Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Pianos, Women & Houses

Amongst other things, today has involved googling for local piano restorers (my Grieg doesn't sound as good on my long-unplayed piano as it does on my teacher's) and stumbling across a fascinating blog about a 30-year-old piano tuner who has 'no fixed abode', having moved out of his flat a couple of years ago, deciding instead to just find somewhere to sleep wherever he happened to be at the end of his working day. I really love discovering alternative lifestyles and learning about other people's choices. I personally couldn't live like him - I am a home maker at heart - but wow, how interesting! Too many people don't question what is 'normal' and conventional. It's a topic that really interests me - a while ago I seriously considered researching and writing about it via a series of interviews, inspired by the incredibly interesting people I tend to meet on my travels - maybe I might, one day. Especially in the context of women and issues around femininity and the construction of identity, womanhood and the multitude of choices that abide therein.

(I think I look like quite a strong (albeit vulnerable too) woman in this shot by Mosa (One Pix Art), Beverley Hills):

In other news, and hopefully without jinxing myself by writing it 'out loud', I have been for a long, sustained amount of time been going to bed every night noticing and marvelling at how happy I am now. I'm so busy doing what I love, decisively focussing on what I know makes me happy (dance, music, writing, learning (languages)... it's always been this these things; I'm sad without them) and being grateful for all the small and big things I am so lucky to have and experience. For a while back then I was distraught and now I am liberated!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Snow Deer & Winter's Wonderland

I was going to blog some shots of me taken in a desert next, but from one extreme to the other, I've decided instead to show some images from a much colder shoot, taken recently here in Oxfordshire. Snow galore!

I recently had to cancel my trip to Cambridge due to the snow, which was so disappointing and meant I missed out on a good wedge of work I'd carefully planned, not to mention letting down the photographers who'd been planning things with me, but what can you do... Luckily everyone was very understanding and thought it was a sensible decision (simple fact was that there would be a 99% chance I wouldn't be able to get out of my road; can't really argue with that, can you?!).

It's all very well these gung-ho 'I'm gonna make it however much snow there is! I laugh in the face of nature - nothing will stop me!' attitudes from models and photographers on forums keen to show off their 'dedication', but with one very local fatality on the roads, the day I would have been driving - a girl in my year at school whose car went off the road due to the snowy conditions (I didn't know her personally as it was a large school, but it's such a sad story), I'm glad I made the decision to stay safe, and have luckily already managed to rearrange my trip to Cambridge for the next available weekend, 9th/10th March. It's just one of those things that comes with the territory of living relatively out in the sticks rather than in a city, where things are probably gritted more consistently.

That said, a lovely, local-ish photographer I've worked with lots of times, Karen Jones (or purpleport profile here), came to my rescue at the last minute in her landrover, after I posted my last minute availability on my facebook page, driving to pick me up and shooting with me in the massive woodland that is five minutes from my house. (Those 'sticks' I was talking about? They have their perks!!)

We had fun trying out a few different scenes - open fields, close trees and a few things in between - going for a bit of a fashion-y/princess theme with long dresses, bodices and skirts.

(I think I need a deer to the left of the frame in the above shot, which reminds me: we saw one during the very first 'blue' set! I'm gonna steal Karen's facebook snapshot of it to post at the end...)

Here's the deer. What a cutie, poking its head up to see what was happening. It was quite far away but Karen had her camera around her neck and grabbed a quick snapshot before it sprung away out of sight.

And then, because I'm such a child, Karen let me pretend to throw snowballs at her at the end... ;-)

 Dun dun derrrrrr...!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Maya, and Stupidity

As everyone probably knows, via the deluge of related facebook updates online if not by simply looking out the window, it's snowy here in the UK. I ended up having to cancel my weekend plans to visit Cambridge and lost out on quite a bit of earnings PLUS a cancelled hotel booking (and subsequently had to cancel my Plan B of having a girly lunch here in Oxford due to a second round of snowfall this morning). BUT, I have already managed to rearrange my Cambridge trip to 9th/10th March, and managed to bag myself a photoshoot outside in the snow while I was at it, courtesy of a photographer with a landrover! Hopefully more on that in a future post, but suffice it to say, we had fun out there in the winter wonderland near my house!

Today has involved such things as German lessons with the Vati, piano practise and other such Edwardian-style pursuits, plus a dash of catching up on Take Me Out, which I think is more of a comedy than a dating show, but brilliant nevertheless. (When asked to describe herself in astronomical terms, it emerged that one girl didn't know what a constellation was.... AND THEN HE PICKED HER! Excellent. As a person who is academically quite intelligent but life-wise extremely 'ditzy' (not to mention impractical) myself, I can relate to her brain collapse, if I squint a lot, and will refrain from making the observation that there definitely exists a certain type of men who seem to pick stupid women simply to make themselves feel more clever. Fair play to them.)

Taking out my bitch teeth (arguably), I have been revisiting my (younger) youth recently via a stint of teenage-self albums, via the humble minidisc (which I am prone to defending on any invitation, so I won't let myself start on about how ridiculous it is that they didn't catch on, when CDs scratch so easily and fall over and die after three plays, whereas minidiscs keep their chip protected by tough plastic and last pretty much forever, or about how I worked for £3 p/hr at a bakery, aged 15, to buy my flashing-light CD/minidisc player which I still use and love). The problem is, I don't have all my favourite albums from my (younger) youth* on actual CD and therefore digitally/on my phone/iPod if I ever buy one, which is a sad state of affairs. (I buy CDs most weeks now, and have done for years, but am ashamed to say that a lot of my early music collection came from ignorance/indifference regarding the illegal download phenomenon). Nevertheless, on my £3 p/hr CD/minidisc player, I've just been playing Destiny's Child for half an hour and am now girl power in human form. 

OK, I'll shut up now and show a recent favourite photo, taken by an Australian friend/model/photographer, Jayne Hartt, while cooling off between other shoots. I love it! :-)

*Destiny's Child, Nelly Furtado, Usher, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, The Sugababes... etc.... 

Funny story about The Sugababes actually... Due to my past illegal downloading/'sharing' of music (which I emphasise I truly am ashamed of and would NEVER do now) I have one Sugababes album, 'Three', which ends with the song 'Maya'. This is an absolutely stunning, beautiful, soul-warming track which I used to re-wind and play over and over again. It's sung by Heidi and, being the very last track, marks a change in direction for the group from RnB to something more timeless and universal... Or so I thought... It turns out (and I discovered this only yesterday!!!) that the 'Maya' I was listening to at the end of the Sugababes album was not in fact sung by the Sugababes (I now wonder why I so firmly believed it was a solo by Heidi - I think I thought I'd read it somewhere! I even remember thinking that she must have trained with some eastern/Asian singing tutors especially!) but in fact by Susheela Raman, a completely different singer of southern Indian (Tamil)/UK descent. When downloading the individual tracks by the Sugababes, I obviously mistook 'Maya' by the Sugababes (which is apparently a song dedicated to Mutya Buena's younger sister, who sadly passed away), for a southern indian love song. True story. And to do Susheela Raman's 'Maya' credit (it really is a stunning, captivating song; Heidi truly outdid herself...) here's the song, below, and I'll order the (physical) album on which the original (imposter) 'Maya' appears, Salt Rain -  because it's nice to know that this song isn't just a one off on the part of the Sugababes, and that there is more of this beautiful voice to listen to!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Life is a Blur...

.... with some marvellous details caught in the light and some defined/definitive moments of pure grace, joy and beauty... (e.g. just the other day I had a pretty glam-filled day of modelling for the very talented Yerburys again at the SWPP convention, at the Presidential suite at the London Hilton, no less, then rushing to see the pre-Raphaelite exhibition at the Tate; brilliant; this being a strong candidate for favourite-ship (I can't help it, I'm a romantic) - (and we got in for free, despite it being sold out!!), then rushing off to the opening of the Beauty of Women exhibition at The Menier Gallery, which featured 3 photographer/artists I'd worked with. I was exhausted at the end, having survived only on a crappy vegetable samosa and a very unglamourous (but tasty!) stop at a dirty chippy for sustenance... Exhausted but happy!

...But yep, life is a blur (a bit like my commitment to refraining from spontaneous and non-sensical punctuation and sentence structure, and the over-use of parenthesis, for the purposes of this (and other) blog post(s)). That's why I've made the decision to drastically reduce the number of photoshoots I do this year. I'll only be doing about two a week, and only really at the weekends (not including trips abroad, of which I have already planned quite a few). This means I'm having to often book things an insane number of months in advance, because there simply aren't that many weekends in a month, it turns out. I feel bad about it, but I'm also really excited as I know it's a good decision! I need to force myself to have the guts and weekday discipline to focus on what I really want, life-dream-wise. I'm sure you understand. And I will still be loving my photoshoots at the weekends, and the wonderful opportunities to travel that this work is bringing me throughout the year. This is what's happening between now and August-ish. After that (and for shorter periods before then too), I will probably be backpacking.

My previous blog post reminded me that there was an un-blogged set Keith Cooper did with me in Cheltenham Film Studios. These remind me of watercolour sketches. I like the abstract body shots most, I think - especially no.s 6 & 10. :-)

(Perhaps I'm in the mood for bums.)

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Damsels in Distress: Shalott

Copied from the ever-helpful Wikipedia, this is the story of the Lady of Shalott, the inspiration for a day with Keith Cooper last summer:

According to legend, the Lady of Shalott was forbidden to look directly at reality or the outside world; instead she was doomed to view the world through a mirror, and weave what she saw into tapestry. Her despair was heightened when she saw loving couples entwined in the far distance, and she spent her days and nights aching for a return to normality. One day the Lady saw Sir Lancelot passing on his way in the reflection of the mirror, and dared to look out at Camelot, bringing about a curse. The lady escaped by boat during an autumn storm, inscribing 'The Lady of Shalott' on the prow. As she sailed towards Camelot and certain death, she sang a lament. Her frozen body was found shortly afterwards by the knights and ladies of Camelot, one of whom is Lancelot, who prayed to God to have mercy on her soul. The tapestry she wove during her imprisonment was found draped over the side of the boat.

Keith was inspired by paintings such as this one by Waterhouse (which happens to be adorning my nearest radiator by way of magnetism), and had wanted to do this shoot with Ivory Flame and I for a long time, so we arranged a date, boat hire and took a row up and down the river here in Oxford. I absolutely love the results. The colours, reflections and fabrics and range of emotions (there was laughter, tenderness, peacefulness and quite a bit of death), came out so well, I think, and I'm really proud of these.

Help me pick a favourite?! (As always, click and scroll through to see larger.)

Outtake alert:

Holly and I are planning to do our best to visit the current pre-Raphaelite exhibition in London before it finishes this weekend. Who thinks we should turn up to the Tate in our long, white dresses?

We will also be modelling together on Saturday the 9th of February at Eye For An Image Studio in Banbury, Oxfordshire. I think there may be some time available for anyone interested in working with an experienced and creative duo.