Mar 032016


Aussie Cyril

I feel compelled to modify most of Aussie Cyril’s pics. But this is one is great as it is. I love the bright pop-arty blue and rounded corners: vaguely 1960s retro, no?.

    ‘I love women.’ The eye of Aussie Cyril’s small camera click-click-clicks, his plump lips smiling.
    I adjust myself on his chaise longue, offering him a shoulder. ‘Ah. No – I mean, my question was just in general terms. About how Art Nude photographers’ ways of relating to their models have differed from the historical precedent of artists’ relationships to their models.’ Slithering on the silk draperies I shift a cushion, pose again. ‘I’m curious to find out if there’s a difference.’
    ‘Wait’ – Aussie Cyril swaps the small camera for a chunky one with a vulgarly long lens, then continues snapping. ‘I don’t think one can generalise. About either photographers or artists. Personally I photograph women because I love women. I would not want to photograph a male model. The very thought makes me shrink. Ooh, that’s lovely. Absolutely lovely. More of that – yes – ’
    ‘That’s so different from my experience of working with artists. We models are certainly not always loved. We’re viewed as a kind of tool, and we just do as we’re instructed.’
    Aussie Cyril pauses at this, momentarily leaning on the oak panelling to look at me. ‘Whereas I’ll do anything you say.’ Click, click, click.
    ‘Erm … Is that – usual? The photographer led by the model?’
    Click – ‘that’s terrific…’ – click. ‘My dear Suki, you’ll find out that there have been very many Art Nude photographers and there’s a great diversity of behaviours. But I reckon by and large the relationship to a model is an intimate and caring one.’
    ‘Tuh. Whereas artists like Euan Uglow could work with a model for hours, days, months, years, and yet be absolutely disengaged from that human being. Like, one time a model died, so he just found another model with an identical physique and carried on with his painting! The model was a plank, not a personality. Why didn’t he just bloody well take photographs, if he was that fanatical about precision recording? Or else why not just set up a technically challenging still-life? Why use a human?’

As Cyril drives me home his hand comes to rest too close to my thigh.
    ‘Ahem. I liked your use of drapes and sheets to get those varied backdrops. And your apartment’s amazing.’
    ‘I was very lucky to find that historic French Concession villa before real estate went through the roof.’
    The fake grandeur of the new-built university campus looms ahead. ‘Okay, this is my gate. Thanks, Cyril – it’s been a really good session.’
    He pulls in, and presses a thick wad of hundred yuan notes into my hand. ‘Thank you, Suki, so very much’ – he leans in, breathing heavily – ‘I’d like to do many more shoots with you. Very very soon. A bientot!’

Before bedtime Cyril has already emailed today’s pictures. I show Bel.
    ‘He’s out to make you pretty.’ She walks off.
    I agree with Bel. I don’t like that either. But should I risk upsetting him by telling him? He pays so well.

Tanx 4 these Cyril! My absolute fave of urs will always be de Uglow-style pic, apres Uglow’s “plank-woman”, from de group session. Mus go bed now! S x
P.S. Btw tanx again 4 lending me books – have browsed Alfred Stieglitz – some of his Georgia O’Keefe pics r like Bel’s studies of my hands n feet.

I send Cyril this, then want to add a quick after-thought. I start another email.

P.P.S. May I bring more Egon Schiele and Lucian Freud poses to our next meet – these guys not yet out of my system! Rly looking forward, Sx
P.P.P.S. am ENORMOUSLY ENTHUSIASTIC about working togeth!!!

    ‘Why?’ Bel is close to my shoulder. ‘Why are you “enormously enthusiastic”?’ I hear a strange edge. ‘I thought you were a writer.’
    Is she jealous? So why isn’t she photographing me herself? What’s happened to this Art Nude project she invited me to Shanghai for in the first place?
    ‘It’s giving me writing ideas.’ I hit send. ‘It’s great he wants to photograph me. I like working with people who are being creative in their own field. It’s inspiring.’
    ‘I think he’s got ulterior motives.’
    I can’t help my horrible self, even though Bel is – I now think – depressed. Suki, queen of the barbed final word: ‘Least he is motivated.’
    A second’s silence.
    ‘Right. Whereas I don’t think you’ve even glanced at that unfinished novel of yours yet.’



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  41 Responses to “Page 14”

  1. For an art model your estimation of artists seems a tad harsh.

  2. As a photographer and life model and occasional life artist I think I would say the two kinds of art (assuming we are talking about art nude photography and not erotic pictures) are completely different. The modelling requires a different approach.

    • Totally agree. It’s a different relationship. Would you say the model is, in the case of photography, generally required to be more proactive?

    • Yes, on the downside, for some – and sometimes – a photo of the same position of the body is perceived differently from a drawing.

      Could you hang a photo of yourself exposed in all your glorious nudity on your living-room wall – or would you rather a more anonymous / stylised drawing?

      • You should be able to, Lars. A photographer should have a plan of what he/she wants to achieve before going into the studio. The lighting and the set is as much a part of the art as the model, so the end result should be a life study in the same way as a drawing, but created very differently. The photographer has the advantage of being able to plan ahead and will direct the model. A life artist usually lets the model choose the pose and doesn’t know what it’s going to be. Personally I am more comfortable doing photography than drawing because I like to be able to plan ahead. But modelling – I would far rather do life-modelling than photographic modelling for various reasons.

        • There are several kinds of photographers, several ways to do a photo shoot, and several styles in Art Nude photography – and not all have life studies like those in drawings on their agenda etc.

          My point was – the differences in the impression a nude photo and a nude drawing gives, not how the photographer works.

          • I agree Lars, but my point was, a true art photographer should produce images that are just as at home hanging on the wall as pictures produced by an artist/painter. Art photography should be about the whole image, not the model. When the specific model becomes the prime focus, then the image starts to cross to erotic. That’s my perception anyway but probably others see it differently.

          • I so don’t agree!

            Art Nude photography can be about details, feelings, locations, situations, material, with or without contrast and focus, over- or under-exposed, etc etc.

            I find your definition of when it crosses over into ‘erotic’ hardly credible.

          • I didn’t say it was my definition. I said it was my personal perception. I will do Art Nude photography, but not erotica or porn, so I need to define my own boundaries. But we all know everyone has a different idea of art, so it’s not important what I think.

          • I just found it strange, Andy, that you think what makes the distinction between ‘Art’ and ‘erotica’ is when “the specific model” is “the prime focus”.

            If I work with a photographer I assume that they chose to work specifically with me and that the focus is on me as the model, rather than the random kitten, nail or stone in the background.

          • The relationship is between two people – whether an artist and model or a photographer and model. It must enviably depend on those individuals and the contract agreed between them in order that the purpose is served successfully. It makes little sense to generalise, except to say that the model must always be respected and the model always has the final say in what is ok and what is not.

          • True, Mike, but in practice it feels vastly different. For starters, photographers talk to and direct the model nearly all the time. Even if an artist gives direction about a pose, it’s then for the model to hold it with very little further interaction.

          • Well, Hilary, I’ve worked with more photographers who encourage or expect me to use my imagination, extrapolate on their idea or concept, and bring my own experience and spirit to the creation.

            Generalising helps nobody. Stereotypes give no benefits.

          • You probably have a lot more photographic experience than me Lars – I do much prefer life-modelling. But I would still maintain that in a photographic session there is likely to be pretty much constant interaction between the photographer and the model, whereas with an artist, the model spends long periods posing and not needing to respond to anything. Of course sometimes in photographic sessions the model spends ages standing around doing faff-all while the photographer adjusts equipment and lighting, but that’s different again.

          • Well, knowing is better than assuming, so if you want to know, it’s better to try or ask than guess.

            Yes, as a life-model you are often still for a longer time than in photography, but some photographers are very introverted.

          • I have modelled for a few photographers, Lars. I accept I have less experience than you because I have not yet encountered one I would describe as introverted.

  3. I prefer art nude photography and, even more, body-painting with photo session and/or stage display.

  4. Love the writing and thoughts, even when I disagree, as I do here, with the generalizations about the nature of life-drawing artists.

    Having just come in from another wonderful life-drawing session I can only say that my own experience (granted, I am the one at the other end of the charcoal stick, or in my case the fountain pen and watercolour brush) is totally different from Suki’s. I do agree that the relationship of model to artist is different in a life-drawing setting from a photographer shooting nudes. The task and, if you will, the end product, is different. I disagree that there is an inherent negative, impersonal user-stance in the person of the artist.

    For myself – and I am confident I speak for other artists; certainly for the ones I know and draw with – I receive what is given as gift in a life-drawing session, never demanding this or that pose. If the pose taken isn’t one that suits, for whatever reason, I sometimes but rarely move to another place, if it is not disruptive to the group. Most often these days I simply take the challenge of the “boring” or “difficult” or “repeat” pose to better myself. At breaks we speak with the model, and most often not about the drawings but about the usual things any person might chat about, though it seems she or he is often interested in the drawings. Some models might indeed be a tool – or even a big-tool*. Some artists are – but one doesn’t need to treat them that way.

    As to that cruel artist who, upon the death of the model, sought a replacement of a similar physique, well of course he did: he is a working artist in the midst of an unfinished piece. That artist may have been cold and inconsiderate; we do not know, for in this vignette there is no back-story.

    Aussie Cyril is correct, there is a great diversity among Art Nude photographers. Equally, there is such among life-drawing artists and Art Nude painters (often one and the same person). It appears, Suki, we happen to know very different ones.

    As to (not mentioned here, but in a number of places since Part One – A Small Life) the fact of artists drawing out-of-proportion body parts, the sex bit and the non-sex bits, indeed that may show a porny predilection, but may just as easily not; it may show a beginner or simply a low level of drawing ability, or it may simply not; and so on. Personally I like to play when I am in a general life-drawing session: to let a line go wonky, to push into new media, to do whatever it takes to actually observe, really see the essence – a perhaps non-photographic feeling and interpretation. Maybe the line of the shape of the belly is like, the best!, and I really let go there and have fun. Someone looking at it might think me a dolt, or think I have a belly fetish or that I don’t know nothin’ about draftsmanship and proportion, and the insecure model who has brought with them to the session all their inner pain might merely think me cruel or sloppy or both.

    All of the above, lest it be missed in this realm of ether-communication, is said with a genuine smile and no anger or what-not.

    Thank you for writing and sharing with us (the world) this unfinished novel.

    *tool: a colloquial expression that I assume is fairly universal but if not, “a stupid, useless or socially inept person”.

    • Thank you so much Owen for this lengthy response and especially all your words of encouragement. I myself don’t have the chip on my shoulder that Suki has developed regarding how artists relate to their models. I still consider life-modelling to be the best day-job I’ve ever done to get income to support my writing. I am working with creative, inspirational people with whom I feel I have a great deal of common ground. In the life room, the artist and model are ideally in a mutually beneficial relationship. That’s my experience.

  5. I’ve only done one Art Nude photoshoot and am hoping to do my first life-modelling session soon, so it’ll be interesting to see the difference and if I have a preference.

  6. Having posed for both, I definitely prefer being drawn. Personally, I prefer to see someone’s interpretation of me rather than a photo of me. I agree with Hilary Curtis, posing for artists is calming.

  7. Well, all forms of Nude Art are in my opinion beautiful because they are challenging for the artist, the model and the process itself. Modeling is truly a voyage into another world, The world of The Imagination. It’s quite good to experience this form of artistic endeavor.

  8. Prefer modeling for an artist.

  9. I like modelling for both.

    • With photography you can do a really awesome pose that you could never hold for an artist – like something in mid-air.

  10. I love both [life-modelling and photographic modelling] but I find I can be more expressive, adventurous and convey more emotion in photography.

  11. There is Life Drawing, and Nude Photography. You could have Nude Drawing, but Life Photography??? A drawing and a photograph are two entirely different things even if the model is the same.

  12. See what happens: we English give the world the most subtle language in the world – an eclectic mix of tongues from whoever we’ve invaded and conquered or even whom we’ve allowed to invade or conquer us. And what do they do? Misuse it.

    And the main culprit?

    Did we do right to let America leave the Empire 240 years go? For the knowing, this is all meant to be ironic…

  13. I like modelling for both. I never felt like a ‘plank’ or just an object in an art class, though some classes can be more friendly than others. Agree that photography poses can be more dynamic and difficult, as held for just a moment.

  14. Would love to get involved with photographic modelling!

  15. You can experiment with poses for photographs and do different things with it !

  16. As a nude model I’ve had much more experience posing for artists than I’ve had with photographers, even though I’ve been taking nude self-portraits now for over 50 years and in all that time I’ve only posed nude for two other photographers and I did find it interesting. I much prefer the shorter gesture poses when I model because I can take more challenging and interesting poses. I will be posing nude for a male photographer in the next couple of weeks and I’m really looking forward to it. He photographs more women than men, but told me that he does like photographing the nude male. As for my work, I enjoy photographing and drawing both the male and female nude equally. Here’s a link to my Model Mayhem profile:

  17. Both! Have posed as a model for both [photographers and artists], sketched at life modelling groups, plus photographed models as well.

  18. Hey – many thanks, everybody, for all these responses. Seems there’s loads of cross-over: plenty of models are up for photographic modelling as well as life-modelling, and are able to pinpoint and enjoy the differences / pros and cons. I still guess, however, that there’s probably a silent majority of life-models who prefer to avoid the camera’s lens..?

  19. [Re: photography in the life-room]
    This is a very sensitive issue for me, having had photos of myself in nude pose published in two national newspapers without my knowledge and consent. I never permit photography in the life room, clothed or unclothed, and believe it or not this sometimes causes offence to artists.

    Virtually every time I model now people want to photograph me in pose. Sometimes they ask, sometimes they don’t and/or do it covertly. We are getting to a point now where artists see it as almost a right to photograph models in pose and the RAM guidance on photography needs review in these circumstances.

    Personally, I would like to see photography in the life room BANNED now, except by the tutor (ideally using the models’ phone) for the sole purpose of continuity where extended poses last for more than one session, or at the very least that tutors should habitually state at the start of every session whether the model permits photography or not.

    There are many reasons for this including:
    1. We are paid as artist’s models not photographic ones. The difference in pay rates between the two can be huge.
    2. Copyright in the image belongs to the photograph taker. We thus have no control over what is done with it subsequently – subject to Restriction of Use agreements, but how do you enforce those?
    3. Normally the image/s taken are intended for use by the photograph takers to work on their creations at home without the model and without paying him/her for what ought to be additional posing time.
    4. Working from a photograph is undesirable in any event because such will never be properly ‘true to life’. Artists become dependent on such images and the live quality of their work will thus suffer as a result.
    5. Especially when the pose is nude the photograph takers are unlikely to want themselves photographed naked (or at all) by a stranger. The converse should also apply.
    6. It derogates from the very purpose of life drawing.
    As to sanctions, a life model who experiences unwanted photography should be entitled to demand that the artist/s concerned should immediately delete offending images before a witness and leave the session. If that does not happen then s/he should be entitled to terminate the session at once on full pay.

    • Many thanks Clifford for your views on photograph-taking in the life room. I absolutely agree that for a start it should strictly be only with the permission of the model; I can’t imagine anyone not agreeing with that. Perhaps there are some contexts where a ban would be appropriate, but it would be dispiriting to work in an environment that had to be policed: that says something about the calibre of those present; a not-to-be-trusted kind of person who one wouldn’t choose to work with anyway (I can only imagine, for example, maybe a naughty GCSE class or something…).

      I think a blanket ban would be unenforcable and also disappointing, because so many artists like to ‘finish off’ at home. My personal policy is to allow photographs, although when I was in an FE College I was never asked for a photo – I think the tutor there would not have wanted students to have them – and that’s the only place I can imagine I might have said no.

    • I agree with your comment – and having been a life-drawer I’m in profound agreement with your reasons 4 and 6.