Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Model:  Renee Thompson

There will come a time in your modeling career where you will be asked to pose nude.  Artistically, editorially, commercially or otherwise.  Remember that.  Kate Moss, Tyson Beckford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Djimon Hudson and countless others have all done it in the course of their careers.  Do you think it is going to be any different for you? 

I don’t know if other photographers go through this, but I’ve been having this particular incident happen recently and it prompted me to really sit back and take a look at how things are going.

A lot of models fail to realize that a photoshoot is a complete collaborative effort of all parties involved. Once they leave the studio, the true work of the photographer at that point begins. Forget the planning of the shoot. Forget the set up and break down of the shoot. Forget the actual shoot.  Forget the time needed to proof the shoot. Forget the time needed for editing the shoot. The model has gone along on his/her merry way to their next venture and they sit there and wait for photos, while we, the photographers, slave away at creating photographic images that we all can be proud of.

For those of you who follow my work, you know I do a lot of nude work. Some full nudity, some sexually driven, most of it artistically implied. I’ve been approached by galleries and even a couple of museums to do complete series for them which are in the works. It is a slow process, because when a particular vision first takes hold, I personally do not have “exhibits” in mind. I just want to produce the best possible photograph I can produce with the model of the moment. Then what happens is, the photograph will take on a life of its own and next thing you know, I am getting an email from a man named Gustav in a country that I can’t pronounce, much less locate on a map.

But I digress. When I (I should say we) decide to shoot nude work, it is never with the intentions of shooting nudes. It is usually a comfort level that is developed between model and me and at that precise moment, we are in a collaborative vortex that takes us down a path of personal exploration. They allow me to push their boundaries and I allow them to be comfortable with themselves to explore things that they may have never thought otherwise. Sometimes it’s a simple as me saying “the jeans ruin the shot.” More often then not, it is the model’s doing to remove their garments and once they do, they are much more free to explore their inhibitions and we in turn produce beautiful images.

Let’s fast forward. You (the model) know people know me. You know people follow my work. If you say that you are shooting with Dallas, people are expecting to see images. So why is it such a pain in the ass when I produce such images, and post them (not even nudes per se, but let’s say the images that posted at the top this blog), you get freaked out because you don’t want others to see it? Can someone explain that to me?

On more than one occasion, I’ve posted such images on let’s say Facebook, only to get hit with the email of “can you please not tag me on that image, I don’t want my family to see it.” What? Why? Don’t they know that you are model? Don’t they know there will be times when you will be taking photographs of an artistic nature? Are you embarrassed of such things? If so, then why the fuck did you get undressed in the first place?

If you were David Agbodji would you have gone to Steven Klein when he shot for Calvin Klein and say “oh no, Steve, please don’t put that anywhere, I don’t want my friends to see it.” What if Naomi Campbell said that to Herb Ritts or Demi Moore said that to Annie Lebowitz? Or Kate Moss said that to Mario Testino? They and countless others produced beautiful, iconic images showcasing the human form for the world to see. So if you ever going to be embarrassed, guess what? Don’t model. It's just that simple.  I understand the erected penis and the spread labia images are not for everyone’s artistic taste, but this isn’t want I am talking about and I get that. But there comes a time in your adult life that you have to take a stand for your career and say I am doing this and I am proud. You may never know who will see that image and go “I want to book that model. He/she is beautiful.” Trust me, I get that a lot.

I am proud of the work that I do with models (clothing or otherwise). I am proud when I am approached by art buyers and curators because they see the artistry I see. I am proud when a model allows their inhibitions to be release and they can be themselves so we can take stunning photographs. What I am not proud of is when I must stifle my creativity because of their reticence.

So think about it. Who are you modeling for?


  1. That's a good question. I am by no means a model, but in doing photo shoots in connection with my book covers, I definitely took some photos that pushed my boundaries and came out great. There was a trust and intimacy created between myself and the photographer. And even though I knew the pictures created were beautiful, I felt a lot of anxiety about people seeing me in a way that I wasn't used to portraying.

    And maybe for some of the new models who haven't yet learned what modeling means or who aren't yet comfortable with themselves, there is some of that anxiety about being seen in a different light. They are afraid of what people think. And maybe they don't know who they are modeling FOR yet because they don't know what to BE a model means yet.


    Travis Montez

  2. I hate to say it but I really think MONEY is always a big factor in these decisions.

    When an agency model is being paid a real advertising day rate, I think they are more likely to be willing to do nude photography, believing that they have the protection of their agency and the photographer. In these cases , I think the unspoken belief is that nudity done for advertising has a more artistic and legitimate basis. Usually they are told in advance and sometimes they are paid more to work nude.

    However, especially when testing, I think new, young or inexperienced models are afraid that their images will deter their future success. Some people are just ashamed of their sexuality and their bodies, while others flaunt it openly. But in the long run, I believe a new model is worried that their nude shots will either fall into the hands of the wrong people or it will jeopardize their chances of getting more lucrative and conservative work. I also think people believe that the work will not always be seen in the proper arena and fear their images may be used to illustrate pornographic or vulgar products and merchandise. Remember the controversy with Vanessa Williams?

    In this time of computers and cell phones I think models are also afraid that their images are veing copied, sold and distributed in places that they did not agree to sanction. Anyone with a computer can copy and alter photos. So then the question becomes, do I trust this photographer in the heat of the moment while creating a sensual image or do I refuse?

    I think the human body can be beautiful when photgraphed properly and respectfully, but it is not always about "the shot".

    Some people just don't want their images associated with any type of scandal, although we all now know that a little scandal can sometimes make or break a career.

  3. Awesome Literature Dallas as always! I have had that same incident recently happen to me when a model said the same thing. Dont tag me....because my family saw the many wonderful comments on my(your photo) and asked ...ARE YOU GAY!!?? Um, Dallas...it was a HEAD SHOT!!!! WTF??? Needless to say, we are no longer working together!!!...lol. I think alot of models these days are MODELING FOR THEMSELVES!!! And Not for Designers. I often think that they are just 'FACEBOOK' Models, 'cause when you try to reach out to them for an interview, they act as they are Tyson or Marcus or Nacho!!?? So yeah...WHY GET IN THE BUSINESS, and WASTE our Time!!??

  4. This is so real! A lot of models haven't gotten to the point of peace with themselves to be seen in that light others to see because it's something internal as to why they don't wanna be tagged...which is mostly insecurity. The only thing anyone can do is respect it! REALNESS 101 APPROVED!!!

  5. you know I had a friend of mine who is a model, tell me one day, "dont be afraid to model nude, its just a body..." Since then, an opportunity to model nude came up and I took it, I've been doing it ever since (2 years now) and my friend was right, its just a body, and Im comfortable in my body.I feel as long as I'm not compromising my character or morals, why not! Plus the more and more I do it, the less and less I think about the fact that "Im naked." Ill be damned if one day, I have an opportunity to get paid $50,000, and I chicken out because Im scared someone will see my dick c'mon guys we all have one, and we have all seen the opposite sex naked...get over yourself. As long as your not compromising your character then go for it!

  6. annnnnnd again...that's what separates those who will be successful from those who wont...it's up to the model at the end of the day if success is important to them..if it isnt..save your time and money and keep your clothes on ;-)

  7. Keith Frederick MillerWednesday, 15 September, 2010

    So, I took the liberty of reading your blog post for fashion week and I was actually left speechless. I don't know if it is because people would ask you to stifle your artistic ingenuity or if I have been waiting for someone to bring back the shameless beauty of the human form to the imagination of others. One thing resonates after reading your work: the human body only connotes shame when you stigmatize it and the body bears meanings and text that can either be read as liberating or constraining. Now, I know you feel that I'm on your jock sometimes or that I over-compliment you, but I just feel you should understand why.

    One, very few people in the industry take the time to develop models both inside and out. Your emphasis on comfort, security, and trust between the photographer and model are what I think we all as models wish that we could have at least once. Two, the dedication and patience that you put into making these masterpieces is truly inspiring. You pay close attention and mold with the detail of a genius, but take the time to "see" the sculpture when you look at the stone. Now, how do I know this when I have never met you or how can I be sensitive to your brilliance when I'm not a photography or art critic or scholar per se? It's quite simple; when an individual looks at your work, it tells a story. It rivals many of the campaigns that we see shot by photographic giants (and this would make sense given where I see you ending up). However, you make young models who, externally are immaculate in features and poise, but are internally unrefined, into priceless works of art in an industry that thrives on capitalism, consumerism, and the consumption of one's physical and ideological beauty.

    Now, I know I have said a lot, but I think this can be rounded out with two simple words: thank you.

  8. Keith -

    This has GOT to be one of the most amazing responses I have ever received on my blogs. I want to thank you for such wonderful, kind and encouraging words. All I do is express the struggles I go through in the industry and give voice to the other photographers that go through the same trials and tribulations that I go through. I KNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW I am not the only one suffering out there.

    Sometimes (I should say oftentimes), models live in such a self centered vaccuum that they never take into consideration about what it takes for them to succeed... If I look pretty that is all I need and that is so not the case. We (we meaning photographers, makeup artists, stylists, agents, managers, mentors, etc.) are all needed in order to help a model succeed... When people compliment my work (either online or hardcopy), it is not JUST about me, but everyone involved in order to make that photograph happen... I don't say just thanks for ME, but I say it for all. Because I could not have achieved it alone... Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a successful team to buld a successful model.

  9. I understand that nudity is not for everyone. Any model before doing nudes should carefully make sure he feels comfortable with the concept and understand where and how the images will be used and featured. its true alot of superstars have done nude but when u shoot a high paid campaign for infamous designer or a world renowned photographer u are more confident on 3 levels one is compensation second is use of image and 3rd is artistic and professional integrity as well as notoriety it will bring u and of who is shooting u.... after all people somtime forget modeling is a business and a job and ur body and look is ur commodity, i have seen 2 opposite ends happen: models who regretted not "going there" and doing great artistic nudes when they had a chance when they where young and perfect and opportunity came there way, and on the other hand models who regretted doing nudity because later on in life there nude work has broght on the wrong type of attention or been an obstacle for them when pursuing certain other fields such as education, work with children, law or politics... to the point they had to change there name to avoid the dreaded google search.... so its not for everyone but i will agree and say if u do something do it to the fullest why do it and then be a shamed about it? sexuality and nudity is a beautiful thing and there is no shame in it.... when i shoot an artistic project the thing i hate most is to feel like someone is putting limitation on my vision... i tell them be ready to let it all hang out or don't waste my time! many times it wont even go as far as showing anything but i need the models complete trust in my vision and professionalism so i feel inspired. If u did it then be proud of it! when i shoot an artistic concept i feel i just gave a huge chunk of my self... i immortalized that person as a part of my essence as an artist and i need my model to respect and appreciate that.

  10. Thank you for consistently sharing your wisdom about the creative process. Your blog is appreciated beyond what you may initially imagine. Thank you again Mr. Austin!

    ~George Robert

  11. Greatly expressed, Dallas...BLESS

    Mikel Kilgour