Monday, June 29, 2009

"I never saw an ugly thing in my life; light, shadow, and perspective will always make it beautiful." - John Constable, painter.

There are two questions I’m asked most often about my work and both pertain to models.

The most common question people have is how or where I find models. They also want to know why I don’t have any images of male models included in my body of work. The latter is the easiest to answer, so I’ll start there.

The market for male figurative art, particularly photographic male figurative art, is so small it’s virtually non-existent. That’s particularly true for the area of the world where I live and work. I have photographed male models in years past and used to show their images in my portfolios, but I’ve never sold an image of a male nude. So, I don’t invest the time and cost in the production of work that will be difficult, if not impossible, to market. Simple economics.

This is interesting to me, as the vast majority of figurative art produced by the Greek and Roman cultures were of the male form. The male body was seen as the epitome of perfection; whereas the female figure was seen as incomplete and often described as “profane.” At some point, the cultural and world views changed and now the female form dominates figurative work the world over. To this day, male figurative art is more successful as statuary or drawings and paintings than photography.

So: where do I find models for my work? Most often, I ask people I know or those I meet to pose. There are also resources on the web, networking sites that specifically provide a way for models and artists to connect with one another. Model Mayhem, Model Coast, Model Brigade, and One Model Place are some of the more popular ones. I maintain portfolios on Model Mayhem and Model Brigade but haven’t had any real success with them as resources for models. I tend to do better when I look within my own community.

Finding models is challenging for any artist. The search for the model-muse eludes us all. One great thing about figurative modeling is it’s not restricted to certain body ideals, such as those sought for fashion or runway modeling. Anybody, everyone, can be a figure model. Granted, specific projects may call for a certain body type, skin color, age range, or some other criteria. But generally speaking, figure modeling is something anyone comfortable in their own skin, comfortable with who they are, can do. 18 or older, of course.

In a recent conversation with a photographer friend, he shared that he’s had good results finding models using Craig’s List. I was apprehensive about this approach at first; I had tried advertising for models without success in the past. I decided to try it again. This time I was able to make some promising connections. The image above is of a woman that responded to my Craig’s List advert. It's from a recent studio session, and coincidentally, it was her first experience as a model.

Asking friends and acquaintances to pose has worked quite well. But it's not surprising that nearly every day, I see women that would be wonderful figure models. Often, what I see as interesting about them are the very things they see as “unattractive” or “ugly” about themselves. Our cultural ideas of beauty are often based on unobtainable goals. Sadly, we live in a culture where merely being nude is considered taboo; being nude in a public place, or outside of one’s home, even on one’s own property, can be judged as a criminal act. These can be difficult barriers to deal with; but one thing I never do is to try to persuade or “talk” someone into modeling. I’ll give them a business card with my website address and contact number on it, briefly explain what I do, and let them know my work can be seen in a local gallery. It’s their decision to contact me or not. Fortunately, they often do.

I feel I do my best work with new or inexperienced models and I’ve wondered why this is. I've come to the conclusion it's because they have few bad habits to undo and no preconceived ideas of what the art should be. I’m also fortunate to live in a city where a prominent art school is located and where much of the community is receptive to art and the processes of art. Often, models I’ve worked with in the past will refer an interested model to me. My karma must be better than I know.

Models are critical to artists and artists are critical to models. The figure photographer cannot work without the figure model; the figure model’s work cannot exist with the figure photographer. On some level, model and artist are partners intertwined, bound together by the work at hand, giving and receiving in constant, intimate exchange, creating something that is simultaneously wonderful and beautiful.

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