Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Facebook and invasion of privacy

Photographer: Michael Culhane

Update: Facebook has acted upon the complaint and the image has now been removed from that group's page.

I find Facebook extremely irritating. I am on it because I want to network and also because I can keep in touch more easily with my family and close friends - I can keep track of how beautiful my little god daughter is getting everyday, thanks to the lovely photos her mum posts.
But those behind Facebook are extremely hypocritical and censor photos which are actually beautiful - such as that of a breastfeeding mother - yet allow groups which are extremely crass, like the  British Chavs Exposed group, whose comments are sexist and racist. Generally the existence of such trash does not worry me too much, I am personally not involved,  but yesterday I discovered that these people had stolen a photo of me taken by David J. Green from my portfolio, which is online, and put it up calling me 'Chavette of the Day'. I am definitely not a chav. I did not welcome the attention and found the comments gross and humiliating, not to say patronising - the usual thing 'if I can look like that at her age'...Honestly 'looking like that' is the result of being a regular at the gym, it's not rocket science, anyone can do it. Plus the usual offensive remarks on age. Oh the ageist and sexist remarks, they were unpleasant to read.
I asked in vain for the photo to be removed. They laughed it off and maintained they had a right to use any image they wanted. I reported the group for abusive behaviour. Nothing. I asked David to issue a DMCA notice, which he has done.
What most irritated me was that according to these people, I should not have done the photo shoot if I did not want the images to be posted because once they are on the internet they belong to everyone. No way. There is something called copyright infringement. The image was stolen, no one ever asked David or even me whether they could use it, it was not acknowledged. You can see it on their page as a low-res, highly pixellated image. David knows better than producing such low quality photography.
There is nothing wrong with the image, so I am happy to post it here. Note the name of the photographer on the right. I am posting the image with permission. What I object to is that it was posted on a page I find vulgar and without anyone's permission.

Photographer: David J. Green Model: myself

I am wearing lingerie, it was a lingerie shoot - I needed that picture in my portfolio in order to put myself forward for lingerie catalogue shoots, which I have done. The photo was taken in 2010. I have not changed very much since then, only my hair is much longer.
To me this episode is indicative of a gross invasion of privacy. The group owners are arrogant and ill mannered.
As a result of that picture being there, I got loads of friend requests from people I would never bother to interact with. If you are one of those people be aware that not only have I deleted your friend request but have also marked it as spam.

Flash Fashion 2014: my hair is being braided by hair accessory designer Vera Black

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Glamour of Italian Fashion

Gianfranco Ferré ad, 1991, Photographer: Gian Paolo Barbieri Model: Aly Dunne (V&A exhibition publicity)

The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 is an exhibition at the V&A which I felt I should not miss, for two reasons. Firstly, I love fashion and really wanted to look at the 1950s clothes in the show, 1950s being my favourite decade, fashion wise. Secondly, I am Italian, so this representation of Italian glamour intrigued me. I am very interested in the way glamour is culturally inflected. What is English glamour, for example?
I went with a friend, who is visiting from the States. We both gaped at the extraordinary workmanship on display, beautifully tailored clothes, amazing gowns, and we appreciated the detail of the designs.
The exhibition was neatly arranged by decade, clothes draped on dummies, with clips from much loved films which helped to put Italian fashion on the map - Roman Holiday, La Dolce Vita and many more.
I much admired the Bulgari jewellery on display, the diamond and emerald parure which Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth Taylor - Bulgari by the way is the main sponsor of this exhibition. I also  positively drooled over the shoes and bags I encountered while moving from one gallery to another.

Photographers: Faby and Carlo. Model: myself

I appreciated the history of Italian post-war fashion, its birth in the family run atelier, and was reminded of the fact that well into the 1960s many Italian women had the opportunity to get their clothes made to measure in a little sartoria, it was not unusual nor particularly beyond the means of an average salary. That is how Italian fashion houses developed, from the little, unpretentious  family run sartoria.
What was missing throughout the exhibition was the real body, as clothes have to be worn in order  to be truly appreciated. I honestly don't know how this can be resolved in the context of an exhibition - maybe there could be a fashion show with real models wearing replicas? But perhaps that would be incredibly expensive to organise. Still...Maybe more films showing the clothes being actually worn? Dummies do little for me.
It seems that this exhibition is quite a milestone as within Italy fashion is only understood to be a business, not a subject worthy of academic enquiry, thus this kind of effort aimed at tracing the history of fashion is somewhat alien. I can't get my head round it, truly. Or is it that histories of Italian fashion are not available in the English language?

Photographer: Karolina Amberville. Models : myself and Alexa Taylor

The other point worth reflecting upon is what the film carefully put together by the curator and shown in the last gallery also asks: what is the future of Italian fashion? I will rephrase the question. In this age of increased globalization, with outsourcing being now a constant, can one really talk of Italian fashion as such? Can one talk of a sustainable Italian fashion ?
I do not have an answer.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Parisian models in the 19th century

Modelling as a Parisian lady at Selfridges 

This is another post from the now defunct blog The art model. I am reposting here, as it might be of interest to those who love both painting and photography and of course, modelling and its history.

From the very beginning of photography (we tend to place it around 1826, when the first permanent photographic image was made) there was an interest in the nude, understandably so. The female nude of classical art was influential and photographers felt that their work would not be perceived as artistic if they did not engage in photographing the female nude, using the same established conventions as in painting or sculpture.
Little is known about the photographic models of this early period. Alexandra Botelho has discussed the work of Durieu whose photographs were used by Eugene Delacroix for his paintings (2001). Botelho 's study, carried out during her residency as Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at George Eastman House, in Rochester,was about photographic techniques and processes used in early photography. It is also an important piece of research because it shows the influence of photography on painting - the relationship beween the two is often thought only as a one way exchange.

Delacroix: La mort de Sardanapale
It appears that Durieu and Delacroix were friends and Delacroix documented in his diary his collaboration with Durieu (Botelho 2001: 5). Botelho's paper is fascinating but it gives us little information on the models. She remarks that photographers and painters in 1850s Paris often worked with the same models pointing to the woman in figure 10 in the book to corroborate her statement but we are given no further information on these models (2001: 9).
Prior to the 19th century there were no professional artist's models. There were muses, modelling courtesans, wives who modelled, but no professional artist's models as such. In fact, women until the 19th century were not admitted into the Fine Art Academies, where models were all male (Lathers 1996).
 The 19th century saw the rise of the professional artist's model as well as that of  the photographic model and the runway model in the Art et la Mode shows (Thomas nd). It is an important development which coincides with a different way of making art, of producing art, to be precise: this is the time when we also see the professionalisation of the artist, whose work was now being sold in salons rather than being commissioned by a king.
Marie Lathers has given us an insightful account of 19th century Paris art models (2000) and we can infer that these women also modelled for photographers, starting off a trend that continues in contemporary times. Lathers talks of three moments in this 19th century history of the early model: that of the Parisian grisette* and the Jewish model from about 1820 to 1850 (la belle Juive); that of the Italian model, from 1850 to 1860 and also well into the beginning of the 20th century (la belle Italienne); and that of the Parisienne. There are shifts here which denote a concern with race and we see the Parisienne as the white, purely French model, with the Italian as "an intermediary ethnic type" (Lathers 2000: 27). In her book of 2001, Lathers further develops her discussion of the model, showing the interconnection of model status and artistic practices.

Photographers: Faby and Carlo. Model: myself Taken during a photography workshop

This study of the model in 19th century Paris is continued by Susan Waller in her The invention of the model (2006) in which she focuses on the social identity of the models and, in her words, "the artist/model transaction"(2006: xiv). Countering the modernist paradigm of the model being the equivalent of an apple in still life, Waller draws attention on 'posing' as a social practice and on the reciprocal aspects of the artistic production through the artist/model association (2006: xiv). She also examines stereotypes of the model in the popular imagination and here her study converges with that of Lathers. Waller gives us an important caveat about the historical accounts of modelling, never by the models themselves, but often written by male observers.
The 19th century, with  Paris again as its hub, also sees the rise of the professional dancer, both the ballet dancer and the exotic dancer as also the development of the Romantic ballet. It is all part of a continuum and a web of inter-relationships and social networks which are significant in marking the role and perception of women in society.

I never finished writing this history of the art model, I got sidetracked and abandoned the project. It is however a topic that still intrigues me, so I might add a few more posts as I go along, as part of this blog. 

the grisette was a 'young working girl', usually of working class origin


Botelho, Alexandra (2001) "Early Paper Photographic Processes: the Calotype Legray's Waxed Paper Negative Process Notes on Photographs, George Eastman House

Lathers, Marie (1996) "The social construction and deconstruction of the female model in 19th century France" Mosaic, 1st June
___________ (2000) Posing the "Belle Juive": Jewish Models in 19th-Century Paris.Woman's Art Journal, Vol. 21, No. 1. (Spring - Summer, 2000), 27-32 
___________ (2001) Bodies of art : French literary realism and the artist's model Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press

Thomas, Jacqueline  (nd) History of Runway Modeling

Waller, Susan (2006) The Invention of the Model. Artists and Models in Paris 1830-1870. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd

Monday, 5 May 2014

Older women and sex

Marie Schuller's Visiting Hour, a fashion film about an older woman and her sexuality. Model: myself 

The market is currently aware that the diversity agenda sells. Thus Selfridges, the well known London department store, has launched The Beauty Project, a series of events meant to celebrate beauty in all its forms, with in store demonstrations, performances, talks and lectures. I was asked to participate in the 'Parisian ladies shopping' event on May 3rd, with a group of other models, all dressed in 1950s inspired fashion, with bell boys and poodles, striking poses on the escalator, and walking around the store on the ground floor accompanied by an accordion. All in all a fun performance.
Meanwhile Ari Seth Cohen, on the lower ground floor, showed his film Advanced Style, premiering in London next week, and was on a panel with some of the leading ladies, to discuss style among older women, something he is now an expert on.

Line up of 'Parisian Ladies' with poodles.  Photo courtesy of Jo Chamberlain

I missed that discussion because I was involved in the performance - would it not be nice to be able to clone oneself and be in several places simultaneously? However, on May 1st, at the last minute I was dropped from the launch event as, naughty me, I was in Spain watching a corrida when I ought to have been rehearsing. This meant I was able to participate as audience and so I attended another ticketed event, another panel discussion this time with the intriguing title  "How to look hot at 100" chaired by former ballerina turned into writer and academic Deborah Bull. Ari was also on this panel, as well as model Pam Lucas, of The Guardian All Ages fame, Anne Karpf, author of How to age a book  in which she discusses attitudes to ageing and how to do it well i.e. ageing, Inge Theron, Spa designer and writer, Jean Woods, one of the Fashionistas from the Channel 4 Fabulous Fashionistas, which is now regarded as the British answer to Cohen's Advanced style - there is no event about ageing that does not include them, either as speakers or as VIP audience.
It was a most interesting discussion, in which beauty and style were talked about at length, and women (and men) were encouraged to dress to express themselves, not to bother with the injunction of looking good all the time, not to succumb to the anxiety that inevitably accompanies ageing and to find outside interests as they grow older, to avoid moping about their loss of looks.
What struck me however was the fact that very carefully the discussion steered away from mentioning the obvious. Much of the anxiety women and men have about ageing is to do not so much with a lack of attractiveness per se, but with a perceived lack of sexual attractiveness and a consequent feeling of dis-empowerment. So I asked the question.

Me with from right to left: Pam Lucas, Anne Karpf and Jean Woods, iPhone shot

A woman over fifty is not allowed to be overtly sexual, that is a big no -no. Yes, we are told and retold of how happily married couples, now well in their seventies and beyond, are still 'doing it' - one panelist told us of how her mother would constantly discuss with her grown up children the active sex life she had with her (the panellist's) father. But that is the kind of sex still contained in a logic of long lasting monogamous unions, which we know is definitely not the norm, though still invoked as the norm, and which somehow provides a firm boundary to the expression of an overt sexuality.
Because let's face it, a woman over fifty who displays any type of aggressive sexual behaviour is regarded as lewd and disgusting.
Many of the anxieties women feel about ageing are to do with the loss of sex appeal, hence the rush to try and look younger. Men feel this pressure in equal measure - the latest thing is middle aged men pumping iron in the gym, hoping to turn themselves into hunks and gain an illusion of long lasting potency.
Writing in The Observer only a couple of weeks ago author Helen Walsh recounts the reactions that her latest novel has elicited, as her protagonist is an older woman that occupies the sexual fantasies of a teenage boy. Apparently, someone wrote to her that this was preposterous.
"Sexism and ageism" says Walsh "will continue to thrive unless women begin to challenge and reverse a cultural diktat that desirability and beauty are synonymous with youth".
Desirability is a key word. I am tired of sanitised versions of the 'ageless beauty', with sex and sexuality carefully removed from the equation. I am not interested in the safe  "happily married for fifty years and we are still, blush blush, doing it". I am also tired of the cougar narrative, which is still negative. Men routinely bed younger women and no one bats an eyelid - unless of course they decide to target underage girls. 
Being sexy is something that should not be denied to older women. It is a sexiness that does not come from looking young, but from a confidence in one's own sexuality and knowledge of one's body which, paradoxically, only comes with maturity. 

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