Sometimes, the experience of modeling is as much of a journey for the model as it is an artistic expression of the photographer. It think it's important to recognize and honor that. Of course, all that the public sees, in the end, is the resulting photos; but the stories behind the photos continue to interest me just as much as the photos themselves. For me, they add dimension and context, and may even lead to a new interpretation of the image.
Xhibited reached out to me when I advertised that I was looking for someone to do night photos in Seattle. She's done some modeling before, though to keep her identity private for professional reasons she always wears a mask. She finds the experience of modeling to be a freeing one, one that contrasts a celebration of the body with her upbringing in a culture that frowned on such things. She's artistic by nature and enjoys participating in the process of creation. And, finally, there's some pleasure that comes from submitting the self to be the raw material for another person's vision.
These are the things I've gleaned from conversation with Xhibited. She's also an older model than most, with the time-weary effects that has on the skin, to which none of us are exempt no matter how physically fit we may be. She'll never be a centerfold in Playboy without a lot of digital surgery. But in strong contrast to that, I personally find these characteristics to not be "imperfections" at all. They simply are. They are part of Xhibited's body, and they represent her, at this point in her life, with all of the experiences that have shaped her, both physically and spiritually. In my opinion, she is one of the most beautiful models I've worked with.
It'll be a couple of weeks until I finish my final edits on this set, but for now, here are a couple of previews to show you what we accomplished. It was a dark, cold, rainy evening in Seattle; we timed our session in hopes of avoiding both crowds and rain, based on the forecast. And we were mostly successful in both respects. At our viewpoint in Gas Works Park we encountered three other photographers also trying to get images of the city lights across Lake Union, but only had to wait about ten minutes before they gave up and left (during which time we were planning and preparing our shots) -- they were dissatisfied with the lack of a reflection of the city on still water. (Why they thought there would be a reflection in the midst of a rainstorm, I don't know.) As for ourselves, sure, a reflection would have been nice, but it was the lights themselves we were looking for, and the lighted foreground under the streetlights to spotlight my model. Due to the darkness I took photos with a shallow depth of field, but I also photographed the city more sharply individually, and will experiment with compositing that into the final versions of the photos.
You can see that Xhibited is still a bit nervous in this set; we'd just started, she hadn't relaxed into the experience yet, and the setting was fairly public. I'm happy with the images we got, though, in spite of her nervousness.
After Gas Works, we walked along the waterfront, stopping at a little viewpoint for more photos, then continued down the Burke-Gilman Trail toward Fremont. The second preview I'll share with you here is under the Aurora Street Bridge, a gate tucked into an ivy-covered wall leading to a private boat dock. It has a motion-sensitive light that comes on whenever anyone enters its radius, creating a pool of light amid the darkness that I was immediately drawn to. We experimented with a lot of different poses; I think this is one of my favorites. Xhibited is small in stature to begin with, but next to the gate she appears even more diminutive, reminding me of a Hobbit knocking on the outsized door to the Prancing Pony in the human town of Bree.
Xhibited is warming up here, not so much physically as in her comfort level working with me. It's a more private location, to be sure, but she's also trusting me more to create something of beauty while keeping her safe. So much so, that she suggested a very open and well-lit area for the next set of pictures. I haven't included any of those photos here, but you can see them among the extended set of preview images in my website gallery.
She was getting cold, so we discussed wrapping up, but decided to do one final set of images. I'd scouted another couple of locations further down the Burke-Gilman Trail, but at the last minute, decided to "call an audible" and substitute a location I'd just spotted, along the foundation of the Aurora Street Bridge, lit by street lamps with the shadows of trees swaying in the breeze. I thought we might be able to play with those shadows and use them to add intrigue to a set of images.
And oh boy did that work well! We shot a long series here, both clothed, partially clothed, and unclothed. These are personally my favorites of the night, because I think they best capture Xhibited's personality. You can see in her face that she has finally relaxed completely into the experience, enjoying it almost ecstatically as the shadows and the breeze dance across her skin and catch her hair. There's a sense of joy, a power and confidence that finally comes out: she is a woman who knows she is beautiful and owns it in front of the camera.
And then it was all over. We walked back to the car and warmed up a bit before parting ways. The photos are memories not only of creativity, but also an experience that we will both cherish, when artist and model shared a process that resulted in both great art and personal transformation.