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?

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.

Life is a Blur…

…. with some marvellous details caught in the light and some defined/definitive moments of pure grace, joy and beauty… (e.g. just the other day I had a pretty glam-filled day of modelling for the very talented Yerburys again at the SWPP convention, at the Presidential suite at the London Hilton, no less, then rushing to see the pre-Raphaelite exhibition at the Tate; brilliant; this being a strong candidate for favourite-ship (I can’t help it, I’m a romantic) – (and we got in for free, despite it being sold out!!), then rushing off to the opening of the Beauty of Women exhibition at The Menier Gallery, which featured 3 photographer/artists I’d worked with. I was exhausted at the end, having survived only on a crappy vegetable samosa and a very unglamourous (but tasty!) stop at a dirty chippy for sustenance… Exhausted but happy!

…But yep, life is a blur (a bit like my commitment to refraining from spontaneous and non-sensical punctuation and sentence structure, and the over-use of parenthesis, for the purposes of this (and other) blog post(s)). That’s why I’ve made the decision to drastically reduce the number of photoshoots I do this year. I’ll only be doing about two a week, and only really at the weekends (not including trips abroad, of which I have already planned quite a few). This means I’m having to often book things an insane number of months in advance, because there simply aren’t that many weekends in a month, it turns out. I feel bad about it, but I’m also really excited as I know it’s a good decision! I need to force myself to have the guts and weekday discipline to focus on what I really want, life-dream-wise. I’m sure you understand. And I will still be loving my photoshoots at the weekends, and the wonderful opportunities to travel that this work is bringing me throughout the year. This is what’s happening between now and August-ish. After that (and for shorter periods before then too), I will probably be backpacking.

My previous blog post reminded me that there was an un-blogged set Keith Cooper did with me in Cheltenham Film Studios. These remind me of watercolour sketches. I like the abstract body shots most, I think – especially no.s 6 & 10. 🙂

(Perhaps I’m in the mood for bums.)

Underwater Fires

I have so many images queuing up to be shown here as always but am interrupting that flow with some excitement caused by this morning’s inbox arrival – some underwater adventuring shot in California by Zoe Wiseman.

I loooove these. Wow!!! Thanks Zoe!

I think I may have referred to this shoot already on here, mentioning that it was a fun challenge – my first underwater shoot. Meghan Claire (who features alongside me in most; we were also joined by Carlotta Champagne and Titania) was great at pulling me down, as I have the world’s most buoyant butt, I think. The flowy hair and dreaminess of these, with the bubbles everywhere and upward reflections, and the light daggering and darting down through the water in ripples just makes these so amazing. I think my favourites are the ones in colour, and I also love the chaotic group shots at the end, with limbs and torsos all entwined at different depths and distances from the camera, with magical creatures falling beautifully in the foreground and far away mermaids swimming past alongside…. 🙂 I so want to try some more!

I’d love to hear your favourites!

Running in Heels

A big hello to Tony and Jennifer Ornstien, who are currently upside down in New Zealand, flown south for winter! The following shots were taken by Tony in and around their house. I like the blur and voyeuristic aspect which some of them have – they’re a bit strange and interesting, glamorous and gritty! Lingerie outdoors, statues facing the other way, running in the leaves… I love them. (Dress, belt and shoes provided, lingerie and warm coat my own!)

Having worked with Tony a few times previously (this blog post, ‘Bedroom Glamour’, was very popular!), I was very kindly given a collage of prints from previous shoots recently. I really appreciate having physical prints of some of the things I get up to! As for Tony and Jennifer, they currently have a corner in their house for me! 🙂

A-flitting and a-fluttering

I loooove these new shots from Brian (Martinphoto), taken up in Fife earlier this year. Brian had been feeling really unwell in the days beforehand but heroically endured the prospect of shooting with me nevertheless, instead of cancelling last minute, and we ended up having lots and lots of fun in the local camera club studio, despite the flu-induced lack of game plan!

Today’s excuse for posting so many images is my theory that if you scroll down the page really really fast and perhaps squint your eyes a bit to add to the already-very-cool effect of flash + slow shutter = movement blur, you can watch a little fairy/angel dance! 😉

Also, I’ve had a few emails before asking me about this skirt – it’s one of my bellydance skirts that I customised, perfect for sheer delicate movement and swishing!

…And the ‘ta da!’ finish!

Peaches and Cream

I love the soft creamy peachy hues in these shots taken recently by Richard Lund, taken recently at Karen Jones’ amazing abode. A nice chance to use some new-ish pretty lacy lingerie and air my new ‘Robin’ autumnal scarf as well. Richard was very enthusiastic and fun to work with, as always.

Stay tuned for Karen’s shots, coming soon – we got some beauties, despite the three of us spending what felt like most of the time chatting and drinking tea, and there was even a visit from Cupid in front of the lens…! 🙂