Monday, July 21, 2014

Underwater Modeling

I love waking up to the sounds a farm. Chirping birds, crowing roosters, an occasional moo, and the soft sound of water being heated for coffee.  This morning I have the pitter patter of small babies accompanying the collection of animal life, and as daybreak turns to day, the sounds amplify with each waking friend and housemate. I am in Marshall, North Carolina, in the home of a couple of friends, and a place currently occupied by several of their friends and their children. Being here has reminded me how incredibly much I enjoy a simple lifestyle with family, young children and friends around, and at the same time, how beautiful my own personal freedom is.


When working, I love the momentum of a busy schedule, driving or taking the train from one great shoot to another, but also sometimes enjoy the relaxed pace of one or two shoots a day. A schedule where I can slowly get prepared for my day of work, or use a long break in the middle of shoots to spend time doing the much needed networking aspect of my job, or have a bit of time at the end of the day where my brain still functions at a capacity to work on my schedule. This bit of the trip has been a relaxed one, with more time to visit some friends I have not seen in several years. After a four hour drive from Atlanta, I ended up north of Asheville, with my friend I met through Couchsurfing on my first road trip through Arkansas many years ago. When I first started traveling as a model, I sometimes used the online community of  Couchsurfing to meet hosts around the US to stay with, while doing my tours in slightly less work-centric parts of the country. I stayed with my friend Tasha and ended up with a place to stay right outside of Asheville when she suggested I might like to hang out on bit of countryside where her father was living. Now Tasha has been living in the area for several years and I can visit both while in town.



I just came from Atlanta, where I spent one full day of shooting. A morning shoot appeared to be on the brink of cancellation, but with the photographer's enthusiasm about working with me, and my hard headedness in regards to letting a little bit of rain deprive me of work, windshield wipers vigorously swishing, I was driving to an outdoors shoot location at 7:30 in the morning. At a local park I met up with a group of four men speaking Chinese, and we hurried along a path to a barn. For a while we were able to work under the protective roof of the barn, but wanting a bit more variety for our photos, I swirled around in the wet, and increasingly wet, grass, water spilling down my face, arms, and every bit of body exposed. Apparently we had set off an alarm when sneaking under the gate before open park hours, and we were told we were not supposed to have come in before 10 am, but at that point, the 10 AM mark had already passed. When I jumped outside to the rain the first time, one man joked that I had learned Chinese, as moments before he had suggested in Chinese to a fellow photographer that I go outside in the rain and grass.


I had a short break between the closure of this shoot and my next, and used the time to find a bit of food, as is quite necessary for an energetic model, and some makeup foundation that I was about to run out of. That required going to the mall, which is one of my least favorite activities. I was able to use a Macy's gift card I received about a year and a half ago and had somehow never used until then (perhaps because I hardly ever go shopping anywhere besides at thrift stores and tend to buy my makeup from other places).

My afternoon shoot was amazing. I have long been fearful about my competency in regards to modeling under water, as my contact lenses and water do not mix well, but I am now completely over that concern. As a model, I never want to commit to a shoot that I am not confident I can do, and do well, so I have always been hesitant about doing underwater shoots. I am always interested in learning new skills and having new experiences with my modeling, but when it comes to someone hiring me for a shoot, I want to be certain we can achieve the goals of the shoot. I had tried underwater photos with a tiny black backdrop floated into the water about 4 years ago at a festival, and with a photographer who was new to underwater photography as well. That shoot lasted about fifteen minutes and gave me the impression I needed much practice before being able to market myself for this kind of shoot. But the other day I showed up at a shoot and was surprised with the pool idea, and I was going to jump headfirst into this project and show I could do this. By jump headfirst, I mean walk gradually into the water then submerge myself by bending my feet and thus lowering myself into the water. I had taken out my contact lenses beforehand, because contact lenses shrivel up like the wicked witch of the west when on my eyes and exposed to water. The day was a bit overcast, and the water certainly not warm, but my momentum with breathing, pushing myself under water, and swimming and posing with my eyes generally open, then returning to the surface for a breath of air once I was able to free my mouth from my hair, kept me going for a long time. The photographer, Perry Julien, used a GoPro with a waterproof casing, and a small weight belt to help keep him from floating to the surface. There was another model with us who joked about her inability to submerge herself and I countered that I could not float unless moving, and proved this to be true when the two of us did back-floats and she floated easily and I had to periodically kick my feet to keep from slipping under the surface. When I was much younger I loved swimming, but grew up and became pool adverse. Perhaps just the need for bikinis or swim suits was the real deterrent.


There was a learning curve with working underwater, but after I figured out some details which do not seem as thought they should be so complicated, but somehow suddenly are when you are used to using one skill set on water, and now have to submerged in water, devoid of oxygen, with chlorine in your eyes, and maintain a pleasant look, there is a switched to be turned in your brain. I spent at least an hour and a half in the pool, with alternating ups and downs to breathe and do photos, and was thoroughly invigorated.

One more skill added to my repertoire - underwater modeling.


Photographed by Perry Julien
Instagram @freespiritsphotography
Models: Keira Grant and Michelle Honeywell

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Amazing location!

The big road trip has begun - correction, my big road trip has begun.
I am currently in a coffee house in Birmingham, Alabama, enjoying my low key day of setting up some shoots for later in August, visiting a friend I have not seen in about two years, and of course a small amount of shooting, even if today was deemed a "day off."

I had a quick shoot in a home which essentially looked like a museum. This man had his own artwork all over the place, and an immense collection of art, antiques, taxidermy and religious art which I suppose still fits under the art category. I had been well warned before entering the masterful collection of items which were combined to create rooms of majestic, and bizarre, grandeur. Life sized statues stood in corners and hung from ceilings; animal skins softened the floors; religious paraphernalia lined cabinets, next to mannequin hands, animal remains, sculptures of friendly creatures. The rooms featured rich colors, with one room boasting reds and yellows with all of the now flattened and trampled upon jungle animals which were reduced to just their gorgeous skins, and combined with deep brown woods which comprised the cabinets. The main room had works reminiscent of the renaissance era, paneling painted with primary colored royalty; plush, pillow clad sofas filled the center of the room, so beautifully decorated that you dared not sit on them.

Unable to resist, I first donned a tough, leather pregnancy mask. The size was about right for my proportions and if being pregnant is anything close to as difficult to maneuver in as this extra, round bulk, then I admire woman who can handle the beginning stages of motherhood. (I am fairly certain true pregnancy is much worse than my temporary costume.) Next my animalistic weirdness emerged when I cloaked myself in a beautiful skin. There was a table with animal feet, which I had to curl under as well, because I was just the right size. I braved the plush couch, to pose with the panel of art behind me, but only after gingerly intertwining my limbs in a seated skeleton. The creepy dolls, and adorably deceased varmints too my attention for a few photos as well. And as tends to happen with this particular photographer friend, and when confronted with so many religious signs, we created our own religious art - a variety which would not meet the approval of my Catholic relatives.

 Photographed by Warren Hukill

Photographed by Edward Badham

****

My current itinerary includes some extra days off, a huge list of locations, and an abundance of happiness. I would love to meet you in one of these areas, or on a small detour from my route.

July 16 - 17: Birmingham, AL 
July 18 - 20: Atlanta, GA 
July 21 -24: Asheville, NC 
July 25 - 26: Boone, NC 
July 27 - 30: Raleigh, NC 

July 31- Aug 1: Virginia 
August 2 -4: DC 
August 5 - 10: Baltimore 
Aug 11 - 12: Delaware 
Aug 13 - 14: Philadelphia, PA (and surrounding area) 
Aug 15 - 18: Morrisdale/State College, PA 
Aug 22 - 31: NYC (New Jersey/Connecticut) 

September 2 - 4: Albany, NY 
September 5 - 7: Boston (Massachusetts/New Hampshire) 
September 8 - 10: NYC 
Sep 11 - 13: Gettysburg, PA 
September 14 -16: Washington DC/Baltimore
September 17 - 21: Raleigh 


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On Feet

La Coruna, Spain
Los Menhires

Where have your toes been? What ground have they touched? What textures, colors, temperatures, smells have wrapped around them; what places have they been in? Do you take off your shoes when you have a moment in nature, when you might be resting on a rock, watching the waves rock back and forth after a mellow stroll? Do you walk down a beach, street, parking lot, grassy knoll barefoot or keep your soles protected from the world around you, hidden in shoes?

Shoes have their purposes, and there are times when we need to protect ourselves, but whenever it seems appropriate I find myself peeling these constrictive things off my feet. An airplane ride, long bus trip and even occasional car drive merit the removal of my shoes. Going to a place with water flowing certainly has me barefooted. I like to dig into where I am and feel connected; if the roots of our bodies are our feet, the soles of them can be planted firmly into the ground. If making this comparison, perhaps the tendency to be barefooted more often when in nature than on man-made surfaces is a logical extension of the fact that plants do not grow from most man-made materials, and if they do, they usually find the cracks within to begin their life.

The more time we spend with our feet in the elements, the better equipped they become to bearing the conditions. Remove yourself from a shoe protected existence for just a moment and you will find the textures difficult to handle, but spend a bit more time feeling stones and their sharp edges under your skin and you will eventually adjust. Your skin will thicken, perhaps becoming less pretty to a superficial world but your feet will be stronger, and more useful. They will be better for this.

As an art model, I occasionally choose to file down some of my hard earned callouses. Bitter as this may be, I play with the balance between hardened feet which help me when working outdoors - skipping from rock to rock, sliding over gravelly surfaces, dancing around pine needles and thorny plants, and sneaking around broken glass, and my studio work where skin as close to perfect is preferable - skin which has not marred by the effects of too many indulgences and thus cellulite, daily collisions with household objects, scrapes and bruises from moments in nature and hardened, or ugly feet from a low shoe usage existence or walking in abundance in certain shoes. During summer seasons when outside more frequently I away to the side of practical feet rather than flawless, because that is what makes sense. I always have some level of beauty and inability to withstand some elements, because balanced is my preferred way for my feet to be.


 Macchu Picchu, Peru

 The Amazon River, Ecuador

 Outside of Seattle, WA

 La Coruna, Spain fortress
Airport

When I travel, most of my photos have me on the other side of the camera, making the photos rather than in them. When working as a model, I am of course always in the photos, as I am not the one taking them. If in a place by myself, putting my feet in the foreground is my way to have photographic proof of my presence. Sometimes my feet are in shoes, sometimes not. I could stand to have a few more snapshots of myself, but have not embraced the concept of "selfies" and am not convinced I need to be in photos of places enough to bother asking someone to take photos for me. Fortunately feet and shoes are almost always photogenic, because even when not, no one can tell.

I leave you with a few images of where my feet, and thus my body, and mind and heart have been.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Monaco. Getting there.

If you eat 4 macarons, a couple of strawberries and are overcome with jetlag, you, too could go to sleep at 9 pm and get yourself immediately on schedule with the time zone where your body may be located, but that doesn't mean the next day is not without a little confusion. While laying in my plush hotel bed in Monaco yesterday evening, I was well aware the time was but early afternoon in Houston where I had been the day before, but my sugar crashed and airplane weary body disregarded this fact. I have found myself in Monaco, the smallest destination never on my travel list but suddenly replacing Belgium and all of their glorious chocolates and beer, in my travel itinerary. My arrival was filled with the real adventure as my current stay will likely be a continuation of relaxation, gently rolling ocean fills my ears, warm sun wraps around my body, and even if going by foot, the general area is sight seen in a mere afternoon. 

I received my updated travel itinerary just a day before departure, which certainly felt quite spontaneous even if my trip to Europe was planned much in advance. By planned, I mean scheduled as I have a recklessness in vacations in regards to advanced preparation which is the opposite of my systematic planning for work schedules. A few hours before my flight I was in a hunger inspired panic to get fed and immediate depart to the airport, which was calmed with reason, and the discovery that Houston does not actually have any good delis or a sand which culture, and my housemate taking me to lunch then proceeding to the airport. 15 minutes away from our destination, my arrival at the airport, the truck beebed at us and the dashboard equipment ceased life, a few miles later, the speed of my pulse replaced the movement of the truck. I had an international flight departing in 2 hours and suddenly had no transportation. Being on time to things is my biggest paranoia - I am more afraid of being late than of being physically molested (unreasonable as this may be). I was in a panic. And during panic mode, Internet on iPhones apparently stops working properly, and logic slows. After tromping across the onramp with my backpack to a nearby hotel to find my address for cab pickup, and making the call, a cab was to arrive in supposedly 15 minutes, if and only if the person dispatched was interested. But before long, a man from a motor assistance program had seen my friend's stopped truck on the side of the freeway, and was bringing me to the airport at the request of my friend. Though not a usual request or purpose of this program, I officially felt my life had been saved as blue-eyed Lance brought me to the terminal. These were the best tax dollars at work I had ever experienced. I made it through the security gate with only 17 minutes to spare before my true departure time, confirming with a wait for a taxi I might have missed my flight. 

My flight was slightly delayed, but uneventful. I watched a movie which was rather slow, with seeing the conclusion my full purpose, and reached the end to find out there was no resolution. Then I saw "12 Years a Slave," as this was on my list after the film did so well in the awards department.

The plan arrived in Paris at 9 am and at 9 am my flight to Nice was boarding. I wanted to avoid being the rude American and waited at the back of the plane with no where to go amidst the suitcases anyway. Turns out a shuttle from the plane to the terminal was needed, and followed shortly after followed by my reminder to do cardiovascular excercise. My mad dash through the airport before and after customs brought me to my next plane, where they reopened the gate for me, so I could run down the gate to halt to a hand outstretched in the "stop" position. A few moments later I could enter and was at my seat.

Apparently I made the plane on time but my luggage had not, but I continued to Monaco in my hired car and would have my pack delivered later that night. 

Yesterday I relaxed and read a book while eating tuna and sipping coffee before heading off to see what there was to see in this little, pristine place. 

And now, I await my shoot while sitting on a balcony in the sun. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

California. Day Off.

One of the benefits of freelance work is the ability to set up my own schedule. Of course, in general I need to work around the schedules of others, as being selective on time and date will leave me without work on days I could work, and there will always be days I wish I had work when there is no work to be had, but on occasion I need to schedule days for myself. Before my big South American trip, I had a difficult time prioritizing days off, but have found that a few days set in advance, where I can do whatever I please, go a long way in keeping me happy. People with normal day jobs get a full weekend off every 5 days, and know they will get those days off in advance, so doing the same is not so abnormal. Sometimes photographers can only shoot on specific dates, and if unable to schedule on those dates, I will have to wait until a later trip, but I have decided that every once in a while I should enjoy the luxury of a specific day set aside.

I am taking the weekend off after a week of working in Portland, and while I know I had to turn down some work to make this happen, I am relishing the chance to use a normal weekend however I see fit. Right now I am catching up with a good friend, watching her cat walk on the mantle of the fire place and beg for attention, and will likely put on some shoes and a sweater and go on a walk. Nothing monumental here, but low key days help me recharge.


I spent a few weeks in California, visiting family and my new niece and nephew, and catching up with some good friends. I had the opportunity to do a handful of great shoots with photographers I have not seen in more than a year, and meet some new contacts. I love my time in the Bay Area, and while I considered myself living there briefly, I have a feeling I will keep returning as a visitor rather than a resident. My friend, Candace, has a new studio space called The Lighthouse and I was able to do a messy workshop there which involved photos with water poured all over me and into a basin, cream poured over me, and a huge amount of wine (which was used in photos, not consumed). I do not recommend bathing in cream on an everyday basis, nor in wine, as the smell left even after a handful of showers and hair washings was reminiscent of a drunk dairy maid who seldom bathed, but the photos did turn out well.



On my California trip, I also was able to shoot in a mannequin shop, where I found myself a blue cuddle buddy to entwine myself in for the duration of a few photos, but our temporary love ended when I knocked off his arm while trying to give him a kiss. I found myself enthralled by the mannequins and if I ever settle down, correction, when I settle down for a bit more time, I might just need to buy one to decorate - some of the mannequins available are truly cool. On a random note, I may photograph tall, but I found I could not live up to the stature of fashion model height men and women, with their plastic and unreal skin, but for once did show I had a glowing tan compared to their pasty color. :)




I generally use the policy of not asking for permission when shooting nude on a location, and hoping to not get caught, but when I went to a park in Berkeley with photographer friend, he went ahead and used his charming Australian accent to ask about shooting on the Merry-Go-Round that was closed for maintenance in the park. We ended up with the place to ourselves and a cheerful man working, who even let us know when other people would be showing up. Being naked on a giraffe was pretty exciting.



As the weather is finally warm across the US, a good handful of my shoots have been outdoors. Within a couple of weeks, I explored a lovely nature reserve with one photographer friend in Sacramento, leaving the area when a full caravan of boys with binoculars showed up, I basked in the sun on the nude beach in San Francisco with a newer photographer, and was part of a photographic series with different combinations of nude friends of the photographer existing in grasses and trees.

I need to get back to writing more as by now I feel so behind in writing about my adventures that I do not even know where to start. (This is my personal reminder to do so.)






Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wardrobe

Photos by Kris Rodammer


I have a new routine for days off in Houston. Across the street from my favorite coffee shop, Catalina Coffee, is a Salvation Army which has 50 percent off clothing on Wednesdays. I park my car in the coffee shop lot, scurry across the street, and peruse the store, draping wardrobe potentials across my arms and eventually hiding within the 3 item changing room doors, with an exponentially higher number of pieces of clothes to try on. When shopping primarily for wardrobe, my standards in the clothing selection process are quite different than if I was shopping for my everyday wear. Every item I buy is between $1.50 and $8, so if I can imagine a handful of shoots in one item, I deem the clothing something to buy. Thrift stores are hit and miss, and for me they are much more fun than a normal store because the price point is lower and it feels like a scavenger hunt or adventure. I was raised on garage sale clothing, partly due to being one of four children on a single income home, basic practicality, and intelligent Jewish frugalness, and some of my fondest childhood memories are my Saturday morning garage sale hunts with my mother. Children can outgrow or ruin clothing rather quickly so wearing expensive clothing never made sense, nor would it have been possible, and I feel the same idea of temporary clothing should apply to most modeling wardrobe. 

A little bit of wardrobe can inspire me, evoking a certain role, and this helps add to the variety of my work. Monotony can be the death of art, unless used as a tool to push past the sameness and create something unique. Little is needed to transform a shoot, certainly wardrobe is not needed, but sometimes that can be the quickest way to inspire a new idea. 

So, what did I depart with from the thrift store today? A long, light brown, soft leather coat that may be a wee bit big but is just awesome, a shiny button up shirt, a purple, baggy top that can be tied up or maybe just cut with scissors to reveal my stomach, and a fuzzy baby doll that has feathers around the trim and boob sections. And a red, plaid shirt/dress that will work for everyday use as well for shooting. 5 items for just under $20, and now I'm cooking up ideas for each bit of clothing. 



There are some wardrobe items that are best bought new and yesterday I finally replaced my black pumps. I had a pair that I bought this year, but apparently my feet played a trick on me, or the leather stretched out because by the time I was using my shoes for shoots, I was disappointed by the slightly large fit. My new ones are taller, shinier, and a corresponding level of less comfortable as they are much sexier. In about an hour and a half I will get to wear them for the first time. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Welcome to me


I will likely broaden my blog's scope further than the realm of modeling that I have previously tried to limit myself to in past years. Modeling is a huge part of my life, as my job has come to dictate my entire lifestyle in a sense which is why in the past I have been able to write exclusively about the modeling aspects of my life, without wanting for any discussions. But a model is more than just a pretty face who bends this way and that way to make pretty pictures, and the thoughts that go on in our minds do in some way affect our collaborations, so a blog about more than a few quirky photo shoots can actually be relevant - this kind of blog can show a bit of insight into a person who just happens to be a model. During my South American journey I had a blog for my friends and family, and anyone who thought to ask me about where they could follow more closely with my travels was invited to read this blog, which started me writing about my daily adventures and turmoils and all of the thoughts which occurred to me as I threw myself head on into a world I knew nothing about.  I had begun the journey with blog entries on my ArtfulNomad blog, this one, and shortly after my trip commenced, I realized my South American trip did not have much of a connection with my modeling identity. I have had some close friends remark about the difference between my personal life and my modeling life, and I often joke about little me and the superhero version of me which is known by the world of photographers and models. But years into my journey as a model, I feel comfortable with reducing the separation between myself in general and myself as a model, because the gap has been closing a long time now and something changed while I was gone last year, and I feel I am comfortable in being me, both the non-model classical and nerdy me, and the model and sometimes rockstar version of me that is relatively well known around the world of nude photography. So hello, and welcome to me. Sometimes I may seem to rant about random topics, and other times will be sure to write in relation to my shoots, because that is one of the largest aspects of my life, but as always, everything is me.

I have heard some people refer to my tumblr as my blog, which perplexed me since I always associated blogs with words, but as times change more people are interested in the immediacy of photos and even I have found myself spending more time playing with photos than with writing, but I want to keep this to being my word blog, and my tumblr my photo blog. But of course, some photos here are a necessity as well, because photos are fun, or beautiful, or just great to make and have and show. :)


 Snapshot by Bob K
Glamorous photo by TLGee
 Being goofy (I almost always stick out my tongue in stupid photos)
And a bit of serious art with William McEwen (after the portrait with camera)