Friday, February 15, 2013

This is a picture of me with a picture of me...

...which is wheatpasted to the side of City O' City, one of my favorite restaurants in Denver.  It is way easier to see the image itself (ya know... without the wheatpasting or graffiti action) on Shannon Piserchio's blog.

Woo!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Culture Shock

As most of the folks reading this blog likely know, I used to be pretty nomadic.  Not just a little nomadic, like, "Oh yeah, I'm out of town a lot for work."  I mean full-tilt, no-permanent-address, live-on-the-road.  All of my belongings fit in my car, along with me and my dog.  Like I said- nomadic.

That was a couple of years ago.  I've lived in the same state for about two and a half years now, in houses that have gotten a bit larger with each move.  I've acquired all sorts of the usual crap like furniture, project supplies, and a ridiculous 3' thrift store fake Christmas tree.

When friends invited my husband and me up to their mountain cabin to hang out, drink hot chocolate, and cut down a tree* for Christmas, I debated whether or not we really needed to participate in the tree-cutting festivities.  I mean, of course we didn't.  We already have a perfectly good fake tree, which I expect to celebrate many more holidays with.  On the other hand, heading up into the mountains to select and cut our very own tree was just too dang cute of an opportunity to pass up.

So we did.  We extensively debated which tree was the one for us.  Husband had apparently misinterpreted my insistence during the ride up that we were going to get "such a good tree" to mean "a tree that looked nice by most peoples' standards," which caused some confusion.  I, of course, had meant "the most ridiculous tree in the forest."  But eventually we found it.  A tree which, spied from the angle at which we first saw it, looked very full.  Upon getting closer, it became clear that the tree was indeed full, but only on one side.  The 180 degrees of the trunk that we had not been facing was utterly without branches.  PERFECT.

We hacked it down, carried it back to the car, and strapped it to the roof.  A tree stand was acquired on the way home, and we promptly set it up in the living room.  It's wedged in a corner, which kind of helps with maintaining the illusion that the tree isn't half bald.  Kind of.

But of course, I can't just cast my beloved thrift store tree to the side.  Oh no, it too shall have its seasonal chance to shine.  While our scraggle-chic real tree is in the living room upstairs, my beloved thrift store tree will be set up in the social area of our basement.

And this, dear readers, is how I went from being able to pack all of my belongings into a tiny two-door car to being the schmuck with a Christmas tree for each floor of the house.

*For the hippies gasping in horror- their cabin is on a tract of land that hasn't seen a wildfire in over a hundred years.  At this point, my friends are fairly attached to it and would prefer not to see it burn to the ground.  However, the lack of fires has caused the undergrowth to become fairly thick.  This creates fuel for future fires.  The more fuel, the hotter the fire will burn.  The hotter a fire burns, the fewer older trees and seeds that will survive.  A consequence of a tract of forest not burning on its regular cycle is that the next fire the passes through will be exceptionally destructive to the existing trees, as well as the seed bank from which new trees would usually grow.  The best means of preventing seriously destructive fires is to manage undergrowth and selectively remove some of the younger trees.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Cat Has Left the Bag

I've done quite a bit of harping on the notion that once you're naked on the internet, there's no taking it back.  And now, well past a year since I stopped working as a full-time art model, I am reminded of this lesson.

Why, you might ask?  Because this morning, a note in my inbox awaited from one of my favorite photographers.  It was mostly a catch-up note.  "Hey, how've ya been, this is what I've been up to, by the way, a photo of you was in this show/magazine/whatever."  That sort of thing is pretty par for the course for me.

Except in this case, the news was that a photo of me- naked- had appeared in Times Square.  On a jumbotron.  If one was to concoct the most ridiculous possible hypothetical scenario for where a nude photo could end up, this would probably be it.  "What, it's not like a nude photo of you is going to end up in Times Square, right?"  Ha!

And it's not as though the photographer planned for this to happen.  It's not like we shot that series with the plan, "Yeah, baby, this is headed straight for Manhattan!"  It got accepted into a show.  That show grew into something more ambitious.  And kept growing.  And then a year later, there it is.  Times Square.

I've had something roughly similar happen as a photographer, too.  Photo gets accepted into a show.  From there, photo makes its way into another, much larger show.  High-resolution digital copy that had been sent for promo of the first show gets shuffled around for promotion of the other show, and suddenly, my photos are making an appearance in a magazine.  I am very pleased that others made the judgement calls along the way that led to this, but make no mistake, I had minimal involvement- or even awareness- in this happening until it was a done deal.

So thank fucking goodness that the model I shot who popped up in a magazine had the good sense to specify that she didn't want her face showing in any fetish-flavored photos.  And thank fucking goodness that it's no secret amongst friends and family that I'm a nude model.  Because some cats are much trickier to get back in the bag than others.

I really cannot say this enough.  Images are potent.  Sometimes they do sneaky things.  Sometimes they pop up where you don't expect them to, long after you'd expect them to have disappeared.  Make your decisions accordingly.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hi, blog!  I guess that since I quit being a full-time traveling nudie model, I ran out of things to write about.  Or at least, I ran out of motivation to write about things here.

I've been sitting for local groups and classes frequently, but shooting has dropped down to nearly zilch.  I have picked up a couple of paid shoots here and there, which have pretty much served as reminders as to why I cut loose.  Eesh.

However!  I've also done a couple of trade shoots, and those have been great!  I'm not bothering to update most of my portfolios any more, so I find myself in this awful conundrum where I have photos that I'm excited about, and no where to put them!  Oh noes!

So I'll put them here.

In February, I got to work with Gary M.  I've admired his work for years, but never managed to coordinate a shoot with him.  Part of the reason for that is, no doubt, my crippling shyness that prevents me from contacting photographers that I'd like to shoot with.  Yes, really.

As of late, he's been collaborating frequently with my good friend Dewey X on rope bondagey goodness.  While the three of us were all in Detroit for Dirty Show, we got together for a hotel shoot one morning.

We started off with ropework.  Yay!  We ran through a few modifications to the tie, and bounced around to a few locations in the suite.  Wee!

From there, we moved to classic art nudes.  I said or did something awkward (I do that kind of thing frequently) and threw the curtain with which I'd been posing over my head.  This promptly led us down a rather esoteric path.

We finally wrapped back around to the more standard variety of art nudes.  Gary also pulled out a few portraity shots from the last series.  While I do pretty well with "posing without looking like posing," much of what I've shot has been on seamless.  I have relatively few photos of myself like this one, which look like they could have maybe possibly been candidly shot.

A few months later, I was contacted by Duke Photo, a local photographer friend.  We've only shot once, though we've kept in sporadic contact since then.  With but the haziest of plans, we headed off to a Colorado state park.

We came under fire from biting arthropods repeatedly during the shoot.  I suppose that's to be expected when you roll around in fields, though.  When the repeated bug bites finally got to be too much for me, we headed down to a nearby creek.

I started off being a dutiful art model and being graceful on a rock.  Then I stuck my feet in the water.  Then my legs.  By the end of it, I was rolling around in the cool water.  As it turns out, creeks have some amazing anti-itch properties.  I doubt it was very photogenic, but it sure felt good.

After a trip to Indiana for my grandmother's 90th birthday, I stopped by Andrew Baran's studio.  He's another photographer that I admired for years before finally getting up the guts to contact him in 2010.  We've shot several times since then (it turns out that I pass through Omaha with some frequency), and it always blows my mind.  This time around was no exception.  We ran around in an old emptied out factory, shooting nudies and avoiding rusty nails.

Before shooting this morning, we'd been chatting about past shoots we've done- including what certain lighting and poses did to my figure.  I asked if he ever shopped my chest to make me, ahem, bustier.  He said that the only shopping he does on me is clearing up blemishes, which is pretty cool.  That conversation hung in my mind when I received images from this most recent shoot.  Great light and perspective, and look!  Chin hairs!!  I am unduly pleased by their prominence and how they catch the light.

So that's it.  That's what I've been up to for the last six months, at least photographically.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cash Flow

"I wish I could just travel around all the time."
It was a statement which was almost always tinged with resentment. Yeah, being a traveling model was pretty nifty. It was kind of like a two year long vacation, in a lot of ways. Tour the country, hang out with cool artists, go hiking with my dog. Sweet!

"You live out of your car? With your dog?"
And a look of moderate distaste, as though homeless-itis might be contagious. Suddenly things have lost their sexy, glamorous appeal.

Cashflow. Say it with me, now. Cash. Flow. Tim Ferriss might be a jerk in many ways, but one of the things that he absolutely nails is the concept of cash flow. Looking at where money is coming in, looking at where money is going out. And then considering how you can turn traditional paradigms upside down. Rework your cash flow so that you can live the life you want.

I made relatively little money as a full-time model. Something like $13,000 in 2010, the only full calendar year that I modeled as my exclusive source of income. Travel expenses were a substantial part of what I made, and travel was an absolute necessity to keep a steady(ish) flow of income. Plus, it was fun. But after a break-up that resulted in an abrupt cross-country relocation and loss of my doggysitter, I had to sit down and really go over my cash flow. I liked the gig. I didn't want to walk away from it. How was I going to make it work?

And then I realized, "Hey, I know what I don't need to spend money on. Rent!! Why pay for a place that I wouldn't be at terribly often anyhow?" I could pack up myself and the beagle, and hit the road indefinitely.

And so I did. And I can assure you that I'm not the only one to have finagled cash flow in a way that really worked for me, even when there was relatively little money coming in. I've known a freelance writer who spent half of the year living in a tiny beach town in Mexico. Couples that bust ass waiting tables and living in a cramped studio apartment for eight months at a time, then take a year to meander their way around the world. When they run low on money, they repeat the process.

Decide what you want, think creatively, consider what you can cut out of the current budget, and you can make it happen.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Kari's Guide to Not Passing Out

Awhile back, somebody happened upon my blog with the search string "holding a pose and started getting lightheaded." I could imagine the circumstances that led to somebody sitting down to search online to seek an explanation, or some understanding behind what must have happened that day. Why would a normally healthy person be suddenly struck by lightheadedness while they were simply standing around?

The fact is that sooner or later most life models get hit by lightheadedness while working. It just comes the the job. It doesn't mean you're unhealthy, it doesn't mean you're doing it wrong, it doesn't mean that you're a failure as a model. It just means that you do a job that involves stressing and challenging your body in a way that nature didn't quite plan for. It's okay. It happens to the best of 'em.

Happily, there are a handful of things that can be done to head off getting lightheaded on the job.

Temperature
Of the handful of times that I've had to break a pose early, I've often either been in a very hot room or right by a heater. I get cold easily, so it is all too tempting for me to snuggle up next to a blasting hot fireplace or heater. After 10-20 minutes though, it can start getting pretty intense, even for me. Be aware of the temperature and how your body responds to it, and adjust things as necessary.

Self-Care
Not eating well the day or two before a session. Getting worn down from too much time on the road. I've found that being in states like these make me more vulnerable to getting lightheaded. If I know that, for whatever reason, I'm apt to start getting droopy, I make a point of having some sort of sugary hard candy with me. And not that zero-calorie sugar-free shit- something that will give me a prompt glucose kick if I need it.

Poses
Tweaking body parts into extreme angles is all fine and dandy for photoshoots and gestures, but can get dicier if you're going to be holding the pose for more than a minute or two. I've found that excessively contorting and stretching my torso, or selecting poses that really ratchet my arms behind me, can start doing weird things to me. It's fine for gestures, but once poses are lasting five plus minutes, those poses can become more problematic. Standing poses can also be challenging over longer periods of time if it's a hot room or you haven't eaten in awhile. Occasionally pump the muscles in your legs to keep blood flowing. It's a good habit to be in, even if you're feeling great.

Even with this awareness, lightheadness can still sneak up. If it does, let the artist(s) know what's going on, and that you need to take a break. Even if it means breaking the pose early. Get some water, and something with sugar in it- candy, fruit, non-diet soda, whatever. Take a minute to sit, and then move around or stretch. Once you've bounced back, go for easier poses for the rest of the night.

And remember- it's okay.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Understanding Motivations

I've maintained for quite awhile that art modeling honed more skills than knowing how to pose. But I've also struggled to articulate exactly what these other skills were. "I, uh, I've gotten better at organizing stuff, and managing logistics! And networking! And, um, some other stuff!"

It was not a very convincing argument.

Since backing away from full-time modeling, and spending more time outside of that realm, I've gleaned some insights into exactly what those other skills were. They certainly aren't academic, and they aren't even the types of skills that are usually identified as useful. But they sure are handy.

One of those skills is understanding motivations. As a freelance model, you communicate with a whole slew of people. Even working within a very limited genre, I encountered all kinds of folks. As it is a field which has some risks associated, understanding the motivations of people was incredibly valuable. Why is this person contacting me? Why are they offering what they are? Is this compatible with my goals? What risks am I exposing myself to here? These questions are almost never explicitly discussed, but they are questions which you can answer as you being to develop the ability to understand others' motivations.

There were two events which led me to realizing that this is a skill that is honed by successful freelance models.

The first was entirely outside of the realm of modeling. I recently acquired a freelance writing gig. There were a few red flags associated with this particular gig, but not enough to fully throw on the breaks- just enough to proceed with caution. I took to referring to it as my "might-be-a-scam-job" right up until the first check cleared- which, by the way, it did. But at each step of the way, I evaluated what a legitimate company would be getting out of the deal, what a scammer would be getting out of the deal, and my own vulnerability by proceeding.

While chatting with another writer friend, she commented that she's always afraid that writing gigs on Craig's List are scams, and therefore doesn't pursue any of them. That was when I started realizing that working as a freelance model had helped me identify and understand motivations. I don't just know what obvious red flags to look for, but how to examine the subtleties of each situation. This helps me write off true scams- even sneaky ones- and take advantage of legitimate opportunities.

The other event which helped me realize that understanding motivations is a useful skill was a forum discussion on Model Mayhem. A model had been offered a truly obscene amount of money for a shoot- the rate was well above standard market rates. Red flag. She had done some background checking, and everything was coming up clear. She started a discussion about the situation to see others thoughts.

Many of the responses were along the lines of, "Oh my God, SCAM, it's obviously a scam and the photographer expects sex." But a few highly experienced models chimed in with alternate experiences. Sometimes people really do have that much money to burn, and decide to use it this way. Sometimes photographers do offer rates that are twice, or more, what a model generally quotes. It's something which requires some deeper digging to make a final call, but if that all checks out- sweet! Payday!

Understanding motivations comes into play in other aspects of freelance modeling, as well. What types of imagery does this photographer want to create? Will it be more appropriate for me to be quiet and business-minded, or dive into upbeat banter? Is this shoot going to be a therapeutic experience for the photographer? Or is he just looking to get his rocks off? Being able to identify motivations and intentions based off of unspoken cues is hugely important.

If, as a model, you don't hone this ability, you will sink. You'll get in over your head with scams and photographers that don't send up obvious red flags, and you'll miss legitimate opportunities that are suspicious on the surface.

It's a skillset that I developed as a model, but that continues to serve me. Anytime I'm working with other people, for any reason, I am considering their motives. Once I know these, I can make sure that everybody's interests are met- win-win all around. It's subtle, it's hard to pin down, but make no mistake- it's important.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

365 Project

I recently started a 365 project. It pretty much entails shooting a self-portrait every day for a year. I'm on day ten. My hope is that the project will give me some sort of structure to grow and push myself as a photographer. It's an excuse to fiddle around with different lighting, different framing, different concepts. The only restriction that I've put on myself with regards to content is that it must be a self-portrait.

Although I'm only ten days into it, I'm fascinated by the results. I have done some experimentation with different set-ups than I usually use. Sometimes it's worked well. Other times the results have been less-than-stellar. This is about what I expected, though I'm pleased to have had definitive positive results so quickly into the project.

What has really taken me by surprise is the content that I've gravitated towards thus far. A good third of the photos have been goofy high-key portraits. Usually I'm into shooting things like erotic imagery, and expressive gesture and figure studies. I gravitate towards anonymous nudes. I often like dramatic, moody lighting. So I have no bloody clue why all of a sudden I'm getting such a kick out of shooting myself making stupid faces, or wearing dorky underwear and socks.

I made a brief attempt at fighting it, but for the time, I think I'm going to go ahead and ride this trend. I have another 355 days left, which will be plenty of time for me to gravitate back to torsos, rope, and visual drama. For now, it's an exercise in joy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coming Home

I love the giddiness of setting out on a new bout of travel. The sense of adventure, the buzz and energy of everything that might be. I love exploring new places, meeting new people, and reconnecting with those I've already met. But you know what one of my favorite parts of a trip is?

Coming home.

I spent the past week and a half in Minneapolis and Indianapolis. The trip was entirely a personal one- no shoots, no sittings, nothing. But it was a great chance to be social with new and old friends in Minneapolis, and get some solid time in with family in Indianapolis.

And as I departed for home? Buzz. Excitement. That same hum that I get when I depart for trips, I get going home. I can't wait to get back to Colorado and sink my teeth into everything that I want, and need, to do. Building a business. 365 project. Non-profits. Income stabilization. Snuggling with Jitterbug. Exciting things, important-to-me things. Things that make it good to be home.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ugly


I feel like I'm on a mission to make myself as mainstream ugly as I possibly can. I grew out my body hair. At the time, I considered it a pretty loud statement. I started modeling and fell into the "natural woman" archetype, which I certainly didn't see coming. These days, I don't think about it much at all, and don't know what to say about it. Then I shaved my head, with but a very small amount of encouragement from friends. That came closer to doing the trick, but I still keep getting surprised here and there.

It's not that I want to be ugly, per se. It's just that I don't feel entirely comfortable with sexuality being written on to me, or the bulk of my modeling work. And I'm silly enough to believe that with enough modifications to my appearance, I can change others' perceptions of me. I'm silly enough to believe that I can stop others from writing their own storylines onto me.

But then an acquaintance went and threw me for a loop. I'd posted the above (strictly figurative) photo of me on The Kinky Facebook (TM) with the caption that it wasn't very kinky at all, but I didn't care. He commented, "Willingness to be beautiful - especially in an often not so beautiful world - is kink, in my most humble of opinions."

And damn if he didn't throw me for a loop with that one. That might very well be the first time that somebody has read something even vaguely erotic into a figurative photo without putting my hackles up. But I think that he hit on something there.

I do appreciate subversion. Maybe a little too much. And the suggestion that my appearance- and my assuredness in my appearance- is kink, is beautiful, is something beyond My Own Issues- that's pretty awesome for me. And maybe that's what I'm really going for. Not being ugly, but undercutting the expectations put upon me by everybody else. I am my own being, and I will fight to maintain my autonomy. The ways in which that fight manifests will change and evolve over time. But unless something goes very, very wrong, it is a fight that I will continue picking.

The photo, by the way, was shot by Shannon Piserchio. She is amazing.