Most of us nude models have at one time or another experienced negative reactions to the work that we do. It might be from the well-meaning but condescending friend who warns us that the photographer wants nothing else but to 'groom' us, that they will ply us with pretty pictures and compliments and then... BLAM! before we know it, we're high on smack, on a cum-stained mattress being fucked from behind by a pimply youth called Dick Hardy. Or it could be the colleague who posts pictures on the internet to warn parents that a brazen slut is teaching their children Algebra. It might be from boyfriends who just can't seem to get past the fact that somewhere out there another man is jacking off to photographs of their girlfriend... as though a photograph is needed for a guy to shuffle his deck, personally I think it can be taken for granted that most women have been the object of a male strangers masturbation fantasies, nude model or not. A depressingly high number of people (and judging by frequent posts on forums such as Model Mayhem, many nude models themselves) view photographers that work with nudes as little else but dirty old men that press their shutters whilst pulling their pork.
The reality is often (I won't say 'always' as the depths that human beings can sink to never surprises me) as far from that belief as is possible. There could almost be inverse relationship between my most sexy shots and the actual level of sexiness that accompanied the capturing of that shot. With my early work that relationship was in part due to the circumstances of the studio that I worked in... a widebeam narrowboat that afforded little room for maneuver within a 6ft x 6ft impromptu tent of black fabric. Thoughts of fingers and tongues delicately whispering around my pussy were invariably supplanted by thoughts of how in the fuck I was going to keep my balance in ridiculously high hooker shoes as the boat rocked violently from the wakes created by late night rowers. In the 4 years that I have been doing this job I have never had a photographer behave in an untoward fashion... even the so-called GWC's who clearly enjoy photographing more than they enjoy photography. I realise that this is not the experience of all models... I appreciate that I have been lucky... or, that I have taken the necessary precautions to stack the odds favourably in my direction. But isn't that something that we all have to do on a day to day basis? Crossing the road can be a dangerous endeavor, but we (hopefully) learn fairly early in life to find a pedestrian crossing or at least to look both ways before stepping out into the void. Indeed, there are psychopathic, sexual predators that are also photographers... but we can say the same for dentists, or taxi drivers... anyone remember John Worboys?
Another classic misconception is the notion that any woman taking their clothes off for money (or whatever else it is that is given in trade... my personal fav is TFL - Time For Latex!) is somehow being exploited, being used. That they are victims of a patriarchal society that views women as objects, little more than playthings for the appetites of men. The majority of the models I have met are the farthest from that stereotype as you can get. They are empowered women, confident and unabashed in their sexuality.
I began modeling because when I reached my thirties I finally understood that my body was my body... I could lose a little weight here and there but ultimately my ass would always be more than a handful, my tits would never fill a C cup and I would never reach the giddy heights of 5ft 3inches. And most importantly, I no longer cared. I was happy with what I had, and I knew that this was as good as it would get... from now on it was downhill all the way (literally downhill in terms of said ass and tits) and I wanted something to be able to look back on when I was a wrinkly old spinster, scaring the local kids with my crazy witch hair and toothless grin. I was also painfully aware that, like so many women, I had spent a large part of my life hating my body; seeing the imperfections, comparing myself to my own idea of what constituted a beautiful woman... namely, anything that was the direct opposite to my own appearance. I wanted to love my body, my sexuality. And nude modeling gave my body that love. It gave me the opportunity to view my own body objectively, I could see my body from the outside, as a whole thing, not just as the fleshy shell that I inhabit, but a thing (and yes, I will proudly say an object) of beauty. I saw how the wrinkles of fat around my soft belly could cast sensuous shadows, how the stretch marks that blossomed during puberty now look like silver tiger stripes that glisten in the soft light. I saw how the dimples in my ass cheeks simply begged to be grabbed. In short, I saw how wonderful my body is, because and not despite of it's idiosyncrasies. Although my photographs are posted on the internet, or displayed in exhibitions, I have never modeled for anyone other than myself. I would still do this even if no one else on this earth ever saw the images.
This enlightenment is also something that feeds my own photography, I don't care who she is, what she looks like, I would love to photograph every woman I meet. I want to be there when they discover that they are beautiful. My greatest triumph to date has been the reaction I received when I showed a good friend the pictures I had taken of her one evening as we tried to mend her broken heart with red wine. She started crying and asked how I had made her look so beautiful. I replied that I hadn't done anything. She was beautiful and all I did was see it, and photograph it.
And why does it matter if you are beautiful or not? For the same reason that it matters how good a person you are, how intelligent you are, how empathic you are, how generous you are. Beauty is not something that requires facial symmetry, a 0 dress size, legs that go aaallll the way up. Beauty is the quiddity of a thing, the imperfect perfection. It is there in all things if you just take a second to look for it. It should be glorified in all it's forms, celebrated with 21-gun salute, bellowed from the roof tops, a 60ft tall flashing neon sign hung over it's head... because there is more than enough shit and horror and hate and self-loathing in this world. It's about time we fucking relaxed and just let a little beauty into our lives.
(Post inspired by the thoughts of a fellow nude model Article)
(All photographs copyright of Darktess)