Into the Deep

I absolutely loved working with Clayton Bastiani on the Isle of Wight earlier this year. He is just so incredibly creative and it’s really no wonder that his images have been published on hundreds of novel covers all over the world.

I was thrilled to be booked with the aim of producing a few more for his novel-cover stock (though we also did some different things as well). As someone who is rather fond of books and stories myself, I find it very exciting to be able to find myself on the front of another person’s story, representing some aspect of an imagined world – it’s a similarly wonderful feeling to know that a complete stranger has a portrait of you hanging in their house (or indeed, perhaps a bronze sculpture!) – really quite bizarre and odd (I always wonder what kind of person they are, and what it would be like to meet them and also how odd for them it might be to meet me). It will be interesting to see what stories out there will be matched up to my image, and why… Anyway, I’d better not get too ahead of myself, but I’ll update on here with any news down the line… 🙂

I’m allowed to show four individual images here on my blog, followed by a composite grid of some of the other images. It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway: all images are strictly owned by Clayton Bastiani and may not be used/reproduced in any way without permission.

I should mention that Clayton wrote a ten-part series on photo creation and photo manipulation for Black & White Photography Magazine, the May edition of which featured the first mermaid image below. In the article Clayton explains all about how it was made, and you may be surprised to hear that I didn’t actually grow a tail especially for the purpose of the shoot (I suppose I’m just not that dedicated.. ;-))

Here’s a snippet of Clayton’s own words (from his facebook page), from when the magazine came out:

One of the driving forces behind many of my pictures is improvisation, finding ways to create images on a tight budget with minimum resources. This month I wanted to make a picture of a mermaid swimming in the murky depths of the sea.At the beginning of a recent shoot with Ella Rose I asked her to stand in the bay window and pretend to be swimming underwater. After the shoot I popped to the shops and bought a small fish tank and an assortment of plastic plants. Through trial and error and a little bit of torch light I spent a couple of days (in my usual to-ing and fro-ing manner) and created the following piece.


The Deep:



It’s always so kind of photographers to send prints to me after a shoot and I was really excited to receive an actual ‘moving image’ of this one; when you walk past it looks like I’m swimming in the reeds! Very magical! 🙂
Mermaid on Rocks:

Moon Dance:
Sword and Fire
And here’s a grid of a few more from the day:
A lot of the images above were created in the most unlikely set ups: a lot of hocus pocus went into them and so the results were such a fun surprise for me (even knowing what the intended outcomes were, via some pencil sketches!). 
You can look through more of Clayton’s work and purchase some prints of his fantasy and storytelling work from Stephen Bartels Gallery here.

Right, time for me to finish packing for France tomorrow!
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‘I only Feel’*

Evening! Just a quick update before dinner to show some recent film images taken in Belgium recently by Dimitri, while listening to Radiohead, Blonde Redhead and other such stuff.

I found Dimitri’s way of working quite interesting; he absolutely forbid any posing whatsoever. Instead, I had to just ‘exist’ in front of the camera, go into my own thoughts and feelings and be completely un-self conscious. I think the results are good, and it made me think of the way different photographers work; there is such a range of methods among those I work with. Some come with exact ideas, some have no plan whatsoever, some take control, some want the model to take control and don’t offer any real direction, some want emotions and moods to be acted, some (rarer) want no acting whatsoever. I want to say I think I’ve noticed a very slight divide between British photographers and mainland European photographers in this last comparison, but I don’t know if that sounds pretentious, and I’d need to do more research… And the painter I’m modelling for again here in England is definitely of the ‘just be yourself’ camp, as we were discussing the other day, though perhaps that’s another difference (between painters and photographers). Usually I think modelling is mostly acting… but is it? And when does a stance become a pose?

I always appreciate being able to model while holding my cup of tea…
*I recently found a model’s profile and read the words ‘I never pose, I only feel.’ Made me smile.

Lilies and Vanity

Hallo! I modelled for the following images in Dusseldorf a while ago with photographer Vernon Trent – a mixture of film and polaroid. So nice to see the results, and I can’t wait for my next trip to Deustschland! Vernon and his lovely lady friend were very nice to work with, and I have always found Vernon’s photography beautiful. 🙂

I really like the fifth shot.

Also, I recently wrote an article about ‘vanity’ in the context of modelling. (Loyal blog readers might recognise some of the content.) It was published a couple of days ago on the front page of Model Mayhem, and had a great reaction. I was expecting some snarky comments along the lines of ‘why does she think we’d want to read about that… Who is she anyway?’ etc; forum reactions are unpredictable (and I have experience of this from writing for the Guardian; you get such a mix!)! But I have survived and am pleased to know that people are relating to what I say in great numbers. Over on the facebook page of MM it’s had a crazy amount of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, and I’ve had some really nice messages about it. I have no idea if non-members of Model Mayhem can read the article, so here it is in full, for the record:


Recently, a friend I hadn’t seen in about five years asked me whether, doing what I do, I ever feel caught up in the concept of physical appearance. I replied that, actually, I think I’m far less vain these days than I ever might have been and somehow manage to ignore the media obsession with “perfection” and “irreality” almost completely. So, here are some scattered thoughts on the subject…

Model: Ella Rose; Photographer: Max Operandi
Vanity
When it comes to modelling, I have a mental list of things I’m not interested in doing. It’s the closest I have to “terms and conditions,” I suppose. For example, I won’t knowingly wear real fur. I won’t take part in anything I deem potentially offensive (religiously or politically). I won’t pose in ways I feel are overtly sexual or gratuitously explicit. It’s a pretty standard little list (I realize these things are quite subjective, but that’s largely the point), except for one thing I include: “vanity.”
Despite the fact that my images are often described as “pretty,” “soft,” or “romantic,” and despite the fact that I recently responded to a flattering comment with the words “Don’t forget I only show the pretty ones,” I am not scared of looking unpolished, “imperfect,” or “unpretty.” This is what I mean by saying that I don’t want to do “vanity.” I am interested in emotion and expression – and HONESTY. This means I’m not afraid to explore the areas of humanity which aren’t so pleasing to the eye. (I’m rarely taken up on this, but that’s OK.) I’m also happy to be completely unphotoshopped in photos (and often am). I’m totally happy with my body, which is completely different from subscribing to the idea that it is “perfect”–it isn’t–for example, my bones are such that I will always be pear-shaped. Which brings me to…
Self-awareness
Self-awareness is the thing. I’m aware of my strengths and my weaknesses. I’m aware of angles which make me look good and angles which definitely don’t. I have a massive amount of body awareness. I can isolate muscles most people don’t know they have. One of the things recommended to new models who want to “learn to pose” is to practice in front of a mirror. I confess I’ve actually never ever done this, but I usually have a good idea of exactly what a pose is going to look like. I think this is to do with my dance background more than anything, and then also from noticing what works and what doesn’t when I’ve looked at the images after a shoot. It’s always fun to see the images on the back of the camera during a shoot, as you can see how the lighting is working for what you’re doing, what kind of crops/compositions are happening, and what’s going on in the background. But what I mean is this: I generally have a good idea of how to work with my strengths. I’m aware that I’m not perfect, but I’m also aware that I can look good, and that I’m lucky to have a healthy body which functions well and does what I ask of it, so I think it would be a bit hideous of me to complain or worry. I think this realization, along with my modelling, has made me completely comfortable and happy in my own skin, so much so that vanity isn’t even an issue.

Model: Ella Rose; Photographer: Iain Thomson
As well as my body, I also have a lot more self knowledge about my face, and confidence about which angles work best for it. Seeing your face on camera repeatedly means that such awareness is unavoidable (even if I did only realize the other day that I can raise one eyebrow); I can also recognize a few of my fellow model friends only by a tiny part of one of their features. There is a detachment that comes alongside such intimate knowledge, which is essential for modelling. At the beginning, when shown a picture of myself during a shoot, I would comment on the angles or proportions of “my legs,” or “my chin,” whereas now I am equally likely to say “the legs,” or “the chin,” which sometimes makes photographers smile. (Just the other day I was looking at a shot of myself in a two-pose double exposure and, pointing at one of ‘the figures’ said “I like that she is actually touching the other person,” which is extra weird, thinking about it.) Anyway, before I talk myself into an existential crisis, here’s the crux of it: while knowing their body and face so well, good models must simultaneously become more objective about what image is being presented via the camera; I can now see myself as a sequence of shapes putting forward an overall mood or expression. And such knowledge is inevitable, when pictures of yourself are thrust at you so often; after all, the camera, consistent to the end, doesn’t lie.

Model: Ella Rose; Photographer: Jewelled World
It’s possible to pose so much, for example for eight full days in a row, that when you get home you find yourself noticing the way your cat is sprawled out on the grass outside and think, “Oh, good pose; nice shape; good leg angle.” At these times, you wonder if you’re more than a little mad, but that’s OK. I know at least two people who pose in their sleep. (Incidentally, I always appreciate people who, like me, sit weirdly without noticing, just because it’s comfortable, with legs stretched or curled in unexpected possibilities. I get particularly creative in the cinema.)
In some ways, I am probably less vain now than before I started modelling. I wasn’t massively vain then either, but I worried more about what people thought of my appearance, which in my opinion is closer to the true definition of vanity. I remember the first time I got on a train for a shoot with zero make up on (as I only had time to do it on the train). My younger self would have found this perversely exciting, a sort of thrill, but mostly terrifying, since people would see my ACTUAL FACE. I now realize that A) I really don’t look different without make up on, it’s just that my features aren’t “enhanced,” and B) even if I did look rough, gross, half-dead, etc. (although see “A”), absolutely no one would care or even notice. It’s silly to think that they would. I’m just another stranger in the street, not out to impress anyone, and that’s fun.

Model: Ella Rose; Photographer: Rebecca Parker
I have always thought that most people are beautiful if you look at them properly. What’s beautiful to me is character and a person’s story. If you can see that in the way they hold themselves, in little details about their manner and in the movements they make with their unique features and structures– if they have grace, kindness, un-selfconscious openness, an endearing awkwardness, stress, fear, vulnerability, humor, slight hints of emotion, history–the things which make up a life and leave traces on their physicality, then a person holds massive interest for me. There will always be “bad” photos of me existing out there in the unforgiving world of the internet, and sometimes these can simply be learned from, but maybe the truly “Zen” model would not fear them so much as understand that, just occasionally, “imperfection,” when coupled with self-confidence, can make a shot.

….And soon I’m getting around to looking at some questions I’ve had posed to me for an interview for an excellent website, getting ready to let loose on some more of my thoughts about this modelling business… Such a compliment to be asked, and you just can’t shut me up at the moment.

Mirrors

Hellooo.

Hope everyone’s having a nice weekend so far! I’ve had some really fun shoots recently, including modelling (dancing/leaping) in a full authentic, beautiful Japanese kimono for a west-meets-east art project (it was sooo heavy; amazing to have worn and the images looked so cool, though they are non-publishable until Jan) and a stock shoot which involved blowing on glass doors, crafting with pipe cleaners, dry-leaf arranging(!), gazing out of windows with mugs of tea, upholstering and lying down on a bed of autumn leaves taking photos of myself with my phone. (Hence:

)

I’ve had such a nice day today so far, indulging in a marathon of recorded Merlins from Saturday nights and also going to hobbycraft with my Mum (yep!) to accompany her sparkly wool buying, and I bought a massive glass-fronted board from a nearby shop which will shortly be smothered with some amazing postcards I have amassed over the last year or so from art galleries and museums all over the world, since my current one is full. I will probably divide them into colour and monochrome and make two boards. I am also going to be asking very nicely for a few prints from some artists/photographers whose work I’ve admired online, since my lists of favourite images over on my Model Mayhem page (quick plug there; it’s recently updated…) are full of some amazing stuff I want to possess for my walls.

….Also, there is more dividing and conquering to announce: I have a new updated website! Well, it’s the same website, but with long awaited newness in the way of THREE new galleries. So with the addition of Pisces, Luxe and Video there are now 15 fully distinct galleries on my website. Take a look!

I already have ‘Elemental‘ for nudes amongst striking landscapes such as rocks formations and earthly arrangments, but now have ‘Pisces‘ for anything to do with water (pisces being the most wonderful astrological sign, obviously…). I really do love modelling in water, by it, near it… it’s so expressive, and makes me extra expressive too maybe… Meanwhile, I already have the ‘Figurative‘ gallery for studio work focusing on body form, abstracts and shapes in monochrome, but now also have ‘Luxe‘ for nude figurative work made in wonderful, glowing colour! I love the connotations of ‘luxury’, which is a mood some of those images suggest to me, but there are also more airy, bright, and whimsical nudes there too. Video is still being created and is self explanatory, including dance work as well as some ‘show reel’ style snippets such as the piece I recently blogged. Will do it soon!

What else…?

Oh yeah, I’ve agreed last minute to step in for a model who’s pulled out of a studio day at Eye for an Image Studio in Banbury on Sat 15th December, so you can book me there in 2-hourly slots to work on some fashion/arty/nude/dance/bridal/whatever you like imagery there if you like – just email me at ellarosemuse@live.co.uk. I think half the day has gone already, but there is still available time and I’d love to hear from you.

And here are some images recently sent to me from Neil Snape made in Paris way back in March. Neil was lovely to work with, and an excellent photographer, letting loose with this ‘raw’ mirror series, and I’m so glad I can now show these extra shots (I blogged a couple earlier, after the shoot: ‘Lionness Lightplay’). I think my favourite is probably the last one. Neil’s hoping to exhibit his work for this series in an exposition sometime next year.

Painting with Chaos

These oddball images were taken by Terry Joslin at one of mine and Ivory Flame‘s joint ‘Goddess’ themed days. We had a lot of fun making these; it was my first foray into painting with light, and as Holly had worked on this with Terry before, she was able to give me a quick intro into the method of whipping torches around the parts of our bodies we wanted to illuminate for the camera to see. The results are completely unpredictable. It’s so hard not to want to rush to look at the back of the camera after every frame. Many faces, limbs, expressions, body parts and movements are caught here, in different locations within one frame, and it definitely puts the model in the position of performance artist, capturing something akin to a moving image. At one point I became obsessed with trying to capture my left leg in a high-kick (more difficult than it sounds!)… and then I decided HANDS should feature… Hands hands hands on ourselves and on each other… The results are so creepy, strange, horrific and capture the imagination, I think.

Thanks to Holly for being splendiferous to hang out with in the studio, as always… and I do hope to work more on this with Terry sometime!

Criatura

I’ve been reading an amazing book recently; one I picked up in a hostel in Costa Rica at the very end of my Central America trip last year, then put back on the bookshelf as it was too thick to carry home (my backpack was 100% full of things collected over the course of 2.5 months; souvenirs, textiles and the most beautiful hammock you’ll ever see (and which I haven’t seen in a while, since England is not the ideal hamaca-hanging arena).

I spend an indecent amount of time on amazon.co.uk, buying new CDs most weeks and occasionally treating myself to new books too… and I bounced through ‘recommendations’ a few weeks ago until the same book caught my eye again. And it could get to me without me carrying it!

I will admit that one of the reasons I initially was drawn to this book in San Jose was the cover. I think the most discerning readers always judge a book by its cover… And I have always been drawn to wolves. Here it is:

‘Women who Run with the Wolves: Contacting the power of the wild woman’, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Unknown to me at the time, this is apparently a real classic, a bit like ‘The Artist’s Way’ and all that other good stuff. I’m learning a lot from it, and it’s also interesting to consider it in the context of my modelling work (tenuous link ahoy!!). My images often portray what I’m told is a very feminine, soft and sensual ‘prettiness’, and this book explores the other side of that womanly coin; the intuition, power, primal animal attributes and wisdom of women. When you’re feeling a bit too simpering and primped, it’s a good slap in the face. Women should be strong, powerful and deeply creative, not overly passive, girlish and naive; they are deeply knowing, instinctive and in touch with the vital, if they let themselves be.

I’m about a third of the way through, but I’m finding the author’s writing style so beautiful and poetic; so mad, funny and academic all at once. So this is a big fat recommendation. She weaves mythological fairy tales and folklore from all over the world with psychoanalysis and explorations of the unconscious, paradigms, roles and archetypes that can help us know what to do and who is who and who has what intention… and how to stay true to yourself. Cool huh?

I love a word which comes up frequently in the book: ‘criatura’ (creature). I think the following shots compliment the theme, being quite different from straightforward ‘pretty’ or ‘perfect’ representations of femininity, so they are well worth an appearance on my blog; they show flesh and bone, the workings of the body, and are real and mysterious at once. I also think they are beautifully lit, which never hurts. 🙂

By Shane Lewis, shot in Dublin:

On another bookish note, what an amazing idea this is, at a time when libraries here in England are dying/being closed due to cuts and land-line public phones aren’t really very necessary. Apparently these book exchanges are cropping up in rural villages; I imagine my American followers will find this very quaint. 😉

And, I’ve got the guilts about updating this blog, etc., when I still have lots of emails to catch up on. I am getting to them ASAP. Sorry.

Boundaries

My personal integrity is more important to me than money. I am confident in my values and aware that maintaining my boundaries is what will enable my modelling to be sustainable and as enjoyable as it is.

Sometimes imposing limits (on creativity, your time, or on your output) is the most liberating thing you can do. It amazes me that some people don’t protect themselves from other people’s demands, and from their own addictions to achieving what they think (and often this thinking is unexamined) is ‘successful’. I have felt (since I started modelling 3 years ago) that I have never reached my ‘potential’, that I don’t shoot as much as I could, I could travel far more (though I am travelling across Europe and across continents a fair bit these days, with global plans emerging for October onwards) that I should either shoot more or less (but can never decide which it is), that I should accept more bookings even if I don’t like a photographer’s portfolio or trust in their abilities, that I should give people a version of myself that they want…

…But then I think, actually, I’m doing it fine. I have to protect how much I love this ‘vocation’ by listening to my inner voice and blocking out what other people might be impressed by.

Some of my (quite mundane, actually) self imposed rules include:
– Don’t work on Sundays. I generally don’t now, unless on a trip, as I have been brought up to see Sundays as special, and involving walks in the countryside, family time and rest.
– Don’t shoot more than 3/4 times a week; my writing discipline would suffer, as would (probably) my enjoyment of modelling, which can be emotionally as well as physically demanding. Again this rule disappears when on trips, and in practise working every day can be energising and intensely creative, just not if it’s longterm. I usually take a few days off every month and value that time to catch up on other things and rejuvenate.
– Don’t shoot work which is overly sexy or provocative, whether nude or clothed. This is kind of frustrating for myself in some ways as (throwing all modesty out of the window, in both senses), I know that I would be bloody good at it. It’s also a lot of fun. However, that sicky ‘hhhm, what am I doing?’ feeling I would probably get shortly afterwards would not be enjoyable and is just not worth it for me, and doesn’t sit well with my beliefs or values.
– Don’t accept agency booking for shoots that advertise things I don’t particularly want to put my face to, however wonderfully paid they might be and however pleasing I would be to the agency if I were to accept all castings/bookings like a good little model. NO to the BP/Shell ads. In fact, ‘no’ to the general effing business of telling people they need things which they clearly don’t. Art is much more honest; I’m prouder of being naked on the internet for art than I would be for some other quite ‘normal’ things.

Here is me gazing wistfully into space while double-checking my boundaries (taken in Mexico by the lovely Gerald Oar):

And by Neil Huxtable: