Friday, 23 November 2012

Videocalling

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)