Sunday, 29 January 2012

Taking a break from blogging

Photographer: Thesearchformagik

I have been blogging since May 2010. I have used this blog for showcasing my work as a model and then, slowly, my work as a photographer. There were times when I blogged regularly, almost everyday. Now I am taking a short break. My offline life is too full at present to allow me to blog as frequently as I used to. I am full of admiration for those who do, but for me it is sometimes difficult to juggle my day job, my DMP course and my life as a model. On top of that there are personal and family issues, so you can well guess that time is limited.
What have I been up to? Lots of things as it happens. I am participating in London Fashion Week modelling new creations by Robyn Coles Millinery. I am quite excited about it. Then there is my ecstatic dance project based on autoethnography and other things, too many to list, including my own photographic work which I am keen to develop.
Therefore I need to take a break from blogging. I hope it is going to be only a short one, but I definitely need it.

I would like to thank you all for following me. Please dont give up, I hope to come back soon with interesting posts and some good photos.
Meanwhile I wish you all the very best.

Alex x

(All photos modelled by Alex B.)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Self portraiture and Cindy

Photographer: Mark Griffiths
Cindy Sherman, 57,  is a photographer, director, model and actor.  She models and acts creating characters in her own photographic work, which are different from herself. They do not reveal her, they are entirely imaginary. Thus she has given a different meaning to the self portrait, which in her interpretation becomes a portrait with no self, a portrait of another enacted by 'her' self.  Her work  tends to explore fetishization. Cindy often makes images inspired by horror movies. She  has been described as quintessentially postmodern in her approach.
We all have our favourite photographers, Cindy is certainly one of mine.
If I have begun to take self portraits it is because I love Cindy's work. And in my self portraiture I do not wish to project myself. I love the idea of creating a character, of being different. I already do that through modelling for others, the picture I did with Mark Griffiths is a case in point but also those I  did with Caroline Michael. Only in those pictures I was fulfilling their vision.

Photographer: Caroline Michael
In my own portraiture it is my vision, rather than another's, that finds expression.
It is of course about identity. "How do I see myself?" turns into "what do I want others to see".
I do like photographing others. But I really prefer to work alone, creating my own pictures.
I have two shoots coming up, one with myself and one with a female model.
I am apprehensive, but am truly looking forward to both.

(All photos modelled by Alex B)

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A beautiful condition of the mind

Photographer: me. Model : Henrietta
 I recently attended a talk on schizophrenia which surprised me no end. I was expecting a list of facts and  clinical case studies and indeed there was plenty of it. But the young woman who delivered it  - it was an introductory talk  for arts therapists dealing with clients affected by this condition - whilst demonstrating she had the DSM IV at her fingertips, seemed unimpressed with its categorisations, which she would not take at face value. I was truly intrigued, even more so when she showed a few clips from A Beautiful Mind. She thought it made a statement about stigmatisation of schizophrenia sufferers and thus praised it, despite its limitations. 
I never paid attention to this movie when it came out in 2001, I discovered it much later. I do have a DVD of it and watched it again following the talk.

Photographer: me. Model: Henrietta
Based on the life story of mathematician John Nash, a schizophrenia sufferer who obtained the Nobel Prize in Economics for his 'game theory' and led a quiet life as an academic at Princeton University, the film makes the point that schizophrenia sufferers can learn to live with their condition.
 It is a good film, though I hated the soppy romanticism with which the relationship of Nash with his wife was depicted. No doubt Mrs Nash was a tower of strength and truly loved her husband - without that support John Nash would have probably suffered a lot more - but this is thrown into the viewer 's face in true Hollywood style and somehow it demeans the relationship.  
I liked what Nash, interpreted by Russel Crowe,  says in the film about the way he coped with his hallucinations - he learnt to ignore them, even though they were there. Projections of himself, no doubt, but for him the experience was painful. Yet his mathematics would not have thrived if he had been treated like a 'sick' man.
Self portrait. Reprocessed by DG
I think this is an important point. The film does not suggest that madness and genius go together, a very trite romantic notion that is still embraced. Rather, it attempts to make the general public aware that schizophrenia does not turn people into monsters. With the right treatment people can still blossom. The right treatment is not necessarily based on drugs, it involves a lot more than that, it involves the family, the environment, the community. 

Only last October Rachel Whitehead wrote an article in The Guardian about the stigma attached to schizophrenia even today, one hundred years after the term was first used by the medical establishment.

People with schizophrenia 'deserve a better deal in every area of their lives.' says Rethink Mental Illness. Schizophrenia is not an impairment, it can be an enrichment. That's a pretty revolutionary view. Let's hope for a change in attitude.

(Unless otherwise stated photos are modelled by Alex B.)

Monday, 9 January 2012

Reticent models, body conscious men and diverse beauty

Following my post about Grace Vane Percy on UdA and on here I received a lovely email from Figures in Art :

Photographer: Terry Lee-Shield
"I have been following both UdA and your blog for a while" he says "and I really admire you and enjoy your efforts. My wife strongly covets your hair! I’m sure I am not alone among American photographers who wish you were not on the “wrong” side of the pond! I wanted to respond privately  to your blog post about Grace Vane Percy. Her work really is beautiful and I found it particularly interesting as I, while a man, share a very similar philosophy regarding the beauty of regular women regardless of age or body type. The artist statement on my website, , speaks to this. 
I want my nudes to emphasise this premise. Ironically, however, you will only see slender young models on my website. Rather than any bias, it is because they have been the only models available. Undoubtedly, there are other photographers interested in working with more mature subjects but find them difficult to find.
Presumably, models become more conservative and self-conscious as they age. I find it absolutely tragic, the large number of women of all ages who have low self-esteem and hate their bodies when others would see them as truly beautiful! It’s a goal of my photography to show them their own beauty while at the same time showing the beauty of regular women to the world at large.
Following a photojournalism career, I am now shifting towards art nudes and trying to build-up a body of work and launch a project showing the beauty of regular women of all ages and body types Do you have any suggestions on how to find those regular women and non-traditional models?
Thank you again for your efforts on behalf of our art!"

Thank you, Figures in Art. Your question is  interesting. Yes, there are fewer mature models and yes, the ones that model tend to be pro or semi-pro. Grace's models are clients, women that commission the photos for themselves and thus can be reassured that discretion is maintained in matters of where their images end up. Thus they fall into a different category.
I dont know what it is like in the States but over here amateur models can often be found through Gumtree. But Model Mayhem too has amateur models listed.
Maybe you could put up a notice somewhere specifying you'd prefer newbies and models over 40? Craig list perhaps?
You talk about women's anxieties about their bodies. I was intrigued to read that men too suffer from similar anxieties. An article appeared in The Guardian three days ago which discussed recent research findings about men's perceptions of their own bodies as they age and it seems that they are even more anxious than women.  Men worry about beer bellies, receding hair and "man boobs" and there has been a steady increase in cosmetic surgery for men.  
Men too suffer from eating disorders, it's not only women that do. Daniel Johns, lead singer of the band Silverchair, had a long battle with the disease. There is such great pressure to conform to an unrealistic ideal of beauty, it is not surprising that both men and women should have problems in accepting their bodies as beautiful. Wanting to be healthy is good. Wanting to be "beautiful" is not per se a bad thing. It's just that we need to accept that beauty is in diversity and should not try to conform to an unrealistic ideal of beauty. One of the most beautiful images I have seen of women is by photographer Richard Rasner (UniqueNudes on deviantArt). It is an image with seventeen girls/women that celebrates their diverse beauty.

Absolutely stunnning.

(All photos unless otherwise stated modelled by Alex B)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Venus is a real woman: the photography of Grace Vane Percy

My post today can be found at UNIVERS D'ARTISTES which I have the honour of editing.
After all the palaver about models young and old, mature and immature it is absolutely refreshing to read about an artist (a female photographer, just to rub it in) who photographs women, of all shapes, all sizes, all ages. Women who are not models. Just women. She brings out their beauty. Women are Venus, she says, Venus was - is - a real woman.
Please do read the interview with Grace Vane Percy, an internationally recognised art photographer who works exclusively with film,  now published in UdA. I would love to have some of your comments.

Photographer: Grace Vane Percy. Model anonymous.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Mature models go home!

Photographer: Donato Cinicolo
I tend to stay away from threads on model/photographers sites. I do check out casting calls but I am not  that bothered with them at present, I am doing far too many things  and many of the casting calls on these sites are simply not right for me. I also have a profile on there as a photographer. I make it clear I am an amateur photographer still  learning the technique but interested in working with models. I do self portraits when I want to try things out. Initially I wanted to work mostly with male models and am still keen on working with them - I am after a particular look, the long haired "rock god", but am happy to shoot other interesting types too.  However, a few female models have been in touch and am getting a few shoots sorted.  It is, in particular, elegant models in their thirties and forties who have approached me to work with me, as they felt that many male photographers on these sites are not able and not willing to bring out the best in them.
It was one of the models I propose to work with who alerted me to a model bashing thread on Purestorm. She told me that  at some point the bashing was directed at mature models and it was a certain Irish photographer that was particularly virulent in his attack.
I wanted to post a reply on that thread but it turned into a blog post. And here it is.

I regard myself as a semi-professional model and an amateur photographer.  So I would like to add my views first as a mature model and then as a photographer - a female photographer at that.
I will start "from the beginning". I have been modelling for many years now. I am an agency model. I am on the books of a few agencies but there is a particular one that gives me more work than others. I do commercial work and am represented as a classic model/character model. The volume of work varies. I do not model everyday but when I model on an agency booking I get paid well. I started my modelling career back in 2005 as a commercial agency model, on and off,  and then began to branch out, did the odd fashion show, a couple of  editorial shoots, a couple of lifestyle shoots directly commissioned by Getty. Then I discovered Purestorm and Model Mayhem and this coincided with me taking up art nude. I had modelled nude in my early twenties but only as an artist's model.
Before I move on to the 'mature' bit I would like to clarify a few matters regarding model's fees, which came up in that thread. Even though it is perfectly possible to make a living as an internet model and be involved in commercial work, the best and better paid commercial jobs still only come through agencies. Your agency will do things for you that is quite difficult to do yourself as your main task is modelling, such as negotiating multiple use, negotiating rights etc. Advertising campaigns are rarely dealt with directly by photographers who do the casting on internet model/photographers' sites. They are handled by agencies and they are the plum jobs of the industry. Agency commercial shoots are always highly professional affairs in which you the model don't have to provide a single item of clothing and should turn up wearing no make up whatsoever as you will be styled and made up to specification.
Getting on an agency's books is not that difficult, though it is competitive. Getting regular work from your agency is the important bit. It requires being pro-active, talking with the bookers, be willing to go to castings etc etc. These days agency models are also advised to get an Equity card.
What I am trying to say is that the bulk of work you can get through internet model sites does not yet match what you can get from an agency. This, realistically, affects your model fees. Agency models get a lot more money than internet models. Period.
Let's move on to the mature model bashing bit. Mature models will never try to pass themselves off as teenagers or twenty somethings. If I did that my agency would send me packing, I am there to represent a glamorous  'granny', a mature business woman, you name it. Consequently when I started doing photographic art nude modelling, I marketed myself as a mature model with a good figure and a toned body, easily verifiable from my pictures - I exercise and to an extent watch my diet but I am also blessed with a good figure through genes. The posture comes from my dancing and yoga but the long legs and high posterior are due to my genes, I have inherited those from my parents. My hair is thick and again that is due to genes. I wear it long and dont colour it, precisely because I am not trying to pass myself off as a twenty something. My skin is well moisturised and shows little lining, I have never used sun beds and dont smoke, though I have done in the past. Again I got the skin I have  through sheer good luck.
Do I look my age? I hope so. I hope to be able to show that older women are not necessarily old hags - I can turn myself into one through wearing special make up, as I did recently in the context of a horror movie! But in real life I am a confident, very attractive, even glamorous woman in my early fifties.
So this Irish photographer's invective against mature models is quite inappropriate and has clearly upset several beautiful mature models who are trying hard to extend the age parameters imposed by a handful of male photographers who dominate the art nude scene - art nude is of course not dealt with by agencies.

Photographer: Donato Cinicolo
Of course as a photographer I fully understand that one chooses models in accordance to one's aesthetic preferences and/or one's projects. I know of photographers that like collecting images of similar looking women for their own personal online galleries. Some photographers really like only young models  - a few told me that they would love to be able to shoot nude fifteen year olds, shame it cannot be done, they just love the angelic expressions. Or take my own preference. I like the "rock god" look and want to photograph men with very long hair, I am working on a particular personal project and am entitled to have a preference - and no they do not have to be young, I would love to take pictures of Robert Plant. But I do not tell male models with "boring" short hair that they should give up
modelling. Who knows, I might soon start a project about conventional looking men!
It has been said before and it is worth reiterating: there is room for everyone. As the lovely model whom I will be shooting soon said in her email: "The men on Purestorm demonstrate perfectly why women photographers are beginning to pip them to the post for all the top photography jobs as well as the modelling ones..."

Comments always welcome.

(All photos modelled by Alex B)

Monday, 2 January 2012

Dejunking yourself, dejunking your life

Well, Happy New Year everyone. This blog has now received over 250,000 views and I am immensely flattered by the growing number of followers.
My offline life was very full  over the past weekend, so I did not have a chance to write a post.
I took some self portraits on 31st but was not happy with the light. I now have a new camera, a Nikon FG, and am keen to put it to good use though my heart is with my Bronica, which is showing its age but is still my beloved camera.
But I am digressing...
I have actually spent much time with a friend who has recently lost his mother and have tried to help him a little, by doing practical things, like clearing up his mother's house. This has become his main pursuit over the long Christmas holiday.
Totally understandable, it takes weeks if not months, to clear up after a parent dies, it took us six months to go through everything after my own father passed away.
My friend's circumstances really affected me and so I decided to clear up my own home. A major dejunking operation. Oh boy, I had so much rubbish accumulated over years - have lived here since 1991.

I have the habit of getting rid of things by putting them, very randomly, into boxes, which I then store wherever I can find some space for them. As a result, I am surrounded by boxes, stacked one upon the other, disguised under pretty covers, but filled with stuff which is very meaningful when I first get it - programme notes from theatre plays I have been to see, exhibition catalogues and so and so forth, but which lose meaning pretty quickly and five, let alone ten, years down the line become complete and utter junk. Well, maybe not the exhibition catalogues, but flyers and stuff, you know what I mean.

And thus I began today the major task, for 2012, of dejunking myself.

Dejunking is not just a physical thing but also an emotional, almost spiritual, experience. It involves a gradual purging of all the stuff you don't need that is clogging up your house and your life, says Maureen Rice. Or as Michelle Passoff, a dejunk consultant says, "It's a truth-telling process. Getting rid of the most basic forms of clutter in the physical environment is a path towards cleaning whatever is in the way of fulfilment anywhere."

Dejunking needs to happen over a period of time, you cannot do it in one day. It is a matter of going through piles of papers and things and asking yourself why you hang on to them , what you would like to keep and what you would like to let go. And it is often the case that after going through the same process again you find that the stuff you want to keep can also go.

Decluttering is a little-known and under-used tool for anyone on a path of personal and social growth and development. We particularly like the impact of clutter cleaning on personal clarity and authenticity, communication with others, and connection to a ‘higher order’.
Clutter cleaning is not a one-time event; it is a lifestyle.
Freedom from clutter of all kinds is a little-known and under-used tool for achievement and fulfillment.
(From Michelle Passoff website)

I would encourage you all to take a long and hard look at what you store and let go of at least a fraction of what you hoard. You will find a great sense of achievement in doing so and the opening up of a new space, physical and spiritual.

Happy dejunking!

(All photos taken by Alex B.)