During the previous month, I have been modelling for some talented photographers and friends of mine. It was mostly fashion shoots. I would like to share my thoughts and feelings about this strange experience.
Modelling is harder than most people think. Holding a pose on high hills is sometimes quite a challenge and following instructions from a photographer is often difficult. I learned a lot from this, as a photographer. It will be very useful in the future when I will be working with models. I now know what they feel.
A strange thing happens when photographing someone. Photographing a model for a fashion shoot is completely different from doing portraits for example. In a portrait shot, the photographer most of the time tries to get the humanity of the subject. The person being photographed needs to give a feeling of who he/she is. In a fashion shoot, the inverse happens. The model has to become someone else, has to act. Humanity is not necessary in a fashion shoot, the model is only wearing the dress as a mannequin would do. The model becomes an object, a false reproduction of reality.
As I am someone quite natural generally, I don’t wear make up and prefer to wear comfortable clothes than stylish garments. During these shoots, I was heavily made up, as customs seem to require in fashion. People around, photographer, assistants, kept saying to me how beautiful I was. When looking at their images, I feel beautiful but as a false beauty. The person on the images is not me. She is an actress wearing a costume. She is beautiful, but in a contrived, almost commercial way.
It made me think about the concept of beauty in society today. Photography is a large peddle of our beauty “clichés”. I recently read an extract of the french book from Sophie Cheval, a French psychologist, called Beautiful otherwise, Ending the tyranny of appearance. She explains that researchers had made an experiment. Four to five participants had to look through thousands of identity pictures and mark them according to their own criteria of beauty. The result is that in 70% of cases, participants were attributing the same mark to the same photograph. This means that our vision of beauty is relatively uniform and transmitted by photography most of the time, through magazines, newspapers, TV and movies. Beauty is not a subjective concept anymore.
Where come from these criteria about beauty ? To understand this, I had to look back in time. In the 16th century for example, in Europe, beauty was all about forms and pale skin. At that time, Europe was poor and people were working in fields, getting sun all day long. The beauty at that moment was in opposition to the lifestyle of most people consisting of misery, illness and hard working. Woman were beautiful in a way because they could afford to eat well and to stay in.
Today, we are living in a society of stress and abundance. In Europe and North America, most people work in offices and get short holidays. We are in constant contact with tempting food. Beauty today is still in opposite to most people lifestyle. To make it simpler, a beautiful woman is thin and sun tanned, because she is showing by her appearance that she can resist food temptation, can afford to get a lot of free time to take care of herself and earns enough money to go on sunny holidays.
If you want to have look to my friends fashion pictures, here are the links to their blog and website :