is a charismatic presence here on deviantArt. A widely published and exhibited fine art nude model, she is a truly beautiful woman, ageless, not only in terms of her physique, but also for the energy she exudes. Unbearable Lightness is also a writer. She maintains the art blog "What We Saw Today" ([link]
, to which I have had the honour of contributing. Passionate about art modelling, UL is a cultured woman of impeccable taste, holder of a string of postgraduate degrees and with an in-depth knowledge of the arts. It is therefore most appropriate that she should be interviewed to share her experience and insights with us.
Questions by Alex B
:thumb146787403: When did you start modelling and why? Are you a full time model? Are you solely a nude model?
When I was in my 20s I wanted to be a Playboy bunny, was photographed, but not called back. A modeling school told me I would be a fine hand model. In retrospect, I could have had quite a lucrative career as a hand model. At the time, I saw it as an insult.
In my early 20s, I would have entered a full time modeling career. When things did not work out, I took a very different path and earned a doctorate instead. This has given me a wonderful and fulfilling life as an academic and a writer, with the miraculous opportunity to realize the old modeling dream at an advanced age.
The Old Dream became reality in my 59th year. I was in Paris and young men were so interested in me. They gave me phone numbers and invited me to parties. When I came home, I was encouraged. I thought, I must look pretty good! So I called a photographer who had worked for Playboy and Penthouse in the 1970s and asked him to photograph me. Our first shoot gave him two images that ended up in juried shows. I had finally found what I sought 40 years earlier - success as a nude model!
I now combine my life interests in a full time pursuit as an arts writer and model. I am not solely a nude model, but it is primarily what I choose to do.
:thumb143194229: :thumb141328307:Do you work only with the same photographers or do you go out and look for new talent? Do you apply to casting calls or do you make your own arrangements?
In my first years of modeling, I worked exclusively with my first photographer. When I decided it was time to work with other people and felt I could "come out of the closet" necessitated by my status as a college professor, I put up my shingle on Model Mayhem. Almost immediately, I was asked to shoot by Jim Young, whom I consider one of the finest photographers working today. This was a great beginning to my modeling career because his work made many others want to photograph me. Joseph Crachiola, Dave Levingston, and A. J. Kahn followed within the first six months and have become my Big Three. If I could work with no one else, these are the three I would insist upon. Nevertheless, I have worked with some other amazing photographers. I won't try to name them all for the fear of forgetting someone wonderful! I could have signed with a Chicago agency but decided to make my own arrangements and do only what I have a passion to do.How do you work with photographers? Do you take directions?
Each photographer works completely differently. I adapt to the photographer. I am perfectly capable of working with no concepts or direction at all. As an innately creative person and a writer and former dancer and actor, I have no end of imagination and ideas. However, I defer to photographers who have a vision and/or want a specific shot. I am happy either way.
:thumb140889696:What do you expect from a photographer?
As Aretha Franklin said, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Beyond that, I look first for artists, then for commonality with my own vision, and sometimes for someone whose vision is totally unlike mine. What do you do about ownership of the images?
Again, each photographer is completely different. Dave Levingston is the only photographer with whom I work who shares the copyright with the model. I wish every photographer would do that as I believe what I do is a true collaboration. We could not produce a work of art without each other.
:thumb137766213:Are there pictures of you out there that you would rather people did not see? have you ever had a disagreement with a photographer about images of you he/she might decide to show?
Yes. I have a private gallery where I display what I consider "private" pictures. I had tried bringing my most intimate work to Deviant Art and got "killed" for it. The worst case occurred on DA last August when a racist group virtually assassinated me for erotic interracial work I had displayed. I also quit posting crotch shots on DA, and I have never displayed them on Model Mayhem. I am also cautious about what I post on the blog, What We Saw Today. That is a very public space, and Google has picked up key words in the past and caused a post to be plastered all over the Internet.
I have worked only with photographers I trust - through preliminary behaviors while setting up a shoot and checking references, I have eliminated anyone who would not respect my right to withhold images I do not like and not to shoot certain things in the first place!
:thumb147561864:Do you make suggestions as to the crop or whether you would like a b/w conversion,for example?
When I am asked, I am glad to offer an opinion. Sometimes I truly have no idea whether color or b/w is better or whether a photo is better with or without a crop. I find my friends on DA very helpful when I am given choices and usually post both versions for their opinions. The photographer and I are often too close to the work to be able to decide.How much input do you give into a shoot?
As much as I can! I don't model as a mindless body like a trained dog. I bring my heart and soul and all my knowledge of the arts and art history, and all I learned as an actor and dancer, with me to a shoot. I will give as much as the situation allows.
:thumb136485423: What are the highlights of your modelling career?
Having a modeling career at age 65 at all, which is completely remarkable. My career has not yet peaked; the highest achievements are just ahead...if all goes as planned. What is the worst or most embarrassing moment in your modelling career?
Fortunately, I have avoided the worst by checking references and communicating extensively prior to a shoot. Coming up on a particular shoot, a photographer sent a creepy message - he wanted to "climb all over" me with his camera. I had agreed we could shoot in my home, and his last message said I should stay in bed and leave the door unlocked for him. Of course, I immediately canceled the shoot. Then the model references came in. I averted a terrible disaster.
:thumb146520142:As a mature model have you ever experienced any unpleasantness?
I get weary of focus on my age. Prior to modeling, my age was generally a non-issue. I don't remember anyone asking what it was, and I never thought a lot about it, except to be grateful for having a long life. Now not a day goes by without someone sending a message centered on my age. It is always cast in positive terms and meant to be a compliment. But no 20-year-old model could even imagine age as such a central factor in her everyday life. I could never have imagined this either. It came as a shock to me.
When someone says, meaning it in the best way I am sure, "You don't look 65," I want to say, "What do you think 65 looks like?" It's right up there with saying, "You don't look Jewish." I don't know what these comments are supposed to imply.What is modelling to you? Do you see yourself as an artist?
Modeling is absolutely an art form. It is a performance art, and I see the same shift of praise in other performing arts, from the actor/dancer to the director/choreographer. Sometimes the performer surmounts the fame of her collaborators, such as Marilyn Monroe did. Who remembers the shooters of her iconic works, but we all know Marilyn. It may be Coppola's Godfather, but Brando IS the Godfather.
Modeling is ensemble work, and someone will always emerge as The Star when great art is created. I will always think of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as exemplars of a couple who collaborated as equal Stars, but that rarely happens.
:thumb146005657:What advice would you give to an aspiring model, regardless of age?
Models need to realize this is something you do, not who you are. I have seen modeling misunderstood and overvalued. Know who you are before you become a model. Also, forget about being "The Next Top Model." There is no such thing. For all The Bests in any area of life, someone will always come along who does it better. No one should ever operate on such a misconception. People who do end up frustrated, devastated, or disillusioned. I am grateful for all good things, but I never believe I work harder than or my work is better than many others.
Thank you UL for answering my questions. With best wishes for many more years of modelling.