4.4.2008: new art page.
I've had experience of model photoshoots and being nude and seeing the woman's true form. The letter of Ken (Feb 22) and the responses to it made me think of both of my experiences and connect both together.
First, I'd like to introduce my model experience. I'm a Dutch male living in Taiwan for over half a year now, and I've noticed that my curiousity opened doors here. Although a foreigner is sometimes a scary person, the connection of the very friendly Taiwanese and my curiosity allowed me to join a photography group which photographs Taiwanese girls who like to be a model.
My encounter with the group was me seeing about 8 photographers with their cameras all pointed in one direction. I took a photo of that, and that photo and the events afterwards actually started my hobby to take much larger forms. Since that photo I've been to more model photoshoot events, and I see bystanders being distant from us and maybe considering us as a weird group. I admit, we all are very focussed in getting the right photo.
There is only one 'boss' who the model initiated contact with, and he's suggesting the poses to the model. However, the group is very open and there's a very friendly atmosphere and the model is soon at ease. We make jokes (even though it's Chinese which I don't understand fully), photographers suggest poses and everybody has a fun afternoon. I have to mention that the girls have no or little experience and are regular girls from the area. Some know the poses, some don't, and as we all aren't professional photographers this sometimes ends in confusion of 'what to do' if the 'boss' has a phonecall for instance. However we will always find a way, the model and photographer both come to an agreement in what might be a good shot or pose.
Just only recently this happened too. Most of the time the model brings her friend over, who is helping with the make-up and dressing, if needed. This time she actually liked modelling too and knew quite some poses of her own. The problem of all photographers making a photo of her instead of the announced model and the 'boss' having a phonecall resulted in the unexperienced model being alone. I continued photographing her and we both discussed what would be best, both suggesting places, poses and nice places to stand regarding background and such. Still I had to suggest poses and when you're with a group one pose can last longer. Being alone you need to know a lot of poses and changes happen faster. I can tell you, it's not as easy as it looks!
Another event like this happened after a photoshoot, when two or three continue shooting (with the models approval) while the official time is past. When I was one of the photographers to continue I realized that connecting to the model is very important. I'm a foreigner and not being able to have a good conversation with the models due to language limitations is probably one of the hardest things. But it lets you focus on other things to connect, which is the eye contact and value the girl. The model of course looked at every photographer, but by suggesting the poses to her it felt as if there was a connection, she was at ease.
I'm also a member of a second model photography group, but I've only been there twice and the atmosphere is very different. The photographers are a group on their own, the models pose like what's told by the leader and that's it. There's hardly any interaction, the models hardly show own initiative and it feels they're more closed in showing their personality. This group is not a paid group and they give you advice in how to shoot nice photos, I still rather go to the other group because it's much more a group of friends with the model as the new friend.
The other part of my story is about when I lived in Europe and I had some naturism experiences. I especially recall my summer holiday to France with a big group of naturists of around my age (at that time I was 20, I'm 23 now), and we had one big field set for the tents and one for activities. Almost all activities were group activities, and not only as a naturist of course. Scenic tours, walking, everything what makes a holiday nice. I already liked photographing then and did that a lot, but at the nude activities or nudist area I felt it was not advisable to take photos.
Although some were my friends, being with a big group means many different personalities. Although photographing outside the naturist areas, for example when we went for dinner in town or the scenic activities, was no problem, photographing the same people nude was different. Of course I was nude myself, but still the idea of making the photo and recording the event for a longer time felt like unconfortable and intruding. Connecting and talking to everybody however is the complete opposite!
Before that holiday I've only been nude in the weekends with the group, we went to naturist campsites and have fun. I didn't grow up as a naturist and I decided to join the group out of interest. It changed my view and gave me much more self confidence. Before that I was very shy and luckily through the internet forum where everybody has a nickname I introduced myself as being interested. They all openly welcomed me and invited me to come to a weekend, in winter, which was a non-nude meeting. That weekend was also my first time of the 'DOMAI experience'.
Somehow DOMAI experiences are always unexpected, and even though I was among naturists, I was told it was a non-nude weekend, so it was unexpected for me when it happened. As I was walking through the hallway I just happened to be walking there at the same time a girl came back from the shower. Some girls would rather wrap their body in the towel and let their hair loose, she was just completely opposite, her hair wrapped in the towel and the rest just open for others to see. I was surely surprised but a casual hey from her made me snap back to reality, it was normal, and I continued my way. That event and many more of them that weekend changed me a lot and gave me much more confidence.
Last year when I was travelling with my best friend, I suggested her to join me going to a sauna complex. The sauna complexes in The Netherlands are large 'beauty farms', where you swim, enjoy a sauna, soak in herb pools and just relax quite cheap for a whole day. Many people consider a sauna only a very hot cabin, a sauna in The Netherlands has about 4 of those, but an equal amount of swimming pools and other related relaxing places. It's a place visited by young and old and everybody is required to wear nothing. When we went there she had never been nude in front of other people but trusted me to take care of her. During the complete time we were there, she was always at my side. Only once she wanted to get in the hot tub and I wanted to continue swimming a lot, I told her she could go ahead. She was a bit hesitant, being alone. Before we went I told her she would feel much more confident about herself because you show yourself completely when undressed to people you never met before. In the end she told me I was right about gaining confidence, exactly that moment made the impact. She had a very good time and she definitely wants to do it again.
I made very few photos at the nude events, because it feels like you're not connected to the ones you're photographing. For me it just doesn't feel right to make a photo of someone of who I don't know if she wants to be in the photo. I also have that feeling when making photos on the street. Just making a shot of the crowd is fine as it's the crowd where the photo is about, but just a single person or a small group, I feel I'm recording a part of their personality in the photo, and I don't know if they're ok with me doing that.
I think for photographers you have to be able to turn that feeling off (at least partially), to be able to show the personalities of just random people while it's not disturbing you making the photo. But for model photography I think it's one of the most important things, because it allows you to connect to the model and capture their feelings, what model photography is all about.
As a final note I want to mention I haven't found any naturist sites in Taiwan and it's probably even harder to find for students like me. I know some hot springs are nude hot springs, but I heard they are men and women seperated. Nude photography is something I like to do in the future, but I don't consider my model photography skills good enough to start it yet.
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- J Aspen <incomingmail[-at-]sympatico.ca>
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