The Milky Sun

It would have been rude not to have stopped off in the sunflower field while driving past it last week in the south of Germany. Some polaroids, courtesy of Steven Billups (straight scans – no photoshop, etc). The film (bulk of the shoot) is being developed… Very excited to see those. 🙂

A Horse, a Cosmic Skirt, Mints & Buttercups

I was going to serve up some mountainous goodness next, but instead, I have been distracted by yesterday’s longest day-ness, such that I’m going to quickly squeeze in a few sunny shots from a recent leisurely afternoon spent once more with Karen Jones. We’ve worked together many times (and will be doing so again soon), and she’s another photographer who’s great at coming up with different ideas each time, throwing new props at me and even letting me pose with a horse again (this time it was the rather pretty-headed Joss, who Karen’s husband kept reminding me was ‘just a big dog’.). Joss loves mints. And grass. 🙂 I was at the same time having serious befuddlement over whether or not to keep a recent purchase, my ‘cosmic skirt’ (so called, obviously, because it has planets and stars on it, as all good skirts must..), so I thought I’d put it on and see how it photographs for some gypsy bohemia, avec a bunch of Karen’s lavender (and then I thought I’d imagine how that might translate to some hot beach somewhere someday..). We then found a little moss-covered nymph perch, for which Karen covered my head in a wreath of rose buds for a few quick shots… And then, it would have seemed a real shame not to dunk ourselves amidst a field swimming in buttercups.

Any favourites?

Now, today, I WILL master my plans for Iceland and Germany next month. I will I will I will.

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.

Maya, and Stupidity

As everyone probably knows, via the deluge of related facebook updates online if not by simply looking out the window, it’s snowy here in the UK. I ended up having to cancel my weekend plans to visit Cambridge and lost out on quite a bit of earnings PLUS a cancelled hotel booking (and subsequently had to cancel my Plan B of having a girly lunch here in Oxford due to a second round of snowfall this morning). BUT, I have already managed to rearrange my Cambridge trip to 9th/10th March, and managed to bag myself a photoshoot outside in the snow while I was at it, courtesy of a photographer with a landrover! Hopefully more on that in a future post, but suffice it to say, we had fun out there in the winter wonderland near my house!

Today has involved such things as German lessons with the Vati, piano practise and other such Edwardian-style pursuits, plus a dash of catching up on Take Me Out, which I think is more of a comedy than a dating show, but brilliant nevertheless. (When asked to describe herself in astronomical terms, it emerged that one girl didn’t know what a constellation was…. AND THEN HE PICKED HER! Excellent. As a person who is academically quite intelligent but life-wise extremely ‘ditzy’ (not to mention impractical) myself, I can relate to her brain collapse, if I squint a lot, and will refrain from making the observation that there definitely exists a certain type of men who seem to pick stupid women simply to make themselves feel more clever. Fair play to them.)

Taking out my bitch teeth (arguably), I have been revisiting my (younger) youth recently via a stint of teenage-self albums, via the humble minidisc (which I am prone to defending on any invitation, so I won’t let myself start on about how ridiculous it is that they didn’t catch on, when CDs scratch so easily and fall over and die after three plays, whereas minidiscs keep their chip protected by tough plastic and last pretty much forever, or about how I worked for £3 p/hr at a bakery, aged 15, to buy my flashing-light CD/minidisc player which I still use and love). The problem is, I don’t have all my favourite albums from my (younger) youth* on actual CD and therefore digitally/on my phone/iPod if I ever buy one, which is a sad state of affairs. (I buy CDs most weeks now, and have done for years, but am ashamed to say that a lot of my early music collection came from ignorance/indifference regarding the illegal download phenomenon). Nevertheless, on my £3 p/hr CD/minidisc player, I’ve just been playing Destiny’s Child for half an hour and am now girl power in human form. 

OK, I’ll shut up now and show a recent favourite photo, taken by an Australian friend/model/photographer, Jayne Hartt, while cooling off between other shoots. I love it! 🙂
*Destiny’s Child, Nelly Furtado, Usher, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, The Sugababes… etc…. 
Funny story about The Sugababes actually… Due to my past illegal downloading/’sharing’ of music (which I emphasise I truly am ashamed of and would NEVER do now) I have one Sugababes album, ‘Three’, which ends with the song ‘Maya’. This is an absolutely stunning, beautiful, soul-warming track which I used to re-wind and play over and over again. It’s sung by Heidi and, being the very last track, marks a change in direction for the group from RnB to something more timeless and universal… Or so I thought… It turns out (and I discovered this only yesterday!!!) that the ‘Maya’ I was listening to at the end of the Sugababes album was not in fact sung by the Sugababes (I now wonder why I so firmly believed it was a solo by Heidi – I think I thought I’d read it somewhere! I even remember thinking that she must have trained with some eastern/Asian singing tutors especially!) but in fact by Susheela Raman, a completely different singer of southern Indian (Tamil)/UK descent. When downloading the individual tracks by the Sugababes, I obviously mistook ‘Maya’ by the Sugababes (which is apparently a song dedicated to Mutya Buena’s younger sister, who sadly passed away), for a southern indian love song. True story. And to do Susheela Raman’s ‘Maya’ credit (it really is a stunning, captivating song; Heidi truly outdid herself…) here’s the song, below, and I’ll order the (physical) album on which the original (imposter) ‘Maya’ appears, Salt Rain –  because it’s nice to know that this song isn’t just a one off on the part of the Sugababes, and that there is more of this beautiful voice to listen to!

Damsels in Distress: Shalott

Copied from the ever-helpful Wikipedia, this is the story of the Lady of Shalott, the inspiration for a day with Keith Cooper last summer:

According to legend, the Lady of Shalott was forbidden to look directly at reality or the outside world; instead she was doomed to view the world through a mirror, and weave what she saw into tapestry. Her despair was heightened when she saw loving couples entwined in the far distance, and she spent her days and nights aching for a return to normality. One day the Lady saw Sir Lancelot passing on his way in the reflection of the mirror, and dared to look out at Camelot, bringing about a curse. The lady escaped by boat during an autumn storm, inscribing ‘The Lady of Shalott’ on the prow. As she sailed towards Camelot and certain death, she sang a lament. Her frozen body was found shortly afterwards by the knights and ladies of Camelot, one of whom is Lancelot, who prayed to God to have mercy on her soul. The tapestry she wove during her imprisonment was found draped over the side of the boat.

Keith was inspired by paintings such as this one by Waterhouse (which happens to be adorning my nearest radiator by way of magnetism), and had wanted to do this shoot with Ivory Flame and I for a long time, so we arranged a date, boat hire and took a row up and down the river here in Oxford. I absolutely love the results. The colours, reflections and fabrics and range of emotions (there was laughter, tenderness, peacefulness and quite a bit of death), came out so well, I think, and I’m really proud of these.

Help me pick a favourite?! (As always, click and scroll through to see larger.)

Outtake alert:

Holly and I are planning to do our best to visit the current pre-Raphaelite exhibition in London before it finishes this weekend. Who thinks we should turn up to the Tate in our long, white dresses?
We will also be modelling together on Saturday the 9th of February at Eye For An Image Studio in Banbury, Oxfordshire. I think there may be some time available for anyone interested in working with an experienced and creative duo.

Through the desert… (My head soaked in river water)

Hello! 
Just a quick update while I find my feet here in the desert…
I’ve just finished spending an amazing week in the company of wonderful people, a house/commune of girls who are all very different, yet all very like me, where going around nude is nothing out of the ordinary, beautiful art is created, and evenings were spent testing our tolerance for heat in hot tubs, then cooling off by slipping like whales – or, perhaps more flatteringly (possibly), otters – into the cooler conjoining pool, while sipping wine or water laced with freshly squeezed and freshly picked lime-tangerines (we couldn’t diagnose them; they crossed boundaries but tasted deliciously sour). What an amazing reality. So sad to leave that behind. I have now jolted my system into a city of fakery, artificial pleasure and sin; not my most natural habitat, but a wonderful part of the world from which to discover a nearby(ish) hole in the ground, I hear. And I want to wear feathers in my hair and pretend to be Pocahontas while finding the landscapes of the natives.
Here is a slideshow I made (and please appreciate that I am technologically retarded, in the truest sense of the world, and that this actually took a lot of effort). It shows various nude shots of me and is a good overview of my work so far in that genre. I amused myself by pushing the ‘English fairy’ angle quite heavily; hence the incredibly beautiful song by the incredibly ethereal Bat for Lashes, who spent a lot of time singing through my car’s CD system a couple of years ago and whose third album is going to be grabbed by me as soon as I’m home, as its being released while I’m away. Actually, I’ll just order it online now. 

Thanks to all those photographers featured. You are great.

Colouroids

It was so nice to be asked to work with Steven Billups again recently, while he was over from the US visiting family in Germany. I got to explore the Black Forest amongst other locations, which was just the kind of location where every frame would have been beautiful – streams, waterfalls, rock formations, mossy stones… it had the lot – my kind of shooting paradise! (I did get bitten by a chihuahua during a break, though, which was a bit of a shock – we’d had to stop for a while as the chihuaua and two human friends decided to set up a picnic right by where we shooting –  until then we’d managed to avoid the troops of German school children frolicking around on nature trips – so obviously I attempted to befriend the little cutie like a mad (dogsick) lady… BAD idea. Lesson learnt. Do not approach strangers’ dogs, however fluffy.)

Anyway, one of the highlights of the trip was spotting a field full of luscious tall, yellow, happy sunflowers just off the side of a road… so we had to shoot there. I’ve been sent some colour polaroids already from what we did there (they’ve had no tone or contrast adjustments), and also a few from an old castle ruin we worked at on the first day and from the Black Forest on the second day, with the processed film shots to come soon. Colour polaroid is so magical. It works so well for a 70s hippie sunflower feel particularly in the first two shots, I reckon, and looks kinda mystical and pretty by the castle, with the pink orbs of light! The ones in the Black Forest came out really strange and dreamy… Watching these develop was very exciting!

We thought we’d drop a poloroid into the 50-cent honesty box by the sunflower field (you can chop off a flower to keep, with the yellow knives which are provided), and maybe make the local German paper, guerilla flower-flasher style… but we had a bit of trouble choosing one we’d be happy to lose, so it remained just an amusing idea…

Hope you like these!! I love them!

P.S. Here is a chihuahua apologetic; never-bitten-anyone-in-her-life, little darling Lulu Lambambi. She comes for runs with me.