29.03.18

As luck would have it

By Toby Deveson

A month or so ago I wrote a piece for my blog called ‘No Strings Attached’, in which I celebrated the role the humble I-phone had played in helping me to rediscover the joys of taking photographs.

Of snapping without a second thought.

Of not taking myself and my photography too seriously.

Let’s face it, I had become too precious.

When, over the course of nearly thirty years, your love of photography – of being a photographer – takes you down the path of becoming an artist, with the long hours spent in the darkroom creating analogue landscape prints, you tend to forget to enjoy yourself.

To have fun.

When Carla tentatively approached me with the possibility of taking photographs of the AMC sessions, I found myself tied up in knots and frozen like some self important creature, making excuses within, while outwardly trying to appear nonchalant and keen.

Don’t get me wrong…I was keen. Very keen.

But…

I hadn’t really done anything like this for many many years. Not formally, with other peoples expectations, with responsibilities…hell, I didn’t even own a proper camera.

So there it was. The crux of the matter, the big confession. I am a photographer and, apart from my old (analogue) Nikkormat and my phone, I don’t own a (new-fangled, fancy digital) camera.

One hell of an anomaly, methinks.

The last commissioned, paid job I had done, was a year or two out of college, when digital photography hadn’t even been invented.

I mean I’ve used digital cameras before. I know how they work. But I don’t actually WANT to know how they work. I don’t care. They are way way too complicated and fragile for their own good, with too many variables and distractions, stopping you from concentrating on what you should be doing – taking a good photograph.…all I want to do, need to do, is press the shutter and take a photo. The rest is inconsequential. Once that is done I lose a lot of interest…

Yes, I develop and print my own B&W images, but in all honesty, between you and me? Sometimes it’s a chore.

The true joy for me is in the taking.

So I said ‘yes’…but I voiced my concerns and found myself concentrating on the obstacles…no camera…no time or inclination to spend hours on selection and post production…I wanted to enjoy doing it, not have it feel like an obligation or a chore…

And here, it seems, is where it became too good to be true…where a beautiful partnership between AMC and myself came about. A relationship based on enjoyment and trust. And a wonderfully easy, mutual trust at that.

Art Model Collective is Carla and Manko’s baby. They are rightly protective of their project and of the images produced at their sessions, images which of course involve nudity, putting them in a position of vulnerability. And not only from the hypocritical vagaries of social media, which forces images published to be (female) nipple free. Posing for artists is one thing, but having images floating around over which they have no control or say is another thing altogether.

Carla, of course, trusted me and wanted me to do them, but Manko barely knew me, or my photographic style. I got the impression that she was torn…she wanted me to take photographs of the sessions…because of the convenience, because they needed them, because it would be good to have another photographer to turn to when Dru was unavailable, because Jason just wanted to be able to draw rather than photograph, because she trusted Carla and Carla trusted me…but she also wanted to retain artistic control of the brand…what if she didn’t like what I produced? What if she upset me, and therefore Carla? What if, once I had taken photographs she didn’t like, I started publishing them and posting them on social media? I think she envisioned a mine field before her and was, quite rightly, worried.

The relief when I, feeling rather embarrassed about my lack of commitment, told her that I wanted no control or responsibility for the images, was almost comically visible all over her face. And the relief on my face must have been equally comical, when she told me she would take great pleasure in lending me her camera but then would be more than happy to go through the images, edit and post them herself.

Me apologising for something she felt gratitude for was the perfect start to a working relationship.

Taken during Art Model Collectives session in collaboration with Rocket Queen Vintage, March 2018And so it begun.

Taking photographs of two people standing still, usually in a wonderfully visual environment, with time to float around, observing, finding and creating images, with no pressure is, it turns out, the perfect working environment. There was just gratitude for what you are doing, great soundtracks and interesting people creating beautiful works of art. What more could a photographer want?

Don’t get me wrong…it’s not quite all perfect…

Some sessions are harder than others. The lens is perhaps not as long as I would like…sometimes there is not enough foreground (upright easels are a godsend)…sometimes there is too much light on the models compared to the artists…sometimes I don’t have enough access to the stage because the sessions are so busy…sometimes finding new and different ways of producing an image that is more than a documentation of their pose can be quite a challenge…sometimes its hard to remember I am secondary to the artists and can’t just walk in front of them, intent above all else on taking a good photograph.

Over time though, we have made small changes that help me. We are more careful with the lighting and I try and make sure I have space to walk round the back of the artists so I can get closer to the models, for example.

Taken during Art Model Collectives tribute to Bukowski with Boyko Grigorov at The Underdog Gallery, September 2017But by far the biggest positive change is this website. To have no censorship is wonderful. Images without nipples or nudity will always be necessary for social media (assuming the sessions involve nudity), but to be able to take an image without worrying about it being safe for work is wonderful. To know that some of the images that we all love can finally be shown on this site in all their glory is a fantastic feeling.

The work done by Carla and Manko to get their website finished and up and running is amazing. They succeeded in getting it done with minimal dramas, despite both of them being so busy, in exactly the same way they succeed in bringing their wonderful AMC sessions and visions to reality.

And somehow, along the way, I have been dragged into their little world, helping me to rediscover the pleasure of photographing something other than landscapes, exactly at a time when I found myself making a conscience effort to not take my photography so seriously.

Call it what you will – serendipity, fate or good fortune…but, as luck would have it, my reluctance and laziness was, for once, a perfect fit.

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