As my search for a soulmate continues I find myself in The Keys on Yarm High Street, staring into limpid chocolate eyes as their owner tells me about the photographers who have asked her to model over the years (and there I was without a camera!) and how she ended up taking part in a fashion show.

The tale that followed was remarkable, both in the surprising background to her appearance on the catwalk, and her inspirational response.  From birth she has been affected by dystonia, a neurological disorder producing involuntary muscle contractions.   I couldn’t begin to imagine the impact that the condition has had upon her life, but she shared how despite her popularity with those wishing to create beautiful imagery she had been told that she would never succeed as a model because of the condition.

Years later she read an article in a newspaper that seemed to mirror her experience, attended a conference on the basis of that article, caught the eye of a neurosurgeon who had been presenting, and was referred for treatment, despite his practice being at the other end of the country.  After several years of medicinal treatment she undertook the experimental therapy of DBS (deep brain stimulation), brain surgery requiring the implantation of wiring deep into the tissue of her brain (surgery which she underwent twice when the first implants were removed due to infection).  What was remarkable was the way she viewed the operation.  Naturally, having seen enormous benefits as a result, she is positive, but she described the 10 hour process during which she chatted to the surgeons as enjoyable!

Her recuperation led her to volunteer for the fashion show as a mark of defiance to the world and to raise funds to help others, but produced two areas of focus in her life; nutrition and religion; the first was a key element in taking her recovery seriously and her goal would be to achieve the qualifications to pursue this as a career, and the second reflected her belief that her life had been in the hands of a superior force and her role now was to inspire others in the same way.

Sadly as a “non-practicing atheist” (I’m not evangelical about it!) there is unlikely to be a romantic future with this beautiful woman, but I was struck by a coincidence, for in the  same 24 hours I attended another photography workshop with another beauty, Zara Watson and Andrew Appleton whose training I have previously experienced.  Zara’s home continues the religious theme, being a converted Wesleyan chapel, and she herself is a trained nutritionist.  Small world.

There wasn’t much religion in the shoot; being an erotic photography workshop I’m not entirely sure that the original owners would have approved.  I didn’t envy Andrew in trying to teach this; as everyone’s erotic stimulus is individual to them (I personally like this quote that I found on pinterest on the topic) this was potentially an impossible task.  A bit like trying to prove or disprove the existence of a god.

The consensus amongst those of us who attended was that the lines between fashion, art nude, boudoir and erotic were far from distinct.  Helmut Newton was able to produce photographs with a clear erotic message with no nudity whatsoever, and by the same token it is perfectly feasible to portray nudity without any sexual or sensual effect. Consequently Andrew deliberately produced set ups that could be taken in different directions.  I’ll let you decide how the shots that follow should be categorised, but whatever you think, I can’t help but feel that my date wouldn’t have approved.

Cassie Jade

Talking to my friend Jane after Sunday’s photoshoot, I remarked to her that shooting nudes was a great way to improve your ability to maintain eye-contact!  Though this was said in jest, there is an underlying truth to it, but one that has come back to me while I’ve been processing the images.

The one remaining model whose images I’ve not shared until now is Cassie Jade, and she was the original subject that Eric and the Banana team booked to model nude in the settings of our crumbling mansion.  As a highly experienced fitness and nude model she was top of the bill, and of course having worked with her I can see why, not only for her professionalism in front of the camera, but also in her willingness to share feedback and advice when relaxing between shots.  With some of the window light we had to work with sculpting her torso, she stretched and twisted to give added definition to the lines and curves revealed by the light.

With her ability to interpret and improve upon my limited direction I got some nice shots, yet I had a bit of a challenge when it came to processing them.  Perhaps it’s a hangover from last year’s portrait-per-day project, but I kept wanting to crop in closer to make more of her face.  Looking at her portfolio on Model Mayhem, it’s clear that other photographers feel the same way, as there is a good proportion of beauty shots there.  So I found myself with a quandary, do I process head and shoulders or include more.  I was back to maintaining eye contact!

In the end I resisted the tight cropping.  That wasn’t what we were there for on the day, and when she had the courage to stand naked before a room of photographers, the least I could do is try to capture the shapes she created.  Beauty can wait for another day.


Cinders, you shall go to the ball.

With so much material from yesterday’s shoot I’ve decided to spread the pics over the rest of this week, posting a handful of representative shots of each of the models that worked so hard, none more so than Jemma who literally bent over backwards to please.  For her gutsy willingness to get absolutely filthy to please those behind the lens she deserves respect.  For sticking her head up spider infested chimneys to best position herself for poses she deserves a medal.  I like something about all of these, but I’m really pleased with the last one.  What do you think?  Leave me a comment with your opinion – I don’t blow my own trumpet very often!


She’s got it!

My first experience of studio photography was a nude workshop run by John Tisbury, and I remember him saying that one of the best pieces of advice he could give to an inexperienced photographer was to work with the best models they could afford. His advice was born out on the day by Iveta Niklova, the model he had brought with him.

I’ve worked with Iveta a couple of times, and she is incredible in her ability to flow from one pose to another, constantly changing the image that she offers the photographer; a huge boon when you wouldn’t know where to start in posing someone.

At the recent meeting of the Bananastudios Creative Talent Circle we were introduced to a new model called Jessica, for whom this was her first time in front of the camera and studio lights. By contrast she was the one needing guidance and direction from the photographers, and yet they unanimously agreed that she’d been fantastic. Sometimes just being beautiful is enough.

The male model who was there, Lee, was also pretty new. He made a pretty decent fist of it too.