Moss, Kicks & Lochs

Back when I started modelling, Alex Ingram‘s work was way up there at the top of the ‘inspire’ list; I saw his beautiful work everywhere and hoped I might work with him one day. I had been in touch with him ever since (and we have the message history from 2009 to prove it!) but I never quite made it to his high-up land of lochs and glens until a couple of weeks ago, when I finally met and worked with him. And what a good thing I finally made the journey! Alex is a wonderful host, taking such care to keep me comfortable and happy during my 2-night stay, and even packed me off with a surprise packed lunch afterwards (he did his absolute best to use up all the remaining peanut butter in my rolls since he hated it so much – fine by me, the peanut butter addict!). During a shoot, his way of working comes from years and years of experience and understanding; he is able to visualise a shot (or work with the visualisation of the model), set up, and take only a few frames in order to capture the image – which, in Scotland’s unpredictable weather conditions is an invaluable skill! Despite changing weather (sunny-ish at first then downpours!), we managed to get some great images! I’m so looking forward to seeing what we can come up with on location in Iceland this July!

Alex sent me images from the day in multiple versions, but I’m leaning towards sepia for most. I think sepia is under-used!

Alex wrote this about the high-kick shots above: As we were walking between locations in a remote scattered deserted village high on a hillside I mentioned to Ella Rose to say if she saw anything as a potential location, and within seconds she said this tree. This high kick is totally free standing although it may not look that way, she had to be well away from both the trunk & branch to avoid their shadows. Take into account the rough ground which was soft, and a bog just a few feet away, it was an amazing feat to achieve.’

Also, don’t let the blue sky in the colour shot of the tree above fool you too much… It was beautiful at that point, yes, but torrentially raining for much of the rest of it!

But first, back to the good weather, some restful nudes on moss:

Squeaky clean (and more sepia!) portraits in Alex’s lounge – aka temporary rain shelter:

With these next few (the last of the day’s output!), I thought we could go for a rainy/misty beautiful/desolate effect, and Alex knew what I meant and found the perfect spot. His amazing home location meant it would have been a crime not to have posed next to the loch near the bottom of his driveway, and we decided we could just go for it and shoot in the rain for the last few, walkie talkies ‘n’ all! Amazingly, my hair doesn’t really look wet. The physics of weather makes no sense sometimes. 🙂

Nearby (a few steps away) the local sheep were gathered, soaking wet, and wondering what on earth we humans were doing. Throughout my trip to Scotland I became besotted with all the tiny lambs I saw (I saw some which seemed only a few days old; I’d held a lamb before but never seen such tiny ones!!). I really really want a little lamb as a pet. It would be the most loved lamb in the whole wide world, without a doubt. Siiiigh. I could walk it and everything.

Thank you Alex!

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.