired, this Hysteria tour is taking its toll - it's Cambridge tomorrow for another week.

I am copying it more or less verbatim (I do hope Ella -Rose will not mind):

"I just wanted to say: how inspiring to see such a beautiful, elegant and versatile model so successful in 'maturity'. I sometimes worry about how long I can do this job for, but seeing your portfolio has been reassuring. Wonderful work! You are beautiful."

I am truly touched Ella-Rose! It means a lot to me to know that a beautiful young woman such as yourself can find inspiration in what I do. Having noted your passion and commitment I do not doubt for a moment that you have a long modelling career ahead of you. I will enjoy watching you grow and mature.

(All photos unless otherwise stated modelled by Alex B.)

Friday, 10 August 2012

My inner goddess is constantly vomiting and needs electrolyte powder

I have finally read Fifty Shades, curious to know what the fuss was about. I only paid £3 to download it on my Kindle but I still feel like asking for my money back. This is complete and utter drivel. It's not even a fairy tale, it's just a stupid, stupid tale.
The plot seems to have been concocted by a 16 year old, with totally unbelievable and flat characters. He, Christian, is 27, a self made multi-billionaire who never seems to be doing any work, obviously handsome and sexy. She, Anastasia , Ana for short,  is (of course) a  beautiful but very shy 22 year old who has never had sex, never even thought about it, a university student who has never had her own email address (!). She sounds more like a 14 year old except that it would have been reprehensible  to have a heroine that young in a book about some twisted version of BDSM that sounds more like domestic abuse than anything else. Written in bad English, full of repetitions and inconsequential references to Ana's inner goddess, whatever that means, who has the habit of coming out with the most inane phrases ever (my inner goddess is dancing the merengue with salsa moves), the sex scenes are so incredibly boring, after a while I found myself skimming through the book and trying to get to the end of this tale hoping against hope that there might be some interesting development. No chance of that. Christian (Fifty Shades) seems to have been permanently marked by the traumatic event  of being adopted, aged 4, by a loving and wealthy perfect family. This has given him the need to be a control freak and a stalker. The underlying message seems to be that adoption can be psychologically extremely damaging. Oh and in Seattle, where the scene is set, people speak British English - I never knew that!
Photographer: Colin M.

I will not say more but for your amusement here is a selection of comments by readers who like me have felt short changed:

"Mills and Boon for the sexually impaired!!!" (alonsofson)

"I read Fifty Shades to see what all the fuss was about. Next I'm hoping to move up to Janet & John Key Stage 2 books, though mummy says they have even bigger words." (Jockcousteau)

(Source: Comments)

"Why has it sold so many copies?

"Well, its not that you can lend your copy to a friend, after using it, I mean reading it"(lemonentry)

(Source: Comments)

And finally from Amazon .com, this is by Catherine Gurski echoed by thousands:

"Holy Moly - How on Earth did this get published? The main male character is an abusive self-centered jerk... the main female character is a sniveling idiot... the plot is terrible... the love scenes worse... and the writing? Adolescent. The ending felt like premature - never mind, keeping it clean. I'd give it 0 stars if I could" (Source: Amazon Customer Reviews)

Meanwhile EL James is laughing all the way to the bank and, shite, I have contributed to this...

(All photos modelled by Alex B.)

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Catching my breath

It has been a busy week, with no time to post. I am settling into this routine of regular daily exercise if i can help it, which for me has to be done in a class situation, especially if it is Pilates, and also going back and forth to London quite often - every time I move away from London I realise I cannot live without it, it's the reason why I made it my home. My love affair with London spans at least a couple of decades now and despite all its shortcomings I love the metropolis to bits. Admittedly, I go back for work reasons: yesterday I had a shoot for M&S beauty products which I could not miss. But I like going home on a Sunday (and my regular yoga class on sunday afternoon!). I seem to be the only one among the cast who moves back and forth, I was talking the other day to the company manager and he told me he never goes back home while on tour, not even on the days when there are no performances. I guess it's also to do with the fact that since my role is rather small I dont have to keep on rehearsing, so I have more spare time than the others, more freedom to move around, so long as I am there for my call time.
I am getting used to the strange rituals of theatre people. Yesterday it was press night and suddenly there were good luck cards, chocolates and various small gifts. I did not know 'press night'  was such a big deal and felt really bad about not reciprocating. I naively thought that the opening night was the 'one', yet it went through as if it was a rehearsal. But yesterday was special. One of the cards I was given, by the leading lady, was amazing.  It was a Norman Parkinson's postcard

Photographer: Norman Parkinson, The Italian Collection, three little black dresses, 1961
Norman Parkinson archive, ArtPress Publishing Ltd

So beautiful and elegant! Later, at the party, I managed to thank everyone and I was then told that the next big night is the final one of the tour, so now I have been forewarned. 
Apart from the M&S shoot which I am really proud of - M&S has chosen models of different ages, different skin colours and generally, different types, to advertise its new range of beauty products, I have had the opportunity of doing an art nude shoot in Salisbury and I really love the images, thank you Stuart!
I am writing in a hurry today, mostly to reassure my followers that I am still around and no, I have not given up blogging. It's just a little difficult to cram everything in 24 hours. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Heat wave and body awareness

With the Olympics approaching fast I left the erratic London traffic with some relief and finally arrived in Bath. What a lovely place How could I possibly have missed it in all the years I lived in England? Shame, absolutely shame on me.
We are having a heat wave at the moment with temperatures truly soaring, a real summer with a Mediterranean flavour. I arrived carrying a heavy suitcase - oh the days when I travelled light! Why is it that as you get older you seem to be unable to leave things behind? Bath is only one and a half hour away, I kept reminding myself, with the same major shops as any other English city. But no, I had to carry stuff which once unpacked made me realise that I should not have bothered with. Plus I am going back home every sunday! Anyway, I am digressing.
Being in Bath, you just have to think about well being, it's in the air. This is the place where for thousands of years people have been enjoying the waters, coming specially for it.
So it is no coincidence that as soon as I arrived I began to think about my body and its condition and I thought it needed some improvement. My digs are very central, two minutes away from a women only gym and one minute from a yoga centre. I wanted to attend classes but those at the gym are in the evening, I am busy working at those times so I had to settle for a personal trainer first thing in the morning. Yoga classes fortunately can be done in the morning though the centre is only operating late morning classes - I so dislike that, it means you cant have breakfast unless you get up at 6, which I find myself doing anyway because of the heat and of course the light that filters through around 4 (it's summer time). But you can't be in Bath and not experience the Thermae, Bath Spa. A visit is not exactly cheap but it is worth it. Even if you decide not to go for the various, very tempting, massages, which add up to the cost of the basic ticket.

Don't get me wrong. If you have the means and the will, you can get the very same treatment and more in the Metropolis.  But you can't get the thermal waters and the sheer experience of bathing there. If you then happen to be in Bath during an extraordinarily hot summer, as we are experiencing at the moment, there is something quite surreal about it. I walk around and I am not really sure where I am.

Yesterday evening I asked my bemused landlady if she could please put some ice in my water jug - I never take ice in water, it is an exceptional occurrence.

I treated myself to the spa this morning, today was our opening night after all. I was in my element, completely. Loved the steam bath, loved the jacuzzi, loved the roof top pool. I could live like this all the time, getting up early, going for training, going to the spa, eating healthy but light food.

Happiness is a thermal spring.

(Photo by Korrigan modelled by Alex B)

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Some thoughts while I am packing...

I am moving to Bath tomorrow and am busy packing my stuff. I know, Bath is only an hour and half away and I will be coming back home every Sunday, anyway. But it's been a while since I lived out of suitcases and to be honest I don't even know what to take with me.

I have been ill with a dreadful cough and cold for the whole week and busy attending a summer school, a five days intensive with choreographer Miranda Tufnell at the Siobhan Davies Studios. I loved working with Miranda, her approach to the body, working with writing as an extension of dancing, was amazing. I was very conscious of my breathing problems every time we had to lie on the floor and focus on the breath. Mine was so difficult! Every day, back home, I just went to sleep early. The workshops were not physically exhausting, but I always felt the need for a good, long sleep to recharge myself.

I did little yesterday, just rested, as my body was tired and full of aches. Then today I went for that ultimate masochistic experience which is contortion class.

I have been doing contortion for a while, out of boredom really. And contortion class is the reason why I will come back to London every Sunday while 'touring' in Bath - well, there are other reasons too, but I would hate to miss my contortion class.

I normally do a yoga class before going for contortion, to loosen up. I should explain that contortion is taught at a pole dancing school by a competitive gymnast/pole dancer. It is a mixed ability class. We just learn how to do things like splits, back bends etc. It's the process that matters, at least to me, rather than achieving. It brings home how much hard work one has to put in, you just need to train your body and this can be done gradually, practising a little everyday.

It is quite an amazing thing, the body. As you grow older you need longer to warm up but if you have something in your body memory you will be able to do it. What I love in contortion class is the willingness we all have to undergo some kind of torture. We often work in pairs and it is normal to ask for 'more' when that 'more' means more pain eg someone is pushing your legs down to the floor to help you achieve a better opening of the hips.

People take it immensely seriously and I have seen classmates going from a state of absolute inflexibility to one where they can bend and fold themselves up easily and at will. That gives me hope, not just in terms of physicality but generally, as a way to approach life.

I could not manage without my contortion class.

All photographs by Korrigan and modelled by Alex B.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Questions in my hand luggage

I am feeling quite poorly. Nothing major, just a cold, a cough, a very sore throat. It feels worse when you get this in summer.  Of course these things always happen when you are at your busiest. I was down to do a dawn shoot, now I have to cancel it. I have enrolled for a summer school in choreography which starts tomorrow.  I hope I will be better by tomorrow afternoon as I don't want to miss the first day. On top of this there's the rehearsals for the play, the last thing I want is to have this horrible flu coming along with me. It wont make me popular with the other actors, that's for sure.
I got this because on Friday I went to Hyde Park to see Iggy and the Stooges and Soundgarden and got totally drenched. As Chris Cornell intoned Black Hole Sun the heavens opened and no, he did not manage to wash away the rain.

Rant over. I was actually very pleased earlier to receive an email from a photographer friend. He has been asking interesting  questions, important ones, on the nature of nude modelling.   From time to time models and photographers don't see eye to eye about the images they make together. Some are really revealing and I don't mean this in the sense that 'certain' body parts are on show. I mean that they really are incisive portraits and often they show the model in a moment of extreme vulnerability. It is what makes a photograph really meaningful and yet it can be extremely difficult for the model to be seen that way. There have been a few photos taken of me that made me feel uncomfortable. Most of the time the photographers involved were very courteous, understood my reasons and removed the photos from their online portfolios. One or two did not and took great offense at my remarks/requests. C'est la vie.
Is nude photography a risk for the model? asks my friend.

Yes it is. "The reality of the power of your own image to change and shape and even destroy your life cannot be understood until [something awful] happens to you" says another friend who has had a very hard time as suddenly she was put in the stocks and some people felt entitled to scrutinise and comment on her appearance and actions, even character - and they did not even know her.

I dont have a solution, nor an answer to the questions, says my photographer friend. Nor do I.

But I have learnt one thing. Take a little distance. It can work miracles.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Surreal Freud and other matters

I finally went to my first rehearsal for the play I am doing a little acting in. It is acting now, rather than dancing, as I first understood it, and that's because I actually have to speak, call out rather, my stage brother's name: Sigmund, Sigmund. My two "sisters" have a little more to say: one screams - very effective, I could not possibly match that, the other breaks into German and pleads "Hilf, hilf".

I have a block about speaking - I am a dancer and prefer to be silent, though when I was in Indonesia at Sardono's studio in Solo he was very keen on using the voice, in a very powerful way. Oh, I really miss Indonesia now, it's been years and it keeps on coming into my dreams, I can even smell it.

Before I go on I should try and make this tale a little more coherent. I am in Hysteria a play by Terry Johnson - I talked about it in an earlier post. Yesterday I met the cast - impressive. Antony Sher is Sigmund Freud. I have been a fan of Sher's for years, so meeting him was quite emotional for me, even though I managed not to do something as silly as burst into tears, like a star-struck teenager.

I am appearing as one of Freud's sisters, on my way to a gas chamber (Freud's sisters died in a camp). It is all part of a surreal dream like sequence. The only thing I still can't figure is how Freud could see his sisters going towards a gas chamber as when he died in 1939 Die Endlösung had not yet begun. But a dream is a dream. Besides the conjurer is Salvador Dali, in this particular instance.

So it truly is a surreal Freud.

It was exciting to see such amazing actors rehearse. They were refining the interpretation and yesterday the work was all on movement - how to make use of the space, how to work expressively with the body while speaking the lines.

Though I did not do very much I felt quite exhausted at the end of the afternoon. Then I began to get very worried about finding accommodation in Bath, where I will have to be for three weeks from Monday 23rd July. I have left it a little late, no doubt. Finally this morning I found what I wanted, after loads of telephone calls. It felt a little unreal to be introducing myself as an actress to my prospective landlords. Should I really say that, I wondered. But it was the best thing, really, I wanted them to get an idea of why I was after a room for three weeks only. So, until the first week of September (we tour after the three weeks at the Theatre Royal) I will be an actress. I will enjoy this brief change of occupation
(Photo by Korrigan  modelled by Alex B)

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Watching and reporting

I have watched with dismay a whole drama unfold on a megasite where someone I held in high esteem - admittedly, I did not always see eye to eye with her, but the relationship was based on respect - was forced to leave the site, as whatever rightful grievance people had, they just turned it into a distasteful attack on her person and she could not take it anymore. The perpetrators were even applauded for it.
I watched another case of someone being thrown out of the same megasite because of his behaviour involving writing obscenities about models. It was a case of good riddance. The guy seemed unstable and perhaps too much was made of his utterances. But still...
Then this morning I learnt about someone else whom I have always admired and with whom I even run a group  on said megasite, deciding to wind up her blog and leaving, giving up modelling altogether. She can no longer take the dramas it involves.
I am full of doubts, at this point in time. It seems to me that to be a member of the megasite in question you need to be involved in policing. I find that too much of an effort, I am a busy lady.
 I know of someone on that megasite who seems to spend much of his time  spotting and reporting those who steal 'art' from Met-Art, turning himself into a balance as the French say. It makes me wonder. Does this person not have anything else to do with his life?

I am not saying that stealing from Met-Art is the right thing to do, but hey, do you really have to take on this policing? Can you not let the site deal with it? It will, in due course, and if it does not, is it really your loss? Especially when you consider that it is not necessarily, not in all cases anyway, done for profit. Some people enjoy having a go at processing images. Whether this is art or not is beside the point (not that Met-Art is great art anyway). So many times people have reprocessed the images I have displayed, sometimes they asked me beforehand, sometimes they simply presented me with a fait accompli, in some cases I only found out by chance. To be honest it has never bothered me.
It's this mind set of watching over what others are doing which I find disturbing. This idea of being able to say "I caught you and now you are going to pay for it" to me is a sign of great meanness masked as righteousness.
Some of these people so keen on policing also have a past as bullies. This very person now so bent on reporting members of that megasite who steal from Met-Art tried to get me off the megasite by casting aspersion on my character. I let it go and of course he did not succeed. I hold no grudges, ever, but I never forget.
Where was I? When I joined that megasite it was because I wanted an outlet for my photography, as a model and later, as a photographer. I was not quite prepared for its dramas. Now I am. I no longer spend much time on it. I take the view that I have paid my subscription, I will upload my stuff. Sod it if people dont like it. That's all , really.

(Photo by Korrigan modelled by Alex B)

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Becoming a flaneuse

My project over the summer is to walk a lot. I am stuck in England because I am involved in acting /dancing in a play and we open in Bath on 23rd July - I will be out of London while the Olympics are in full swing.
Londoners are being brainwashed into walking anyway, as during the Olympics, with millions of visitors, our transportation system will come, more or less, to a standstill. London Underground is already overcrowded, but with the extra passengers it will be impossible to get into a station without ending up feeling claustrophobic.
But being away from London will also mean that my routine of classes will be disrupted. So walking is going to be my past time and will help to keep fit. Oh, I am always available for one or two shoots while staying in Bath!
Anyway, I started my walking programme in earnest a couple of days ago. I did not top up my Oyster card and that acted as a deterrent. Yesterday I compromised - I used busses but I also walked around while doing errands. This morning I rushed to a meeting using the tube but on the way back I walked and was halfway through when it began to pour and I had, as usual, no umbrella. I had to run and get a bus. I will try and walk again in the early evening.

I aim to get up early every morning and go on a brisk walk. Apparently I live in an area of London that is historic and scenic, with various gardens tucked away where you least expect it - I checked on the Ramblers website. So it is a question of donning a pair of comfy shoes, take an umbrella - I always forget that - and my iPhone to google locations and listen to music, and that's it, really.
And my camera.
I am not an early riser so this will be a bit of a struggle but I am determined.
Are you a keen walker? Do you have any tips for me?
But let me explain the title of this post. Flaneur (feminine flaneuse) is a French word that literally means stroller, so to some extent it explains my new walking activity. But it is more than that, somehow I could not resist the association. The Baudelairian flaneur is "a gentleman stroller", however later the flaneur became a trope of modernity, through the flaneur's observation and participation in street life.

Susan Sontag applied the concept to street photography and the act of going about observing and taking photographs.

We all turn into flaneurs when on holiday, wandering and observing. I'd like to get into that state of mind even when not officially on holiday.

I hope my photos will reflect the attitude.

( Photo taken by Korrigan and modelled by Alex B. )

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Some thoughts on art theft

If you belong to any art site such as deviantArt or if you put your photographic work online, a common complaint of members is that of 'art theft'. On deviantArt there are even people who seem to spend all their time policing and reporting - bless them, they obviously don't have to engage in other work.
I perfectly understand the concerns of those who feel their Art has been taken away and their remonstrances when learning that someone is actually making a few bucks out of it .
However, I would like to open this up for discussion.
I would say that most art has been made by people stealing ideas from someone else. There are blatant examples of art being stolen and then copyrighted. Musical genius Benjamin Britten went to Bali and transcribed note by note well known traditional melodies for his score of The Prince of the Pagodas and then copyrighted the material. Traditional music is up for grabs. Also, as someone commented, "Balinese people are not real people to a European". Plenty of truth in that. It was Europe that invented colonialism 'for the benefit of those who are still developing' but we all know that it was for profit.
All right, all right, colonialism is a thing of the past. What has this to do with art theft?
You tell me, dear reader.

I would like to consider this notion of 'theft' or appropriation. Culturally the negativity of appropriation and the notion of intellectual property are Euro-American, modernist formulations. In a number of non-western cultures imitating and appropriating someone's work is regarded as an act of homage, expected and encouraged in order to inscribe one's authorship within a tradition; this was the case in pre-modern Europe and in classical antiquity.

Appropriation has  been seen as a threat to the authenticity of the ‘original,’ emphasising the superiority of the former over any derivative ‘copy’. However, Walter Benjamin reformulated the role of the copy as a reactivation of the reproduced object through the act of reproduction, thus questioning entrenched notions of originality and authenticity. Benjamin’s essay, akin to the ‘ready-mades’ of Dadaist artist Marcel Duchamp, had a profound influence on the development in New York during the 1980s of Appropriation Art, whose aim was to interrogate authenticity and originality and the purpose of contemporary art.

Post-modern critiques have  dispelled the aura of negativity surrounding appropriation by making us recognise that appropriation is potentially a two-way process of ‘exchange and creative response'. Bakhtin formulates utterance as response to another utterance as the basis of his notion of dialogue; Kristeva’s definition of intertextuality is that ‘any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another’; while the hypertext of contemporary internet usage relies on appropriation as a praxis.
A caveat is however necessary. Appropriation should not be equated with plagiarism, the act of passing off as one’s own what done by another, without any acknowledgement. There is arguably a fine line between the two.  It is not the endeavour as such, but the lack of acknowledgment, that is problematic.

(All photos modelled by Alex B and taken by Korrigan)

Saturday, 30 June 2012


I will be acting (moving silently is more appropriate) in a play by Terry Johnson called Hysteria. I have a minor role - 'older naked lady' is the official role title - together with two other models/actresses, Bernie Barrett and Angela Platter. From the role you can gather that I will have to walk around the stage in a state of complete undress (or semi? I am not hundred percent sure, as yet). I am used to nudity, I am a life and art model, so nothing unusual there.

Rehearsals have just begun for the main characters; the naked ladies will begin rehearsing on 11th July, with clothes on.

Terry wrote the play in 1993. It features an imaginary encounter and exchange between Freud and Dali. The lead roles are taken by Antony Sher (Freud) and Will Sheen (Dali), with Indira Varma as Jessica and David Horovitch as Yahuda.

The play will run in Bath from 23rd July, for four weeks. Then we will tour, with performances in Richmond, Oxford and Cambridge.

It is uncanny that I should be acting in a play inspired by psychoanalysis, just as psychoanalysis begins to take a major role in my life.

I became interested in therapeutic dance two years ago and decided to do a course in DMP (short for dance/movement psychotherapist). By the end of the second year the lure of psychoanalysis was too strong and I decided to exit the course. I was itching to embark on  psychoanalytic training, which I am in the process of doing. By serendipity, when I had to choose a personal therapist at the start of the course, a requirement, I chose to be in analysis with a Lacanian psychoanalyst. That did it for me.

It might sound odd that, as a body centred person, I should choose "the talking cure", but to me there is no contradiction. Just because I am engaging in a study of the unconscious and unconscious processes, it does not mean I am rejecting the body, on the contrary.

It is also interesting, part of the same thread if you like, that of all the ballets, the one I chose to go and see most recently is the Prince of the Pagodas. Again the connection with psychoanalysis figures prominently and it was not deliberate on my part. The ballet is a journey into the unconscious, very Freudian in terms of its symbolism. Kenneth MacMillan, the choreographer, was in analysis for many years. In 2009 there was a symposium at Imperial College, on the occasion of MacMillan's 17th anniversary, at which psychoanalysts from IPA with an interest in dance were in conversation with the audience, examining Macmillan's creativity in relation to his own personal journey through depression and anxiety.
Photographer: DG

“What lies behind the sense of guilt of neurotics are always psychical realities and never factual ones...What characterises neurotics is that they prefer psychical to factual reality and react just as seriously to thoughts as normal people do to realities.”

Freud, Totem and Taboo, 1913

Over the past three to four days I have witnessed a number of online attacks on a fellow model, on deviantArt (where else?) in what to me sounded a most hysterical explosion, in a Freudian sense.

I was wondering whether those who displayed such neurotic behaviour may not find some solace in a Freudian approach to the root cause of their anger.

Just a thought.

(All photos unless otherwise stated are by Korrigan and modelled by Alex B)