Norway part 1: Arctic Winds, Rainbows and Midnight Sun

I’m really excited to be able to show these so quickly after my trip to Norway. It is so appreciated when photographers send things to me so soon after a shoot! Hakon Gronning had invited me to Norway for 4 days to shoot with him and, on some days, a small group of other photography enthusiasts. I’ll say straightaway that this is hands down the coldest I’ve ever been on a shoot. It was almost debilitatingly cold, and I became absolutely best friends with a blanket between shots, though even with several layers of knitwear, a huge padded coat and this thick wool blanket, I still felt very cold, so there was definitely quite a lot of insanity required to do this. The main reason for the cold was the fact that the arctic winds were blowing directly at us!!!! Not very comfortable…. Luckily, the photographers were all completely understanding of the need to shoot (and for me to pose) efficiently, with absolutely minimal time ‘unwrapped’ in the wind. They were also very appreciative of my efforts, which goes such a long way! All of them were very creative and lovely to work with, warming me up with lots of tea afterwards!

Considering these conditions, and the very short time frames (maybe 1-2 minutes per go), I think we did quite well. I’d brought one of my pairs of dance wings in my suitcase and the light just washed through so delicately, like they were insect’s wings! It kept raining (and there was a brief rainbow behind us!), but the ‘midnight sun’ (these were shot around the summer solstice!) was just incredible. Such a magical place and yet another opportunity I can look back on with pride and excitement that I did it!

I hope you like these as much as I do. There will be many more from this trip from different locations and from different photographers – I’m just being impatient and showing these straightaway! ūüôā

… And behind the scenes from earlier that day: me with my best friend:

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Birthdays: Soft Dances in a Room of Grey

Here are some images taken recently by the wonderful Mark Bigelow in an Oxford studio of me modelling alongside mature model (a ridiculous term, but there we have it) Alex B. Alex and I had mutually admired each other’s blogs (hers is here) and outlook for a while. I find her very inspiring. It’s nice to model alongside someone with such character. She is incredibly elegant, with trademark long, silver hair, yet absolutely down to earth and sweet, and I really hope I will be as creative, open-minded, pioneering and graceful at her age and beyond.

There will be more images emerging in the future, probably. The first is one we did quickly before Alex arrived, and Mark has called it ‘Soft Dances in a Room of Grey’:

5

Hello! I’m back from the scorching heat of summer-time Germany and ecstatic to have received a memory stick containing images from a shoot I did with Norwegian photographer Sjur Roald in May. This was such a fantastic day; five dance-y models (two full-time dancers, one singer, a model and a model/writer) all combining in one studio (The Cottage Studio in Sussex) to produce some varying states of entanglement and drama. It is always so much fun to work alongside other models and I want to say a big thank you to Sjur for making it happen; it’s not easy (or indeed particularly inexpensive) to coordinate the whereabouts of six different people, and I’m so glad this came together. I think Sjur did an amazing job!

The four other models are: Gem, Samantha, Gestalta and Fiona.

Click to view the files larger.

It was right after this shoot that I went to shoot ‘La Source, River Adur‘ with Jeremy Howitt. That was a good day!

Any favourites?

Swiss Alps: Soaring through landscapes

I was lucky enough to be asked to meet Jim Furness in Switzerland earlier this month for a two-day adventure into the high-altitude glorious vistas of the alps! This was my first visit to Switzerland, and I have to say, the country is just utterly beautiful. I really hope to go back sometime. You’ll be able to see from the images how idyllic it really is. I couldn’t believe how fresh and vivid everything looked.

(First, I have to mention that I had a bit of a ‘life affirming’ moment on the way to the airport for this trip, when I forgot that I couldn’t pay for a bus ticket to Heathrow by card after noon and didn’t have enough cash. Before I even had time to panic, a helpful member of staff at the park and ride (Pedro from Portugal) simply GAVE me ¬£20. I couldn’t believe it. I asked him how I could pay him back, wondering if I could do a bank transfer there and then using my phone, but he just shrugged and said ‘take it’. Of course, when I arrived back from Switzerland and saw him there again, I was able to pay him back in Scottish money, which he was fascinated by. For those of you who might be thinking ‘I bet he likes to help out all the pretty girls…’ or something along those lines: firstly, he wasn’t flirting whatsoever, though we had a good conversation about his life (he was a successful artist working with metal, keen to find his way back into that field now that he lives in the UK), and secondly, he told me that he frequently gives money to passengers in a rush who realise they can’t pay by card. I asked him, ‘don’t you go broke just giving your money away so often?’ and he said he often finds stray notes around the car park. I thought he was brilliant.)

We stayed in Jim’s friend’s cabin, enjoyed fondue and R√∂sti, and spent the days riding up cable cars (which ranged from the commercial and modern to the more… well… ‘wooden box’ variety, being little more than a crate used by locals to transport milk!) and walking around the mountains for the best views. We got the best of both worlds in terms of weather – it was warm and sunny, with snow-topped peaks! I also got to practise my German a bit, despite initially thinking it would be a French speaking part of the country (duh!). As Jim had described to me beforehand, the sound of cowbells is almost omnipresent, as the four-legged wander around the hills.

Here are my favourites:

…You can see a full screen slide show with music:¬†click here
I’ve also got some ‘behind-the-scenes’ shots, courtesy of Wendy, Jim’s friend and host….

….as well as my own photos, taken while snap-happy-journeying into the sky or while Jim set up his own shots (just a few here, but if you wanted to see more, I’ve got a ‘Nice People, Places and Things’ album on facebook¬†which makes me very very happy to look back through):

(It’s OK, if the wooden box falls apart halfway up the mountain, simply press this red button…’)

(Wendy and I)
Last but not least, one idea Jim had prior to the shoot was the idea of possibly doing some video while out in Switzerland. I was a bit unsure. Having done nude video before I wasn’t new to it, but also feel strongly that it’s something that can easily become a little too ‘erotic’ for my tastes. Often video becomes all about the model, which can be very indulgent, and when nudity is added to the mix it can be difficult to control the mood of the output… Stills, on the other hand, while hopefully portraying plenty of narrative, are miniscule captures of fleeting moments; videos are so much more substantial (literally). There is a lot more responsibility as a model and perhaps a lot more scope for misinterpretation. Then again, I knew that Jim saw things exactly the same way, and wanted a result that was in line with what I would be happy to do, and I’m so glad we decided to just go for it. As such, despite the deliberation beforehand, the video below was completely spontaneous.
Having listened to the music, we did it in just two full-length takes (the one below is the first, and our favourite), and just moments before the camera started rolling I was saying ‘I have no idea what on earth I’m going to do, by the way.’ Jim is completely new to video work, so we are extra grateful that this came out so well! I think we succeeded in making a piece that is not necessarily about ‘me’, but about the glory and beauty of nature, and the innocence of a nude woman within that.
Jim’s portable ‘JamBox’ blasted out the dream-like sounds of Hildegarde von Bingen’s ‘Veni spiritus eternorum alme’ (lyrics beneath the video). The only plan I had was to begin by walking on set, but following the music felt easy, with soft, flowing movements that expressed the¬†splendour¬†of the incredible view and the gravity and beauty of the lyrics.


Here are the words:


Come, kind spirit of the ages,

visit the hearts of your people, casting out ill conduct;
fill with supernal grace
each earth-born heart.

You who are the gift of the most high God, perpetual fount,
balm for the spirit,

promised gift of the almighty, you merit our faith.
Upon the holy apostles
you poured forth fiery tongues.

Give light to hearts, strengthening the wretched
with abiding courage.
Impart true love
and the manifold gifts of charity.

Drive away the envious foe,
grant the joy of heavenly peace.
Thus lead, going before us,
that we may have the strength to climb up

to the vault of heaven.

Translation: Susan Hellauer


So once again, a big thank you to Jim for this opportunity to visit Switzerland, the images and great conversations, and the chance to push boundaries!

PS. This is the book I mentioned a couple of posts back, for those of you who’ve been asking. I’d recommend it!¬†

Firebird

In hindsight I’m slightly amazed (if I do say so myself) that I managed to help create the images below while feeling as unwell as I did back in March this year (it was just a cold/flu thing – I was a bit of a wreck but determined to show up as the previous date had already been called off due to snowy roads!).

Photographer¬†Vanessa Mills¬†and designer¬†Asia Prusinowska¬†wanted images with fire, movement and passion, and I think we achieved that!! The purpose of the shoot was to showcase the conceptual side (the drama) of Asia’s designs, and we did three separate pieces during the session. I was pinned into the clothes, which flowed and dazzled in felt and silk as I danced, and Vanessa’s use of blur and capture made for some stunning, dynamic shots! I love this way of working! (All taken in the black room of¬†The Works Studio¬†in Cambridge.)

I think the first and last are my favourites.

(This post, published earlier then almost immediately snatched away from public view, is reposted – with thanks – now that Asia’s designs are ready for public viewing.)

Vitality

Sometimes half the fun of keeping a blog is trying to out-do yourself in contrasting the style of images shown from one blog post to the next. It’s a bit like writing a novel, playing the piano and going for a lovely countryside walk, then having an evening of body-popping/winding to slickedy-slick Justin Timberlake, who I think I might slightly fancy again, maybe (despite not actually fancying him).

(‘I can’t wait to get you on the floor, good looking’ is currently all I can hear in my mind. ‘…Going out so hot, just like an oven…oooooowww’.)

(I’m sorry.)

So here, in total contrast to the previous post, is a shot or four taken by Chris Lloyd at Eye For An Image Studio recently. Loved doing these!

House of Flying Daggers

Hello from Belgium! I’ve just completed my final shoot and am relaxing now here in Brussels. Below are two quick behind-the-scenes shots taken on my phone from a shoot with the lovely Johan Verlust and the excellent make up artist and hair stylist¬†Fraukje Van de Wiele.I’m looking forward to seeing the proper images from this shoot (this was just one set we did, but I rather liked it!). ūüôā

Highlights in this rather multi-lingual country have so far included free plates of radishes, free limoncello and ouzo(??) (I didn’t have the heart to tell the enthusiastic waiter I don’t drink, so I drank), a successful foray into the world of the waffle (I quite liked it!), restaurants that claim they have ‘no legumes’ after I settle in and ¬†order the one vegetarian thing on the menu, pasta legumes… Seriously? The entire restaurant has no vegetables? Slightly worrying. (I left, obviously, and stumbled instead into an AMAZING restaurant that made me very happy (goats cheese served on a bed of apple, scattered with honey, strawberries, raisins and walnuts), so if that’s not evidence for the ‘it’s meant to happen’ brigade, then I can’t possibly think what is.)

I have also done some non-foody things here in Belgium, I promise – e.g. I spent a lovely, lazy afternoon dawdling around art galleries – including Magritte’s crazy surrealism – (this was my first trip to Belgium, so I left myself a little bit of free time), and topped up my postcard collection by a humble 47. Yep, I don’t buy shoes (though I am hoping to stumble across a new pair of trainers soon, as my super dooper spin spot dance ones make me just a tad too spinny during planking, etc., and really shouldn’t be worn when driving), I buy art postcards! Seriously, though, it really excites me. I’m going to create my third new massive board of them for my room. I even had a practise run on my brand new hostel-friend’s bed, when I got back. (I’m too cool.) I’ll probably blog a picture of the results, along with my previously made board, in case anyone else shares my joy of ‘I get a print of this amazing amazing amazing painting for 1 euro’. And the Grand Place is beautiful, and somehow reminds me of the incredibly brilliant main square in Mexico City. (Though maybe that’s just because that’s the last ‘main square’ I saw. I don’t know.) I also went to Bruges yesterday with a lovely American girl I met, and we had fun jumping around in front of the windmills on the outskirts of the old town. I think I’m going to have to do a bit of research to find out if the vial of blood we saw really is likely to have belonged to Jesus or not; if so, that’s really quite amazing.

Anyway, I get to wander around Brussels a bit more tomorrow before getting on the eurostar, partly on the search for some statues of some kids (and a dog) pissing, or something. I’ve been promised an equal mix of delight and anti-climax. Haha. On my next trip (I might possibly come back sometime in the summer), I’m going to also look around Ghent and Antwerp, I think, as I’ve heard that Ghent in particular is a great place to visit.

And now, I’m blogging some images I’ve been excited to see and show you! There’s something a bit ‘House of Flying Daggers’ about these images, I think (despite that beautiful film being set in China, not Japan). I was asked to model for a photographer on behalf of his friend who is submitting a design project on Japanese modes of dress set in a western context. This kimono was the one actually worn by Ally on her wedding day; so it was such an honour to wear it! It was so beautiful – and very heavy! – and I learnt that, while the western fashion is generally to show off a woman’s waist, the opposite is true in Japan, or at least in this context; my waist was padded to be in line with my hips!! For what I’m used to, that’s not the most flattering stylistic decision, but it’s interesting, isn’t it? Different aesthetics for different cultures… It was such a fun shoot, and I think the photographer, London-based¬†Will White, made them so stunning! The make up was by Ema Doherty. We got quite excited about all the jumping around… and as soon as Will handed me the parasol, we both immediately knew without speaking that I had to do a ‘caught in the wind’ jump. I’m looking forward to a second shoot sometime soon. And I CANNOT WAIT to go to Japan later this year; I just find the culture so fascinating and beautiful, and there are so many different contrasts and aspects to it. I’ve been wanting to go there for so long!

Which are your favourites?

…And if anyone cares to educate me about some beautiful Japanese films I should watch, please do!