Another From Bolton Street on the Books

Spectral Dancer

The day was chilly and rainy; a moody Savannah Saturday, over cast and gray. Days such as these seem to the rule for working at the old house on Bolton Street. The temperature wasn’t nearly as cold as it had been during the first session there three weeks ago; a good thing of course, but doubly so as this time power to the house had been shut off. Still, even though it was a good twenty degrees warmer inside than it had been when I shot there earlier, it was a cold space in which to work.

In spite of the conditions, good work was done. My assistant Ellisia was over her flu and back to her old self, and with Michelle R. modeling, the shoot went beautifully. We were able to utilize more of the rooms in the place and I feel we created some stellar works as we took advantage of light throughout the house instead of restricting ourselves to one barely heated room.

In addition to the power being turned off, we faced other unforeseen challenges; these included the discovery of another door in the house that would not open without great difficulty once closed, (the door to the room we worked in during the first session had the same problem), and the unexpected appearance of an elderly man on the front porch. It turned out he was there to look at one of the upper floor apartments, and the leasing agent had not informed Ellisia. Fortunately, these slow downs occurred at the start of the session and we were able to continue without further interruption.

Since June, Michelle R. and I have worked together on a fairly regular basis; so often that after the first three or so sessions, I began forgetting to take a model release for her to sign. This session was no different. When I told her that I’d forgotten the model release yet again, she laughed, and as always happens, I promised to have it for her at the image review. It’s happened so frequently now that neither of us seriously worries about it, my forgetfulness having become something of an inside joke. On the other hand, I do I wonder that if I were to remember it, if I would jinx the good work we usually do.

I had also asked Ellisia to bring her camera and do some ‘behind the scenes’ work during the session. These images will be mostly for my website, but I’ll post a few here once she surrenders them. Also, be on the lookout, hopefully soon, for the addition of natural light galleries at my website, as well an addition of images to some of the other galleries.

As to the question of color or black and white? No decison really, save that color is always as an option.

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Finding Models, Part Tres

(In an earlier post, I discussed the processes and resources I typically use for finding models. You can read it here .)

For the past seven years I’ve maintained a presence on several of the model/photographer portfolio websites such as One Model Place, NetModel, MuseCube, and Model Mayhem. Of these, I’ve stayed longest with Model Mayhem, known throughout the internet modeling community as “MM”, joining in December, 2005. Interestingly enough, I still find most of my models through word of mouth, references from other models and artists with whom I’ve worked, or my own local casting calls.

These thoughts resurfaced after a brief comment exchange over the weekend with prolific blogger Stephen H. when he posted a description of his encounter with an inexperienced MM model. I was somewhat surprised by the negativity of my comments towards MM, and this stuck with me. So I’ve decided to revisit the subject of finding models and work via the internet.

It must be understood, and perhaps even goes without saying, what dealing with the internet in this capacity means. Entire subcultures have risen up around websites like MM, complete with a unique language, cliques, and flourishing cults of personality. I’m surprised at how much they remind me of my time as a cog in the corporate machine, a whole other chapter of my professional life. Equally important to understand is these sites are available to anyone that wants to ‘be’ a model or ‘be’ a photographer. There appears to be little control exercised over who can and can’t join despite what the various site rules may say.

The one thing these websites seem to lack is consistent professionalism. MM labels itself as a place “Where Professional Models Meet Model Photographers”; other sites have similar tag lines. Yet site forums, which are said to be moderated, are filled with topics such as “Should I get a boob job? Yes or No?” or “I’ll pick your hot or not images.” While they may be genuinely serious in their purpose, threads such as these do little to promote a professional image of the site or its members.

Of course, many intelligent and well reasoned threads can be found in MM forums. “How can I achieve this type of lighting in studio?” or “Any tips for query letters to gallery directors?” are a few I recall. Threads such as these can have long and interesting, even useful lives. But all too frequently, they turn into virtual shouting matches and rapidly degenerate into little more than witless insults passing between forum ‘regulars.’ Worse, they’re often ignored.

Then there are the new models, (I’m sure this applies to photographers as well), that hold amazingly unrealistic expectations for the work they’ll be hired to do, or the rates that they’ll be paid. A ‘model’ that had only four images in her portfolio, one of which appeared to be a high-school senior portrait, and the rest, self-shot cell phone images, once contacted me with an offer to model, and quoted a rate of $150/hr for nude figure modeling with a two hour minimum required.

I had to smile. I routinely work from a pool of local, very talented, and very experienced art models. These are models that understand what it means when I say “let’s work from contrapposto.” These are models that have been doing the work for five or more years, often multiple times per week, and not only for photographers, but painters, sculptors, and designers. Their rates average half of the rate quoted by the MM ‘model’, and occasionally less. Of course, I politely declined that model’s offer.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. I’ve tried to understand, honestly, I really have.

To say my time spent on MM and other similar sites has been a lost cause would be an understatement. Still, and I suppose it’s because I know so many people that use MM and similar sites with success, I feel compelled to explain my intent in writing this.

My intent is not to bash or unjustly criticize MM or any of the other photographer/artist/model websites out there. Not by any stretch. What I want to do is relate the sum of my experiences and frustrations while being a part of these website communities as a working professional, and MM happens to be where I’ve spent the most time. Granted, participation declined as frustration rose. That said, I fully acknowledge these sites have been wonderful resources for many photographers, models, and other artists, and will undoubtedly continue to do so. I’m glad they’re working for someone. I can only say they didn’t work for me.

In spite of all this, my MM profile will stay put for the time being; after all, it costs nothing other than the time I choose to put into it. But my days of reaching out to the model/photographer web populace are finished. You’ll find me there only if you look.

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With today’s post is another image from the first Bolton Street session. A bit ghostly; but somewhat fitting for the weather and mood.

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