Friday, August 22, 2014

Homebase?


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
Virginia

Friday, August 15, 2014

Perils of outdoors shooting

Photographed by JCP Photogray
Boone, NC

Last night I reviewed the photos on the back of my collaborating photographer’s camera and saw a red line slashed across the back of my right ankle. I had not seen this mark before and when I inspected my ankle, there bumpy and red was the sure sign of poison ivy. I knew I had about 9 horsefly bites decorating my body with colorful round welts, which came about during several hours of submerging myself partially in river water, twisting around model Blue River Dream and holding gracefully as Steven Billups carefully waited for the water ripples to calm and photographed us with film, but this rash was new.

When spring approaches and until the last signs of warm fall, I encourage photographers to take advantage of the warm weather to photograph me outside. The chance of an unusual chilly day, or rogue summer storm is always a possibility, but generally a less than optimal weather day during the summer will trump a typical winter day in regards to outdoors shooting conditions.  The natural environment allows for a distinct backdrop, complete with original “props,” or rocks, trees, plants and other surprising elements, which lay there awaiting your artistic sightings.  Nature can provide a complete playground for photography, but a little consideration to the potential problems should be applied.

Unless you have permission to use a site for nude photography, unappreciative onlookers who may notify the authorities, or even the police themselves need to be looked out for. All of my shoots on a location are artistic in nature, but my idea of art is absolute blasphemy to some people. In some states, a bare bottom, a bit of fuzzy bush, or a little nipple may be enough to put you in jail or on the sex offenders’ list, or on the less extreme, result in an unwanted fine. In my 5 years as a professional model, I have had two worrisome encounters with police, one with a security guard, and countless onlooker sightings. After 20 minutes being separated from my photographer conspirator, and questioned by the police, I learned early on that once spotted by a disapproving person at a location, you best leave before the cops can arrive. I also learned my first summer of modeling that even if a location has never had onlookers, there will always be a first time when there is someone sharing the space and they may not always share your views on nudity as art.


Rob Randall
Boone, NC

A bit of prudence will help with outdoors nudes.  Open ears, eyes and awareness is indispensable. Always having a dress that easily goes on and off in the case of warning signs of a person approaching is essential. If shooting outdoors on public land, you will be glad your dress went on in less than 30 seconds when a person shows up soundlessly around the bend in the path.  Some people may spot you and be unperturbed, but in the case of being seen, you can feel out the vibe of the person. Some will find enjoyment in a beautiful sighting, but others will be deeply offended and on occasion, an onlooker will smile and seem happy, but still pick up their phone to call the police once they are out of your sight. Many professional models are willing to push the boundaries of where they can shoot, but ultimately a model’s comfort is the most important. A photographer is a partner in a shoot, but in reality the model is the nude party and the one who faces any legal problems, in the event of a worst case scenario.

The great thing about the outdoors are the plants and animals which live there, but these things can be the worst elements as well. Insects are expected to be found outdoors and to seek their meals where they reside, and when we come into their paths, we may become their dinner. Dousing yourself in bug repellent may not smell beautiful, but the welts of insect bites ultimately look and feel much worse than a day of chemical smell in your nostrils.  There will always be some sites which are more insect ridden than others, and sometimes amazing nooks are where the most mosquitos hide and may make for incredible photos but the cost of week long mosquito bite marks may not be a good enough win to warrant shooting in such a location. The model’s discretion must be heeded as she may show up to other shoots with a handful of marks from the elements, but there is a limit to how many marks is seen as professionally acceptable. There is always another location to shoot in, so if that dark, bug ridden cave is ruled out, continue with your scouting and use a bit of creativity to find the angle with another area.

I learned about poison ivy the hard way, stupidly twisting within the beautiful plant for some photos.  As nice as they are, I cannot look at the photos from the poison ivy afternoon. I am now cautiously watchful of poison ivy or other poison plants when outdoors.  My newfound poison ivy rash proves that even prudence is not enough when outdoors in the woods every handful of days, and hopping around to avoid poison plants is helpful but will not fully prevent exposure. A cool shower, then washing off with soap with cool water will help remove the oils, but will not completely help those prone to reaction. I have heard alcohol wipes help, and that there are specific products which are helpful but need to look further into this. I have prescribed myself antihistamines and daily cortisone cream to help with my horsefly bites and poison ivy rash, and a bit of faith that the systemic rash will not spread too far.  As of this morning, my rash is well contained and not something which will affect any of my upcoming shoots.

Outdoors shoots often include walking and waiting time – a model will likely not be nude the entire time. For slightly more public places, waiting for other people in the area to come and go, will always be part of a shoot, but this time can be used to figure out light and scout out the best angles and possibilities. For photographers who will not be satisfied unless are snapping photos of a nude model the entire duration of a shoot, I do not recommend outdoors shoots in most locations; but for photographers who understand photography as a creative, artistic process, outdoors can be an ideal setting.

As I scamper on rocks and climb trees, I am always careful to not hurt myself, but a few marks are often inevitable. I am little and nimble, but sometimes choose to move slowly to avoid dragging my skin on abrasive surfaces, more for the sake of my following shoots than my current one. I look at the environment as a puzzle to fit myself within and sometimes that involves exploration rather than immediate posing.  There are a handful of factors with outdoors modeling which I must be heedful to, but the chance to be in nature creating art makes me an extremely happy model. And models who are happy and inspired are the best muses.


 
Tree climbing
David Nonetknowles photography
Berkeley, CA


Eric Lowenburg
Bay Area, CA

Beauty Outdoors Photography
Baltimore, MD



  These two images from a nudist camp
Dave Lewis
Seattle, WA





Thursday, August 7, 2014

Models as Artists and Athletes

This morning I am reminded how taxing modeling can be on my body. I woke up feeling as though I had done a full workout with my upper back satisfyingly sore, but also with my lower back and legs stiff and screaming. I popped a pill for the pain, stretched a little and will do a bit of yoga once my breakfast digests. I know I have begun a full tour and am completely consumed with modeling once my body has hit this point, and while I have been considering my tour pace rather even, I have been busy shooting with people who inspire me to push myself to my fullest to create the best images possible. My style of art modeling is athletic in nature. I pose in such a way to evoke the impression I may be experienced in ballet; I create strong lines which show off musculature or curves; I bend over backwards or twist my limbs in every direction possible. In a flexibility contest with a yogi, I would lose, but I push myself to use every bit of strength and length of my body to create lines with my form. As a newer model, I was sculpted from the gym, but these days I keep my strength and form through walking and hiking, yoga, exercising within the homes where I stay (crunches, push ups and a few other calisthenics), schlepping overly heavy modeling bags and of course while modeling. I have considered a new gym membership, but with other ways to keep in shape and the possibility of leaving the country for a large portion of the following year, this nomad is less inclined to make a full year commitment to any gym. As I have been gaining flexibility due to my current practice, less emphasis on weight lifting and more on strengthening through yoga and calisthenics seems like the wise decision.

I have worked with a couple of photographers who have told me to, "relax but hold that pose," and I always laugh at the irony of this phrase. All of the photos below required varying amounts of strength, and while some of the poses are more relaxed looking, I was actually holding myself in a way that does not come naturally. The first example I fortunately had my facial expression hidden as I maintained the position for several angles of photos, as the photographer also needed to maneuver himself around rocks. The second photo looks relaxed, but I was precariously balanced and holding myself within rocks - the graceful expression was added for the elegance of the photo. The piano photo was not particularly athletic, but I did a series of photos on this piano, propping myself up in mysterious ways as I danced with the piano. The window photo was a pose the photographer requested - I have done this position before and my knees never thank me, but the photos do look good. And the last example exaggerates my thigh because of the distance in the foreground, but show an example of how dynamic a pose can be. Of course, some photos can be classically elegant and not require too much strength, but stretching of limbs, arching of backs and sucking in of stomaches, and pointing of toes or standing on toes keeps our bodies actively engaged. A simple back arch photo may seem easy enough, and is not difficult to do, but to even hold a back arch our muscles are engaged.


 Photographed by Andrew Kaiser
Portland, Oregon

Photographed by Depth of Life Photo
Arkansas

 Photographed by EDF Photography
Baltimore, MD

 Photographed by Mariah Carle
Berkeley, CA

Jim Clark
Raleigh, NC


Modeling requires immense work, but is something I happily do to create the best images possible. I decided at one point in time that I needed to focus on paid work not only because of my human time limits and need for sleep, but because I want to be able to push myself physically for all of my shoots and if doing this, I also needed a bit of down time between shoots to allow my body to rest. I find stretching and hot showers imperative to a happy body, but the time I spend not pushing my body to its limits is also helpful. Some shoots may be a relaxed pace, but other shoots are essentially a complete physical workout for the entire duration of my booking. Good massage is helpful for keeping my body from screaming at me, but unfortunately finding a good masseuse while on the road is something I have yet to have done, even if I finally located a sports masseuse in Houston who has done wonders for my body. 

Art models are artists, but also athletes, and must take care of their bodies as well as their minds and souls in order to be the best muses possible in any artistic collaboration. My pain has been dulled, and the time to stretch out my muscles before another day of shooting and too many hours cramped up in a car on the way to and from a shoot (today I have six to seven hours round trip in a car to shoot out at a beach) has come. Going from working my muscles in a shoot to sitting in a car is one of the most physically difficult logistics of this job, but in order to get to some great locations to work in, sometimes the distances are unavoidable. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Models photographing models - August 9 Workshop

Upcoming workshops:

I am currently the MIR at the Atomic Canary, which means I sleep in the lovely studio of Carly Erin, hang out in the main space doing emails, yoga, preparing for shoots, shooting, eating and have an existence somewhat like a normal human being for the duration of my time here. I have a couple of busy days, but my schedule is much more relaxed than I had expected. One of my shoots has been cancelled, so instead of taking the MARC train down to DC to create some art with a photographer I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting, I will continue with my email regimen and perhaps edit a couple of photos which are in need of editing. Being able to focus on my own work while in the studio space of another person is quite difficult as there is the buzz of others, and often conversations are directed at me even when I am trying to delve into my own projects. I can work with considerable noise around me, but when my engagement in other activities is needed, I find myself unable to multitask efficiently. Writing more is on my list for these next few days - if more blogs appear, that may be a sign of my ability to push past impeding chatter.

 Ivy Lee
***

While here I will be doing the Assateaugue Island shoot tomorrow where I will be frolicking and modeling on the beach and shore with a couple of excellent models and a handful of photographers.

I also have a great workshop that is worth checking out. I am working with Carly Erin in a workshop called Learn how to Pose the Muse where we will photograph one another, then have photographers photograph us separately and together. The idea is to provide insight on how two models who are also photographers (Carly much more than I am) work with models. This is scheduled for August 9 from 10 am to 1 pm at the AtomicCanary Studio in Baltimore. I am looking forward to the opportunity to demonstrate a little how I work as a photographer, as I often feel models have a bit of a different shooting style and ability to communicate with other models when they are in the role of photographer.



 Mauvais



Carly Erin

Romanhi Rose


Monday, July 28, 2014

DC Area Workshops August 7 and 10

I have a couple of workshops coming up in the DC Area and would love to see more people come out for them. These are small groups and about individualistic shooting, rather than a big shoot out. The best art is created between model and photographer, and that is the emphasis of these shoots.

***


Photographed by Brooke Lynn
Saint Merrique and Keira Grant
Rossland, Canada
****

Thursday, August 7 in the afternoon and evening, I am involved in a beach shoot with a couple other models, on Assateague Island. The other models involved are:
Keira Grant:
http://www.modelmayhem.com/799498
http://keiragrant.tumblr.com/
St. Merrique
http://www.modelmayhem.com/772043
http://stmerrique.tumblr.com
The group is limited to 6 photographers and the $300 fee for the workshop includes all of the models' travel time (rather far from DC and Baltimore) and a full 4+ hours of shooting time in rotation with the four of us models. I have heard about this location and seen images for years, and am excited to finally be able to reach this beautiful beach where I can shoot nude art images without problems. I know the location is a bit of a drive and trek, but this promises to be a wonderful shoot. If interested, contact me at keiragrant@gmail.com or contact ChipBulgin directly at chip.bulgin@comcast.net

David Nonetknowles Photo
Berkeley, CA

 Andrew Kaiser
Portland, OR

Ken Prevette
Utah

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