Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Lingerie vs Swimwear: The Great Debate / Style or Trash

I had no idea lingerie and swimwear was such a controversial topic when it comes to modeling and photography. I mean sure, I know some people are more… “conservative” isn’t the right word; maybe timid or paranoid might be more appropriate. It is true that nothing you put online is private despite the number of filters and blocks you put up. It is impossible to perfectly block a picture that is online from a committed person. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal. Some people model swimwear. Some people model lingerie. But sometimes I can encounter someone that doesn't do both and it is baffling and a bit befuddling to say the least.

First, let me give you a bit of a background with the kind of person writing this. I come from a very conservative and religious background. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being hardly ever seeing the inside of a place of worship except for on Easter or just saying you’re a Christian during Christmas, and 10 being a totally dedicated to convert everyone or the world will go up in flames… I’d say I grew up in a household around a number 7; 8 in a pinch. So you might say, I know a bit about scripture, morality, ethics, burning in hell or not (depending on what your interpretations are), idolatry, family responsibilities, chastity and everything in between. I still hold many of those truths close to heart like not living with someone unless you are married to them. I’m not so demented as to think burning bushes will start talking to me in this day and age but once those things are with you those sense of moral don't go away. 

Now that you know something about my level of “letting it all go” if you will, you can take comfort in the fact that I’m not to be taken casually when speaking on a topic as sensitive as lingerie and swimwear. First, I’ll address the first part of the topic. The "I will model swimwear but not lingerie" group. This group is the most mind-numbingly baffling. Why? Because swimwear is lingerie on the beach. Not only is it that, it is public for all the world to see and it shouldn’t bother you. The more we make something forbidden, the more people glorify it, taboo it and think it's dirty. The more any degree of freedom like swimwear or lingerie becomes labeled as dangerous or wicked, you give it its power. 
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You might say I’ve been desensitized over the years because of working with so many people. That might be somewhat true. But that further proves my point. That theoretical desensitization doesn't make it any less private, personal or intimate, but it does lessen the impact such draconian ideology has on society and human sexuality as a whole. I would never want a child of mine to think somehow the human body is not a work of art. It’s imperfections and its perfection co-existing in unending upswept curves, tips and lines are to be marveled. I asked several people why they would do swimwear and not lingerie. The answers I got all started with, “My husband…,” my boyfriend…,” “my culture…” or “my religion…” Do you want to know what no person in the history of photographing people for nearly 15 years started out aying? No-one started out with telling me what "they" wanted or thought as an individual. They had convinced themselves that the opinion of someone who had no true control over their decision making to make them feel unclean and dirty to even consider such a thing. They were being treated like property. That shocked really shocks me to my core. What year is it anyway? We don't own people anymore nor should we ever.

Having been around art much of my life, I’d long developed in appreciation for art in all forms; not despite my conservative upbringing but because of it. You see it was never a topic shunned in my family but rather respected, protected, discussed and revered but not by wrapping oneself in chastity belts and wraps but my instilling values to respect yourself first, then other people, their opinions and their values even when they do not coincide with your own. That laid the foundation for me to see the world in a broader context. Such as, knowing that in many parts of Europe nudity is no different from riding a bike down the street on a hot summer’s day. Yet, in other countries it may be a public beheading offense. I respect that like I respect anyone’s opinion about even modeling lingerie, swimwear or even nude because I believe anything that has an appropriate level of tastefulness and style applied that can make any and all things beautiful and visually palatable and that such things should at least be considered with an open mind. 
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What do I mean by the latter? I mean anything not done well will be bad for your reputation and your career considering how paranoid and Draconian the sometimes overly-righteous US can be about such things. I’ve seen some of the most distasteful swimwear in poses that would make my grandmother roll over in her grave. She would say, “why is that woman outside in her drawz with her business in the street? That is just filth,” or she would say worst things. Just go online and you can see swimwear models in extremely compromising poses, horrible styling, inappropriate clothing and it is not always a matter of skin coverage. It is a matter of style and appropriate taste for what is being presented. Consider that I can show a fully nude photo of a model posing in an appropriately beautiful and artful way and yet another fully clothed in a less than flattering way and the clothed one will offend far faster than the nude. Why? It is because of style, appropriateness and quality not how much skin is showing or where the model is or what she's lying on or if she's inside or outside.

You might conclude that this notion of not modeling lingerie but openly modeling swimwear because lingerie is too closely related to sex is dumb in hindsight is it not? Is that what your small minded husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends are thinking? That seems more like a trust issue. To say such a thing means that I can take a model dressed in nothing but lingerie out to a public beach and it would be just fine. That is the logic people that model swimwear but not lingerie is using isn’t it? Swimwear is in fact lingerie outdoors exposure-wise and modeling one is no more controversial than another. I’ve seen far more revealing swimwear than I have lingerie in my time. But even so, skin visibility isn’t the issue. It is that fear of getting it wrong. That fear that they might be shown in a most sexualized and unflattering way that sends the wrong message; a horrible message that objectifies instead of empowers. A message that says I’m easy trash. It is that along with a paranoid boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband right? Can it go down like that? You bet it can. But any kind of clothing or lack thereof can do that, swimwear included. 

People often project how they feel and assume they know how other people will feel. That other husband thinks my wife or girlfriend will look like a slut they think. But that is only what he would think in such a position. But let’s get to it while it’s fresh on my mind. I know you’re all wondering so I’ll just lay it out there. Would I let my wife model lingerie? You’re damn right I would with very few conditions. My only rule is to do it well. I may want to help her choose the photographer and have some idea of the set or theme of it. I would like to be sure it’s extremely high quality, fashionable, tasteful and resembling of something from Victoria’s Secret, SIRCUS magazine, Vogue or Harpers. Other than that I trust my wife completely to make reasonable decisions that would not endanger her, her career and put either of us in harm’s way. I don’t treat her like property. She is as smart and intelligent as I am, perhaps more. If she chooses to she can do whatever she likes and I’ll be sure to support her fully should she want me to. 

Now that elephant has left the room what about modeling lingerie and not swimwear? This was a rare one; far rarer than the first but I encountered it once several years ago and once again no more than three weeks ago. This is a far simpler explanation. A lingerie shoot is far slower. There is time to think, consider, plan and organize. It is more private, there is more interaction with the team and above all else it far less public. There aren’t strangers walking by and despite the fact she may be wearing more or less, every pair of eyes may feel like eyes of judgement for less than confident model. I get that. It is far more believable and valid a reason than the “swimwear not lingerie” crowd. Outdoor photo shoots are a whirlwind at best. Things are happening fast because of changing light. There can also be great deal of moving, the weather changes constantly and people going to and fro gawking and commenting aloud. Unless of course you have a private space to shoot, I imagine that anxiety building and interfering with concentration is difficult. But for the most part this type of fear is far less common than the aforementioned one. 

Like anything each and every person can make their own decisions about what is and what is not appropriate for them. I can’t possibly understand everyone’s motivations for doing or not doing anything. Something as private and deeply personal as lingerie and swimwear is a personal decision that I respect one way or another. I would never and have never asked anyone to model anything they don’t want to. I heard the horror stories of other photographers that have but I will say even those instances are very rare. Once a model makes her limits known, they work it out or she walks away. It is that simple. 
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We have been fortunate to work with some viciously gorgeous people over the years and hope to continue to. Some model only fashion, some beauty, others lingerie and swimwear. We love them all. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and different life circumstances that dictate their decision making. No marriage is worth losing over a pic and no job is worth risking because you look beautiful in La Perla. Okay maybe if it’s La Perla it might be worth considering because I’ve never seen anyone look bad in La Perla. LOL! In all seriousness, the decision is your own and no one should be able to make you feel bad for doing so or not doing so. 

I have done my fair share of lingerie shoots, boudoir, glamour, fashion, art-nude, beauty, fitness, swimwear, avant garde, implied, cosplay and other ideas that defy genre classification. Boudoir is most popular largely among wives and girlfriends and guess what, they are not even models in the traditional sense. They give them as a gift to their husbands or most of them gift it to themselves as a gift of empowerment, bravery and strength. Many have commented that it is as if shackles have fallen off. They feel braver and more empowered than they ever had before. It is not a dirty thing. It can and often is a source of strength if you let it become so.

We love it when people that may not model lingerie or swimwear themselves can look at a Helios image of someone that has and appreciate its style, beauty and attention to detail. I’ve seen the comments and read them. “I don’t model lingerie but this is very tasteful and beautifully done” is often said. Or we read “I do not model lingerie or swimwear but I would like to do so with Helios if you would consider giving me a quote and explaining your process.” We appreciate that level of trust and understanding because before I am anything I am a professional. My concern is not only that you get the image or design that you want, but that we also exceed your expectations.

That same model I mentioned earlier that told me she has modeled lingerie but that she never considered modeling swimwear flipped thru SIRCUS magazine Issue 9, the special swimwear edition we submitted to and changed her mind on the spot. Before, she was worried about not looking classy and decent in public. Well, her worries were dispelled immediately and she decided on the spot that making a gorgeous timeless image is less about what people think about you. She realized that it comes down to style, taste, appropriateness and finding the right people you can trust to give you the high quality you need. 

There is nothing trashy about swimwear not more than lingerie and vice versa. This is about perspective and managing expectations that will insure your success with either or both. Nothing is beyond your control when you have the right people supporting you and not making you feel lesser than you are.  

Monday, October 2, 2017

Are You a Helios Model? And What is a Helios Model Anyway?

Who or What is a “Helios Model?”

To be completely honest with you, we didn’t know this phrase was a thing until about the third time we had heard it from at least three different people. We’re not a modeling agency but I do believe that over time we may have indirectly chosen or maybe created a different classification of models and clients.

I don’t believe it is a look. I personally think everyone we’ve photographed is beautiful. I really mean that. Everyone we have ever photographed in uniquely gorgeous in their own way. Our portfolio is far too varied to say it is just blondes or brunettes, dark hair, asians or blacks, whites or otherwise. But I do think that most of the models who collaborate with us have a refinement unseen anywhere else. It’s not a job, or a label. It’s just something people tend to remember the model by. We guess it’s a thing now. 

For example, I did a follow-up with a model two weeks ago. This follow-up was long after my initial shoot with her. We met just to discuss future ideas and just to see how her shoots with other photographers have gone since our first shoot together. She is having a blast. However, it was the recent photographers she had worked with that also gave her the label as a Helios Model which in essence meant, she was in a different and more elite class than normal. Hey, we’ll take that. Again, it is not our saying, this seems to be public opinion. We’re not an agency but we do often brag about finding the absolute best people to photograph. To be honest, even the paid assignments are exceptional in our opinion. I believe good people are simply attracted to good things. You want the best then you should always strive to be the best. If I want the best models I try not to beg for them, pay them extraneous amounts of money. I put my time and effort in honing, improving and perfecting my skill as a designer and photographer. In time, if it is meant to be we will simply cross paths; if not, we will not. We certainly don’t have a monopoly on premium people. In fact, we would say that there have many more people we would like to work with; all of which are well-suited to the ideas we have planned. Are they “Helios Models” before we even work with them? We can’t answer that if we don’t know why the label exist.

We don’t happen upon active photo shoots from other photographers very often so we don’t see their process with how they select, engage and direct models but I can’t imagine it would be that different. You select, research, schedule and shoot or you reply to a message or an email, agree on a rate, schedule and shoot. Simple right? Or so we thought. Apparently, somewhere along the line we seem to develop these new classifications and what some are designating as a higher echelon of talent than what is normally found. 

We honestly don’t know what is going on. But what we do know is that we are eternally grateful for every single paid assignment and collaboration that comes our way and we have fun doing them. As you might also be aware, we often credit the talent and clients themselves with how well the images manifest. We couldn’t be who we are without their skill, vision and talent. 

So what is a Helios Model? I still don’t really know. Perhaps someone else can define why people we photograph just seem so categorically premium and elite. If I had to guess we believe people decide to become a Helios Model when they make that first email, send that first message or make the initial phone call to setup a shoot. It’s a mindset not a look. They’ve decided to take a leap and see what happens and that within itself suggest a creative and more open minded way of approaching art and photographically specific. If the label derives from the results then that is most certainly our theory. Full trust in the process is over half of our successes. 

Our final theory on what constitutes a Helios Model is a person that constantly strives to improve their craft. They encourage others to be the best they can be while they themselves work hard to expand their creative opportunities. They want to forge productive relationships and work with other people like themselves that respect style, taste and refinement above all else and they would much rather have quality above quantity. If that is a Helios Model then I believe nearly everyone we’ve ever had the pleasure of working with suits that label.