Sumptuous in Brussels

Fresh from Belgium, I bring you some new images courtesy of a quick session with wonderful photographer Pieter Vandeur. He was so great to work with, picking me up off the Eurostar and driving me on to my excellent hostel, ‘Sleephere‘ in Brussels (which I would really recommend to those passing through the city – it’s the home of a man called Karel and his gorgeous old dog, Caesar, so feels more ‘authentic’ than the usual kind of thing, and has no room keys whatsoever – the only other place I’ve stayed at like that was in Costa Rica – Hostel Bekuo, whose owner I slightly fell in love with and who waved me off with a handmade hat – and it shared the automatic atmosphere of friendliness and trust that has to follow – anyway I think Sleephere won a ‘best of Belgium’ award, or something, and there’s a piano in the lounge which I could not resist when I got the room free before I left to go home, plus some brilliant restaurants nearby.)

Back on track… Pieter took me to a rather amusing bookable-by-the-hour hotel for our shoot. (Ahem!) But hey, it really worked, even if we did have some raised eyebrows on the way in. He was good with offering thoughts on direction, too. The setting was rather gorgeous, and this black lingerie I’d recently treated myself to (among other sets, and various long ballgowns) got to be worn and photographed in the exact style I’d had in mind when I bought it (the standing shots particularly)! So thank you Pieter!

Would appreciate some votes for which people prefer… I’m still deciding. 🙂

Poolside

Hello lovely blog readers!

All has been a bit dramatic here over the last couple of days. Those of you who have ‘friended’ me on facebook will know by now that I had a bit of a strange episode in the early hours of yesterday morning, walking into the bathroom and collapsing to the floor. I have no idea why this happened, really; yes I’ve been  ‘under the weather’ for a while now, with what was flu turning into just the usual symptoms associated with a cold – feeling a bit lacking in energy and tired, with a cough that seemed like it would never go away (still hasn’t). To be honest I was ignoring it a bit, just taking it a bit easier than usual in terms of accepting bookings, but my body obviously decided to have a bit of a sulk about it and treat me to my first experience of fainting.

I now have a cut, swollen lip, bruises on my chin (I basically landed on my face, I assume; my front tooth hurt a lot yesterday, though thankfully it didn’t get chipped or anything) and a touch of concussion to top it all off. The doctor took my pulse and blood pressure about seven times, frowning worryingly each time – my heart was racing, and my head was kind of lolling about while I sat in the chair. I also mentioned to her that I’d been vaguely aware of bumping my head against something more than once, as though I had been moving about on the floor (and also we found blood in two different parts of the bathroom floor), but she assured me that moving around is still consistent with a faint and not something to worry about at all (and I’m not really sure what happened anyway). I’m still feeling quite dizzy, strange and sorry for myself, but hopefully the actual faint was just a one off – though apparently it isn’t uncommon early in the morning, especially in young women, so various factors probably just came together. Still feels very bizarre and ‘out of the blue’ though.

I think I’m going to just lie down and read The English Patient for the rest of the day.

Also, the swollen-on-one-side lip has given me the opportunity to be surprised by the fact that, actually, massive lips wouldn’t particularly suit me. I’ll stick with my own please.

On a much brighter note, I’ve recently updated my Model Mayhem page and my purpleport page including one of these images taken by Jim Baab.

(The set above, with the cactus in the foreground, came out really prettily in colour too.)

‘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.

Pianos, Women & Houses

Amongst other things, today has involved googling for local piano restorers (my Grieg doesn’t sound as good on my long-unplayed piano as it does on my teacher’s) and stumbling across a fascinating blog about a 30-year-old piano tuner who has ‘no fixed abode’, having moved out of his flat a couple of years ago, deciding instead to just find somewhere to sleep wherever he happened to be at the end of his working day. I really love discovering alternative lifestyles and learning about other people’s choices. I personally couldn’t live like him – I am a home maker at heart – but wow, how interesting! Too many people don’t question what is ‘normal’ and conventional. It’s a topic that really interests me – a while ago I seriously considered researching and writing about it via a series of interviews, inspired by the incredibly interesting people I tend to meet on my travels – maybe I might, one day. Especially in the context of women and issues around femininity and the construction of identity, womanhood and the multitude of choices that abide therein.

(I think I look like quite a strong (albeit vulnerable too) woman in this shot by Mosa (One Pix Art), Beverley Hills):

In other news, and hopefully without jinxing myself by writing it ‘out loud’, I have been for a long, sustained amount of time been going to bed every night noticing and marvelling at how happy I am now. I’m so busy doing what I love, decisively focussing on what I know makes me happy (dance, music, writing, learning (languages)… it’s always been this these things; I’m sad without them) and being grateful for all the small and big things I am so lucky to have and experience. For a while back then I was distraught and now I am liberated!