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 Rösti, 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! 

Queen’s Well, Glen Esk

Hello from Scotland! I’m having a ‘catch up’ evening here in my lovely fresh-laundry-smelling room in Edinburgh (well, let’s be honest, almost every evening is a ‘catch up’ evening when on tour), and wanted to update my blog as I hate leaving it for a week without updating!

It’s been a brilliant trip so far, travelling through Edinburgh, Fife & St Andrews, Dundee, Perth, Strathcarron, Glasgow and back to Edinburgh for a final shoot tomorrow. Everyone on this trip that I’ve worked with has been wonderful, and some beautiful images have been made! The first part of my trip shocked me by showing me some glorious weather, and I actually got a bit sunburned while in Dundee making the images below – could not believe it!! (Don’t worry, the sunburn has already gone.)
It’s been a usual conglomeration of memorable moments, this trip. From guiding a nervous woman through Birmingham New Street Station on the way up (she said that particular station scared her, though she didn’t say why… and then she told me that she was on her way home from her father’s 80th birthday party. ‘Was it good?’ I asked, and she said ‘It was a bit strange.’ It turned out she hadn’t spoken to him since she was 12. She seemed desperate to talk to someone about it. I got her on the right train at Birmingham anyway), to being bought a tartan-scarf clad duck doorstop at Strathcarron’s local weavers, from riding a horse nude to sinking in boggy amber heather in my specially-bought-that-morning polka dot pink wellies, from enjoying a delicious Scottish Brie and Grape sandwich with China Rose Petal tea at Glasgow’s famous Mackintosh Willow tea room to buying socks for a shivering, bare-foot homeless man after realising I had no cash, but only my card (and knowing from various nude situations that having wet feet is the worst thing about being cold) – he seemed so pleased to be given them, and smiled dreamily into the bag looking at them, but I watched him for a while in secret and I did not see him put them on… 😦 
Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed all of my shoots so far – it’s been an action-packed 10-day trip (though it’s not over yet!) and I’m confident that everyone I’ve worked with has gone away with some brilliant images – and it’s been a lot of fun seeing new parts of Scotland!
These images below are courtesy of photographer Jim Furness. We had a great day and got on brilliantly (such that we’re shooting in Switzerland in a couple of weeks!). Reading the blurb on his website, I knew we’d be on the same page in terms of intention and inspiration, and creating. I stayed at Jim’s house the night before and met his lovely family of Bollywood enthusiasts, and we had a fun evening watching clips in their lounge! Considering I love India (and hope to go back there to see more of it sometime – anyone want to book me there..? :-)), love Indian music and love dancing, it became increasingly ridiculous to think that I’d never experienced a Bollywood film. I would seriously love to be in one. The dance moves are a real mix of styles that I already know – contemporary, street, bellydance – flamenco even – and I’m inspired to watch some films once I’m home! After this shoot, by the way, Jim blasted Bollywood music out of his open-top car as we drove back to his via some typically gorgeous Scottish scenery – a surreal, triumphant end to any shoot!! 🙂
First, we walked to Queen’s Well, built over a site where Queen Victoria stopped for a drink at a spring on one of her pony treks in the Angus glens. On the way, we saw an adder – the only poisonous snake in the UK, if I’m not mistaken. Then we continued the water theme on the way back, with me balancing on a rock and Jim balancing perilously himself to get the shot. It was such a beautiful day – no one was around so I really got to enjoy the sunshine! You can see a slideshow with music here
Please click on the first image and scroll through to see them bigger, as always. Small shots don’t have so much impact. 🙂

Many more updates on their way!