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.

2012: a Retrospective

My New Years Resolutions are going to be quite pared down this time around. I’m actually not keen to change a huge amount. I’m feeling happier than I’ve felt in a while and am gratefully aware of it. This last year has been hard in certain ways, but I’ve got through it by frequently reminding myself how much I have to be grateful for, how independent and capable I have become, and also relying on my (full of questions, full of curiosity) spirituality. I am extremely lucky in so many ways and thankful for it! On top of that, I feel like I’ve finally found my ‘tribe’ in terms of dance classes, which are very important to me (missing them terribly over the Christmas break, but I would like to officially announce that I at least went on my exercise bike ON CHRISTMAS DAY, in between fistfuls of ferero roches), have made lots of new friends in the last few months by putting myself out there and meeting up with people based on shared interests, and am feeling more confident that I will be free to finally focus on what I want to focus on, now that upset and confusion are out of the door. I also have a lot of very exciting possibilities to look forward to!

Anyway, enough of all that. I’m shamelessly copying something Ivory Flame did last year, and showcasing some of my personal favourites from my 2012 year of blogging. What an amazing year it’s been!!!

From Happy New Year, by Ron Skei, Vancouver:

From Rich Caramel Chocolate, by Cam Attree, Mexico:

From Mosquito nets, Metaphysics and Mississippi Mud Pie, by Mel Brackstone, Mexico:

From Pottery, Petals and Peach Sunset, by Cam Attree, Mexico:
From Luxury Strikes Again, by Keith Cooper, Cheltenham Film Studio
From Natural Women, by Stephen Billups, Mexico:

From Bug Off*, by Cam Attree, Mexico:

From Dance in the Studio, by TarMoo, Eye For An Image Studio, Oxfordshire:

From Trips and Leaves, by Robert Farnham, Mexico:

From A celebration, some wedding princessing and some Lions (and a monkey), by Mike Croshaw, Cheltenham Film Studio:

From The Edge of the World, by Billy Sheahan, Mexico:

From Costume Changes, by Mike Croshaw, Cheltenham Film Studio:

From Spring Flower Portraits, by Richard Tuckett:

From Technicoloured Earth, by Billy Sheahan, Mexico:

From Silk in the Dark, by Barry Barker:

From Let’s Dance, by Jeremie Nassif, Paris:

From Mean, Moody and Magnificent Muse in Montmartre at Midnight (post macaroon), by Jeremy Howitt, Paris:

From Strength in the Dark, by Eric Kellerman, Nijmegen, Holland:

From Swathes of Lavender, by Imagesse, Gloucestershire:

From Paris by Day ~ Travelogue, by Jeremy Howitt, Paris:

From Portraits, Box, Stripes and Lightning, by Eric Kellerman, Nijmegen, Holland:

From Postcards – an Exhibition, by Robbie Wraith, Oxfordshire:

From On the Plank, by Vanijzen, Amsterdam:

From Fairy Paintings, by Philip Malpass:

From Lioness Lightplay, by Neil Snape, Paris:

From Trees and Bicycles, by Jules Photography:

From Riverdance, by Britalicus, Edinburgh:

From Extreme Eiffel Tower Exploits, Etc, by Jeremy Howitt, Paris:

From White on Black, by Klaus Kampert, Dusseldorf:

From TWO ~ Ella Rose and Ivory Flame, by Karen Jones, Eye for an Image Studio, Oxfordshire:

From Yerbury Fine Art Nude Masterclass, by Max Operandi:

From Pebbles, by Jeremy Howitt, Brighton beach:

From Public Service Announcement ~ A Book! 😉 (And I’m hoping to start putting together a massive book for myself in 2013, covering various styles) Cover image by Keith Cooper, digitally magicalised by Moonmomma:

From Bedroom Glamour, by Tony Ornstien, Oxfordshire:

From Clouds and Poppies, by Rayment Kirby, Sussex:

From Colouroids, by Steven Billups, Black Forest, Germany:

From Lions, Points and Window Light, by Nige W. Hallam Mill, Stockport:

From Gypsy Dance, by Frank (Pangolin). Gregory Brown’s LoftHouse Studio, London:

From Red Jellyfish and Black Tutus, by Richard Spurdens. Hallam Mill Studio, Stockport:

From Painting with Chaos, by Terry Joslin, featuring Ivory Flame. Eye For An Image Studio, Oxfordshire:

From Sunset, Candle, Tree, by Rayment Kirby, Sussex:

From When We Had Summer, by Max Operandi:

From Hands and Roots, by Steven Billups. Black Forest, Germany:

From Peaches and Cream, by Richard Lund, Buckinghamshire:

From Purple Haze, by Keith Cooper, Cheltenham Film Studio:

From Mr Cupid, by Karen Jones, Buckinghamshire:

From Enchanted Forest, by Calandra Images. Fife, Scotland:

From Solarised, by Zoe Wiseman. Palm Springs, CA:

From Beetroot and Rocks, by Bob Freund. Joshua Tree National Park:

From Cracked Earth, Sleek Fashion and Tumbleweed, by Jeremy Howitt. Lucerne Valley:

From Ourania Ascending Mount Wilson, by Jeff Wack, featuring Anoush Anou. LA:

From A-flitting and a-fluttering, by Brian Martin. Fife, Scotland:

From Mirrors, by Neil Snape. Paris:

From Otters, Rocks and Water Lillies, by Imagesse. Pembrokeshire, Wales:

From Running in Heels, by Tony Ornstien, Oxfordshire:

From Underwater Fires, by Zoe Wiseman, featuring Meghan Claire. California:

From Grapes and Ferrets, by Vincent Rijs, Amsterdam:

From Thinkin’ About Your Body, by OnePixArt, LA:

From Guide us to Thy Perfect Light, by Karen Jones. Eye For An Image Studio, Oxfordshire:

Back to the New Years Resolutions thing, I’ve realised that, for me, black and white decision-making is liberating, though it’s definitely not something that comes easily to me. With that in mind, one new thing is that I’ve decided I will probably no longer drink any alcohol – not because I think drinking is bad (it’s not!), or because I don’t like the taste (I do; wine and cocktails especially!), or because I have a problem with alcohol (I hardly drink as it is!), but because I’ve finally acknowledged the fact that, for as long as I can remember, I’ve shown signs of alcohol intolerance. I looked it up on Christmas Eve when one drop of sherry made my face red, and apparently most of my Mum’s side of the family were tee-total for reasons unknown (hhhmm….); and I’ve since learnt that alcohol intolerance can be hereditary. Ha! Thinking back, as a teenager, there are a few things that stand out: I only started wearing make up on my face to pre-emptively cover up the extreme ‘flushing’ I’d get over my face and chest after just a couple of sips of wine, and I remember sitting with my friends and wondering whether I was wearing the wrong size underwear because my chest felt painful and tight after a few drinks. I also know that the ‘depressant’ aspect of alcohol, especially after drinking wine, is a real thing for me, where a party high is followed by feeling really down the next day. So I’ve decided not to bother drinking alcohol at all. That’s not really a ‘resolution’, though, as it’s not something I feel compelled to do for moral or health or other reasons of self-improvement (and I won’t be strict about it); it’s just a new, official validation of what I’d suspected all along. So bring on the lime soda and cranberry apples! Or something. I can still dance and have fun; I just won’t feel like my cheeks are on fire, and can drive home at the end of it. 🙂

On the other hand, I’ve also learnt that black-and-white goal-making is not so helpful for a person who is already extremely ambitious and has high expectations of herself. So sometimes ‘I will do a bit of x every day, and just so long as a bit of x gets done, I will have succeeded’ is more helpful as a goal than ‘I will do precisely y amount of x everyday, so that by z (where z = an unrealistically short term), x will be completed’. You all know I’m talking about my writing. And that I will probably still aim to do y most days. It’s just that I’ll be kinder to myself if I don’t manage it, so long as I’ve ‘shown up’ and done something. (But see ‘free to finally focus on what I want to focus on’, above.) 🙂

…Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful final few days of 2012… and a fresh, bright and hopeful start to 2013!

Solarised

Hoping the East Coasters are doing OK. Horrible time for all concerned. Wishing you light, heat and power!!

And here are some polaroids from the wonderful woman that is Zoe Wiseman. Zoe is so brilliant to work with – utterly laid back (we’d pause after every single shot to pull out the image, dip it in the bucket… and get excited each time, so it was a very leisurely pace… and cooling off in the swimming pool became the shoot itself!) but happy to direct too, and always has the models’ best interests at heart, which doesn’t go unnoticed. Half of the roll was of me and half of the very beautiful Meghan (in last shot), who will soon feature here more I’m sure as we also spent a whole load of time shooting together again, including UNDERWATER – that was a really fun challenge for me, and hopefully the images will be very special! We will have to see how the film comes out! Oh, the suspense!

Anyway, I love these! Some are (semi?) solarised, for an extra layer of coolness. Zoe was using a Holga with a Polaroid Back (polaroid Type 85 Pos/Neg film). She solarised the images by peeling the positive away from the negative before it was fully developed and held them to the Californian sun to create the funky stuff. Clever, eh?

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.