At the farm, in the old family Churchyard.
At the farm, in the old family Churchyard.
With the Harvey Weinstein and Terry Richardson cases making headlines I fee the need to say something about how I work. The problem is that young women and men are not prepared to understand or handle a situation like this. An older man with power and influence carrying on, saying this is the way its done in the business. That is the concern I have about expecting young models to think through all the ramification of posing nude. The problem I have is thinking these “kids” as fully grown adults. That they should be treated with all respects at any age is a given. Early twenties they are still kids in so many ways. I haven’t wanted to take advantage of them, I do run the risk of being seen as patriarchal, I feel that is well worth the risk. Yes I will shoot women who have reached the age of eighteen if they are willing, However my preference is twenty-four, I feel that by this time they can make a more informed decisions. Yes I do get a release, but that does not give me the right to ruin anyone’s life because they agreed to shoot with me. It doesn’t mean I can use the images indiscriminately, I ask the women who are in contact with me if I can use their images for whatever I am trying to accomplish. Those that decide to not keep in contact are still deserving of privacy, and should be kept from their lives harmed. Noting the developed my own brain has given me an appreciation of the not yet fully developed brains. I know a lot of photographers who say “well I have a release!” To my way of thinking, yeah you do, but you should ask first…, maybe she has a reasons (like kids) not to want to be exposed like that, or to use identifying information with an image.
I had a model who was twenty-four at the time, but a young very naive twenty-four. She came from a farming background, wanting to make up for lost time. I could see that she was testing herself, testing her limits. We’d been shooting nudes for quite sometime
, she was bored with that, not a challenge any more So I said, partly in jest why not masturbate? NO she said, but I could see she was thinking about it, was she brave enough. Now don’t go jumping to conclusions, I knew she was ripe for someone to take advantage of her. I also knew the way I worked, knew that I would be willing to protect her and her images. She said yeah but I have to get comfortable. So I got some really lovely images mainly because she didn’t know any better than to fake it, when she left she was happy as a clam. Only after she had second thoughts, asked her friends, they told her she was nuts, that her job was in jeopardy. I told her not to worry, I wasn’t going to do anything without asking first. I kept my word, but still her concern was what did I think of her.., what kind of girl did I think she was. Finally a few summers ago we had the chance to really talk. Told her that I didn’t think that she was that kind of girl either, that I respected her, that I was still protecting her and her images. She was relived that I didn’t think poorly of her. We went though the images again, told her how proud of was of her, that she needed an outlet at the time that wouldn’t harm her. That I had thought of all the ramifications before we actually shot, that I was willing to protect her, while someone else might not. I still have hopes she will come for another shoot, but she has other priorities now.
Not everyone works the way I do, with my past mistakes of my own, made when my brain wasn’t fully developed. I have learned a hard lesson, and would really hate to be held accountable for mistakes in judgement I made in my twenties. I think of a shoot as having the features of the Stockholm syndrome; a model gets so comfortable with a photographer so she wants to please him or her. Then has second thought, but by that point, the damage has been done if she has signed that release. I don’t want to be that photographer…, ever! I want to do the right thing by my models then and now. I think that’s the reason I haven’t had problems. I do the right thing, even if it cost me money. I have found that the rewards far outweigh any monetary harm.
I’ve been asked more than a few time if I worry about working with nude models alone. To tell the truth I have never given it much consideration because of the way I work my craft. I offer references, give the model a straight forward idea my style of work, now I give the access to my website so they can see what I shoot, and them what to expect. I am very welcoming to significant others check me and the studio out so that everyone is comfortable. I make it clear before any shoot happens that I expect to work with my model’s undivided attention.
For my part I am very respectful of the models rights, and my responsibility. When I work with a nude model I realize that their personal space is much more important for them. To date I have never had a model who even thought I have done anything in the least bit inappropriate. Once I had a younger model who I plan to work with at a friend’s farm. On the way over I told her that I wasn’t sure who else would be there, I assured her that she was not going to be put on any shows for anyone. That if worst came to worst we’d have the nice meal I had brought, and just call it a day. At the risk of being called paternalistic, I wanted her to feel at ease. That’s is the problem though, the same preparations I use to make my models comfortable, are the same tactics predators use to lull their victims into a false sense of security.
Then there is the matter of the release, I want my model or subject to see everything I have captured before they sign. I want for them to be comfortable with what we’ve gotten, after all we work in a collaborative manner. Many times I work without a release at all, preferring to be able to get in touch with the person, tell them what and were I want to use our image(s). Since I use real film this can get quite expensive, a few times the model decides to not sign. Those few times the whole shoot has been an expensive waste of resources. I can only use the images for display only, no sales are permitted, really that is fair. Now not everyone works as I do, my models work with the anticipation of sales to follow. My work is sold in galleries, or used in books, my website, or I donate it to various organizations that foster a positive sex culture.
Again not everyone works this way, but I feel very strongly about my images, and the way I work. I work very hard at my craft, I get some beautiful images in the pointillist manner. I am proud of my work, the people who chose to work with me…, how could I not take the steps necessary to make it a beautiful experience for all.
Another from the archive from way back when. Over the years this model and I did a lot of work, some sessions worked real well, others not at all. Bad chemistry, just an off day…, this session worked really well, we were in the zone.
She came down as I remember for a quick shoot, had to go back for work. We were having such a good shoot that she called into work, told them something had delayed her, she cover the next day. Because we were old friends we had wine, started working she wearing a string dress with black undergarments. In the middle of our shoot a guy from next door came out to use the facilities. He froze in place seeing a scantily clad young woman posing against the block glass walls, I am sure he got a good look too.
My model was nonplussed, not too much later she got into her panties for this shot. After we moved into the studio for more work, the vibes had changed somehow. She complained that I always wanted her nude, which tell the truth was right. But sensing the mood change I told her she could put something on if she preferred, she fled into the changing room. We did work some more, but the spell was broken any film I shot from that point on was a waste. So I suggested lunch, a relaxed lunch at that, then she went back home. No harm…. No foul, things just hadn’t work out as we had planed.
I’ve learn over the years from that things just happen that are beyond you control. Shooting film it can get expensive, Shooting the way I do, no release is signed before the model get to see what we got on film can really be expensive. I’ve had model change their mind’s only after the expense of the shoot we’re covered. Hard not to get annoyed at that point, but shit does happen so learn to move on.
Mamma Lena with the background matts that I do. A low-res scan, have to be seen at full resolution to be appreciated. The matts I started playing around with the idea a few months ago, like the look and feel of the matts. I think it adds a touch of class to the image, so far no one else has them, I hope that is a good deal. About the image, she is a model of mine I first shot many years ago, now she is carrying her first child. So very nice to work with an old friend, the natural rhythm of shooting comes back.
I love this image because of the white breast in the midst of all the colours. From the personal collection of mine, with the model consent and approval. The model isn’t all that pleased with the size of her breasts, though I maintain that the size isn’t important. She has no body fat what so ever, she is very lean, active to say the least. I also think she has bought into the idea that she is somehow a lesser woman, because she doesn’t have large American breast. I love shooting her, long and lanky, athletic and fit. We began our journey in nude photography some years ago, she has a special place in my view of women. To me the size of her breast is unimportant. That her heart is in the right place is all that matter to me.
The second time Ruby worked with me out the friends farm, we worked in and around the family graveyard. Way off
in the woods, small trials led into the area protected by its remoteness. I found it very peaceful, we worked with a respectful quiet. The mosquitoes, however were out for blood; she sprayed her front, I her back to help repel the little beasts.
In early spring the day was mild, the clouds…, like a giant scrim floating in the sky. As this was our second shoot, Rudy had no inhibitions about nudity, she worked very well…, creatively. Very playful as the camera loved her, she in turn had different looks she tried for effect.
Oh to my delight plans for the new series have a rival, one of my models is expecting. As man and photographer, I am thrilled. When I was younger, friends often didn’t want to share the experience of being photographed, or breast-feeding. Time, values have changed as I have as well, older I’ve been blessed to witness the event from beginning.
First as a lowly floor cleaner, I befriend the interns at the teaching hospital I work at. They in turn checked with the doctor, gave me the all clear so I got to watch all sorts of operations. I saw people die on the table in addition to being born, saw people’s bodies stripped of parts, the gift of life, or sight for other patients. Once over Christmas, I was asked to shine the spotlight as the doctor operated on a patients brain. A truly miraculous experience all because I could talk.., think, and had a curiosity for life.
A few years later, I again returned to work in a hospital, there I made friends with the doctors as they did rounds. My photography was the deciding factor to get me in the room as the patient was worked on. Not that my exploits went unreported to my supervisor who was not my biggest fan. My supervisor was actually rubbing her hands together as she walked me into the director office. I was going to get mine, and she would be witness. Imagine her delight as the director said I had been spotted going into the surgical suite to take pictures.
Very calmly I replied that the situation had been cleared by the doctor, and any question he had could be answered by the doctor. Further, I said I was on my own time, and had violated no hospital rules…, I got up and left. It was very hard not to smile at their crestfallen looks, my dressing down hadn’t gone quite as planned.
I learned early the “the best defense is a good offense”. I had learned the hard way, to be a chameleon in dealing with people, my own parents taught me well. As much as I could, I tried to blend in, to pattern my behavior to please people. Only when confronted would I go into “good offense” mode…, that either work or got me fired.
Quite the way I deal in business, try to get along, but never show fear. In my assistance days I worked with a number of highly charged photographers. Driven, prone to a manic depressive outbursts…, the better the photographer the higher the manic in charge. Never show fear, know what you are doing or suggesting. Hold your ground, believe in your skill and knowledge. Once I corrected a photographer of his error…, long pause. Did I go too far? I challenged him about something he said. Then the exhale, “what I hate about you is that your right!” I patted his leg, said “always, remember that”. And then the winning smile.
You have to believe in yourself for all to work to your advantage. And for your sake, learn to play, not take life so seriously. I chose life, as in to have a life, to enjoy all that came my way with excitement, and joy. I chose to leave the camera home most days, so I could experience life as a participant rather than the observer, worried about f-stop, shutter speeds, and what not. This is the only life I’ll have as far as I know. Chose life for all its joys, for all its sorrow, and surprises.