The Hunt For Models and the Naked Truth

I am always looking for models, always. I have worked with four, and one of those I have booked three times. He's great to work with, does it professionally, and is willing to do anything I throw at him. Given all these admirable qualities, I would use him all the time, except that I want to populate my visual world with more than one face, and sometimes a fresh injection of blood is a good thing, not just for the imagery, but also to keep me on my toes. More and more, I am searching for male models, not because of any objection to female models, but as I continue to find my voice in the conceptual/fine art photography world, I am pushing a male point of view because, well, I am male, and it is my point of view as well. There is also the point that there are so many surreal/conceptual/fine art photographers out there convinced that a girl in a prairie dress in a field looking either enraptured, troubled, or levitating for no apparent reason is compelling. Maybe it is in the right hands, or maybe it once was, but there has to be more to say than that! At least I feel that way. And before I get off the soap box, there is also a perception in the art photography world, or art world in general, that women equal beauty and muse, and men, well, do not. Give me a conceit like that and I will rail against it every time!

Back to the matter at hand…

My shoots are infrequent. More and more, as I try to develop a theme, they become mini events in how to convey the concept. The risk is expensive if it fails - money spent on costume, props, fabrics, etc. So the concept has to work, or else I have nothing. For the last few shoots, I have settled into a methodology that seems to work well for me, where I shoot a segment of the session focused on the concept, and then we do a segment of improvised pose and movement - all against a blank seamless backdrop. It's a bit like a special effect shoot on a sic fi film - where actors strut in front of a green screen, reacting at nothing and giving some vague tips on where and how to react. Almost always, my concept works but comes off a little flat, and the improvised session is where I get the most bang for the buck, giving me shapes and poses and a body that, depending on what I inject or add into the scene, can be raw material for anything, in any environment I decide upon. This is where I tend to ask my models to pose nude; I am looking for some emotion, some human thread, something fundamental and basic and timeless, and a blank canvas to build from, and the nude form is timeless. A suit, or pair of genes, or a trendy haircut puts you squarely in a time period and limits my potential scope.

It is a haphazard way to work - I'd much rather go in knowing exactly what each shot will be and what I need to do, but it's just not in my process to do so, no matter how much I may want it to be. I have accepted it as the way I work though, and for now, it is doing just fine by me.

The trouble is, no one wants to be naked, it seems.

Part of me understands this, and part of me is amazed at how much of a big deal this is to models. If I had a body that I deemed average or passable enough to do that, I would, no problem. But for one, I do not feel I am "everyman" enough, and the other is self portraits are a logistical pain in the neck to execute. Some of the models I have seen on modeling sites, who flat out state they WILL NOT do nude, have shots of them in thongs, or skimpy briefs. With that little covered, really, what is the difference of going, excuse the pun, whole hog? Again, if I had some of these bodies, I would be naked all the time!

A look at my past work would indicate I am not doing erotica, or anything overtly sexual - I have explained my reasoning for working with the nude form. There are two other concerns that a nude model alleviates for me: one is the aforementioned flexibility to make the image into almost anything I decide on later, and the other, practically speaking, is it is less expensive for me. I do not have to obtain costuming for this segment of the shoot, and when you are paying your models, buying props, renting costumes, this all becomes a rather expensive venture. I also happen to think that the nude form is compelling.

I am currently looking for models that are not what many would consider to be the model type - I am not looking for overt glamour, or abs of steel, or size 2 females with D cup breasts, or a man who plucks every body hair away. I am looking for a strong presence of humanity, in the face, in the demeanor, and at this stage in my life, it is hard to inject any personal truth when using an 18-25 year old perfect specimen. I am exploring the other side of mortality lately, the darker side, the weightier years, and I look for models that can express that for me.

But again, no one wants to be naked.

I frequently do searches for models on a website called ModelMayhem and search for males and females in a 50 mile radius from my home that accept nude assignments. The search results are scant, and the models tend to be not at all what I am looking for. Many of them seem to be posing for the cover of Hustler, or Honcho, or any porn rag you can think of, and again, that is not my vibe. Sometimes I reach out on Craigslist. I make a case for it, emphatically stating that this is a fine art photo shoot, and not sexual in any way. Often the replies are odd, novices, or people with motives that are anything but artistic. Often someone reports my ad and I get deleted. It's depressing that someone out there considers me some predatory pervert. Sometimes "applicants" will ask what my gender is. Why would that matter to a model? Why is one answer the right one there, and my answer results in someone reporting me as a pervert?

When I work with a model, I never touch them, even to adjust a pose slightly, unless I ask them first. I am respectful and I treat it professionally and even a little bit matter-of-factly. Nudity is not shocking to me, I have seen a lot of naked people. When one is exposed to it or used to it, it is not innately a sexual energy unless you switch to that mode or mental state. And really, isn't all this a lot to go through for me to lure a naked person into my trap?

So what does one do? Where do you find the willing model comfortable enough with him or herself to pose nude? What does it take to convince them that no trash or scandal will come from our working together? I pay all my models, try to make them as comfortable as I can, and never cross any lines. All but one of the models I have worked with in the past have expressed an interest in working with me again. Why is a bikini brief or thong acceptable to some but the removal of that one ounce of flimsy fabric a deal breaker? Are we really that afraid or ashamed of a vagina or penis?

Currently I am planning a rather ambitious shoot with a concept involving a character of a priest. I have a very specific type or look I am trying to cast. I have had several responses to my ads, and one was absolutely spot-on what or who I was looking for. After carefully stating my methodology or intent to them as I have in this blog, I stop hearing from them and they are apparently no longer interested. It's frustrating and time consuming. I didn't think men would be hard to coax out their exhibitionist streak, especially those blessed with a good body or a decent one at the least.

Does anyone know how I can tap into a more willing resource for my modeling needs? Am I doing this wrong?

Arrgh I say! Arrgh!