(In defense of) Promoting Life Modelling

We come under criticism by some life models who resent that what we do opens up life modelling to many who would otherwise not get into it. We contribute to an ever increasing pool of life models, and those who depend on it for their livelihood and are without other alternatives worry that they may lose work as a result. It is feared that new, less experienced models will accept lower wages, and some who already have decent incomes, will even do it for free. I appreciate these comments, they have some validity, but I also have plenty to say in response.

  1. Most who try life modelling with us will do it just for the experience, not continuing further. Life modelling is not easy or for everyone; you have to be particularly good and/or unusual to make it work regularly.
  2. Artists or class organisers still overall prefer regular, reliable models they trust. A few groups low on resources will opt for cheap models.
  3. We also contribute new artists to the pool as we promote drawing in our workshops. A newcomer is equally likely to take up life drawing and they often do, thus expanding the possible market for life models.
  4. We are part of a general increase in life modelling/drawing interest in the UK and beyond at the moment as evidenced by several newspaper articles on the subject and TV programmes, plus a rise in experimental as well as traditional groups, even if curriculum based life art in art schools has declined.
  5. I understand being stuck in a rut and down on your luck for years on end, on drugs even, in unhealthy relationships, not enough real friends… it can be hard to appreciate others’ good fortune then. Actually in the long run it’s better to celebrate others’ success, and at least not be down on it. Emphasizing negativity only brings more of it, when maybe what you really want is a bit more of the pie! I know what it’s like to look at others and imagine they are doing better than you and perhaps assume they are more privileged. Did that for years and it is miserable, futile and wrong-headed. In that respect, karmically I may well deserve the very same that is being done to me now. On the other hand I know that in that time there is no way else to be; that is how the world looks, and being less happy, you have less control over it or ability to alter that viewpoint. I accept this state in others just as it was in me and bear no malice in return or grievance. It is a shame they feel that way, but c’est la vie.
  6. One criticism leveled at us is that Lucy and I are privileged as life models go, both being English, almost educated (well Lucy went to Cambridge, I barely passed an experimental theatre degree!) and with posh accents. It’s easy for us to make this happen – what about the majority of foreign life models whose English is not so good? One of the reasons they like or choose to live in the UK is that open free market policies have made us a diverse culture with the possibility for trying new and creative projects and businesses. There is help available for starting up new businesses and if you put your mind to it there are ways to transform your potential. Lucy and I have both suffered with mental conditions, Lucy with physical conditions, and I have worked alongside Eastern European ilegal immigrants (in the ’90s before their migration status had been changed) as a sex worker effectively choosing life options beneath my status. The stigma and psychological damage rendered by this has taken years to overcome.
  7. Lucy and I fully offer advice when asked about how to improve others’ projects. We happily share what we know, for free. And that goes for life modelling too, since the benefits to others seem too positive to be overlooked. Yes we do charge for workshops, but if you are broke it is totally possible to attend for free. And our availability extends beyond the paid workshop. Naturally helping others helps us. We have both gained immeasurably from this project in ways that go way beyond any money made (which is negligible compared to the time/energy put in).
  8. I don’t need to write this, but it was bubbling inside me so I guess I wanted to get it off my chest!

Pictures to follow from recent event at The Mall Galleries. We have packs of 8 postcards of these photographs available for sale, including some of the pictures shown here. Get in touch if you are interested. We also have packs of 10 postcards of artwork from our events.

models chatting in the break
models chatting in the break

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a portrait pose
a portrait pose
a chain of models, in 'A Dance to the Music of Time'
a chain of models, in ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’
our version of 'The Pieta'
our version of ‘The Pieta’

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This brings us to the end of a very full and special season of weekly workshops around London and 3 very different events. This evening was part of Telegraph Hill Festival, local to me. 11 models created powerful poses based on the theme of a ’20s cocktail party, a naked protest, and a turkish sauna/baths. Some fabulous art work will be uploaded to Facebook soon!

Lucy and I will get to plotting the future imminently and then return with a new schedule after a short break. Thanks to all who have been involved, we love our art baby very much!

Author: estherbunting

Performer, artist, writer

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