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! 
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Video: In the Leaves

Here’s a new video of me, taken by Andre. We wanted to create something very natural and innocent, so hopefully you’ll agree we achieved that. I think Andre did a great job and it was a lot of fun to work on!

Click here to view.

There’s another short film on its way too… will post that sometime soon!

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.

Queen Vashti (AKA ‘Why wear normal clothes when you can wear Aladdin trousers?’)

The link to this video was sent to me a couple of days ago. It’s a recording of a dance performance I took part in a few weeks ago at a theatre in Oxford. My improvised solo is last, but watch it all the way through! Sadly, the quality doesn’t allow for some of the more intricate movements (smaller shimmies layered over other movements, etc) to be particularly visible, but you get the general gist of the prancing.

The track is called ‘Vashti’ and is a bit of a feminist feast – Queen Vashti features in the book of Esther in the Bible and is most noted for her refusal to appear at the King’s banquet (other interpretations say she refused to dance for the drunken king’s entertainment there), choosing instead to host her own party for the women on the same day. She was subsequently banished, and lost her status as queen (she was succeeded by Esther, who was presumably more obedient).

I’m in Lewis!

Check out a little moment of fame! I did some extra work last year, and here I am in ‘Wild Justice’, an episode of the TV drama Lewis. For those who don’t know, Lewis is a spin off from Inspector Morse. We shot this in the centre of Oxford, and I happened to bump into a good school friend who was also working as an extra that day, so we had a great time catching up!

Don’t blink! I’m there in the crowd, about 4 seconds in, watching the procession as Hathaway runs dramatically behind me… He kept doing this massively exaggerated skid-to-a-stop as we took the scene over and over again, though it looks like they didn’t use it in the end. 🙂 The procession was blocking his and Lewis’ way en route to solving a case… Dun dun derrrr!

I’m very grateful to someone on facebook for spotting this and sending me a link to a video (can you imagine the eagle eyes required to notice me?! Impressive!). Thanks Paul Jackson!

The greatest challenge of all…

… Thinking about what we are doing.

My dream…
…To see a part of the world which is completely unspoilt. The careful, decisive undoing of ruin; a second chance.

We must believe what we know. We have shaped the earth in our image.We have very little time to change.’

Luckily there are some rumblings of hope. (But not if we pretend it won’t take a previously unseen amount of dedication, effort and radical re-thinking of almost everything we do in the western world.)

It’s feature-film length and a call for humility in the Earth-human relationship. Do watch this documentary to the end. ‘Home’, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.