Model, Mum and Photographer – Melanie

How do you fit everything in being a model, photographer and Mum?

Having such a busy lifestyle is challenging; however, previous job roles have prepared me well in terms of time management and focusing on tasks. It’s not easy; in fact, it is quite challenging to fit it all in. The key is discipline and balance. My children always come first, so occasionally, I do have to say no to the occasional photoshoot that clashes with a birthday or another important family event. It is great on odd occasions when I can incorporate family members into my shoots or photography work. However, I am very aware of social media; the younger family members are shielded from the spotlight and protected in terms of my modelling career.

What is your favourite part of being a model and the worse?

My favourite part is the escapism from being ‘mum’ for the day or a few hours and the ability to meet new people. You can transform into another character and pretend to be someone else. I absolutely love some of the characters I have been able to create and portray. The worst part is having to trawl through endless messages on social media and sort out the bona fide fans and photography contacts from the neanderthal men who make remarks which belong in the past. There is still very little respect given to models, especially to those who model at lingerie levels and above. A lot of men out there cannot distinguish between models and sex workers. You do have to toughen up and not be offended by some of the messages you receive, which can be highly sexualised and offensive.

Copyright – @secretvixen1

Does being both a photographer and a model give you an advantage if so how?

Having skills on both sides of the lens definitely has its advantages. From a model’s perspective, having an understanding of lighting can be great, especially when it comes to posing and ensuring you are not blocking the light. It allows you to be more collaborative in terms of the shot as you aren’t just contributing from a posing perspective; you can think about how different lighting and editing techniques can affect the polished final image. In terms of communications, it helps massively. To understand what a person wants to get out of a shot from both sides of the camera. We have all experienced a shoot where a model doesn’t turn up. Having an understanding and awareness of what costs are incurred to the photographer for a ‘no show’ ensures I turn up to every single shoot I am employed to do. Some models really bumble through their careers without a thought to others when they decide not to turn up for a shoot – it is so unprofessional. It makes me think about every shoot I do and if I can fully commit to it. If I can’t, I walk away early on in the process to allow the party to find a substitute rather than to be let down at the last minute and jeopardise the whole shoot concept. From a photographer’s point of view and having modelled myself, I can help in terms of giving direction, especially to newer models, as I have been precisely in their shoes. I am a woman, and I am fully aware of our insecurities in terms of our body image and, therefore, can empathise with my fellow ladies. Although models do have an awful lot of confidence, offset,we are just like any other woman.

Is there a specific progress you go through before each shoot?

Prepare, prepare, prepare! I always re-read the shoot brief the evening before, and I will have spoken to the model/photographer previously to buttoned-down a shoot plan and have outfit ideas in place. I always pack a few extra outfits than needed when I am modelling, just in case of a wardrobe malfunction on the day. I am not one who flies by the seat of my pants and decides stuff on the day. You can waste a good hour of a shoot just deciding what you are going wear for set. Studio time is money – don’t waste it!

Copyright – @secretvixen1

Can you tell me about a shoot you have been on when you had so much fun you forgot you were working?

I had one recently where which involved be being wrapped in layers of sticky tape to create costumes which ranges from a lingerie set to a full ballgown. It was hillarious watching me become less and less mobile as the day progressed. Myself and the photographer were literally crying with laughter at some points of the shoot at my ridigity. It’s certainly one I will never forget. The images we produced were fantastic, mainly down to the fact that we were having so much fun with the concept and being totally at ease with each other.

If you could arrange your perfect photoshoot as either the model or the photographer what would you do and what would the shoot be about?

Crumbs, that is a hard one! I don’t have a specific idea as I am highly creative and am generally working on several shoot concepts at any one same time which includes making garments for the shoots I am involved in. I am most well known for my lingerie type shoots but I find the most satisfaction from doing something out of the ordinary; along the lines of cosplay which allows me to execise my other non-modelling skills. So it would probably be something, highly creative and usually wearing something which I am wearing which is bespoke to the shoot. I would be working with someone I know extremely well so we would be pushing each other creatively to a higher level. With familiarity comes fun, so you know the day is going to be amazing.

Copyright – @secretvixen1

How do you think that modelling is going to change in the future?

Since the Covid pandemic things have already changed. We are seeing more models crossing over into other disciplines to boost their incomes whilst face to face shoots were not allowed. By that I am covering several topics including self-shooting, remoted shoots and sex work.  I am seeing more ‘modelographers’ coming onto the scene who operate both sides of the camera and I think this will continue. Photographer and Studios need to adapt too. I think with the modelling and sex worker industry converging, tighter controls need to be put in place to ensure both model and photographer safety. We are already seeing the beginnings’ of this with the ‘No Means No’ movement within the UK. We need to eradicate the improper conduct of both models and photographers to ensure that our industry is safe and sustainable for the future.

If one of your friends came to you and wanted to start modelling what advice would you give them?

My first price of advice would be to tell them, don’t come into the industry expecting to make a fortune overnight. You need to learn your craft and learn how to pose. It is not just a case of plonking yourself in front of the lens. Just like a photographer needs to learn how to work their camera and control light, a model needs to learn how to pose, take direction and constructive criticism. You also need to build up a portfolio of work with references. This takes time and means that you may need to undertake unpaid work in order to build up your portfolio. I see far too many new models coming into the industry asking for ridiculous sums of money to shoot with them with no track record or portfolio. However, my biggest and most important piece of advice would be to do your due diligence checks on every single photographer you work with. Make sure they say who they are, that their work is authentic and that they have references which confirm they are safe to work with as well as all of the nicey stuff. Don’t be afraid to ask other models they have claimed to work with – we don’t bite! and lastly, trust your gut, if something feels odd or not right, don’t even consider for one second, going on that shoot. This so hits home with me. Early on in my career I was approached by someone to shoot with them. I trusted my gut and didn’t go to the shoot. Two months after I was due to shoot with the photographer concerned, same guy had drugged and raped a fellow model. I cannot stress enough how important your safety is above all else.

Copyright – @secretvixen1

If you could wish for three things to come true, what would they be and why?

I don’t know about three things, but my biggest wish would be for the industry to normalise women’s bodies. In the mainstream catwalk, we have seen the industry balance the percept of women’s bodies by introducing ‘plus-size’ models, which are no healthier than the near skeletal models seen on the opposite ends of the scale. I still don’t see a place in the industry for what is considered ‘normal healthy weight women. The industry is still far to polarised in my view and does little to promote the models who are left in the middle. It pushes models further into unhealthy eating habits and plastic surgery just to keep ahead of the game. Instead of celebrating the natural form, I fear we are moving more and more into a cartoon like image of what a female body looks like.
As alluded to previously, I would like to see the entire industry clean up it’s act on both sides of the lens so that those who act unprofessionally are extracited. Everyone deserves to work in an industry where they feel safe, that their time and money isn’t wasted and that vicious rumours aren’t spread due to fear of competition.

Do you have any goals you want to achieve in the future?

I feel that I am nearing the end of my modelling career, which is why I started photography as well as editing. There are still a fair few shoots left in me and a few bucket list shoots that I want to fulfil before I hang up my modelling shoes. However, I won’t be leaving the industry entirely as I look to develop further on my photography. Once a creative person, always a creative person – it’s just the media type which keeps changing!

Copyright – @secretvixen1

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