So every year I say I’m going to write more on here and every year I end up getting too busy to actually do that. Ah well, that’s life. I’m taking a bit of time to write this post because it’s one I’ve been wanting to get down for a while. The purpose of this is to answer some questions I commonly get asked about my work.
Being a freelance fine art model isn’t something that people expect to hear when they ask me what I do. A lot of people don’t even know it’s a job. And I understand that. If someone had told me this is what I’d be doing before I started doing it, I would have laughed at them. But here I am. Doing what I do. I love it. I love my job, I love being able to express myself creatively and get paid for it. Living the dream. I don’t make loads of money doing this… I do it because it’s fulfilling and fun and I genuinely think it makes me a better person. I’m so much more confident than I used to be because of my work. And I think that’s truly wonderful. So I want to share a bit of insight with you here.
I gave people who follow me on social media the chance to ask me stuff, so most of the questions I’m answering here come from my followers. Thank you to everyone who responded and asked me questions. There are a couple of questions I’ve included that are ones I’ve put in, simply because they’re questions I get asked a lot. I hope you enjoy reading my responses!
What made you get into modelling?
Well, as I said, I never thought I’d be a model. I always had people saying to me, “You should be a model!” but I never really thought anything of it. That’s just something people say as a compliment, right? So I was never thinking to myself that modelling was something I wanted to get into.
I went to university and got my BSc in Psychology from The University of Kent and then stayed on to get my MSc in Forensic Psychology. I moved back to Stoke after I graduated and while I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life, I started working at Evans (a plus sized clothes shop) with my older sister. I actually quite enjoyed my work there. I got to work with the customers to find clothes that made them feel amazing and confident. That’s a really priceless feeling. Anyway, while I was working there, my dad was setting up a photography business and asked me to help out as a second photographer on a shoot he was doing because I could just about stumble my way through working a camera. He had hired a model through a website called PurplePort and after working alongside my dad with the model he had booked, I remember thinking to myself that I bet that would be a really fun job.
So I signed up to PurplePort, thinking I could get into modelling as a bit of a hobby. This was in January 2015. I quickly got asked to do a TF shoot with a local photographer (a TF shoot is one where you don’t get paid but instead are given images from the shoot to use for your portfolio). It was fun. I enjoyed it a lot, despite it being absolutely freezing! After this shoot, I did a few more TF shoots and was pretty soon having people contact me asking to work with me, and asking what my rates were. People wanted to give me money in exchange for my modelling after just a few shoots!
I started getting more and more modelling work and was becoming quite popular as a model. In September 2015, I left my part time job at Evans and went into modelling full time. I don’t regret my decision one bit. I feel like I’m living the dream! This isn’t what I thought I’d end up doing but you only live once, so I figure that I may as well spend my time doing something that I love and am thoroughly passionate about 🙂
An image from my first shoot back in January 2015 on location in Staffordshire.
Are you a full time model?
Yes, I am. Modelling is my only job and my only source of income. I often get asked what my ‘day job’ is… And well, this is my day job. The work comes and goes. Sometimes I’ll be shooting every single day for two weeks solid. Sometimes I’ll only have a handful of shoots in a month. That’s just what it’s like being freelance. However, just because I’m not shooting every day doesn’t mean that I’m not working. Admin is a huge part of what I do. A lot of behind the scenes work goes in to me making the most out of modelling as a career, and it’s not all just pulling poses while someone clicks away! Responding to messages, putting out casting calls, reviewing mood boards, researching the best travel options, uploading images, organising images I’ve been sent, writing references for people I’ve worked with, posting on social media, and writing blog posts (like this one). So when I have some ‘down time’ from shooting, I’m actually still working… Just catching up on all the admin I haven’t had time for while I’ve been busy shooting! I think I spend as much time in front of a computer screen as I do in front of a lens 😉
I also spend a lot of time travelling. Catching trains around England… And more recently… planes to Europe. Greece, The Netherlands and Bulgaria are already ticked off the list! It really is a full time job!
A shot from my shoot with the duo known as Sybarite in Zwolle, The Netherlands in March 2018.
Do you have some sort of dance of gymnastic background? You seem to have a wide range of movement and flexibility in your posing but also a grace and subtlety to your work.
I get asked this a lot. Firstly, thank you. I really love hearing that I manage to convey grace in my images because that’s what I’m going for. I often say to people that my aim with my fine art nude work is about femininity, beauty and grace, rather than nudity. To me, the nudity is an almost incidental aspect of this type of work.
But anyway, no I do not have any gymnastics or dance background. I am quite possibly the most clumsy and least co-ordinated and graceful person in the world… Which I find pretty amusing given the type of work I do! I do yoga on a daily basis but I’ve always been really flexible anyway. That’s about the extent of my ability in this area! The way I pose does have a dance-like beauty to it, but those shots are usually taken just a second or two before I fall on the floor 😛
A location shoot in Staffordshire, October 2016. This location involved a huge climb but it was so worth it!
Some of your portfolio involves low-key lighting and environments that accentuate the interplay of light and shadows or silhouettes. These work well with you as the model. Is that a style you enjoy and how much of it is led by yourself as the model or is it an avenue that the photographer wishes to pursue?
I really love low-key work. I prefer dark and moody images in my own photography and I think that is in part because I love those dark and moody images in my modelling work. Playing with light and shadow is a lot of fun. I enjoy shooting this because it’s a bit hit and miss sometimes, and that makes the results even more exciting when you get it right. It also means that the model and photographer have to work more as a team, which makes the whole process a lot more enjoyable. For me, anyway!
With regards to the second part of the question, it’s usually a bit of both. Some photographers will book me if that’s a style they want to shoot, because they know it’s something I’ve done a lot of and am competent at. That goes for photographers who’ve never tried this style before as well as photographers who specialise in that type of image.
If I’m on a shoot and I see the potential for low-key or silhouette work, I will always mention it to the person I’m working with in case it’s something they would like to try. Very few photographers have a solid plan of what they want to shoot and are quite happy to just go with the flow, incorporating my ideas with theirs to create something unique in whatever studio or location we are working in. Not all studios or locations would be suited to this type of work; but when it’s an option, I’ll always point it out if I think it’s something the person I’m working with would be interested in.
An abstract low-key shot from a group shoot in October 2015.
Do you think art nude works best in colour or black and white?
Ah, this is one of my favourite debates. There are some photographers out there who will insist that art nude must be black and white. This is because when you have an image in black and white, the light and dark parts of the image are more prominent and this is important in art nude work. However, I do think that omitting colour altogether from art nude photography is a bit too restrictive. Colour images have their place in art nude photography. Especially if there are interesting colours in the frame offering a complimentary colour or stark contrast to the model or other parts of the environment.
Personally, I lean towards a preference of black and white images in general, so would say that the majority of my favourite art nude images of my own work have been presented in black and white. However, sometimes there is an art nude image that just works in colour and by converting it to monochrome would lose some of the magic that I see in a particular image. So basically, my answer is a bit of a non-answer… I think generally black and white works best, but there is no blanket rule.
A monochrome and a colour shot taken at a Mycenaean bridge on my first trip to Greece in November 2017.
©Garden of the Muses
Do you prefer studio or location shoots? Or is it just down to the weather/environment/assignment?
It’s very rare for a shoot to be booked on the agreement that ‘it’s a location shoot but if the weather is bad, we move into a studio’. This is mostly just because you have to book a studio and if you didn’t use it, you’d still have to pay for it! It tends to be that I’m booked for more location work in Spring/Summer/Autumn with some studio work in Spring and Autumn when the weather isn’t as predictable; and pretty much exclusively in studios over Winter (with the odd crazy photographer who still wants to work on location during the colder months!).
There are some ideas that will only work in a certain place, whether that’s studio or location so that will dictate where the shoot needs to take place. In colder months, you don’t have the option of working on location as often. And that’s just how it is.
In terms of my preference: if I had a choice between working on location or in a simple white wall studio with studio lighting, I’d always choose location. It’s more fun and inspiring. A little unpredictable in terms of weather, light, and of course, there’s always the chance that you won’t be able to shoot somewhere because of a loss of access, other people being around etc. But that just makes it a bit more exciting!!
I’m happy working with a few studio lights and a backdrop, don’t get me wrong, and these shoots can be really fun and crazy too. But generally, you’re quite limited in what you can do. They’re great for controlling the environment for bodyscapes, portraits or working with projectors etc. but it would all get a bit boring very quickly for me if I was visiting the same studio all the time. But not all studios are the same. There are an increasing number of natural light studios appearing. They’re usually based in old factories, warehouses or houses and offer something different again. These studios are more interesting to work in because you can always find something different to shoot, without the worry of having to postpone a shoot because of bad weather. These sorts of studios I class as almost like location work and I enjoy working in them very much.
Studio days are pretty fun (this is a day when a model is at a studio all day and photographers book hour-long slots with them) and of course, this can only happen in a studio really, so studios are good for that reason. These events are a good way to meet a lot of new photographers in one day, or work around a theme where photographers would only want about an hour each anyway.
Generally, I’d say I prefer working on location amongst ruins or woodland, with natural light studios as a close second, followed by a more traditional studio environment. But I do love shooting wherever and I enjoy the variety!
A shot from a location shoot in Staffordshire, October 2017.
What’s your routine on the day of a shoot?
I’m not sure I have an actual routine for a day when I’m shooting, especially as each shoot will require different things from me, but here’s the gist of it:
I make sure to contact the photographer a couple of days before a shoot to check everything is still okay for the shoot and to see if they have any last minute ideas that I may need to pack for.
I usually get my bag packed the night before so I don’t have to worry about it in the morning! I will look over past communications with whoever I’m going to be working with to make sure I’ve got items for all the themes we’ve discussed.
If I’ll be working through lunch or travelling for a while, I’ll also make sure I’ve got food ready the night before too. I quite enjoy cooking, and with me being vegan, it’s not always easy to buy food on the go so I always make sure I’m fully prepared!
I’ll often wash and straighten my hair the night before a shoot too, because this can take me about an hour (most people don’t realise that my hair is naturally somewhere between curly and wavy, making it a bit too unpredictable for shooting!). If I’ve had a busy day, I’ll wash my hair at night and straighten it in the morning, but mostly I will just go for it and get the drama over with the night before 😛
On the morning of a shoot, I’ll get up and have my breakfast (the most important meal of the day) and slowly start to get ready. I always give myself plenty of time so I don’t have to rush. My make up is always better when it’s been applied with care, rather than in a rush!
Then I’ll get dressed into clothes that I will have chosen the night before. I make sure to wear clothes that don’t leave many marks on the skin (something you learn pretty quickly as a model) and make sure that it’s both comfy (especially if I’m travelling for a while) and easy to get into/out of (to maximise shooting time if in a studio but also to make things easier if shooting on location!)
And then I’ll make my way to my shoot or wait to be picked up, depending on the shoot. If I’m travelling, it’s usually by train meaning I have a 30 minute walk to the train station. I always make sure I have extra time because I don’t like being late and having to rush. I will have worked out what time I need to leave the night before.
That’s about it I think. If I’m being particularly good, I often wake up a bit earlier to do yoga and meditate before I leave. I find it’s a great way to set yourself up for an amazing day. But lets face it, we aren’t always that on top of things 😉
A yoga themed self-portrait from January 2017. The pose is called crow pose or bakasana and is an arm balance.
A lot of your work is art nude. Do you find it weird at all being naked in front of photographers?
I think that unless you’ve been involved in shooting art nude in some way, wether as a model, photographer, make up artist, designer etc. then the concept of nudity in this environment may seem a bit odd. For me, this is my job so I don’t even register that I’m naked when I’m working. If I was on the streets and suddenly had no clothes on, sure I’d notice and it would be really weird… but when I’m working, it’s just normal!
I specialise in classical fine art nude… So being naked is just what it is. My body is the tool I use to create the art work that I do.
Sometimes, I have to actively try to remember that not everyone sees nudity in their daily life as much as I do, so I have to be mindful of that. I’m always looking at work from my friends who are models or photographers, so I’m seeing the nude female form all the time… and it’s not weird for me. Strangers sitting next to me on the train, however, might find it a bit shocking that I’m casually browsing pictures of beautiful naked ladies as they appear on my social media. But never mind.
Anyway, off track a bit. No, it’s not weird for me. And thinking back, it wasn’t even weird in the beginning either. If I’m there to shoot art nude, I’ll whip my kit off and get to it. Professional, like. I’m not overly body confident… I mean, we all have those things we aren’t 100% fond of with regards to ourselves, but I’m totally at ease when I’m working nude around photographers. They’ve booked me looking the way I am and they’ve already seen me naked before we’ve met so there’s little point in me getting all self-conscious about it! That’s the way I look at it anyway.
I have to laugh sometimes when we’ve stopped for a coffee break on a shoot and halfway through my coffee, I’ve realised I’m still nude. And often, the photographer hasn’t noticed either. That’s how not weird it is!
A behind the scenes shot of me setting up for a self portrait shot, taken on my trip to Bulgaria in October 2018.
Is your job ever scary? You go with photographers you’ve never met before by yourself to locations, and sometimes in foreign countries.
My job would seem pretty scary if you don’t know everything that goes into booking a shoot. At least, the way I go about my work, it’s not scary anyway.
I know sometimes friends and family who don’t know the industry get a bit worried about me. In their eyes, I’m swanning off into the middle of nowhere with complete strangers who are probably axe-wielding-maniac-serial-killers… Or jetting off to a different country to meet someone who is likely just running a human traffic operation. And I understand this view. But it’s wrong.
Most of my work comes through a website called PurplePort, which I’ve mentioned earlier. On the website, models and photographers leave references for each other when they’ve worked together. I always look at the references before agreeing to work with someone. I don’t often work with people who have no references for my own safety, and just because someone has references, doesn’t mean that I will work with them. I’ll always look at the quantity and quality of the references before agreeing to work with someone. I’ve learnt to read between the lines a bit with them too. If someone has references that are pretty basic, then I’m always extra cautious to check them out. I also look for things like who has left the references; I look to see if models I recognise have left positive references or if they’ve been to studios I know, things like that. You can tell if someone will be fun to work with on the length of the reference people have written after shooting with them. It’s a good system and I know that PurplePort are careful to remove people who aren’t genuine. It’s also common practice to message others who’ve worked with that person too. If someone has left a negative reference, I’ll find out why by messaging whoever left the negative reference, and then deciding if I still want to work with them.
Even if there are positive references, it doesn’t always mean that someone is 100% safe. I always make sure that someone knows where I am and who I’m meeting. I have also been known to do a bit of internet stalking on people too, just to make sure they are who they claim to be. It always pays to be extra cautious and I’ve found that I have to trust my gut. If I get any odd feelings about working with someone on the basis of their communications or things they’ve said to me or asked me, then I won’t work with them. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
I have worked with people who don’t have any references but always in as safe a way as possible: making sure I’m not going to be anywhere alone with them (I don’t accept lifts from them, for example). I make sure in this situation that it’s a group shoot with people I trust, or that I’ll be working at a studio where the studio owner will be around; or go with another model or a make up artist, or take a chaperone with me. Everyone has to start somewhere and there will have been a point at which everyone had no references!
A shot taken in Den Haag, March 2018 on my tour to the Netherlands. I stayed with the photographer and I’d never met him before. This is a great example of checking someone out beforehand… I really enjoyed spending time with Shihari and will be staying with him again next time I visit Den Haag 🙂
How do you choose who to work with?
I work with photographers of all levels of experience and ability. Part of the thing I love about my job is getting to meet people from different walks of life, and we are just converging over one thing we have in common: our desire to create art. I think that’s a pretty special thing.
I don’t particularly choose people to work with. Nine times out of ten, they’ve chosen me. As long as someone isn’t dodgy (see my answer to the question above!) then I’ll work with them. I don’t care if someone is a professional, has been doing photography for their entire life… or if they just picked up their camera the day before.
A location shoot in Staffordshire, taken in June 2018. Yes, those balloons are tied to my nipples.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve been asked to do for a photograph?
I love this question. And I get asked it a lot. I’ve been asked to do many strange things in my job… and it’s all part of the fun! I don’t know if I can answer the weirdest thing, but I can give some pretty fun examples:
- More than once I’ve been asked to get into a cage, but the best one was when I was in a bird cage and there was just enough space for me to curl up into a ball. The cage had to be lowered onto me. It was only good for a few shots though, as I couldn’t really give much variation of the pose as I wasn’t able to move!
- I was once asked to wear a cat mask and was given a fake rat to play with. Me being me, I immediately got into character and had the poor little fake rat (called Scabbers!) dangling out of my mouth my his tail!
- I was at a studio once where there was a coffin in the corner. Of course I got into it and we got some shots of me coming out of the coffin as if I were a zombie!!
- On a Christmas themed shoot, I was given a ‘Santa please stop here sign’ and told to do something creative with it. So I sat on the floor with my legs apart and put the sign between my legs. I found that pretty funny 😛
- Recently, I was on a trip to Bulgaria with another model, four photographers and the guy who ran the trip. We all stayed in a villa in the second part of the week and once we’d chosen our bedrooms, me and Stacie Mai (the other model) realised there was another room off the one we had chosen. It was this weird Playboy themed room, with mirrors over the bed (I wish I was joking!) and playboy cushions etc. One of the photographers there likes to take Polaroid pictures and so we got a set of super tacky polaroids in this room with me and Stacie. They were so much fun to shoot but really tacky! It was amazing.
I’m aways up for shooting weird stuff so these are just a few examples of the whacky things I’ve been asked to do. There’s likely a hell of a lot more anecdotes I could give, but I could probably write a book on them, so I’ll leave it at that… For now!
Two of the aforementioned Polaroids from Bulgaria 2018. Modelling by me and Stacie Mai. I love this set so much. It couldn’t get more tacky if we tried 😛
And that’s all for this post! Thanks again to the people who asked me questions. I really appreciate people taking the time to think about what they would like to know. If this post has sparked any further questions from anyone, let me know and once I get enough, I’ll do a round two! I really enjoy taking about my work, and having the opportunity to answer questions people might have is really cool. Thanks for reading this! 🙂
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