by Howard Nowlan (Unison Photo Arts)
UdA Art Editor
Some years ago, when all this was very new to me, I heard of a model who had received some very favorable interest from some UK photographers who I admired, and to my great joy, I soon had an opportunity to work with her.
What gave you an interest in this field ?
I was a poverty-stricken actor, and I couldn't afford to have my head shots re-done. I'd been approached by professional photographers in the street a few times, and I wondered if one of them might possibly do my shots for free if I offered to pose for something they needed to shoot. The first one I tried said "yes," but only if I'd shoot some art-nude because he struggled to find models who'd do that. I was delighted! And he turned out to be a really, fabulous photographer, with a big studio and a list of commercial clients. He got me my first paid job, which was a shoot for a British jewelry firm.
Was nude work part of your modeling career from the start, and if not, how did you become involved in the field ?
As an actress, I'd already worked nude (I even did a couple of sex scenes for TV dramas and a short film) so it didn't really seem like an issue. I assumed that it was part of modelling, but what I didn't know was that there was a whole genre dedicated to artistic depictions of nudity. That was a wonderful surprise, and I started doing nude-in-landscape shoots in my first month as a professional model, even though it was December, and I was working in England and Scotland !
How have you found the modeling experience so far ?
It's such a horrible cliché, but I think I'm grateful every day for the job I get to do. As soon as I did my first shoot I knew I'd found something I really loved to do, and it was a lovely shock to find out that I could make a living from something so fun. I've been very lucky in that I've had a chance to work in a wide variety of styles, which has made my life a lot more interesting.
And one of the best things about my job is that I get to travel all over the place. Lots of people travel for work, but a lot of them will have to stay in cities and see the inside of conference rooms all day. I get taken to the most beautiful bits of whichever country I'm in, because photography often requires beautiful places! I'm very grateful for that. When I started modelling I expected photographers to maybe be a bit unpleasant and predatory. And I think I was a bit scared of the other models too. It's been a rather incredible surprise to find a community of liberal, clever, creative people instead . So I've found the whole experience of being a model pretty surprising and wonderful so far.
There is a marked difference between, for example, naturist imagery and fine art figure work.
Do you find ways to be individually creative in each of these fields, or are some shoots pretty defined before you begin ?
Some shoots are definitely pretty defined from the outset, which I have no problem with. It can be really nice to work with someone with a very strong vision. But a lot of my shoots are much more collaborative than that, with both me and the photographer coming up with ideas. I like to improvise, and try to find new poses and ideas for every shoot. That can be hard, especially in a studio, but it's one of the challenges that makes me love my job !
Are there any particular high or low points to date you'd like to mention ?
Wow, I did get to work in Botswana once! Posing with wild animals in the distance was a pretty high point, though it wasn't exactly relaxing. I was lying in a tree at one point, and I suddenly thought 'Don't panthers live in trees here ?' It was a very unhelpful thought. But quite often the best moments just come from being with the right people. Just like in life generally, I suppose.
by Laurie Jeffery
Are there any particular shoots you would like to do, or any particular locations you'd like to use ?
There are always new things I want to do. I go through phases, but at the moment I'd love to explore shooting artistic nude images with high-fashion styling. I've not seen many examples of what I mean, but I sometimes think it's a shame that most of the best stylists and photographers work in the field of fashion because that's where the money is. But it'd be great if they'd let me do some high-fashion-nude work with them.
Oh, and I want to try some really powerful-looking political-propaganda type nudes. That sounds weird. But I know what I mean! Location-wise, I just want to keep going to new, beautiful places. They don't have to be exotic, some of the best places I've shot at have been in England. And I love derelict buildings. They're hard to find in England, but there's something so atmospheric about a lot of them.
What Artists or Photographers inspire you ?
I loved Helmut Newton's work (along with the rest of the world, I think) and I also like Bob Carlos Clarke, mainly because he managed to make such explicit images look quite classy ! But there are loads of photographers and artists who aren't hugely famous, but are so talented. It's hard to get famous in this field, I think. So Alex Ingram, who was one of my first photographers, inspires me. He's just so technically skilled, and he's taught me such a lot about how to make good pictures. I see differently because of him, and that's inspiring.
Where do you feel your own modeling strengths lie ?
This is tricky, because I'm a bit self-critical. I'd be able to give you a list of weaknesses, but I don't want to draw peoples' attention to them! I wonder if maybe not falling in love with my work too easily is a strength though, because I get disappointed with myself if I do boring poses, and I notice if I didn't relate to my surroundings very well. I think always trying to aim higher is maybe my strength. And having a dance background is always a good thing in modeling, I think.
You have always struck me as a very creative and inspired model. Are there particular sources in your own life which create such natural charm in front of the camera ?
Well, thank you! I think I'm quite lucky that I had the chance to train as a dancer, and then as an actress. As a model, I often create a character in my head and maybe even tell myself a story while I'm working. I hope that might sometimes come across in my pictures – a desire to create a feeling, not just a pretty picture.
What do you think you'll be doing in this field in the next few years ?
I'd love to carry on modeling. I think all models are aware of getting older, and maybe being less desirable as a model, but if I get the chance, I'd love to carry on for long enough to see how the sort of pictures I create with photographers will change as I develop. I've been modelling for 5 years, and I can already see phases that I went through, when I saw beauty in certain things and took the sort of work that reflected that. Year by year that changes, and I'd love to see what sort of work I'm doing in 10 years. I hope I get the chance !
If you could give any advice to new models in the business, what would it be ?
First of all, be safety conscious. It's such a boring thing to say, sorry, but traveling round the world on your own, to go and work with people who've chosen you because of what you look like naked IS potentially hazardous.
I was once working in up-state New York and got locked in my bedroom at a photographer's house. I assumed he was trying to abduct me, and realised that no one knew where I was. It turned out that the lock had just jammed, but it made me think a bit more carefully.
Other than that, I suppose I'd say don't let anyone else take control of the sort of work you do.
That includes boyfriends, agents, people who want to manage you. Support from other people can be great, but you should make your own decisions about style of work, the fee you charge, and EVERYTHING else. Someone tried to get me to have breast implants when I first started modeling, and I also got trapped into having all my hair dyed red and white. I'm much stricter now!
An Artistic Collaboration, by Unison Model, Magenta,
featuring Magenta & Joceline Brooke-Hamilton, photographed by Howard Nowlan.