Friday, August 21, 2015

Lyra: modeling acrobatics

To astrologers, the word Lyraevokes a constellation in the sky; one often represented on star maps as a vulture or eagle carrying a lyre (which you may recall is a harp-like U-shaped instrument often used in ancient Greece).  To those with small children, they may know of a cartoon pony named Lyra Heartstrings aptly named because of a lyre on her flank. But those in the acrobatics and modeling world know a Lyra to be a metal hoop which is suspended to a ceiling by one or two attachment points.  The Aerial Hoopthat is visually reminiscent of a metal hula-hoop is also known as a “circeaux” or more commonly “lyra,” and is occasionally used as a prop in model shoots.

I had seen photos before, but my first opportunity to use the lyra was with wonderful Baltimore based photographer, Chip Bulgin a few years ago.  The session was less than an hour long of exhausting and acrobatic moves.  Unfamiliar with the motions of the lyra, as I moved into positions, the lyra circled endlessly, carrying me along in its orbit. The process involved finding a pose and holding as the lyra turned and revealed different angles for the camera.  I focused on dynamic poses, inspired by the acrobatic nature of the history of this prop. The timing of the shutter was everything, as at one moment I would be in an ideal position and at the next moment the angles would change for better or worse.  By the end of the session, I was in need of ginger ale to calm my queasy stomach and my muscles had tired from pulling myself up and down and around on the ring, and that was the sensation of success. 

Photographed by Chip Bulgin

Since that shoot, the occasion to use a lyra again has arisen only a few times.  My session this past year was part of a longer shoot with Jeff Bevis of Long Island with only about fifteen minutes to play before stopping for dinner (from past experience I deemed necessity a lyra then food order of operations).  This time, I was able to get up and down on the lyra with minimal spinning, and no nausea was experienced.  This could be due to the manner in which the lyra was connected, or my increased familiarity with the hoop. My background was much more restrictive to elongated poses, so I focused on poses which kept my limbs fairly compact and mood calm.

Photographed by Jeff Bevis
Edited by model with permission

I have spent the past few months working out at the gym, and my arms and upper back muscles are more developed. Anyone have a lyra and a studio they can safely mount a lyra in? I believe the time to get back on a lyra has come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Anyone can be photographed. To be a good model, more is needed.

Anyone can model. If you are willing to reveal yourself in front of a camera, be watched, documented visually, then you are modeling. To be a good model, you need to have a presence.

There is beauty in the honest unpolished vision of someone who first embarks in the journey as model.  For creating art, the authenticity of a model who is willing to be present and genuine will shine through. Not every style of photography will do justice to the person who is new and uncertain.  Artists have the most success with revealing the true beauty of a woman; they most often can see a person for who they are. Photographers who create a comfortable environment and are able to embolden their subject will bring out the best for their photographs. Photographers who look at a woman and want to see them as an idealized version of a woman will be less likely to create good images with a new model.

The artist's model
Photographed by Charlie Freeman
Summer 2008
One of my first nude shoots with the wonderfully kind man Charlie Freeman who told stories with his art and saw my potential. Regrettably, he has since passed.

The emotion and mental state of an unguarded model will always be revealed in a photo.  Looking through my earlier photos, my body looks good but my face looks uncertain. I had not yet learned I was beautiful and my questioning look became part of portraits. Or I was unsure what to do, and my lack of confidence showed. Occasionally, this flaw is the feature that makes a photo interesting and good.

The glamour images I was pushed into during my exploratory months as a model are farcical.  The photos reveal a girl without any confidence, attempting to look sexy with fear in her face. Glamour photography requires a model have a semblance of understanding of their beauty, even if only for the time during which they shoot. Fortunately, to be an artist and a model, one does not need to be traditionally beautiful to create wonderful photos, so those who wish to model but lack vanity can more easily enter the world of modeling through art.

Photographed by Marc H

As an artist, the pursuance of art is what led me down the path of modeling. I had confidence in my body, but did not understand I was at all beautiful. I did not know how to move in front of a camera and what was expected as a model.

With time, I learned what to do. I had confidence and put myself out there without a question mark. I practiced, received feedback, and became a good model. I was determined, relaxed and embracing what I did.

As models learn how to model, what they can bring to a shoot increases. They can project the persona needed for the kind of shoot they are doing.  As multifaceted individuals, models embrace certain sides of themselves, be it elegance, sex appeal/sex-kitten, experimentalist, fetishist, warrior, or really, anything when need be.

Anyone can be photographed. Anyone can learn how to model. Like all activities worth pursuing, you have to learn how to be a consistently good model.

Photographed by TLGEE

Photographed by Daniel Burnstein

Photographed by Robert Weissner

Photographed by Steve Lease

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Perfect outdoors shooting weather

Photographed by Linda Hollinger
Photographed at the Ivy Lee Philadelphia Workshop

The weather is perfect for outdoors shoots right now. Most traveling models time their road trips through certain areas to have ideal weather when in town, but this causes an unintentional caravan of sorts. One after another, parading through a region. When in population dense areas, that works out well, but some areas cannot support an influx of too many models. We understand photographers have a limited amount of budget and time for photography, so we relish in the shoots we get to do and often move fast through a region. Working with those who most want to work with us, and knowing our probability of returning is tied to how our trip goes. What makes a trip successful is not always counted in number of shoots, but experiences, but a balance of income and expenses is always necessary. Most experienced models will find work, but may have to drive farther and spend more hours networking to make their trip happen.

Five years ago I drove west from the east coast, and traveled through Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, before heading south back to Texas. The drive was long, but I was seeing parts of the country I had never seen before. This year I am taking a weeklong break in Texas to fully rest and reinvigorate my zest for travel. I’ve timed this break perfectly to lay around in sweltering heat, but I departed Texas in May and have been on the road since then and needed to see a week without travel in my schedule to continue.

I decided I wanted to see the Midwest again. This trip will take me to places I had not traveled to before. The time of year is perfect for travel in the Midwest and I look forward to many outdoors shoots. The region will be crowded, but little by little my schedule is filling. Feel free to pop an email my way if you want me to detour to you while on this exploratory jaunt.


MIDWEST (dates and locations are somewhat flexible at this point) 
Cleveland, Oh: July 31 
Michigan: August 1 - 5 
Chicago/Peoria: Aug 5 - 9
Indianapolis/Bloomington, IN: Aug 10
Cincinnati/Columbus: Aug 11 - 12 
Kentucky: Aug 13
St. Louis, Mo: Aug 14 - 16
Memphis, TN: Aug 17
Little Rock, AR: Aug 18

Photographed by Linda Hollinger

Insects: Ticks in the grass and Ladybugs.....oh my

Ticks. They live in the grass. And can bite my ass.

The evil tick from today

But they prefer to attach themselves to the warmer, hidden bits of the body, where they feed on our blood.  Earlier this year, I found a tiny one at the edge of my pubic hair after a photoshoot in a natural location full of plants.  One year I had one in my knee pit. A couple of weeks ago, after a shoot in Maine, I watched another nearby hiker flap around, stripping off clothing and yelling about the numerous ticks all over his body. My own search yielded none, but I had primarily been on mossy rocks near the stream, and he had traversed through tall grasses.

Today I finished lounging at the backyard of a friend’s home, and when I pulled my hair into a bun I found a hideous lump on my scalp. Further investigation led to me pulling out a puffy tick. This sucker had been feasting on my blood. I should have squashed him, or bagged him, but I took a photo and found myself a health clinic. Pennsylvania is going through a tick season with a high rate of Lyme disease and that is not something to be messed around with. My dose of antibiotics should do the trick, assuming this guy had not been on me too long. I'll remain confident in this until shown a reason to feel otherwise.


Photographed by Anthony Alberts

While on the topic of insects, here are some zany photos of me with ladybugs. Creativity and art manifests itself in so many ways. 

When I was little, I was on a family vacation, hiking with my family in the woods of Northern California, when we found a nest of a zillion ladybugs. Being a young, animal obsessed child, I picked up these adorable insects by the handful. I laden my body with them. Ladybugs crawled everywhere. 

A little while later I was screaming. One was in my ear and he was taking a tour of his surroundings. This was not comfortable.

My dad humored me by sticking a straw in my ear and sucking really hard. Nothing came out, therefore, there was no insect in there. My nurse mother, assumed I had an ear infection, and pulled out a medicated ear dropper recently used by my brother. A little medicine would calm the pain.

The drops did help, but I still hurt. There was something inhabiting my ear canal. I was invaded. 

We found a medical clinic after returning to our cabin, left my brothers in care of my sister and went there that night. A man came tearing in with a plastic bag with a couple of fingers wrapped inside. He had worked at a Chinese restaurant and been overzealous with his knife. He was seen immediately as we would all hope. While waiting, my mother was offered a microscope and lo and behold, a little ladybug lay collapsed in my ear.

Hours later, the staff flushed out the ladybug with a syringe of water. We were informed that all that was needed was a little flashlight, and we could have guided the lost ladybug back into the world, with a little more faith in a child's proclamations.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

The comforts. On sleeping.

Lush morning comfort

Perched, cross-legged on a chair in Starbucks, finishing my coffee, I watch the line of people enter. People dressed in suits, slacks, formal dresses and heels, and those in hiking boots, shorts and t-shirts. My sweats and comfy sweater seem out of place. I have been awake since 5:26 in the morning, when the shining sun filled my car, parked tucked into a corner besides a drive-through only Duncan donuts and some nondescript businesses which were closed for the day. I had sleeping options, but a long morning commute with traffic, or shooting in a grungy Motel 6 in exchange for lodging, or adding an extra hour detour to my morning did not seem worth the time when I could drive to my general shooting area, sleep in my car and have the morning to myself. I do not do this often, but occasionally it is my preference. I had a comfortable bed the other night, and will have a couch tonight and accommodations for the foreseeable future, so a night crumpled in my car is a reminder about my youth, vitality and how fortunate I am to be living with a bit more freedom than some people, even if it means cramped quarters. I can still afford my Starbucks coffee (the $2.25 drip, not the fancy coffee, mind you) and breakfast sandwich, but the overpriced Boston-area hotels hardly seem worthwhile when I will be climbing around rocks and trees soon after waking.

My timer is ringing. I must now dunk my head in the bathroom sink, run my fingers through my hair and drive to the park where I will spend the morning creating art with my form entangled in nature.

 These are a few self-portraits taken on my final morning in Houston, moments before hopping in my car to begin this season’s road trip. I’m long overdue for another self-portrait session.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hello. Gulf Coast, Mississippi

The scene before I took off my clothes

Where did I go?
I didn't get covered in snow,
or plowed over by a hoe,
I'm just going with the flow,
Which means free time, no.


And welcome back to the Keira Grant
one-woman show.

Photographed by Billy Dugger

Just messing around my my iphone timer while the photographer walked back to the car for more camera memory card

Lunch afterwards. Po-boys. Not the "model dinner for a model", but Billy's model's dinner.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Healthy Food Choices on the Road

A moment of Déjà vu passed over me. I had seen this view before while sitting in a parking lot one evening. Straight ahead, a gas station within the lot; to my left, a huge building stretching almost a block, a Walmart superstore; and to my right, the large, yellow, curved “M” on a post signaling a McDonalds.  Today, these appear be the cornerstones of small towns in middle America.

Driving through rural areas, the arrival to a town is often signaled by a food and gas sign at the side of the freeway. These signs encourage you to exit and fill your car with gas at Texaco or Valero or any of the largest gas station chains, and feed your hunger with McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, or Subway. The products remain remotely the same everywhere.  To an average driver, the accessibility of a gas station is likely the biggest factor in if they will stop or continue driving. Gas price, although varying only slightly within region, and familiarity with the coffee, or other convenience store goods may also influence if someone decides to wait until the next station. Fast food comes in different varieties, but fast food chains all fit in one terrible category – fast food. In more metropolitan regions there are healthy versions of fast food, but what is found in small towns, right off the freeway fits the core definition. This food is convenient, processed, packed with calories and formulated to be tasty. Even health food fans sometimes admit they enjoy an occasional indulgence, but those who are road tripping, plagued with hunger, and watching their route stretch on will read sign after sign offering the same solution to their appetite.

So how are we supposed to make healthy food decisions while on the road? Sometimes a place to pull over to for a short break from driving and a chance to replenish our bodies is absolutely necessary.

My solution involves a grocery store visit where healthier snacks are more available. The caveat is finding a place to sit with this food. My car is essentially my magical home on wheels and I can sit there in a pinch, but my bottom usually needs to feel a different chair and my eyes want a change of scenery. Sometimes I head to a fast food chain, buy myself a coffee, and eat my yogurt or other food while in the corner, watching. I used to drive around with protein shakes until I stopped consuming artificial sugars. I would bring a warm shake into a fast food chain, buy a cup of coffee to pay for my right to sit in their establishment, and ask for a cup of ice. The ice cooled my car-warmed shake and essentially improved the flavor. I have grown fond of buying yogurts, pre-cooked hardboiled eggs, boxes of lettuce, hummus, apples, bananas and avocados to supplement bags of nuts, protein/nut bars and the occasional bit of dried turkey. Lettuce is my substitute for crackers; essentially calorie free, important nutritionally, and naturally lightly flavored. I find I am able to eat lettuce throughout my day so when I do decide to buy a meal, I do not have to worry about still needing to get some vegetables that day. Your favorite, simple, healthy foods may be different from mine, but the idea is to buy whole foods with real nutrition, rather than processed food.

My resolve to eat healthy, to keep my body in the condition I prefer to see in my photos, sometimes fails. Even I cave on occasion and purchase fast food. But the way I feel afterwards reminds me why I stay away. My hunger is replaced by an unending thirst, and I am not even certain I am satisfied. I could teach my body to accept fast food, but the idea of forcing my body to adjust to unhealthy food would be crazy. Unhealthy food does not give me the energy I need to function at my best.

By being conscious about what I eat while literally on the road, I am able to be a little less selective when in a restaurant situation. Sometimes a pastry with a coffee is essential to my happiness, or having a real meal at a sit down restaurant when faced with the opportunity and time. Overall healthy eating allows us to make indulgences, and periodically we need this.

(One night out with a friend - ramen with a zillion calories of goodness, brussel sprouts and sake)

There are times when we feel completely helpless in the battle against our American food options, as we are bombarded with visions of temptation and occasionally they seem like the only option. I may not be able to avoid what our nation now offers readily, but I can push myself to making healthier decisions.  For me, a couple of days of practical eating are worthwhile for the energy, physical fitness and the reward of a great meal without any worry about the calories or fat later on.

Just a bit of food for thought.

Photographed by NRS Photo