Wednesday, April 18, 2007

NIGEL BARKER and the Big Squeeze

Excerpt from Tatler story…
A month ago, I got a call from Anton San Diego, editor-in-chief of Tatler, to do the cover for a special Fashion issue. I immediately agreed, as it is a great honor. Timing was not the best for me because I had to cover the fashion shows for; that is 10 grueling days of fashion shows at Bryant Park. So there I was at the shows with a TV crew to also film footage for my TV show, The Next Anna Bayle. I figured that I had to be wide-eyed and mentally ready for the shoot, so I kept putting the shoot off until the collections were over…………
On the last day of the shows, at Chado Ralph Rucci, the finale of the New York season, I was more relaxed, after having a couple of drinks with the famed Bernardine Morris of the New York Times. I espied the handsome Nigel Barker who has been in the front row seats of all the fashion shows, patiently waiting for the show to start. I suddenly remembered my cover shoot with Tatler........
I got up from my seat and with my typical ‘selective spontaneity’ and brazenness, introduced myself to him. It was a wild stab because I did not even know if he would be in town after the shows. I discovered that he moved to New York years ago and is now based here.
Shooting with Nigel Barker was intriguing and a lot of fun. Here is a very good looking TV celebrity who turned out to be down-to-earth and a pleasure to work with. Having been shot by illustrious photographers in my lifetime, I consider this photo shoot an honor as well. ….

Dynamics of a Photo Shoot
When I was working as a model, I wanted very much to impress the fashion photographers because if they liked you, they booked you for other editorials, bigger campaigns and desirable location shoots. So for me, it was always this sense of “I am going to make them love me.” It did not matter how I was going to do it, but I will do it. I will be their slave and contort my body in the most unnatural way or stay in one position with absolutely no movements for 20…25….30 minutes. I will spin and jump around to their hearts’content until they get the perfect shot. I will climb mountains and stand on the ledges of the 50th floor of a skyscraper, with the photographer shooting from across the street on the skyscraper opposite me. I will pose beside real panthers that can chew me up to pieces in less than 5 minutes. I will lie down on an iceberg and get frost bite with nothing but gold sequins between my flesh and the cold ice.

I will also flirt with them and give them ‘the look’ (the one you give, only to your lover). It does not really matter that the photographer may be a woman or a gay person. She or he still captures in a photographic image the message you sent that will attract men. And even if all the people viewing this image are all female or gay, they are subconsciously going to identify with what you are projecting. As they say in the business, “Sex sells.”

The photographer, on the other hand, squeezes everything out of you to get a beautiful picture. “Look to the right.” “Tilt your head higher.” “Dance.” “Smile with your eyes.” “Spin around” “Give me that haughty look.” “Pretend you are dead.” “Climb that mountain and pose at the top.”

So you see, you - the model, will ‘aim to please’. While the photographer if he does his job well, will squeeze the life out of every ‘pleasing bone’ in your body.

Frisson (an almost pleasurable sensation of fright)
It is always exciting for me to do pictures with photographers that I have not worked with before. There is a little fright involved, as you don’t really know what you are getting yourself into. At the same time, it is pleasurable because through the photo shooting process, you get to exercise your individuality and maybe discover some things about yourself that you did not know existed. This always happens when you are around very creative people. Fashion photographers, especially, and some creative designers, stylists, make-up artists, etc. could have a perception of you that is entirely different from your perception of yourself. Being open to how others perceive you, thereby gaining a better awareness of yourself is how you grow as a model.

In an editorial photo shoot, you never know what you will get. It is a chemistry thing. You, as a model, are the subject but it is up to the photographer to make you, the subject, beautiful. An editorial photo shoot is sometimes an exercise in exploration and discovery. Such was the case in this Tatler cover shoot with the famous TV celebrity, Nigel Barker.

With Nigel, the process of discovery was very pleasant. With the help of ace stylist, Rodney Hall, whose choice of garments and accessories for me were on point, the photoshoot proceeded nicely. We agreed that I did not want to sell myself as a model anymore so the shoot will actually be straightforward - more of a lifestyle shoot or a portrait. Having seen some of Nigel's work and his insightful comments on fashion photographs from the TV show, America’s Next Top Model, here is a photographer who appreciates great lines on a model, a model’s command of a photo set, bone structure and eye contact, and of course, a model with an inherent sense of where the light is.

The photographer who has not worked with you before and has only seen pictures of you will try to get to know you - your best angles, your personality, your strengths and your flaws vis-à-vis the camera lens. In terms of an editorial shooting, the photographer will try to capture a model’s essence; he will try to zero in on what he thinks is the most beautiful or most striking facet of his subject.

The best photographers are the ones that are able to squeeze all the essence out of a model to manipulate a photograph in order to achieve the desired effect. Like movie directors, who are capable of getting their actors to give everything they have got emotionally, in order to greatly enhance the storyline of the movie. The very best of the photographers are the ones that elicit a model’s inner self. The very best of them are the ones who are able to bring out the ‘real you’…not the one you postured.

Il y a des frisson dans l'air.
(There is electicity in the air)
There is always something going on when photographer meets model. (I am not talking about catalogue shots, which is the factory line of photo modeling). Photographer and model interact to get the best possible picture. That sense of excitement or electricity between these 2 lead players in a photo shoot, no matter how mild, translates itself into a good, if not great, photograph.

Most models will probably not openly admit it. But working with very good looking photographers makes the process a lot easier. If you have to flirt, you don’t even have to imagine a fantasy figure behind the lens because you already have your fantasy behind it. Flirting with a photographer like Nigel Barker is a no-brainer. He is a very handsome man, intriguing with that English accent, and a perfect specimen of East meets West. He looks Caucasian, but I detect Mediterranean features and strong Asian sensibilities.

Nigel Barker, who at one time, was on the other side of the camera as a model, probably has a better understanding of a model's range of reactions to any photographer. Having been a model before,he knows the score; he knows what has to happen in a photo shoot for a model or subject to start giving of herself and her essence. I surmised that his experiential knowledge of how a model feels, has a lot to do with his being very patient on set and at the same time, endearing to his subject.

I sensed that as a photographer, he was trying to squeeze the essence out of me in his polite and teasing way. But as I mentioned before, it is a discovery process for both the photographer and model. I discovered he has a naughty streak to his nature. And there were moments where I felt he was really pushing me to give of myself, which a true photographer has to do. But, as always, a model controls what she or he gives, voluntarily or involuntarily, in terms of emotional presence. The very best models are the ones that are always present, body and soul.

In the little time that we interacted, I believe he understood that my sexually is not superficial, nor my sensuality a trait that I try to sell. It was something he had to coax out of me which I acceded and gave to him in very small doses. Upon seeing the final prints, I consider him ingenious because here is one photographer that understood me or a facet of my personality. The funny thing is that when you hold back your sensuality, it comes out stronger. And it takes a 'genius' photographer to capture something that is hidden and present this intrinsic characteristic in an image, with a latent, animalistic quality to it, almost like it was 'caged'.

I loved working with Nigel Barker. He is 'twisted', but sometimes you have to put yourself in the hands of someone 'twisted' to get a different you. These are the fun moments in editorial shooting. When there is electricity in the air; when there is a push and pull between photographer and model. When everyone on the set is so relaxed, letting things happen naturally, so that a beautiful picture can be created.

At some point during the cover shoot, Nigel instructed me to go profile with my body. He even demonstrated a very calm and non-violent pose. Little did I know that he was just after my ass. Naughty Nigel.
As for me, after seeing the cover and my great looking behind, I kept thinking - Thank God, I listened to Amalia (exquisite YSL model from Mali) and all these years did her formula called the BIG SQUEEZE. It goes like this.....

“Anna, if you want a great ass like mine, every time you are walking down the street, and every time you can, remember to SQUEEZE your buttocks while you are walking.” (1-2,1-2,1-2 like the Kegel exercises).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Tatler Cover (April 2007)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Model Grace

INTERVIEW with Isabel Bohrer of (premier internet fashion community site) on the subject of grace.


IS: When you think of the word "grace," what images come to your mind?
When I think of the word “grace”, I see a swan gliding through the waters of a pond, an eagle in flight soaring proud , or a dancer moving his/her body with fluidity.

IS: How does grace play into working as a model?
Grace is an important component of being a model. I define grace as beauty of form and movement.

A model’s movements on the runway or a photo shoot must be fluid. Fluid movements, like walking elegantly on a catwalk captures the eye of the audience. The human eye subliminally always goes to beauty in all its forms (symmetry, harmony,etc..) . The audience will take notice of a big commotion or a big splash but overall, the audience wants to look at something that is pleasing; something that is elegant and graceful.

At also makes it easier for the photographers and videographers to shoot a model that walks down the runway with fluidity because the photographers can anticipate your next move. The chances of their getting the perfect shot is greatly increased by the fact that they know you will be in the right spot, at the right time, in the perfect pose, for them to get the ‘perfect picture’.

This concept is the same in a photo shoot, making jerky movements is a gamble because the shot may or may not be great. Fluidity is key, as you go from one pose to the next. A photo shoot is an exercise in control. A model that has graceful movements in front of the camera, making graceful lines with her body, makes it so much easier for the photographer to capture a great picture.

IS: Do you perceive yourself, or other models, as graceful?
Yes, I do perceive myself as graceful. I was known to have the most graceful walk during my time. Even when I was doing sports wear and not couture, like the fashion shows of Dorothee Bis and Betsey Johnson, where you had to jump around the stage and have fun, I managed to play the role that was given to me and still project or maintain a ‘signature’ essence of elegance and grace.

All models who consistently work the runways are graceful, really, but in different degrees. Walking with grace and elegance is an art and some just do it much better than others, as in dancing. Everyone can dance, but some excel.

A very good example was the model, Mounia, who in the 80’s was one of the muses of Yves St. Laurent. She always did the wedding numbers. She was not a looker and much shorter than everyone working, but she always delivered. You would look at her and the garment she is selling, even though the runway was populated by the most beautiful models and more beautiful dresses, because she is one of the girls who took modeling to be an art form. She moved her whole body (positioning of hands, the tilt of the head, pursing of her lips, blink of her eyes) to interpret the garment she was wearing. By investing so much of herself, she could always command the attention of the audience whenever she walked in.

IS: How is your perception of grace altered by the clothes you wear? Do some clothes make you feel more graceful than others? If so, why?
In the fashion business where there is much diversity in terms of clothing and themes, one does have to adjust as a model, as I have mentioned above. Some clothes are definitely more graceful than others.

As a model, I always studied the lines of a garment. It dictates the movement necessary to show the garment to its best advantage.

When I am wearing couture clothes, the lines of the garments are definitely more elegant and you have to hold yourself a certain way, as opposed to casual clothes and sportswear. However, it does not really matter what you wear, because you are still selling beauty. And even if I am jumping around and giggling with the rest of the models on stage, I still do it (the jumping and giggling) with grace.

On Grace:
And now, for the intangible element called ‘grace’.

For the longest time that I was working in the fashion business, interacting with a multitude of fashion people with a vast range of temperaments, I firmly believe I would not have lasted as long as I have, if I did not comport myself with grace.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote,
“Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait”.

In fashion modeling, a business where the underlying premise is beauty, there is beauty and there is ‘beauty with grace’.

For the successful models who are put up on the pedestals of fashion, there are those who accept their genetic gifts from God with grace and…… of course, there are those that throw cell phones at their housekeepers.

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