Thursday, February 28, 2013

La Paz

When I went to Argentina for a couple of months about two years ago, my first couple of days I was not only rather sick and overwhelmed, but the person I stayed with was less than welcoming to me. I am extremely familiar with as a networking site to find great people to stay with on my journeys, but even well networked sites will have the occasional person with an unkind personality. My desire to prevent a repeat of my initial South American experience, I booked a homestay via AirBnB. That was how I came to stay with a family in La Paz, during my first three nights in Bolivia.

With my own room booked I knew I would have a place to mellow out as I got over the shock of the elevation on my body and the dose of culture shock as well. My room was dimly lit at night, but super cozy with a huge stack of blankets to keep me warm. Only after my first day did I realize the three young children in the family shared a room with their parents during my stay as the "guest room" I had rented was actually their room. My time in the home gave me a true Bolivian family experience with morning breakfasts consisting of bread and tea or coffee, and the main meal a hearty starch-heavy lunch. This family also ate bread and tea/hot cocoa for their evening meal, which seemed excessive in the bread department for me. Each day I took a few hours of Spanish lessons from my host who also had 20 years experience teaching Spanish, and spent a bit of time playing with the children and watching tv programs in English, in Spanish and dubbed in Spanish, all with and without subtitles. Carnival was still going on in my first few days and walking down the street without getting pelted with water balloons, water from water guns or shaving cream time foam was nearly impossible (entertaining my first hour but I quickly tired of foam in my ears as an innocent passerby). As carnival was going on and getting wet on the street nearly avoidable, I primarily walked in the opposite direction while in town and missed some of the museums, but do believe I will be back for a few days before heading to Lake Tititcaca.

One of my friends describes Bolivia as "the place where the people where funny hats," and to me this holds some truth. As a land highly influenced by Spain, some of the traditional wardrobe is thusly influenced. The season was summer in La Paz but with the elevation it still felt rather chilly, so their clothing (and mine) reflected that. What amazes me most about the manner of dress in Bolivia is how there is a portion of society dressing in a modern manner not so unlike people in the US, and a whole other portion of the people living in a more traditional manner and dressing in traditional clothes. How these two types of people can live side by side is what fascinates me. Traditional wear includes a basic, modest shirt, a skirt (often with pleats but not always) that gives the impression of slightly larger hips, hair in two braids and a colorful cloth which can be transformed into a bag for carrying anything from immense amounts of vegetables to babies.

As carnival was occurring, I was able to see traditional dance and feel the festive vibe of the city. As far as going out at night to drink and be debaucherous, I had none of that, choosing to stay indoors to chat with the family, rest (get climatized and used to the time change), study a little and fight with the disappointingly cold shower. Perhaps all the bread I was consuming was another factor in my exhaustion at such an early hour.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


When I started modeling I grew out an "art model shrubbery," as the market I wanted to work in essentially required that I have a bit of pubic hair coving. Before I commenced modeling I spent some time without pubic hair, and some with, and rather flopped at random every few years because of one reason or another. (One reason being a platonic friend from my nude beach suggesting in passing as I showered and he brushed his teeth, that I should shave and me saying, "ok, hand me a razor," and him grabbing mine from my bag and passing it my way. Afterward he told me he preferred me with my hair, but I didn't much care either way.) I used to be entirely unaware of how different a girl looks with or without hair, as for me the most important features on a lady are not between her legs, but after years of modeling I am far more cognisant of such things. When I see a photo of a nude female model I find a bit of pubic hair can help pull attention away from her lady bits, which often is a plus, but for some erotic art may be a negative.

I started growing out my hair when I realized I would get more of the kind of work I wanted to do, and have a bit of privacy for my female bits in my photos. But also, because I am rather slender and have a sleek but less than curvy form, a bit of texture in the form of my shrubbery seems to break up my lines better so I don't appear to look like a stick. During my time modeling my shrubbery changes a little depending upon my whims and when I cut it, and on occasion in correlation to requests of some specific shooters but I absolutely always maintain some hair. My "shrubbery" is part of my "look," along with my thinness, slim musculature, and big, curly head of hair.
I have grown accustomed to this "look," and have little desire to make great changes in my form, save for maybe becoming a bit stronger and at times leaner (but I'm talking a kilo or two, not much and only after periods of too much chocolate consumption).

I had intended on making my South American journey a year earlier but as life happens, plans change. Before that trip I had talked, mainly in jest, about making a shaved tour, but for some reason felt a level of discomfort with this idea. I'm super comfortable with my body, but after seeing myself so many hours and years with a bit of shrubbery, the idea of photos without sounded less than ideal. Part of me thought that marketing this change could be difficult or confusing or that photographers could change their overall impression of me. All for only chopping off a little bush. I of course did not shave, nor did I go to South America last year, but this year I did.

The day before I departed for La Paz, I shaved off my cherished "shrubbery." I did not do this for any shoots but rather because I could and was curious how I would perceive myself after years of conditioning my concept of my image. Shaving was distressing - I required a strong drink to calm myself. And the view afterwards was a bit unnerving. I officially had taught myself one view of myself and this was quite a change, and not one I liked.

In shedding myself of my art model shrubbery I felt I had removed the Keira nude model from my identity. The next day I would jump on a plane and be far removed from my modeling world.

I immediately allowed my hair to grow back in, and I finally feel comfortable with the meager length of hair I have. I may still only spend 6 days nude a day as I shower and dress, but at least my body is back to Keira Grant standards.

Would I be willing to shave for some shoot in the future? Perhaps. This would depend upon the project and the price tag, as there is a wretched in-between stage where I would be unable to work and honestly, I prefer my image as I usually market myself.

/end "shrubbery" discussion unless you have any questions.

The art of arrival, or lack there of

Hola a todos!

I arrived safely in La Paz, Bolivia about two and a half weeks ago after a grueling two day ordeal with the airports. As you may remember, I slept in the front foyer of LAX for a few cold and restless hours before I was able to check in to my flight. Once past the gate my adventure had commenced. After an uneventful first leg of the journey, I arrived in Mexico City where I passed through fully Spanish speaking customs and had to check in and wait numerous hours before my flight to Lima. Once on that plane, I sat and waited with all the passengers and watched as minutes became longer and longer and the stuffiness and humidity o the cabin increased. After about an hour or so, the flight was fully cancelled and we all had to leave the plane. This is where a bit of panic for everyone set in. The flight was composed almost exclusively of Spanish speakers except for about 6 people, including myself. While not completely devoid of Spanish study, I had been without for two years and understanding hurried announcements was not within my capability. For the next series of hours I waited nearby in desperation that I could follow the crowds to wherever we were sent for morsels of information. The day crept on and eventually in a stroke of luck I figured out where the group was sent for dinner and information. Of course the stipend for the meal and the cost of the meal differed greatly and I had to spend a few of my treasured US bills on my meal, but at least fed and slightly more hopeful, or rather in the company of other disheartened people, I knew whatever information would come our way would be something I would be privy to as well. And lo and behold, we were being taxied to a hotel to spend the night (the time was now about 10:30 pm and my original flight from Mexico City about 4 pm). Once at the hotel I showered (oh the restorative effects of a hot shower!) and went to bed. We were due to be brought back to the airport early the next day to have tickets sorted.

The next morning was a whole other batch of mess, but after a slowly moving line with way too many people cutting to ask questions (I imagine the line would have slowly paced forward if all those pushy people had been made to wait) I had a ticket in hand moments before my flight and was boarding the plane soon after. And onward to Lima we went.

Once at Lima, I had about a 9 hour wait before my flight to La Paz. Fortunately we were able to wait in a lobby so I started my Spanish reading, consumed far too much starchy snacks and napped on the floor. By 1:50 am my flight to La Paz was ready to depart. And this leg went smoothly. At about 5:30 am I arrived in La Paz, Bolivia, hardly awake and exhausted. Clearing customs was not too difficult, except I learned they are super picky about the condition and series numbers of the bills they accept for their visas so one after another I had to pull out different bills after being told my $100 was the wrong series and my $20 bills with a slight tear unacceptable. Thank goodness I brought more than the bare essential.

Cleared through customs, and $135 lighter in my wallet, I was ready to taxii to my first destination. The taxi driver overcharged me by almost double and had to stop to ask for directions two times, but I did arrive to my place. And after trekking up a long flight of stairs, huffing a bit due to the elevation, I was invited inside, had a cup of tea and passed out on my bed.

This was two and a half weeks ago. I shall update you on more of my journey soon. As I watch the people in my Sucre, Bolivia hostel type and study on their minicomputers I find myself wishing I had brought mine, but alas, there was a day before all this technology (I'm sure I will lament about this numerous times).

Friday, February 8, 2013

LA and the airport

The time is 4 am and I am at LAX. I have been here at the terminal since just past one, having been dropped off and unfortunately unable to check in until 4:30 am. Most of my few hours were spent sprawled on a bench with earplugs blocking out the sound of the cleaning crew and my layers of clothing doing a marginal attempt at keeping my still body warm. Being stuck on the other side of the gate would have been preferable, but I am now feeling slightly rested, my stomach is full from the leftovers I packed from dinner, and a sweet voice is filling the air as another early arriver sings in the corner with her guitar. Since I arrived there have been cranky, weary travellers milling around, feeling highly diagruntled with their status in the in between, but my mood is different. While traveling can mean frustrations at times, those who are in limbo at the airport do not realize the fortune which lays upon many of them - the ability to travel.

I spent my final day in the US with my friend Rebecca Lawrence. Our afternoon and evening in Los Angeles began with a bit of panic about final preparations for my trip, but after that was out of the way we continued with a tour of LA. Venice was first with a visit to the shore for sunset, then an impromptu palm reading. I have long been keen on getting a palm reading for the entertainment value, and at the price point of this wan, I officially had my first palm reading experience. It was about as unmonumental as I expected and I am fairly certain she could not even see our palms in the dark of the room as she glanced down and made jusgements of us based upon our appearance and demeanor. Next was Santa Monica where we looked for parking for much too long and finally settled upon a garage and found Wasteland, which quite possibly is the most fantastic used clothing store I have seen in a while. Seeing as I am going out of the country, I primarily watched Rebecca as she tried on a huge armful of new wardrobe. Dinner time had come, so downtown was next on our tour. With parking accomplished, we settled on a cute restaurant with Brazilian food and wine. The meal was tasty but not as savory as expected. A bar, the Edison, gave us the full LA vibe experience with a live singer and band and two hot dancers. The music was good enough to keep us there watching and listening despite the mediocre drink which had an aftertaste of Flinstones kids vitamins. Watching the people mill around in their perfectly done hair and black dresses on the women and black suits on the men reminded me that I am a bit too casual to be a LA person. Our tour could not end there though - a quick drive through Hollywood capped off our evening before I was brought to the airport where I am now.

And look, I think check in time has just about come. See you on the other side of the gate.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Shut the computer, please

Photographed by Dave Lewis
Seattle, WA - January 2013

Sometimes you just have to shut your computer. Tomorrow I depart to LA for one final day in the US. With my packing up and leaving San Francisco, my Nikon D80 which I rarely use, my computer which I always use and my pretty, little bits of lacy wardrobe which I sometimes use will all be left behind. I feel the pull to keep editing photos from this past month and post them online to share since I know a long while will pass before I have the opportunity to play with images again, but at this point I would be wise to just go to bed. Before I board that plane, I have a few more early morning errands to run, and I would like to be somewhat rested in the next few days.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Decorating models

Seattle, WA - January 2013

Take a close look at this photo and you will see what can happen when some products are used as body decorations for photo shoots. Years ago I went on a rant about not painting a model with acrylic paint, and citing that just because something is "non-toxic" does not mean that the product is "safe for body." I came out with a huge rash years ago when I was painted with non-toxic acrylic paint and since then I have been a stickler about only allowing actual bodypaint to be painted on me for shoots. I have since then learned I am not allergic to latex, so latex paint is fine on my body, but must be kept a small distance away from my pubic hairs for obvious reasons. 

This past month I learned about another thing my body is clearly allergic to - electrical tape. Some clubs have been decorating models with electrical tape to give them snazzy, sexy outfits, and a few photographers have started incorporating this into photoshoots. I tried this out with a good photographer friend and while peeling off the tape after shooting felt like ripping off a bandaid from all over my body, the sensation of the pulling tape was the least of my problems. I immediately broke out into a rash, and by a stroke of luck my friend had pregnesone on him as well as cortisone cream. While rope marks for a short amount of time might be fun, this semi-permanent rash of red stripes was horrifyingly stressful because the next photographers I would be working with clearly would not expect or enjoy a zebra-like model. My short dose of medicine as well as fortunately relaxed work schedule meant my rash proved to be a minor problem, but without these small fortunates, this would have been disastrous.

This was just my little reminder about your models being real people with real reactions to the substances you may decorate them with and the conditions you put them under for shoots.

(Side note to Dave - you know I think you are wonderfully respectful and sometimes accidents happen. Rash aside, I still can't wait to shoot with you again and see what new trouble we can cook up).