Of High Esteem

How to you become a model? How can you be naked on camera? What is the key to success? What do you wish other people knew?

I’ve heard these questions and a lot of others.  I could write a guide to modeling, but it isn’t a one size fits all experience.  Many models get started from having a friend that models or that wants to photograph them, and it snowballs from there.  I didn’t start modeling with the idea of being a model.  I took photos because I enjoyed the experience.  Eventually, I started taking money to do this. Mostly to off set the cost of modeling, but also why not? I could put it towards my life after graduating college.  I don’t know when I went from being a person that models to a “model”.  I’m not sure I’d call myself a professional or successful, but I also don’t care.  

If I could make a living off of modeling I would continue to model.  I enjoy the form of expression, and the exciting challenge of marketing and business.  For a while I cared about my weight and hair color to stay competitive.  It didn’t bother me what I modeled for.  The experience and the people were enough for me.

That’s where my journey was unique.  I didn’t find modeling quite as much about self expression, as I saw it as helping other people.  I could express myself in ways through it, but I was more interested in the making than the making it for myself.  Personally I think this helped me get work a lot.  I didn’t worry how ugly I appeared or what the concept meant to me. I only wanted to be the best at modeling for it.  Freezing my butt in mud, pearls, and ants felt didn’t faze me to get the best photo.  

As graduation approaches, I don’t think modeling will come to an end altogether, but I’ve thought more about what do I want?  I don’t know that I will find the same joy in modeling when I’m balancing check books.  Scheduling modeling between classes has already pushed me to a love-hate relationship with it.  It’s hard to schedule shoots when I need to study for exams.  It’s too late to plan a trip once summer starts.  I’ve grown annoyed by the strangers and friends that think I’m the person in my photos, when I’ve detached myself to be the person in my work.  The model in me helped me look at my actual life from another perspective. It made me a healthier and stronger individual.

Lately, I’m facing the hardest challenge in modeling yet in my experience.  I don’t know how to model myself.  Ironically, I’ve never liked photos of myself very much.  There is a perception that models must be comfortable with themselves and their bodies to take such beautiful and relaxed photos.  Maybe some of them are, but models I’ve met and myself, deal with the same insecurities.  The final photograph is bigger than our personal feelings.  Despite all that, I think it’s time to take more direction of my work.  I will never stop nor stop loving modeling just about any concept.  But I can also use a little more self expression to bring me closer to the art.

Photos taken by Vintage Lights- Brittani Bumb, also the designer of Untitled Thoughts, creator of this dress titled Marlene

Meaning in Life

     Often I like modeling because it is an escape from myself and into the mind of others.  I feel like I’ve fallen in love in a way I never had before.  Modeling makes me want to be a better version of myself and inspires me to grow.  The happiest time of my life has been through modeling.  When I started taking self portraits I only meant to strengthen my skills as a model, but now I’ve also been able to use it as a tool of self expression.  

     Anyone that has met me, knows that I’m a constant flow of emotion.  I’m not stoic, unless I need to be on camera, and often I can be described as “intense” or “passionate” when thrown into the moment.  Through modeling, I’ve learned to channel that energy towards the art.  One thing I pride myself on is the consistent flow of energy throughout a pose.  I’m not just making a face of anger or calm, but using my entire body to shape the mood of a pose.  For a while I was worried that I was so busy acting these feelings out, I had forgotten how to handle my actual feelings.

     This set was originally inspired by the floor.  I love marble.   My parents’ have a marble mantle that stayed chilly even if they’d lit a fire.  I didn’t want to forget the pattern of marble and gravel and how the light from a small window hit it.  Marble conjures the essence of something regal and the spotlight of sunshine adds an element of mysticism.  Despite the hard and heavy nature of marble, it crumbles and breaks under moderate physical impact.  It is strong, but it is fragile.

    Much like myself.  After months of feeling torn about my life choices, I felt and acted broken.  Integrity forced my will to stay strong. Determination to make meaning in my life kept me hard.  Months of pent up anxiety and fears finally could be expressed when I didn’t have the right words.  I’ve had visions of photos I’ve wanted to take to capture the supposed “real me”, but they’re full of surrealism.  Much of reality is make believe from my perception of the moment.  I read the world like a book full of metaphors and colorful, descriptive wording.  

     This set doesn’t have a title, but is an interpretive piece on how fragile and lost I felt.   Like the marble, I’m mostly together with small, if any, signs that I might split at any moment.  I’ve been chipped through experience, and I wasn’t born perfect.  Lying on the floor, I remember the contrast between my body and marble.  My heart is active and my body is warm.

Beginning With The End in Mind

There is a space and time for everything.  Sometimes work bleeds into the personal part
of our life and then our personal life affects our work.  The more they juggle, the more complicated
they seem to get.  Life is messy, but we
let it get so badly messy that at some point we can’t remember if we wanted
this or someone else did.  Well, modeling
and art put the line back between my personal and work life.  No one in my life was interested art,
especially not modeling.  This space
separated from the rest of reality gave me a place to see my problems from a
distance rather than stuck in them.  Inevitably
modeling ate a bigger part of my life. 
My colleagues and friends were all involved in art.  More people called me by my alias than my
real name.  I started to identify with
the person I was running to when I was running away from myself.  It wasn’t as messy this time to have my
personal and business life intermingling, but it was a subject of debate that
should I be paid to do something that made me happy with people I, usually,
enjoyed.  Most people would say that
people are paid because they’re doing something they don’t want to, but that
philosophy defeats the reason students spend time searching for the right major
in college.  I spent my life watching my
parents fill most moments of their lives with work because they love it.  They go the extra mile on every assignment
because they can’t get enough.  They find
other like-minded individuals to grow their abilities and collaborate with.  I can’t imagine someone telling them to find
a new job because they shouldn’t be paid to do something they’re happy doing.  

Modeling is not all fun. 
I don’t think any job is.  I get a
rush from the business side of freelance and modeling, but I would say that
most of the time spent negotiating and networking and budgeting and in transit
and working out and advertising on social media is only made up for by the
money and creating, sometimes more one than the other.  If I could model without spending a dime or
needing a savings or paying for all those human necessities, my business plan
would change.  The work and
responsibility going into a photograph is intense on all sides of the
camera.  I’d never call modeling “relaxing”.  If anything, the work is grueling both physically
and mentally, but it’s that final composition that gives me life.  Art has been a kind of therapy to people, but
I think just about anything can be. 
Modeling has made me the happiest I’ve ever been in my life because from
everything I’ve tried it’s the kind of work where I’ve felt I can have the
biggest impact on myself and others.  If
I stay healthy, work out, sleep well, get to the shoot on time, understand the
concept, convey the concept through posing, understand how lighting and angles
and make up all works, etc then I can create an image that gives some meaning
to someone’s life.  Most of the time that
someone isn’t me.  I’m not the subject of
the creation even when my face is the main center of the art piece.  Photographers and artists and the likes aren’t
hiring me because they want to hear my vision and how they can make it happen,
if they even have those abilities.  They
do it because they want my ability to capture their vision, whether they have an
exact idea in mind or want my advice throughout the process to “edit” their
idea to achieve the vision.  Sometimes I love
the idea.  Sometimes I love the artist’s
style.  Sometimes I love the working relationship
and personality of the artist I’m working with. 
Sometimes none of that happens, but unless it is a genre I’m not willing
to participate in or the artist is a known danger or too rude to work with,
there is no reason for me to turn down the artist’s goal UNLESS I’m not getting

These photographs aren’t the art I’ve been dying to create
forever with fulfilled promises that the photography will be executed the way I’ve
envisioned.  If they were I’d either pay
for them or find someone that wants the same thing I want.  I don’t tell photographers I’m working with
where to angle their cameras or how to edit their photos because I’m working
towards their goals and performing my best in the confines given to me.  And I love it.  I love it because I’m bringing meaning to
someone and helping give life to a vision. 
There are perks like seeing new places, learning new perspectives, and
living a healthier lifestyle.  But if I
weren’t paid, I wouldn’t work with most of these people.  If I weren’t paid, I wouldn’t bother much
with social media or networking.  I
wouldn’t entertain the idea of driving more the 30 minutes unless I already
planned to be in that area.  I wouldn’t
watch my weight or wake up before sunrise or own half my wardrobe.  I love modeling and this form of art, so I’d
do it, but solely for myself and close friends. Maybe I’d model once a month or
every few months.  I can imagine I’d stop
modeling when I got out of shape.  Hopefully
I’d find another job that I’m passionate for or at least tolerable, and that’d
be the focus of my life.  Instead of
networking I’d spend time on research, reading, and volunteering.  Hopefully this life would keep me inspired to
wake up every morning the way modeling as a job has.  I might exaggerate because I’m young, but if
I had one great love in this life modeling feels like it is it.  Nothing else has made me want to be a better
person or a workaholic.

Photos from this post are a set of self portraits inspired by my last summer vacation as a college student.  The set is called “Summer Hiatus” as a reflection towards stepping back from a busy lifestyle to contemplate the stage in my life after graduation.  Will I continue to model or find my next career?

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