"An embodied person is a free being revealed in the flesh. When we speak of a beautiful body, we are referring to the beautiful embodiment of a person, and not merely about a body considered as such."
Roger Scruton on Beauty
An Interview with Art Model Natasha Himpson
by Howard Nowlan
Any photographer who has worked in this field for any time will know that is replete with moments filled with wonder, connection, discernment, and, amidst the joy of working with fellow artists, mutual delight in such an array of these meaningful discoveries.
For many of us, this journey really takes form when we work with our first model - something which happened for me on a remote Cornish beach in 2002.
The model was Natasha Himpson, and that first session, financed and mentored by my late wife, well and truly opened the gateway to creating my own particular work in the fine art field.
I lost contact with Natasha in 2004, whilst both of our lives went through a turbulent period, but this year, she decided to return to modeling once more, and hunted me down through the internet. We have now commenced working together once again, so it is with great delight that I introduce you to her here...
Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I have been modeling for 12 years (minus a 4 year break) - which has made me feel somewhat new to the industry all over again (laughs). I am South African born but have been living in the UK for 10 years now. I love traveling, I have been to China, Egypt, Tunisia, Bulgaria, America, France, Dominican Rep, all over the UK and Southern Africa too. I am a naturist whenever the weather permits and really love spending time outdoors. I also enjoy reading, painting and spending time with my family.
What brought you to modeling?
I started modeling in South Africa when I was 17. I have recently returned to modelling on a part-time basis after becoming a mother. I suppose I have always been attracted to the industry because I truly enjoy being part of such a creative proccess and I really enjoy expressing myself in the work produced between the photographer and me.
When did you first become involved in fine art figure work?
I became a figure model in South Africa when I was 18. I mostly worked with painters as a life model although I did do a few figure shoots. I liked working as a photographic model more because you get to move around and try new things all the time. With digital cameras these days, there's also an element of instant gratification which enables you to view and develop ideas that appear to work well.
How have you found the modeling experience so far?
Overall, I find modeling an outlet for my creativity and enjoy the experience immensly. Before I took the break from modeling, I was finding the glamor / fashion side of the industry somewhat tiresome. I decided that upon returning to modeling that I would try to stick to more creative and artistic ventures.
What have you most enjoyed and most disliked about being a model?
I find modelling most rewarding when both myself and the photographer are in persuit of a common artistic goal. Being able to bounce off of one another and share ideas builds inter-action and enjoyment which relaxes both parties and cannot really fail to yield positive results.
I dislike the stigmas that are attatched to the naked form. I think the human body really is something to behold and that the ability to capture it's essence is a gift. So mostly I dislike the narrow mindedness that surrounds the work that I do.
If you could work anywhere, are there any particular shoots you would like to do, or any particular locations you'd like to use?
I enjoy any outdoor location work, I feel that nature and figure work go hand in hand. I would love to work in any naturally stunning locations as they can only enhance the image.
In particular, I would like to try a desert shoot, a snow shoot and a waterfall shoot at some point...
I also really like the idea of multi media type work, so combining bodypainting with photography can look good also.
You have recently returned to modeling after a break to begin a family. How have you found your first shoots back in front of a camera?
It was really daunting at first. After having a baby, I had a great deal of body hang ups as well as insecurities that I was 'beyond it' in age and out of practice. I think though that the right choice of photographer on my initial shoot made all the difference to my outlook and has helped me ease back into what I love doing without any set-backs.
My favourite artists are Salvidor Dali, Botticelli, Monet, Gustav Klimt, and so on.
My favourite photographers are Man Ray, Helmut Newton, Ansel Adams and of course I am constantly inspired by the photographers that I work with (smiles).
I'm also inspired by music though I find music can drastically alter the mood and affect the type of poses and feel of the images created.
Where do you feel your own modeling strengths lie?
Having studied art myself for 4 years, I feel that my main strength lies in the fact that I do have a genuine interest in helping the photographer achieve the image he or she is looking to create. From a superficial point of view I feel that my look is more classical and not glamour which lends itself to the type of work that interests me.
Do you have any particular aims for your work in this field for the future?
My most important aim is to enjoy the work I do, to produce images that I can be proud of and to help the photographers that I work with realize their objectives. I don't think you can ask for more than that.
Are there any particular projects on the horizon?
I have few offers in the pipeline and am currently working on a project which is a recreation of some paintings in the style of a famous painter.
Do you find your involvement in the field enhances your own appreciation of art or beauty in any particular ways?
Absolutely. I never realized the potency and affect that light has on images before getting involved in photography. It still amazes me how drastically you can change an image by adjusting the lighting just slightly.
As for beauty, I think it surrounds all the time and the that the art of photography is in the ability to capture those moments.
I've noticed that you really seem to enjoy your work (lots of smiles and laughter). What aspects of a photo shoot are key for you?
I think it's important to be comfortable in your environment and comfortable with the photographer. The moment you feel begin to feel unhappy about either, you don't relax and it really shows on the images. I also always try to portray the feeling of the moment in my eyes, it's no good being in the pose of an ancient goddess while thinking about what you need to get from the stores after the shoot.
If you could give any advice to new models in the business, what would it be?
1. Stay safe.
2. Enjoy yourself.
I also found that even a small amount of photographic experience can really help gain a better understanding of the way lighting, form and composition work, which will in turn help to produce better images and will mean you'll need less direction from the photographer.
Many thanks, Natasha, and I look forward to working with you again soon.
All images by Howard Nowlan