Sunday, September 28, 2014

And the rocks and miles roll on

I am tired. You know, that tired felt after a long day in a car, many hours on the beach, hot sun beating down on you, rolling around in the waves and on the dunes, snacking on peaches and crackers, sipping a slightly cool beer.  I spent the whole day in the car or out in the sun, on the rocks, modeling, with far more hours car bound than out, partly due to the itinerary of the photographer I am traveling with and in part because once the sun is out to play, she wins.  With sunrise around 7 am, and sunset a full twelve hours later, we had a lot of ground to cover and a whole day of brightness. Some people may enjoy a day at work when they spend more time sitting and traveling to their destination, but when the weather is perfectly warm and the scenery a constantly changing consistency of natural beauty, sitting and watching the setting go by at the speed of a car on a rough dirt road is difficult for me. Today there was a lot of this. I know I have written about concern for being seen nude in public, but that does not mean I am a timid model – there were points today where I wanted to model in the shadowy crevices of gorgeous rock formations in National Forests we drove by, but in order to shoot, both photographer and model need to feel inspired. The best moments of my day were those spent outdoors, rolling around in the sand, pointing my toes, arching towards the sun, relaxing my face from the glare of the light, scampering from one great rock formation to another and holding poses for one click, then two.

My first location of today was Devil’s Garden and although initially wary of the cars sharing the parking lot, the monumental size of the place was explained and I was excited to get back to the impressive set of rocks, replacing my initial inclination to be in a more private area. I am thrilled by a few of the results from our shoot out there, as the formations are majestic on their own, and adding myself to the scene is a great bonus. Besides, who doesn’t desire to be naked in Devil’s Garden?

This evening I was shooting on sandy peaks of burnt red and a bit of glowing white. The timing of having ideal setting sun and overly bright desert sun is about half an hour, so we shot for a while with bright light before hiding in the shade a moment to rest. In no time I was scampering up rocks to a formation I called the chicken train, where I insisted on being photographed. All of the other formations were more curved and textured, and this stood out as geometric and huge, and I had to be naked on the form. One difficulty with solidified sand is that the surface below you cannot actually be trusted, so this influenced some of my posing options as I am about taking some risks for a great photo, but having a whole, beautiful formation crumble, and bring me with it, is not on my to do list.

I have been experimenting with my new FujiFilmx100s on this trip,; purchased as my birthday present to myself and a solution to the heft of carrying around my Nikon on all of my travels. Between my computer, makeup, pair of heels, book, camera, now musical instrument and other knick knacks that have become part of the impertinent contents of my backpack, the weight has gotten to be excessive for someone who relies on their back for their work and does not need her back being in pain. A lighter computer will enter the equation soon enough, but the camera is the best first step. The reviews have been excellent, and I enjoy the image quality and the size in my hand, but have a few details to sort out such as disappearing images on my card and file formats not suited to my current Lightroom version. I am hopeful a name-brand card and a Lightroom upgrade will fix some of my problems, but if I end up kvetching here in a while, you may know why.

When faced when Subway or some random, independent coffee shop to get your lunch in, where do you choose? I will always choose the smaller place unless the only food fare they have consists of sugary pastries, in which case that place is not truly an option. Today I had just this option and while I was a little bit disappointed to see the filling of my burrito simply microwaved, I figured at least my lunch was not the terribly bready and terrible Subway in the gas station. Instead of doing nude photos in the National Park, we had a quiet picnic lunch and watched a long string of tourists in cars roll by right where we were. The overly heaviness of my lunch helped mellow me out and squash any desire to get active and bendy, which was likely a relief to my travel companion.

No one can accuse me of not wanting to work hard and not being passionate about modeling in the outdoors. J

So many Rocks!!!!

My skin glows under a thin layer of makeup, and my form is almost revealed through my lightweight dress. The airconditioner blowing at my side creates the illusion that the temperature is cool, and the non-descript walls and furnishings of this hotel would make one believe I am just about anywhere. But the sun shines through the window, and harshly illuminates the yellow flowers and small trees which miraculously grow in the desert. A photographer friend relaxes on his bed, silently reading a book, resting his eyes, mind and arms from the continual turns of hours of unpaved roads.

I am in Escalante, Utah. Yesterday morning Ken Prevette and I departed Albuquerque and reached Lake Powell after too many hours to mention, a journey of long, straight roads where making a turn was worthy of proclamation. This morning I decided to wake up earlier than required, anxious to get ready for beautiful, morning light, knowing that once low light passed, we would be faced with harsh conditions, regardless of the beauty around us. We did not have a boat, so shooting with the lake in the background was not a possibility, but being in rock country, glorious rocks are at no shortage. The first location we used had sandy formations of orange red  to climb on, and I was ecstatic. As we drove to the next location I was like a hyper puppy with her head out the window wanting to jump out at every  bend in the road as the rocks changed in color and form and I saw glorious shooting opportunities almost everywhere. But appropriate turn outs for the car were needed, and we had a few other locations to reach before the sun reached her peak. We were headed to a huge, round rock that never manifested, but memories of roads in the vastness of the desert are not always spot on, so we found a new location instead. A ranger waved to us as we pulled over and out of our cars, in a spot where there would be shade and perfectly warm bounced light to work with. We had one more stop afterwards, a slot canyon which was much too illuminated to use, and had a couple of visitors. Instead, we walked along a dry creek and I convinced Ken that we needed to take some photos there, before both deciding that even hunger had priority over more daringness.

I'm a bit of a dry bush/tree fanatic

(overly bright slot canyon)

A turkey BLT sandwich and coleslaw later, and we  were on our winding way through a long detour of a road in an area full of pine trees, much to my surprise. Shooting at the Devil’s Spine would have been excellent, but the light was horrid and all we managed to do was a snapshot for mom. At lunch we did not indulge in pie, and I have a feeling ice cream may be my dinner of champions for the night. A sugar crash to get to bed early would not be such a bad thing as I want to catch the magical morning tomorrow for another productive day of artistic play in the majestic playground that is the desert.  Cheers to my dessert in the desert!

(Annotation – I never did have that icecream for dinner, but my quest for high quality dessert kept me motivated until I saw a healthy, smoked trout salad option available for dinner, and quickly changed my mind.)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Baby Blue and Boston

I recently dragged myself out of NYC to meet up with my baby blue, car that is, who waited stilly and patiently in New Jersey until my return. She and I took a trip north to Rhode Island and the general Boston area, where we would weave in and out of traffic, one way streets, pedestrians with their right of way that they were intent on using and general crowdedness. I am a parking wimp and do not like to hunt for the few tiny parking spaces  which exist in Manhattan, fingers crossed about correctly reading parking signs,  and paranoia alerted about my decision on placement, so I do not venture into the city with my car. Perhaps if I stayed in Brooklyn, I would feel a bit more confident about the parking situation, but for now I continue to add the extra hours to my day when arriving and leaving NYC in order to eliminate a few hours of my dreaded affliction of “fear of being parked illegally.”

I proclaimed to a few friends about my “falling into pieces,” and have since rectified this, gluing myself back together with a little bit of relaxation, a lot of family, and by wearing much more clothing for a handful of days. You can hide an awful lot of duct tape under a long shirt, thus keeping your arms attached to your body and your left nipple glued on.  On Tuesday I visited one grandmother who lives in an old folk’s home, where she would like a bit more space, but enjoys weekly art classes and the company of others.  I apparently arrived on a special breakfast day where they made omlettes to order, and managed to charm the man doing the cooking by opening my mouth and speaking. I do not hear any sort of accent, but in the land of New Jersey, where I hear strong accents in the residents, I clearly have my own way of speaking. That evening I returned to the city, medicated with chocolate ice cream and confined myself to the couch to finish a book and listen to my friend play video games. The next day was when I departed and drove law abidingly to Rhode Island. I visited a photographer friend and his wife for dinner, and did some outdoors shooting on a rock and log in perfect weather the next morning before heading to indulge in Italian food and desserts with my other grandmother and great aunt. I had one of the most enjoyable visits with them, reaching into strange conversation topics with these incredibly conservative women, one of which proclaimed she would need to be compensated $50 an hour to view breasts, as a response to the fashion of today’s youth with too much cleavage. The nude nature of my job is not a detail they are currently aware of, and after hiding this from them for so many years, I now fear the day when they do figure out that my shoots in studios and stream are lacking something they have always seen as a crucial aspect of any photography - clothing. By evening I was in Boston, the town where zipcar was created - another disastrous place to drive and have a car. I visited my photographer friend Kris Rodammer for a shoot which we had planned for a while by setting aside a date,  and  only a week before the shoot, sending masses of emails of photo and wardrobe ideas back and forth. I had set aside a full day to hang out in his home with down time to be in my own head space before we joined together in the ultimate creative collaboration.. The clock passed noon before we had put together the first look, with the styling always a major part of our shoots, but soon we were famish, fed then put to sleep by food coma. Late afternoon was when the collaborations began to include dark makeup, chest harnesses, fabric attached to walls and my head, Nine-Inch-Nails and Portishead channeled energy.  The amount of makeup I had on during the shoot would not have stood up on the street, but the depth of the photos is quite exciting.

Photographed by Kris Rodammer

The next day I started early with graceful but energetic poses held for 8 seconds, while balanced on a rounded bar and holding onto a beam and dressed in glorious kimonos. This was with a photographer I last saw three years ago, and his handheld methods with bright backlight which create focused but blurry photos with a painterly look are as beautiful as ever. Afterwards I had traffic to get though for a short shoot in another part of the city. I originally had one more shoot on my agenda, but the photographer had to cancel to care for his wife, and by honoring my cancellation policy I know we will be scheduling together again later. This meant by 3  pm I was visiting my aunt and cousin, catching up on some details from the past two years and recent weeks in their lives,  while visiting my cousin’s school and enjoying a community favorite diner. I did a slideshow from my South American Journey, and realized how much I need to organize my photos to include photos from the jungle and period after I no longer had my iphone and remove my occasional nude photos from an awesome tree I was on.
The past 3 days have felt like Sunday, and today officially is this day. Today, Sunday, I will do a workshop at almost the border of New Hampshire, head back to the city for an evening shoot and begin my drive back to NYC. I have not decided where I will sleep for the night but somewhere on the route to NYC I will be closing my eyes and taking a rest while the sky is black. My spirit is ready for another string of adventures and photo-shoots.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Time to time, I find myself in an extremely comfortable environment where I almost feel as though I am at home. I am grateful to have a large network of friends who open their homes to me across the states and am always happy to have the opportunity to stay with a friend and visit during my travels. I am fortunate for the ability to use the phrase, “my bed,” to something as small as a couch on which I may sleep for a night or as grand as a guest bedroom, thus transforming a temporary landing place to something which is intended for me, and know this gift is what has sustained me all these years.

Since my journey began 5 years ago, I have not held a lease on an apartment. In the beginning, my travels were markedly slower, and some of my stays prolonged to see a city as a visitor or tourist, or even long enough to almost feel like I lived in one place. I have “lived” with a handful of boyfriends, sharing their space and considering their homes partly mine, as home is where the heart is, and they were a stable factor in my life and someone I yearned to visit.  I have spent large amounts of time in California, where my family still lives, being drawn to the connection that is blood and love. Cities with the most work have be visited frequently, but being in town for work does not equate a home, and if truly busy, I may actually end up sleeping at different locations every handful of nights. I currently have a small space in Houston in a home which was once a church, and when I am in town, the storage area laden with my boxes of belongings and Persian napping rugs and pillows,  is the closest to what I call home. But in my “hobbit home,” room, I can cross my legs on the floor and touch the ceiling with my fingertips, or recline on my back and press my feet against the ceiling, so the term “room” is a bit too generous. I stay with a kind friend of mine and when in town and sipping Manhattans at the neighborhood bars, I am reintroduced as his absent, traveling roommate. I have spent 58 days in Houston this year, and will likely be there another handful of weeks before the year has come to a close, but I feel less like Houston is home than I may have a couple of years ago.

Many people forget I am originally from California, but moved out to Texas for graduate school 7 years ago. My online portfolios have me listed as a Texan, but at this point I do not know which title is truer, Texan, Californian or Nomad. As I am always on the road, where I store the bulk of my belongings has never been much of an issue, but during my South American journey I noticed I traveled slowly and found myself finding living situations in which I stayed for large periods of time for someone who was on a journey. I know I am nowhere near ready to firmly plant my feet in the soil, but I am almost ready to have a small room that I call my own. Even nomads build temporary “homes” for a short period of time before moving on with their travels, and this nomad feels the time to find herself a place with a true bedroom in her future.

I know some people read my blogs and jump to firm line conclusions, and may be thinking that I am done with my travels. This is not true. And the reality is that I will not have an apartment anytime soon, as there are too many factors to mull over and I am drawn in too many directions to make a decision. I also know I would not be thrilled to have a large overhead associated with a home, nor am I ready to be overly stationary. But this year I have entered the phase of tossing different possibilities regarding a new home base.

One of my issues is I am almost always able to find reasons to like a place when there, and I can easily be trapped in the daydream of how great a place is, but upon moving to another area, I see the draw of another place, as well. Texas, Portland, North Carolina and New York City are the general areas which suit my fancy, but the bay area of California, or Baltimore, or Pennsylvania are not completely ruled out. I know I do not need to make a decision anytime soon, and will continue to be on the road  about 300 days a year for at least the next year, but perhaps someday I will have a piece of paper tying me to an apartment.

My current desire for a place is a small bedroom in a multi bedroom apartment - a place where I can put my belongings; a place to shut a door behind me and do whatever I please within the confines of my room. A place where I can hold a dinner party – a place where I would be the host and not the guest. But until I have  a clearer idea of the “where,” I will stick to my friendly “hobbit home” room and keep circling the globe infinitely. I do not want this future to home to be where I am all of the time, but to be available to me when needed.

I muse on all of this as I sit in art model friend Erica Jay’s NYC apartment room. Sometimes she wishes she were without the cost of a room which sits empty for long periods when on extended trips, but realizes for her, having a place she calls home is important. I appreciate this and perhaps had I been from the East coast and epicenter of much modeling work, I would have been drawn to do the same, but the lows temperatures of the east cost winters and heights of the NYC expenses and stress of the issue of parking my car has me avoiding making a move to NYC and finding a little box to call my own in this amazing city as well.  Today I have attempted to feel as though this cozy space has been in my own, even though I knew her roommate would have preferred my presence or musical sounds not be felt or heard through closed walls. Tonight I will return to the Manhattan apartment I stay in with a friend, and on Saturday morning I will begin a schedule of shoots which will conceal any thoughts of having a home until my schedule begins to subside.

Photos by Andrew F Photography
A home we were not welcomed in ("No Trespassing" Signs) but dared to visit briefly