Nude models and relationship complications

I’ve worked with many nude models over the past decade, and I hear about relationship / insecurity / trust issues a lot that they have to deal with. Both those I’ve personally worked with and on the Model Mayhem forums. Like with anything, I have worked with some who are complete drama queens and their life will be a mess, their modeling has nothing to do with that. And others are very educated and polished, and have their affairs in order. But to do nude modeling of any kind takes at least somewhat of a free spirit, which I think is a good thing. First, let’s address why models choose nude modeling. They love modeling but do not meet height requirements for fashion or commercial modeling, and feel liberated without wardrobe hassles. Many love the art and do it for a hobby, and some supplemental income. The schedule can be flexible and it can help with college or other expenses. Others are professional traveling models who plan tours to different cities, and they go if they can generate enough interest of people who will hire them in that area.

Now, depending on the nature of the shoot and the release / terms of use contract between the model and photographer, images can be used for portfolio development, gallery showings or art print sales, selling images licenses online, publications, etc. With that said, a model who does this work knows how to promote herself, and how to bypass deals that don’t feel right. Also they know how to keep things professional during shoots etc. They aren’t there to hook up with the photographer or anyone else. It’s a job, like any other. Model does her job well, takes care of her body, works out and gets proper rest and nutrition, gets paid and goes home. Anyone who dates a nude model needs to understand those things. There are some gross misconceptions about nude modeling. Being a photographer specializing in nude imagery, I understand how it works. But many on the outside are not so accepting, and are quick to make rash assumptions. Which is wrong, because how can you love and care about someone without at least trying to educate yourself about their world? Just because they work in the nude while on camera or being painted doesn’t mean they are prostitutes or romantically / sexually involved with others on set.

Models are people. Like anyone else. Nudity does not make their work any less relevant or make them an unfaithful person to have a relationship with. I hear about a lot of guys who are jealous and insecure about their girlfriends’ modeling. Not something I want to be caught in the middle of. You manage your personal life, and I’ll manage mine, I don’t need the drama, lol. So, just because the spotlight isn’t on them, they get butthurt. Or because she shines on set and develops a working bond with photographers she works with…..that does not mean anything else. Dating a model, especially a nude model is not for every man, I don’t have a problem with that. But trying to use ultimatums or other manipulation to get their girlfriends to quit modeling for them is wrong. If you’re in a relationship with someone, you accept them for who they are, and not try to change them. Trying to brainwash them into giving up what they love to do just because you’re insecure, is a huge red flag in a relationship…I always hope the model will find someone who trusts them and supports what they do, and knows she only gives her love to him….you know, that foreign concept called trust and security in a relationship. Otherwise, why be in one at all?

Being controlling and jealous only causes future resentment. And it’s a negative force. Basically there are two choices. Work through it and try to educate yourself, and be interactive from a healthy distance in her modeling….or be up front and say this isn’t for me, and find someone more conservative. it doesn’t go both ways. I can tell you that jealousy, lack or trust, control, trying to change someone, or talking down to them are not ingredients for a successful relationship. I’ve hosted traveling nude models, and several have done the same for me when I traveled to do a shoot. Doing something shady would destroy my reputation I worked years to build. But also I hear a lot of these relationship woes from them. I’m always happy to hear when they have a healthy relationship with someone who loves and supports them, and trusts them. Others, unfortunately, I urge them to find someone who will because control works in stages. It starts there, and never ends there. And can turn into abuse. There are real men who can accept nude modeling of their significant other, some who cannot…..but no real man tries to control a woman and give ultimatums. No self respecting woman should settle for that. Life really is too short!

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Tips for the nude model getting started

This relates to the freelance nude model, more so than a commercial or agency model. There are websites to network and promote / barter your services. Before getting started, do your homework and familiarize yourself with how trade or otherwise known as TFP shoots work, how photo usage and model releases work, as well as familiarizing yourself with the different nude genres and knowing which style ranges you are most drawn to. I would encourage you to first attend a figure drawing class and go as a guest or a model, to gauge your comfort level pertaining to nudity around others. And if you feel drawn to photos as well, check out www.modelmayhem.com where many freelance models and photographers meet. Many are hobbyists and some are pros. Good mix, but like anything you have to use common sense and education as your best defense. There are many learning tools there and tips against falling prey to scams, safety on shoots, determining your market, etc. Here are some general points I want to make to help you get started.

What is your goal? – Are you thinking about pursuing nude modeling for fun or an art form, or potential opportunity to travel and get some paid gigs? First determine your look and market, and if your look fits your desired style. For example, there isn’t much use for a 5’2″ model who won’t do nudes, in the fashion or commercial market. There are many types of nudes. Fetish, erotic, artistic / figure study (my best general description), glamour (Playboy style), etc. If you can’t tell the difference between the different genres, do more research. Only you as a model can know how you are ok with being portrayed and what style you like best. And if your particular look fits it. Sometimes you don’t figure it out completely until you shoot, photographers go through this too. Lastly, trade or barter shoots are ideal to get things started, but do be picky and work with those who you feel are reputable and capture their subjects in a way you like. You are not ready to expect pay with no experience or portfolio. Nudity does not equate worth. What the model brings to the table does, like how they can better a photographer’s portfolio. Even very experienced traveling nude models do trade shoots with select photographers they have a track record with, as I do with select models too.

Photo usage- I can’t stress this point enough…..assume any photos taken can and will be used online and in a photographer’s portfolio, unless you are a private client. As a model, that’s how it works. Bottom line, if you pursue modeling of any kind, nude especially, you have to be ok with that. This means being ready to face idiots who try to shame you for it, judgmental parents or significant others, etc. and stand strong to your passion and belief. As a fine art nude photographer, I’ve experienced this as well. On a less public level than a model would. But definitely on a personal level…as far as significant others not accepting what I do. You know what? This is what I do….if you have an issue with that, it won’t end there. Funny how many think it’s ok for them to bring baggage into a relationship and they expect you to accept it or lump it, but we have to conform to them. No. lol. That’s a whole other topic for next time…..but bottom line, you can’t turn back time once images are out there. Be proud of your work and don’t be easily shamed by ignorant parties….or else don’t waste your time and others’ time pursuing it.

Setting up shoots and building a body of work- It’s fine to start a page with a few images shot by a friend or student photographer you know, not self shot crap in a mirror. You need to show what you look like. Then make an effort to search for photographers to work with, whose work you admire. You have to be on point in your search. Not every photographer who does great work in one area is capable of capturing the nude body well. Look at the photographer’s style of work, their representation of the model, post production work, etc. This is the style your photos would be. Set up trade shoots, where you receive images for your portfolio. Agree on terms up front, like the photographers’ process, estimated delivery time, etc. Be reliable and do follow ups, don’t waste peoples’ time. And don’t be demanding, or start thinking bringing a chaperone will make you safer. That’s laziness. And not many photographers will allow that. Research how things work and how you qualify people, not re write the book according to your own logic. If you get inquiries from those whose style of work doesn’t fit you, a polite response stating so is sufficient. More to come….this gets you started 🙂

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Speaking of concepts….my latest

I have potentially found a new muse to work with, in Kentucky, about an hour from me. I can’t emphasize the importance of a muse which is a willing participant for different projects / regular model when one or both of us gets an idea to play out. A must have for artists / photographers who like to stay inspired and prevent complacency. She is represented by a friend who runs a small freelance talent agency, and she made the effort to reach out to me, and follow through with plans we made to shoot at this abandoned house she knew of. I was interested in an old or abandoned barn or building, this was perfect!

She was comfortable with up to implied nude, and was eager to do something creative and artistic, different from what she’s done with other photographers. She came to the right guy, LOL. It was an overcast early December day, slightly windy but about 60 degrees, was pleasant to be outside. We pulled up to this old abandoned house off the road, and went in behind it so no one could see us. I was in Heaven with the character and the decay of this place. Looking at it surrounded by overgrown brush, and no leaves on the trees, the overcast conditions, and hearing some whistling of the wind made it a perfect experience. My first thought was I’d like to know the story of this house, who last lived here, and the circumstances of the house becoming abandoned.

Boom. An idea came to mind. I wanted her to look tattered and possibly kidnapped, and she came back to this house that was familiar to her as a ghost, but no one was there, and hadn’t been in some time. Or maybe something happened to her at this house, and she haunted it. Either way, same end result with different possibilities. That’s where my mind was going. I’d start with some shutter drag / long exposure photos using the tripod, and go with some ghosting. The exact concept could be decided by the viewer, but not hard to get the basic idea….the aesthetics are what I was after first and foremost….we had a great opportunity to use a great canvas for such an idea….and I’ve seen it before, you just never know when it could one day be gone. Sometimes the time to act is now.

The longest exposure I could use without the background being overexposed was 4 seconds. To correctly balance the exposure, I used an aperture of F32, the narrowest possible. I could have went slower if I used a neutral density filter to darken the background, but 4 seconds was perfect. When doing long exposure, you have to factor the maximum time your subject can remain still, and the amount of time needed for the subject to move across the frame. To do this double exposure, I had the model get in one stance and be still….then make a very robotic and quick movement to another spot, then remain still again. All during the time the shutter is open. Not easy. Also, the cool thing that happened here, is during the transaction of her moving, there was some natural opacity of her blending in with the background. The result I thought was awesome, and eery. Hope you enjoy!

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Explaining my conceptual work

Many artists are storytellers. I used to work with one master fine art photographer in particular who told me that a story is only as good as the storyteller….that really stuck with me. My conceptual gallery on this site is the one that tells the most story in the photos. Many people seem to enjoy that particular gallery, but it can be misunderstood by some too. That’s ok, I’m not looking to change that, I’ll tell you why. My fine art nude gallery is about flattering the subjects the most, and bringing out their beauty….and setting a mood with the angle, composition, and use of light. This is geared towards most clients who would hire me to photograph their intimates or nudes.

My conceptual gallery is not all about flattering the subject, or about beauty. It’s about telling a story, sometimes a mix of beauty and darkness….sometimes troubling. No rhyme or reason. Just different inspirations about real life issues, or a concept or fantasy / illustration I wanted to bring to reality in form of a photo. Everyone has a different idea about how they think a story in art or a photo should be told. I’ve always been an abstract art enthusiast. I like to try to form my own interpretation to see if there’s a meaning. It’s not always spelled out by the artist.

I’ve had a few people suggest, why not place a caption above the work so people know what you want to say with those photos? Some people do that. I will probably never be one of those. I don’t believe in promoting laziness. Or having to spoon feed people. I’d rather see a smaller percentage of people “get it” because they took time to study it, rather than shrinkwrap it. Some may have a slightly different interpretation, why ruin it for them? Sometimes not everything has a distinct meaning, other times the creator had a specific theme in mind. Sometimes, whether my work or someone else’s, the story is more self explanatory….other times you have to look for it. What fun is it without a challenge? I use real life experiences and emotions to fuel these works, sometimes that’s the best reason for it.

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The balance of internal and external beauty

This is a beautiful, and somewhat rare combination in a woman….it’s out there, but sometimes you have to look for it. But then again, if it were that easy to find, it’s human nature not to appreciate it as much. I was slightly hesitant to share this story, because it’s so personal. But, I was moved and inspired enough by this experience that I could use it in my future works. So I decided to share it. I hope you’ll take a deep breath and be patient, because this is a lengthy article, but I hope someone finds it worth their time and is touched by it somehow 🙂

It was the Summer of 2010, long story short, my White Boxer, Cracker was whimpering one night and I felt some bloating in her stomach, so I rushed her to the emergency vet since it was probably 11:00 at night. They said her stomach flipped and we either had to put her down or do surgery which was risky….I had them do surgery, I mean we HAD to try regardless of the expense. About 12 hours later she passed away in recovery 🙁 I can’t even put to words how dark of a day it was. All of this was so sudden, and so dramatic, I was waiting to wake up from this horrible dream and see my dog again. My other dog was starting to figure out something wasn’t right. Several friends came over when they got the news from Facebook, took me to the Mexican restaurant just to get me out, which was nice, I really couldn’t eat much. But that showed compassion and heart. It didn’t end there. One of my former girlfriends had offered to come over and spend the night and keep me company, my jaw about hit the floor…I graciously accepted and felt glad, yet undeserving.

The first thing we did when she arrived, after a nice long soft embrace, was got in my above ground pool and relax a bit, once I brought her up to speed on the turn of events. Though I felt weak and empty, I was trying to get to the first step of the healing process, which I knew I’d have to do. But at that time it was a lot to process, that fast. 48 hours ago, she was chasing a ball and barking at it. The stillness of the Summer night provided an awkward silence in the pool. I was glad to hear sounds of the water and faint sounds of a train and sirens from the main thoroughfare nearby. This was the first step of recovery and the distraction I needed. It just felt wonderful to have someone to help me work through this. I felt so grateful. I specifically remember the amazing feeling of the long embraces, the kisses. I began kissing her collarbone, pelvic bone, hips, back of her neck, stomach, and holding her uncovered back and butt in my hands as she held my head and body on her arms.

When we got out, I poured some wine, we talked on the porch swing where we used to look at the stars together. When it was bedtime, we held each other all night, which was great, because sleep was impossible with this past 24 hours. Some sleep finally came, when we awoke, all I could do was tell her how much I appreciate her being there, and rub her back and fingers through her hair. Of course the conversation came up, what really happened to what we had before? It was the best discussion we’ve had, no bickering, just the facts. Bottom line seemed very mutual, that at the time we were together, we were both dealing with things and it was hard for her to open up, and it was hard for me to know that and be patient about it. It eventually drove a wedge between us. At that time, we openly discussed it, there were no hard feelings about the past, and nothing could ever destroy our bond again. We still had something special, but neither of us were able to figure out what any of it meant after that. All I know is, to this day, that is one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me, and I’ll never forget it. Not only did we have physical chemistry, but she showed me how passionate and loving her heart really is.

Even though internal and external beauty is not as easy to find as many of us would like….sometimes we’re all guilty of looking too hard for it, that we miss it when it’s right in front of us. And as tragic as the reason for this story is, I can use it to be inspired to bring out not only the beauty of the female form and body….but also to capture her soul. This way, whoever receives the gift of photography is reminded of what they have and not to take it for granted.

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