Posts tagged “Fashion

Just Another Nude Year (NSFW)

So here we are, at the close of another year, the first for the PopLifePhotography blog. To be fair, it wasn’t a full year, but, in the short time of this blog, we were able to cover a number of things without becoming overly repetitious or bland. To he honest with you, there still isn’t a true direction to this blog as yet. We’re still trying different ideas, different paths, all while sharing some of our work, along with opinions and views that stretch a little outside of the box.

Despite all the inconsistencies, breasts and objective opinionating (is that even a word?), we’ve managed to build a loyal readership, albeit small. We’re sure that number would have grown had there been a little more consistency, and not a giant dead spot between July and now (save for a couple tidbits here and there). Regardless to all of that, we’re going to make 2012 better than the one before. The hope is that soon we’ll bring on additional writers, and make this blog a much more open area for discussion and exhibition. Some of that has been stalled, some of it is still in the works, but you can be assured that whatever we do, it won’t be boring.

But let’s not sit here and pontificate on what could be, let’s send this year off with the bang it deserves.

Today is about our favorite model, Hollis Ireland. As mentioned in one of the earlier blogs, we’ve been able to witness the blossoming of this model over the years, and had the unique pleasure of being there at the start of her career as a nude model.

Years later, as you can see, she is better than ever, and recently we had the honor of shooting with her again. For us, the shoot, albeit brief and impromptu turned out to be one of the best we’ve had since PopLifePhotography started in 2006. Her skills and talents as a model have grown exponentially, and she just has the sort of figure that any photographer would kill to shoot with.

Her beauty and sensuality on camera are only matched by her quick wit and sheer intellect, something that in the modeling game places her light years above some of her competition. If she were only a few inches taller, it would be a guarantee that you would be seeing her on the runways of fashion week as opposed to the pages of this humble little blog.

To give a bit of insight into what we were doing here, it has always been our opinion that Hollis has classical chiseled features, something that would be akin to a marbled statue. The idea here was to keep the shoot as simple as possible by really focusing on the art aspect of nude photography. In short, Hollis Ireland was going to be our sculpture.

Using only two lights: a high key spotlight and a wider, brighter umbrella-diffused light, Hollis was asked to be more statuesque in her poses, of which she did an excellent job. By putting her against a neutral background, we were able to shoot her in monochrome using timed exposures (averaging 1/4 to 1 seconds, which is dangerous if the model can’t hold still). The result comes out in striking lines and a tone that leaves each of her curves looking as if they were carved from a slab of marble. We simply couldn’t have been happier with the final results, which, due to her amazing porcelain-like skin only needed minor amounts of post work.

So, as we say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012 (could it be our last year??), take some time to enjoy some highlights of our shoot with Hollis Ireland. I can promise you, you’ll be glad you did.

Happy New Year, everyone!

(P.S. if you like Hollis, be sure to like her Facebook fan page and visit her personal blog on Tumblr!)

Hollis Ireland


Happy Birthday, Giorgio…

My first designer, and frankly, still the best.

Happy birthday, Maestro.

Happy Birthday, Val

As today is a big and busy day here for me in the DC Metro area, I decided to keep today’s post light and use the space to wish Happy Birthday to one of my favorite models, Val Renee.

May the coming year be everything you want it to be and more…

We’ll be back on track with the blog tomorrow, so whatever you do, make sure it’s amazing.

Reputation Management 101 (NSFW)

…And we’re back…For real this time.

The move to DC was painless, but absolutely exhausting. It’s an exciting time, to be sure, but enough about that, it’s time to get back on the horse and set up new shoots, even if I can’t help but feeling a bit like a fish out of water. Challenges can be exciting, you know…

As I sit here and parse through the last couple of weeks that were, all attention goes to model Amber Rose. Yet another victim of having her trust betrayed in some way or other, she has explicit pictures of her, pictures that were meant for someone she was seeing (while I love some gossip sites, I want to not make this site one of them) or interested in appear on the Web.

In this day and age, where “leaked” photos of celebrities regularly appear in places they shouldn’t, what would make Amber, with a profile as high as hers, think that pictures of herself masturbating wouldn’t make it online some way or some how?

But I suppose that isn’t something you think about in the moment. Some would argue that this could be an intentional “leak”, ala Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian, but I don’t think so. Amber is no stranger to public nudity on the internet, but these pictures certainly have a much more personal tinge to it.

While the concept of no news being bad news, this particular leak hasn’t been all that kind to Amber, with an unnamed company splitting ties with her.

To be sure, she is who she is, and frankly anyone who likes her look will continue to hire her, so in this day and age of luridness for the sake of luridness, her career is in no real danger. Regardless of that, it goes without saying that when you create a brand, even an organic brand as oneself, it’s beyond important to ensure that missteps are minimized on the outset.

While it’s certainly a joy to view Amber nude, the stream by which that happens has to be controlled (by her), and not as a result of grainy cellphone pictures. If she wants to pose in Playboy, I’m all for it, because like it or not, it extends her personal brand, and makes her money at the same time. All she gains by giving explicit pictures to people she thinks she can trust is just a ton of headaches.

When not working with photos, or commenting on various things here, I’m in my day-job as a public relations professional. If I’ve seen anyone in need of through PR, it would be Amber. As a brand, I think she’s still slightly undefined. Sure, she has done high profile modeling gigs, working for Louis Vuitton, amongst others, however, because of her voluptuous stature, she certainly doesn’t limit herself to just runway work.

But it seems these days, it’s more about who she’s dating than how her career as a model is progressing. For all we know, that could be how she wants it, with her legacy as being arm candy for the Hip-Hop star of the moment. If that makes her happy, then who in their right mind would begrudge her?

Having said that, however, if she does want to build and extend the brand beyond being known for who she’s dating, then the first step would be to save the sex shows for a more intimate, in-person situation.

Many models I’ve shot over the years, especially those who don’t wish to pursue a career in nude modeling, have always been more protective of their image than others, because even with professionally shot photos, no one wants to have that nude image haunt them going forward. It’s taking responsibility of a situation in hopes that it never comes back to bite them. So just imagine how less control one can have with taking photos on phones which have been proven to be easily hacked.

Sometimes, you just have to plan better.

I stand corrected…

So, after going on about W Magazine not having any models of color on their covers, I open up my mailbox yesterday and see the above. Guess that’ll show me, huh?

But…it’s Beyonce. Beyonce is always on a cover of a magazine somewhere (end whining.)

Now I don’t have anything against the woman personally, but I don’t know if you can call it diversity for W when the last person of color on the cover was Rhianna in February 2010. Yes, yes, I know…it’s nitpicking in many ways, and as I had mentioned in the previous blog, there is an overall lack of supermodels on the cover of fashion magazines anymore, but still.

In moments like this, I wonder how Edward Enninful feels, that is, if he feels anything at all about the issue, but I certainly suspect he does.

I guess you have to pick your spots where you can find them, right?

Of course, it’s pointless then to mention that Beyonce didn’t have the sole distinction of making the cover of this month’s W Magazine alone. It was actually a split issue, with the other cover model being Christina Aguilera.

Yes, I suppose it is nitpicking indeed.

Next week, we will be shifting slightly away from fashion and talking about the coming advent of HDSLR photography. It could be that gone are the days when a photographer looks for “the moment”, because he will be preoccupied with shooting HD video instead of still images.

It’s an interesting, and potentially frightening concept. But then change and evolution have always been frightening to a certain extent.

Have a good weekend, everyone…

“If a girl is very dark, they say no…”

As if we needed a reminder, racism in fashion is still very much alive and well.

In an article printed in the Daily Mail yesterday, columnist Liz Jones exposes what many in the fashion industry already knew: Black models are, for the most part, considered undesirable for runway and print work. While this is not completely new information, it’s disappointing that in 2011, this still has to be an issue.

And it’s a glaring one.

Like searching for a raisin in a bowl of rice

Thinking critically, the idea that black models are having trouble finding work or are being deemed unacceptable really puts a shine on yesterday’s post where the subject was on transgendered and androgynous models finding success within the industry. To put it bluntly, a man who is masquerading as a woman seems to be getting more work than black women who are…well…women.

Certainly, that’s a broad take on the issue, and I’m not asserting that fashion houses and magazines would rather hire a man who passes for a woman over an actual woman, just because he’s white. That would make things too simplistic, and why do that when there are fashion insiders who will lay it on the table openly? Take for example, supermodel legend Naomi Campbell’s former agent Carole White who, when interviewed by Jones for the Daily Mail story, said:

“At the high end, it is slightly better now. But in the mid-range — the catalogues, the e-commerce websites — it is difficult. They want girls who are ethnic, but light-skinned girls. If a girl is very dark, they say no.” Carole says the problem stems from the influential fashion capitals of Milan and Paris. ‘There, they absolutely don’t want black girls. A black model has to be a real star before you can take her there. They only take a black girl when the biz is buzzing about her.”

A real star. Like Beyonce or Rhianna, who have appeared on the covers of magazines such as Vogue. But what about some of the other publications out there. Personally, I subscribe to three fashion magazines: Vogue US, W Magazine and V Magazine. After reading the Daily Mail story, I went over to my subscription pile and had a look for myself, because I wanted to be sure.

Of the three magazines, Vogue US featured two Black women on the cover over the course of the past year: Halle Berry on the cover of the vaunted September 2010 issue, and Rhianna, who made the cover in April 2011. Neither women are models, but rather, celebrities, which gibe with White’s account. Looking at V Magazine, only one woman of color graced the cover over the past year, hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj, who again, is a celebrity and not a model herself. What struck me as the mostpeculiar is W Magazine, who had no models or celebrities of color on their covers, and the reason that’s so peculiar to me is that the current Fashion Director of W is a Black man by the name of Edward Enninful. (Named in the Daily Mail article as one of the major Black players in the fashion scene along with make-up artist Pat McGrath and models Jourdan Dunn, Liya Kebede and Joan Smalls.)

Now in the interest of fairness, none of these magazines are currently featuring models of any color on their covers. This is mainly due to the fact that with the industry in such dire shape, it’s far more important to have celebrities grace the covers so that sales can be supported. I can’t argue much with that. However, upon opening the pages to some of the print advertisements, it is clear that there is a marked dearth of models of color in those ads.

In the Daily Mail article, White also pinpoints photographers, saying a lot of them “don’t know how to light a black girl.” While I’m not currently shooting fashion for any big agency, house or publication, I certainly know how to light a woman of color. And if that is the case, why is that photographer being given the opportunity to do such high-profile work?

What’s clear by reading that article, and others, such as one which appeared on Jezebel, talking about how the last Fashion Week in New York City was “the whitest Fashion Week in years.” From the article:

“New York fashion week featured 137 designer runway shows and presentations, and 5,269 different fall outfits were presented to the world’s retailers and press. Of those 5,269 looks, 4,468 — an overwhelming 84.8% — were modeled by white women. 801 of those looks were given to models who aren’t white. Black models were used 384 times. Asian models were used 323 times. Non-white Latina models were used 79 times. Models of other races only made it onto the runways of New York City — one of the most racially diverse places on this planet — 15 times.”

Staggering numbers. But then again, who are the purveyors of fashion, more specifically, Haute Couture? Affluent White people. If it is that the numbers skew in that direction, then one could argue that the models we see in the ads and on the runways are simply a reflection of the buying market. Someone would argue that, and they would do it in the hopes that it would make sense and subsequently make everything alright. But that’s lip service. Just like it’s lip service when a fashion magazine will put out an issue devoted to full-figured models. It’s all lip service.

I love all models. Fat Models, Thin Models, Black Models, White Models, Asian Models, Hispanic Models…you bring them, and I’ll shoot them. And I’ll also know that no matter how sexy, how well-lit and beautiful the shots are, in many corners of the fashion world…it wouldn’t even be close to good enough.

A pity.


Fashion’s desirable ambiguity.

The paradigm is changing.

This morning I came across an article at the Huffington Post which linked to a Vogue Italia article on rising fashion model Valentijn De Hingh. Certainly fitting the image of today’s supermodel, upon first glance, there’s not much that’s overly remarkable about her, outside of the fact that she has a striking image, and as such, it’s a no-brainer that she’s a model. However, to know Valentijn is to know that she was a he.

The subject of a nine-year documentary on transgendered children, which aired on Dutch television in 2007, Valentijn subsequently received a sex change and moved onto a career as a model, scoring spots on the runways of Maison Martin Margiela and Comme des Garcons (which, incidentally is French for “just like boys”.

Lea T

Stefano Moro for the New York Times

Valentijn is certainly not alone on the runway. With a slightly higher profile, transgender model Lea T has been garnering notices and working with some of the best known fashion houses such as Givenchy. Given the way in which fashion literally sets trends by being shocking, knowing that transgendered models are not only working, but working for established names isn’t all that shocking.

Add to the mix the phenomenon that is Andrej Pejic, a male model whose gender bending style has had him model a variety of looks for an even wider variety of houses.

Kate Moss

Kate Moss

When you think about it, it’s clearly not a big deal that this is happening, and to be honest, it really isn’t. But what it does do in my mind as a photographer, is bring into question the idea and concept of the model. Now you have models who are generally all-purpose, be it runway or print. The classic image of models had drifted to one where the thinner you were, the more work you would get. Kate Moss made her career off of having the body of a 12 year-old boy, so why would it be a surprise that eventually you would have a male model ape the look of a waifish female model who is aping a young boy.

It makes no sense, because it makes perfect sense.

At PopLife, we have always celebrated the image of the curvy female model, but there have been instances where thinner models simply made more sense to shoot. The image carries it’s own connotation, and while I personally don’t shoot male models, it’s not an issue of discrimination as it is personal preference. Fashion, however, can always be far more accommodating, as it should be.

Fashion, if it isn’t anything else, is a constant work-in-progress. It moves, it evolves and it transforms. Having transgendered, or gender-bending models seems like a natural progression, and an accepted one at that. Certainly none of the names I mentioned came first in this way; for that, you’d have to look at April Ashley, one of the first transgendered models who gained a good amount of success, which included gracing the pages of Vogue UK. But what makes this all a curiosity is what fashion makes of the model, or more importantly, the emphasis of what is more important, the model or the design.

Andrej Pejic

Andrej Pejic

Certainly the reason you have runway shows is so that new designs from houses are shown off. Technically who is wearing the design shouldn’t matter. By their very definition, a model is pretty much a fancy clothes hanger. Whose to say that in a few years, instead of transgendered models, or androgynous boys, there won’t just be androids? Because it’s pretty easy to see things go that way, which in turn could quite possibly mean the death of the supermodel, both male and female.

Yes, fashion is indeed an evolution. Wait long enough, and it may evolve right past you.