Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dark, emotional, edgy, expressive...

Jumping back in time yet again to just a couple months after the big bad haircut...

Life had thrown a handful of curve balls my way, and this was one of them that effected what I was pursuing... It seems like such a stupid thing, to have to care so much about something as silly as hair... but my job was to be in front of a camera, where appearance matters. I was not shooting nearly as much as I had been prior to the cut, but was slowly finding ways to work with my look or to work around it. The emotional drama that went along with it, and dealing with everyone's questions-everyone wanted to know why and how this happened but even I couldn't answer that beyond speculation-was also draining...It made me sick to my stomach that someone intentionally did this and I had to look at it every day wondering why. I did my best to just accept it, ignore it, and keep doing what I was doing while always pushing to be better.

I had worked with Dan Frievalt a few times... He loves the dark, emotional, artsy stuff and it is complimented perfectly with his gritty rockin' style. Dan was going through his own rough patch at the time, that was also emotionally draining and involved some difficult decisions. He too was trying to just push through, to keep doing what he was doing-what he loves. We had shot recently by accident- I was supposed to assist- but Dan was still itching for something edgier, darker, more emotional... he wanted to use the same location we used in the previous shoot-it was amazing and inspiring! He pitched his idea to me. I loved it. We set a date, I picked up the necessary pieces and I met him at his house to get ready.

What I love about Dan choosing me for this project was he knew my love for dark, emotional work, and that I could deliver. The fact that I have blonde hair, and no tattoos makes me easy to overlook for something as edgy as this. But appearance does not matter nearly as much as the ability to emote. As I had learned very quickly with my hair, appearance can be changed... easily... Your ability to get into a role and make people feel deeply, that is not easy. It takes a combination of things to make a photo successful in this way...

I had bought a few wardrobe items that Dan planned to ruin. So we stood in his kitchen, I held up the wardrobe items as he attacked them with an exacto knife. Therapeutic in itself. ;) He had a few accidental cuts in unfortunate places, I wish I had photos or videos of his face! But no one was bleeding. We were pumped and would work around anything!

We talked about hair/makeup. This was unlike anything I had ever done before. This wasn't about being pretty and perfect. I'm not sure it could have been more opposite! We whipped out the black eye shadow and we darkened my eyes in a messy, raw, almost haunting way. Then Dan started with the rest of the makeup... he created what looked like bruises, cuts, scrapes, needle marks, dirt, etc. all over my exposed skin. It looked quite convincing and I was just in awe of the transformation. This beaten up look was symbolic, something we both could easily related to. This shoot was a great way to express those feelings we were dealing with. With my look complete, we were ready to roll...

We headed to our location. Excited. Once we arrived, I was reminded of how amazing this place was! There were so many beautiful spots all over the property, but we decided to stay in the abandoned house. I get pretty excited to explore these things and having someone like Dan around is perfect to balance things out...I'd say "Oh my gosh! Look at that amazing balcony!" And Dan would say, "Umm, we're not going up there... there are holes in the floor!" Thanks for keeping me from falling through balcony floors Dan! :) Although, seriously, how sweet was that?! hehe

Each room had something different. Dan scoped things out and I believe he primarily used the beautiful natural light that was pouring in... We got started. It was easy to get into character... I loved this stuff... We moved from room to room, we were like little kids in a candy shop.

We shot far later than expected, and on the way home, we talked excitedly about the whole thing. We passed a cop and suddenly Dan switched from excited to terrified, he realized he was driving a bit too fast and to top it off, we were in a construction zone. Now THAT would have been a heck of a story... I can only imagine what a police officer would think to see me in the passenger seat, looking like a beat up mess. Dan's expression was enough to make this memorable and entertaining enough. ;)

To see more from this shoot, please visit 

To see more of Dan's work: 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reasons to use a model...

Photo by Mark Anderson, in the name of art,
personal project
While I really love the artsy kind of photography, and have a blast modeling for that style, I understand that the majority of photographers do not necessarily do that kind of work for a living... The majority of photographers are probably more focused on seniors, babies, families, couples, weddings, etc.  So... what use could you possibly have for someone like me? Why on earth would you ever consider working with a model? I bet there are plenty of beneficial reasons. :) 

When I started out doing this modeling thing, it was because someone asked me to model for them... I was just assisting for a shoot, and they had seen some of my own work, and just simply wanted me to model for them...someone who loved photography, the really artsy kind, and was simply passionate about creating. I was doing my own self portraits for similar reasons. The purpose was to create art. Purely for the sake of art.

Other photographers started to ask me to model for them. The more I modeled, the wider range of reasons popped up... Sometimes it was just for fun-maybe the photographer needed a break from their usual work to do something more laid back, or emotional, or creative, or crazy. They needed to do something totally different. 

Photo by Andrew Kufahl, his final image of his 365 project
Some were doing larger projects, like 365's.

Some shoots were totally random, completely unexpected. 

Some photographers incorporated their shoot with me into building their actual portfolio. 

Some shoots were for clothing or jewelry pieces. Or promo images.  

Others just wanted to practice...from practicing lights and technical stuff to practicing getting creative, or directing/posing people, or just being comfortable working with others. There are a million things to practice in a field like photography!

Sometimes it was a hair/makeup artist who needed a "canvas" -my face. Sometimes they just had creative ideas they wanted to try, other times it was for competitions for their craft. 

All-Star Studios, Rummele's winter
catalog cover, modeling their jewelry
I've modeled for workshops, from local ones, to out of state ones, to national ones... my purpose with these was to give students something to photograph, without them having to think so much about posing, expressions, hair, makeup, wardrobe, etc... This allowed them to focus on the technical stuff they were learning. They could focus on learning as much as possible about their camera and their field and did not need to worry about a darn detail about the subject (me). Photographers have actually been blown away with how nice it is to not have to worry about posing-because I just move. It takes some of the responsibility off their shoulder so they can worry about other things.

On a smaller level, I modeled for one-on-one lessons. This is where a photographer takes a private lesson with another photographer... My purpose for these is the same as it is for a workshop... just on a much smaller scale, usually catered to that specific student. They don't have to worry about shooting in front of others, or not being able to get a good angle because they're sharing one model with a group, they don't have to feel intimidated asking questions in front of a larger amount of people, and they can actually interact with me and the teacher more. 
Photo by Casi Lark-Sitterly at a one-on-one 
lighting workshop

Every single time I've modeled, there was some purpose for it. And I think everyone involved learned something

While you may not think you have use for a model, think about what you do... during a senior session or during a wedding, do you really have the opportunity to experiment? To push your work to the next level? To practice a new technique? To familiarize yourself with new gear? I am assuming your usual gig has a fairly tight time frame, and your clients have high expectations as they are expecting the most for their buck. Using a model gives you the opportunity to do all of these things in a very low pressure situation, with as much time as you need... where you can't upset a client, or screw up someone's big day, or bore the heck out of a senior. You may be great at what you do, but there is always room to learn and grow. And time/money is never wasted on something like that.

I won't go into it in detail now, but I have tried to continuously improve what I do to cater to your needs. From building a wardrobe (including clothes, accessories, shoes, belts, etc) to expanding my hair/makeup materials and skills, to practicing posing/expressions, and so on... As I mentioned earlier, I have done a bit of the photography side myself... so you don't have to worry about fumbling around with new gear, or spending time on a new technique-I won't get bored, I repeat, I WILL NOT get bored... I understand what goes into these things, and I'm there to help YOU. I've also assisted for various photographers, so I'm not afraid to set up a light stand or carry some bags, even in heels!
Photo by Mark Anderson from a themed
group photography event

When I hear people talk about ways to improve their photography... one of the first things that comes to my mind is education. It never EVER hurts to learn. Whether it is from a local workshop or statewide convention or bigger... Or a private lesson from a photographer you admire... or a college class... etc... Another option for learning is for you to simply practice, to teach yourself, to push yourself. There are various ways you can go about doing this, using a model is one of them, for all of the reasons I mentioned above. Ultimately, fine tuning your eye, honing your skills, practicing, learning the gear you have inside and out (who knows the tricks your camera can do! You may be surprised!), pushing your creativity, working on your people skills, learning about posing (you can learn a lot about this just by watching/working with a good model!), all of this will have more of an effect on your work than a new camera... or expensive lights... or any other new toy--don't get me wrong, those can be fun, and some times upgrades are beneficial, but they aren't going to MAKE you into the photographer you want to be. You need a good solid base. YOU need to be good at what you do... so YOU have control over the tools you use. 

Photo by Brandon Swanson from a photography workshop
As an art major, we had models for our painting and drawing courses. Their purpose was not for us to create an amazing museum worthy piece of work off of. Their purpose was for us to learn how to see the art elements, to practice seeing these and translating them onto the paper/canvas, to learn our medium and techniques, to learn how people move, to watch how light affects a face or body... Their purpose was for us to practice, so when we worked on our own pieces, we had more knowledge, we were more comfortable with our skills and our medium, and we knew our field better, so we had a solid base... which made our art better.

Photographer: Kara Counard ...Began as a part of her 101 Women project, 
and we just shot for fun afterwards with Seth Nayes
Some of the sketches we did of models actually were used later down the line to create more developed pieces. This is similar to when a photographer gets a little creative/artsy with a personal photoshoot. We get to put our creative spin on things and go beyond the learning process and actually MAKE art! (but only because we had that solid base) You would be amazed at the creativity you have inside of you. Exploring the creative zone is probably one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences I've ever had. And I thoroughly enjoy modeling for a photographer using me in this way...because I know how amazing that feels! And when you get that photograph that makes you giddy, I get just as excited. :)

To wrap this up, no matter what your style or focus is in photography, there are so many resources out there for you to help grow and become the best photographer you possibly can be. So read, take a workshop, ask a photographer for a private lesson, approach a model... and push yourself.  

If you would like to see more of my work: 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Full-fledged collaboration...

Looking back...
Once I started working with Andrew Kufahl, we realized we clicked really well together. We both have a thing for creating very emotional images. Eventually, our roles weren't as clearly defined (me = model, Andrew = photographer/model)...we both started throwing out ideas and developing them into actual shots, feeding off of each other. These are a couple of shots that I started giving some slightly more feedback on than usual...

For the image "Looking back..." I believe Andrew and I were itching to shoot, but were running short on time. We talked about a tiny seed of an idea, started setting it up, and eventually got something we felt had the emotion we were looking for. This was not long after the hair incident, so I was still not fully comfortable with my look... but the overall emotion we got here, completely happy! 

Two forms of misdirection...
I had a really vague idea one day... and I told Andrew about it... I wanted something with two people lying on the steps, in opposite directions... the guy holding onto the girl's leg... I had no idea what I wanted it to mean, I didn't know how to safely accomplish this, I didn't have a clue about lighting or wardrobe or makeup. This is some of the stuff Andrew gets to deal with-me throwing out a really vague idea, not knowing squat about it, and him having to jump in to create something off of that... trying to figure out what my vision is, even if I don't fully know it! This photo, "Two forms of misdirection..." was challenging for so many reasons. Obviously Andrew had a project on his hand with simply trying to make sense of what little detail I could give him. On top of that, we had to figure out how to light this thing and wardrobe/styling/hair... We didn't have many options on us at the time.. but we thought it would be neat to go with something fairly plain, beige... since this concept was sort of "out there"... we thought it would be neat to pair that with a very "blah" appearance so perhaps the viewer has to search a little bit. I'm not sure I can tell you the details of the wardrobe without getting in trouble with Andrew. It was funny, I'll leave it at that! We decided to have the woman face down, for a little extra weirdness... We wanted longer hair, so it could be messy and add more interest. Eventually we were ready to shoot. Andrew got the camera ready, I started to get into position...and then we realized another much larger issue to deal with... It would be impossible for me to lay on the steps like this! They were steep and slippery. I'd have to kneel on the steps (quite the sight to see!) until Andrew could run up to his spot, get into his pose, grab my ankle, give me the ok, and then I had to go limp... But Andrew had to watch out that he didn't slip, or press up against the wall (it would ruin the feel of his pose)... There was a lot of strength, timing and trust involved! I had a different shoot the next day, and I'm not sure "rug-burn face" was the look the photographer was interested in. Thankfully we avoided that. ;) 

Here and There...
This next image turned out far more powerful than I could have imagined... it is so simple, yet the emotion always gets me. This was another vague idea... What I really love about it is that the darkness has swallowed us up, and although we are in similar poses, the details of each give such different emotions. Andrew wrote an incredibly moving poem inspired by this image that I will include a bit later. The image is called "Here and There..." The biggest challenge of this shot? My allergies to cats. We were actually sitting on a large chair at Andrew's house, that happened be a favored spot by his adorable, fluffy cat. We wrapped up the shoot and I had to run out of the house, and make the 45 minute drive home for medication so I could resume normal breathing. 

I had done my own self portraits, and I had modeled for various photographers, but I had not collaborated in this way before. I had felt I was in a creative rut after the haircut... as strange as that may sound... my look didn't inspire me, and I didn't feel like being in front of the camera. Working with Andrew had opened up a new creative outlet. I love his style, and I trust that any idea I have, he'll be able to make it come to life. That trust, that's huge... for an artist to give up their ideas to another artist can be quite risky since we all see the world so differently. I think it helps that we see photography in a similar way and have clicked so well. He's always seen me as an equal, and welcomed my ideas. And every idea I've shared-no matter how big or small or vague or ridiculous, he's respected, kept safe, and turned into a beautiful piece of art.  

This is the poem Andrew wrote to accompany the photo "Here and There..." A piece of art in itself...

Here and There...
In deep darkness I found you.
Under rocks...
in crevices...
a drop of rain underneath the bark of a dying tree...
but there I was.

In the absence of light I found you.
Nothing lit the way...
no sound to follow...
a silent scream in the night under the cover of bed sheets...
but there I was.

In the presence of pain I found you.
The fuel for your tears...
bone grinding on bone...
when you thought nobody understood the hurt you withstand...
there I was.

In your lonely prison I found you.
Behind bars...
cold concrete floors...
the arms that embraced your shattered soul, are no longer just your own...
because there I am.

...there I am.

I am blind right beside you.
My hands fumble in the night with you.
Without eyes we can't see,
but I see you...
and you see me just fine.

I hurt deep inside with you,
and scream in pain in this cell with you.
One arm is around you and the other
is picking up shards...

a piece of you...
a piece of me...
a piece of you...
a piece of me...

There's gonna be gaps,
and there's gonna be spaces...
All these pieces fit perfect no more.

But the edges that meet,
they bond tight together,
and some pieces we leave on the floor.

Here you are...
Here I am...
When it's dark can we open the door?
Here you are...
Here I am...
Take my hand and I tell you once more...

Here I am.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How to turn your bathtub into a studio...

One of the things I love about working with  Andrew Kufahl (Flickr) is that he can create fantastic artistic photos anywhere, in any lighting. Another awesome thing about Andrew is he has been interested in what goes on with the model's side of things. Both of these things came together in this shoot...

Once I had met Andrew and started working with him more, we had discussions on the importance of wardrobe/styling, hair, makeup, and how that effects a photo. On a smaller scale, we just talked about what makeup can do to a face. This is something he had already started looking into and studying a bit. Well now he had someone to practice on! So one day, we decided to have Andrew apply my makeup. We looked through pictures and books, studying how certain looks were achieved. There is a lot of art that goes into this, and with us both having some sort of art background, it was easy to dissect in that way. Andrew let me know what he wanted our look to end up like, and I gave tips on how to get that look. Because he isn't one for taking the easy route, he also decided he wanted to do all of this with color-another element to worry about!

The first eye took quite some time. There is a lot to get used to when applying makeup to someone else, and it is even more difficult for a guy to do so since he does not have the experience of having applied makeup to himself on a daily basis-or ever! He has not idea what it feels like. So Andrew of course started off quite timid, as he didn't want to cause any pain. We had to do several coats to get the values we needed for the look, and he got more and more comfortable with the feel of things. Eventually, one eye was done! It looked great. He got the shape he wanted, he got the colors he wanted, awesome. I think he almost forgot about the second eye, and he was not as excited about this one! The biggest obstacle with this part was to match the two eyes. He was surprised at how difficult that was-and with so many elements to think about, it make it even more difficult. But we got there!

We also chatted about the other types of makeup, I showed him some of my tricks to achieve certain looks -like with blush/cheeks- and let him do the other side. With my face complete, I did some quick styling with my hair. We were ready to shoot! But now what? We didn't think that far... 

We started shooting in my bathroom, where we had been doing hair/makeup. And we stayed in my bathroom-more specifically, we shot in the bathtub. Afterwards, we had to laugh because our previous model shoot (which was our first) was done in my downstairs bathroom! Looking at both these shoots, I find it hard to believe that we used bathrooms for our studio. The space is very  cramped, it isn't the best lighting, it isn't even the best backdrop! But some how Andrew was able to get some killer shots that were quite artistic and filled with emotion. It doesn't matter what you have to work with, if you have an artistic eye and a good understanding of art and photography, there are no limits.

To see more from this shoot: and look for my "Modeling 2" album.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Problem solving and my first video project

In a previous post, I mentioned my that "butchered hair situation" forced me to work on my  problem solving skills (When everything came to a screeching halt...). I had shoots lined up that people still wanted to use me for, we just to find a way to work with this hair that no longer fits the part. One of these shoots was for the cover of Rummele's Christmas catalog which I discussed here: Rummeles Winter Catalog Cover

This wig came in handy for a few other shoots that I thought I'd never be able to do, such as the video project with Jason Thiel, called "He Loves Me Not." I was asked to model for this project a while back, but the character needed long blonde hair (which I had when I was asked). The time frame didn't work out for us-with when the videographer wanted to shoot and when I was going to donate my hair...and the result of the haircut took me completely out of the running for this role. I had gotten a message from Jason a few months later though, he said he just couldn't shake the thought of me as the model for this. Well, it just so happened with the new wig and extensions, I CAN have long blonde hair now! So we started talking about the details and I was officially back in. Note: all stills are from the official video "He Loves Me Not" and the outtake  video by Jason Thiel Copper Clover Films 

This project was something totally new for me, another great opportunity. I loved the story, and I loved Jason's work. When Jason and I had met prior to the shoot, he told me he wanted to discuss what I felt I wanted out of this, what made this worth my while-something some people don't necessarily keep in mind for their models. I loved that he wanted to be sure this was not a waste of anyone's time, that he wanted to create something we could all be very proud of. In my mind, I had a ton to gain from a project like this... and I ended up getting more than I even imagined!

When shoot day arrived, it was quite cold. It had unexpectedly snowed-not a lot, but enough to mess with the idea and plan a bit, and we weren't supposed to get snow yet! The sun would be going down soon. I was wearing a thin lacy white dress, and "combat" boots with not much else to keep me warm. We were going to have to work quick! Fortunately there were a few extra hands around to keep my coat warm in between scenes and to help keep things moving smoothly. (Kim Thiel and Steve Wagner) 

There were no speaking lines in this project, it was important to show emotion in other ways, such as body language-much like I do during photoshoots. The tricky part with video is that you're constantly moving! You don't get to take a moment to get into character, to think about your poses, to find your most flattering angle, to get into an emotion, you have to jump in and keep going throughout the scene. 

I started out a bit shaky... There was a lot to get used to, and this was out of my comfort zone. On top of that, I can be a giggly person! I had always been nervous about my tendency to laugh when modeling, but because you can take a moment to recompose and there is no sound, it hasn't been a problem. But again, video is a whole different beast! I got the giggles. We all got the giggles. It was impossible not to at times. A nice group of people with a sense of humor who love what they do, I think that is bound to happen! And a man in dress shoes trying to walk down a hill that is unexpectedly covered in snow, there was no way to keep a straight face! Watch the blooper here: Blooper.

I learned so much from this project. I learned about movement, I learned things I never knew about posing and emoting. We had weather and light to combat that made us keep moving and have to make decisions quickly. I had to lay on the ground/ice at one point and my clothing actually started freezing to the ice! I love how much this project pushed me in so many good ways. And even through the challenging parts, it was truly a fun and enjoyable experience. 

Jason, Kim, and Steve were all wonderful to work with, they made sure I stayed warm and helped me learn the ropes. This was a personal project for Jason, something a bit different from his normal work, and I am honored to have been a part of making this vision come to life. Check out the full video here: He Loves Me Not

To see more of my work, please visit 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rummele's Winter Catalog Cover

Makeup: Colour Law
Hair: Christopher Cody Hartl and 
Jessica Rodinelli
A photographer I had worked with a handful of times (All-Star Studios) was designing the Rummele's winter catalog (in the Manitowoc, WI area). The owner loved an image the photographer and I had captured at a previous shoot and asked for it to be reshot but with the model wearing Rummele's jewelry that they wanted highlighted. The photographer asked me to model again, the only issue was I no longer had the hair! (This was shortly after the hair butchering fiasco) We had to think fast... 

I was instructed to find a wig that looked as close to my old hair as possible. Oh boy! The trick was to find something on an unemployed budget, that looked natural, and that was similar to my cut, style, and length so we could reproduce this image as closely as possible. Another photographer gave me a suggestion for a wig shop in town (PHEW! Thank you!)...I had one day to find this thing. 

I walked into the store and let the owner know what I was looking for. She had ONE blonde wig. It didn't match my color exactly, and it was quite a bit shorter than what my hair had been at the time of the original image, but it was all I could find with the amount of time given. I sent a pic to the photographer to get his approval. I had also remembered a friend of mine talking to me about extensions at one point, so I sent her a message. She selflessly GAVE me her blonde extensions, saying she'd probably never go blonde again anyway. She helped me out last minute, and they worked perfectly to give me that extra length that I needed. 

So the day of the shoot... there was a lot of ridiculousness that occurred that was just plain ol' silly and unrelated to the shoot. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I was running a bit behind...It was one of those days, you know the ones... the ones where every single thing you touch, falls, breaks, makes a mess, etc.  During the early morning hours (I had not gone to sleep yet), I had been at my parents house, and accidentally dropped my dad's iPad... he loves that thing... The screen was slightly cracked...which grew into a bigger and bigger crack... Oh no... My stomach was all sorts of twisted. Once he woke up, I knew I had to tell him. I did, I cried, I felt terrible. I had to pull myself together, I had barely gotten any sleep the way it was due to this and the amount of guilt I had, and now I was puffing up my face by crying like a baby. I was responsible for my own makeup, which was a task in itself with the waterworks. And I had a bit of a drive ahead of me yet. With being behind, I wasn't sure I would have enough time to pick up the extensions... I texted the photographer to let him know the situation, he gave me the go ahead to pick them up even if it meant I was going to be a few minutes late. I was finally on my way, and making good time. Then dad called. I'm still feeling incredibly bad about the iPad situation, and my makeup couldn't be worked on again! He was calling to let me know that something in my car was leaking, and I needed to get it checked before driving very far-the photographer lived an hour away, and I was nearly there. During this conversation, I ended up missing my exit. I was actually going to be on time, too! The next exit was about 15 minutes away, and once I turned around, we're at about a half hour of me being late. Again, I'm feeling terrible! I call the photographer to let him know, fortunately he was understanding. 

Ridiculous, right? 

There were a few more incidents at the actual shoot. What a goofy day! Once the photographer started shooting, he made a comment (not knowing what I had just gone through) "These pictures are looking great... you just look really sad for some reason." Oh crap. Apparently my makeup couldn't cover up the lack of sleep, the hours of craziness, and the tears. Well, no excuses. Now that I know that, I have to work extra hard to convey the proper emotion for this shoot. It doesn't matter if my face is puffy, I have to FEEL it and make the viewer FEEL it. 

A funny little tidbit: I had asked the photographer if the owner of Rummele's knew that the model in the image he chose didn't have that hair anymore... he said "Nope... I was hoping we could figure that part out!" With the wig, I was able to incorporate some of my natural hair, and the extensions worked out perfectly... And this has all come in handy several times since! Thank you to those who helped out with that part! 

Fortunately, the shoot went well overall. The cover image that was chosen is shown here... Credits: H/MUA-myself, jewelry-Rummele's.

We got the shots we needed and then some... we even had time to play around with some other ideas, completely unrelated to the catalog. It was great to just experiment and let loose after a productive and partially stressful day. We were able to come up with a few things the photographer hadn't tried before. That's when it gets really fun. When the creativity comes out! :) To see more from this shoot, please check out my artist page:  You'll find them in the Modeling 2 album.

It was an exciting day when I was tagged in the image below... the brochure was in the paper. I jumped around exclaiming "My face is in 10,000 places!!!" for most of the day. Pretty neat to see the hard work in print... to be able to find a way around some of those obstacles, it was a great feeling. While this is still pretty small scale, it was the largest thing I had been a part of at the time. And I am thankful for the opportunity and to those who helped me trample those obstacles. :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

But I don't WANT to style this butchered hair!

Andrew Kufahl asked to do a one on one model photoshoot with me, unlike the concept shots we did at the end of his 365 project...and he wanted to do this wig-less. Crap. If you remember correctly, my hair was horribly butchered around this time: When everything came to a screeching halt... And I hadn't been very comfortable in front of the camera or even in every day life for quite some time. I hadn't actually done anything with my hair on my own since the cut (I have done the majority of my own hair and makeup for shoots beforehand). I didn't WANT to do anything with my hair. We weren't on speaking terms just yet. But, I liked working with Andrew, and I trusted him. Sooo...I sucked it up!

"Evaluating thoughts..."
I had very long hair for a good chunk of my life, until I started donating it... then once every two years or so, I'd end up with short hair-but still ponytail length. I know how to do all kinds of things with THAT hair. But with THIS hair? Absolutely clueless! It had been growing fairly quickly due to all the crazy things I was trying in order to speed up the process. But it was still very much not me, and very much not what I had asked for. I had to just jump in and see what I could figure out. As I started messing around with it, Andrew gave me feedback with what fit his vision for this shoot. He started using the prep time as a time for shooting-as much as I didn't enjoy this. ;) I loosened up a bit, and we were already getting some great shots! Ok ok, I guess he kind of knows what he's doing...

I kept working on developing the hair style... eventually I needed help and put Andrew to work. I was going to try some sort of crazy pretty yet edgy Mohawk type 'do... Andrew helped me out with the parts I couldn't reach or see. And I actually ended up liking the final product, I couldn't believe it! (I still hated my hair... :P )

We shot for hours and hours and hours. We got a huge variety of looks. We played around with lighting. We did all of this in my tiny bathroom. Yes. My very plain bathroom that is only big enough for a toilet and brown sink. That wasn't the original plan AT ALL. I believe we had a goal of working outside, but the weather wasn't cooperating, so we adjusted...Once he started taking photos, we just couldn't stop and didn't feel the need to move elsewhere. We were getting amazing shots all in this one very small place! A great example of using what you've got... the location, the weather, the hair, none of that has to be ideal... but you can find ways to make it work. You can find ways to USE these things like you never imagined.

Another great thing that I had the pleasure of experiencing during that shoot was observing another photographer. I always find it fascinating, to see the differences between photographers, or between a photographer and my style. I love seeing the creative process they all go through. I was blown away and so overly thrilled to see Andrew's creativity at work. The way he used that space and the lighting... existing lighting or his own lighting, or a variety... Gah! So cool! A true artist. 

Thank you, Andrew, for forcing me to TRY with that wretched 'do. There is so much beauty out there, but if you can't see/find it, MAKE IT. And I think we did just that. :)

Listen to your gut!

I have worked very hard to establish a certain kind of image for myself as a model... It is based off of my personal preference of what I will/will not do, and has helped me attract the kind of photographers I really love working with and click well with... and I think it has helped me avoid photographers who do work that I am not interested in doing. If you remember from my earlier posts, I kind of got the modeling ball rollin' through some of those group shoots. They are such a great way to meet a bunch of people all at once- perfect for networking and safer because you're usually around a pretty large group of people. There was one group shoot, though, that taught me a very important lesson, a lesson I had already known and had avoided having to actually experience because of the precautions I have always taken...

As with any group shoot, you never know who will show up. You don't get to see their work ahead of time, and they don't get to see yours. You don't get to check references either. I was one of the featured models for this particular shoot, with a character/theme, and there were parts of the costume that made me nervous upon my assignment-I thought it had potential to be taken in an inappropriate direction if put into the wrong hands...but I knew a bunch of the people in charge, most of the photographers, etc. so I brushed it off, assuming that in this setting, with all these people I know, I won't be put into an uncomfortable position. 

On the day of the shoot, before I was even finished with styling/makeup, a photographer had approached me to start shooting--he was antsy, we were running behind, so his "pushiness" seemed to make sense. I let him know how we're being shuffled around and that I still had a few pieces left to my look, but will definitely work with him as soon as I was able. He approached me a couple other times early on, eventually I went to work with him. Everyone was in the same room, so nothing was private--made me feel an extra sense of safety. But I started to have a weird feeling, that pushiness was still there. 

We started shooting... He'd pose me, and then he'd mess around with lights/camera stuff... No big deal, that's how it works... So I'd break the hard-to-hold pose because it was impossible to hold for a handful of minutes and didn't make sense to continue to hold while he wasn't ready to shoot anyway... At first I thought he was just giving me a hard time when he'd tell me "You broke the pose!" But he repeated this, after other difficult poses... I soon felt he was seriously scolding me. Some of his poses made me incredibly uncomfortable,  not just because they were difficult to hold, but I worried they were going to look "sleazy" when he'd tell me to get into that position, I'd "clean it up" a bit to the point I felt comfortable...he wasn't ok with that, and would push me to do what he wanted. The wording he'd use just elevated my level of discomfort... this all felt "trashy"...Very much not the image I want to portray in my work... Am I just overreacting? 

People had walked by us and told me that I'm really lucky to be working with this guy, he's so good, etc.  So even though I felt he was putting me into inappropriate poses, again, I brushed it off--everyone says he's so great, so maybe this just feels worse than it looks...? Maybe I am just being too uptight? Maybe we're just not clicking that well, but that doesn't mean the images will be as bad as this feels, right? But I became more and more frustrated with the things he'd make me do and his harsh tone... he'd cut me off, he'd scold me for breaking poses, he push and push to get what he wanted, one issue after another...I had never had this many problems with a photographer, I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to be rude or mean, I didn't want to ruin any of this for anyone. He didn't seem to understand the difficult poses he was putting me in, and he sure as heck didn't seem to catch on that I was incredibly uncomfortable with the nature of them. The look on my face had to just scream "I'm hating this!!!" Eventually, I just stopped talking completely, I closed up, and just waited for this to be over. More signs you'd think would be easy to read... I still tried to tell  myself that the photos have GOT to look better than they felt... I was able to fit in 2 of my own poses (I can take direction and I don't mind it, but I do love "collaborating" with a photographer and finding my own poses... All photographers are different...this photographer preferred to control the poses himself...there is no right or wrong, just preferences/styles), so that also gave me hope. I had a very difficult time getting myself to enjoy the rest of the group shoot after working with him, so many things felt so wrong... I actually felt "dirty" in a way! I was so worried about those images. I tried to shake these feelings as best as I could for the rest of the shoot. The bad feeling only returned after the shoot, that pretty much the only thing I could think about! I didn't want to ruin my image. I didn't want to be put in a tricky situation on the Internet. But all I could do was wait, and hope.

Then one day I logged into facebook and was horrified. He had posted one of the images that I was most dreading to see. And guess what? I felt it looked just as inappropriate as I had feared and went against that image I have worked so hard to build up over the past couple years. Oh crap! Now what?! Now there's this image that portrays me in a way that I do NOT want to be seen, I feared that image would attract exactly what I don't want. I was torn.

I confided in two photographer friends, I needed a professional photographer's opinion... I needed to know from their perspective, "If a model wasn't comfortable with an image you took of them and posted, is it ok for them to let you know that in a professional and respectful way? And what would you do?" Both assured me that any professional photographer would understand and not take offense, they want the model to like the image and to be comfortable with it, especially. But I'm an artist, I know how difficult it can be to receive criticism, and I didn't want to offend this photographer. After taking some time to think about it, I reminded myself of how hard I have worked for my "image"...and that I do not want this photograph to change that image and open me up to the type of work I do not want to do. I was frustrated looking back at that shoot, he wouldn't listen to me, he was so pushy, he'd yell at me, etc...but all that aside, I was most angry at myself. Despite the handful of people who had walked by talking this photographer up, despite the fact it was a group shoot, despite the fact that he was so pushy and I'm just a quiet girl, Iiiiii did NOT feel comfortable with the things he was making me do. Iiiiii should have listened to that side of me and done something about it, even if he kept cutting me off, I should have kept trying to stand up for myself (as professionally and respectfully as possible). I don't like conflict, I don't want to make people upset, but THIS is not a good situation to find yourself in either. So I carefully constructed a message, trying to be respectful and cautious. I didn't want to demand anything, I was just hoping we could talk and come to an understanding. I let him know I wasn't comfortable with some of his poses but did not know how to express that while we were shooting... and that I was not comfortable with the image he posted, I do not feel it is a good representation of me as a model and where I'd like to go with modeling. I asked him if he would consider removing the photo. I let him know that I had looked at some of his other work and was a fan, and that I was interested in seeing some of the other images he shot of me from that day, and that I appreciate him making the trip to the group shoot and working with me. And then I had to wait again...

Simply put, the photographer's response to my message lead me to believe he did not understand where I was coming from, unfortunately... BUT he did end up removing the photo, thankfully... And well, he also removed ME from his contacts...

So the lesson from this experience was to never let my guard down... While I had worked hard to avoid situations like this, that did not make me immune. I caved in and didn't listen to my gut at all that day. I listened to everyone else and crumbled under this photographer who I felt intimidated by. I was the one in that situation and I knew that it wasn't right. I was so mad at myself for not holding my ground better the day of, for making excuses as to why I must have been over thinking things...However, I am thankful for the lesson and that it came in the form of a group shoot, rather than something more serious and in private. 

It is so important for you to know what you are/aren't willing to do, and if possible, communicate this clearly with the photographer's you'll be working with ahead of time. (If you aren't able to discuss this ahead of time, like in this situation, personally I believe you still have a right to communicate if you are uncomfortable and the photographer has a responsibility to listen-you need to listen to each other.) You need to know the kind of image you want to "sell" and don't cave in if someone pushes you in the opposite direction, no matter what the situation is...It is YOUR image on the line. No side is wrong, as far as what kind of image you choose to sell, as I mentioned earlier it is personal preference. Where I am, at this stage of modeling, I feel I have to be very careful with what I open myself up to... and images like the one that photographer posted I feared would open up the wrong doors for me.