I’m definitely on a roll this week. Over the past couple days it has once again come to my attention that some people do not seem to understand that it’s possible to do the same thing (model/pose), while having different goals. My goals have always been slightly different than those of many other models and lately I am feeling even more “judgey-ness” because of that fact.
Really, it all comes down to money. I never got into modeling for money. My “how I came to be a model” story is complicated, but, basically, I first became interested when I was 23 because I was promised I could dress up like a “dominatrix” (as in a latex catsuit, corset, tall stiletto boots, etc). That never happened, but after that I started looking into a bit more and eventually found my first photographer and did a goth shoot. All I wanted to do was dress up and take photos. I wanted to create photos I thought were beautiful and I wanted to share those photos with the world. Even getting into nudes a couple months later, my primary motivation was originally just to create beautiful images.
Where things have always gotten twisted for me is where money became not only involved, but the end goal. There was a time when I pursued modeling as a primary source of income because I had nothing else and my “day job” wasn’t paying enough to cover my apartment, bills, food, etc.
But I quickly learned that taking shoots solely for the money darkened my passion for modeling. I was incredibly stressed. I would be in tears if I was even 5 minutes late for a shoot. I was devastated when I had a cancellation because I was dependent on the money. And it wasn’t a good fit for me to try to do something I loved with that hanging over my head.
So I found other ways to support myself and took paid shoots as they came for an extra boost and to pay bigger bills. I found Zivity and ended up paying a few pretty large bills that way. And that was wonderful for me because it meant I could shoot what I wanted and people thought it was worth paying for. That’s the perfect balance for me where money is involved with this passion of mine. And I’ve been mostly content in that balance for a few years now.
However, there are people who grumble and raise their eye brows at me because I don’t charge for every shoot I do, because I pose nude for trade, and because, quite honestly, every shoot I do isn’t “portfolio quality.” Of course I don’t like to be looked down upon. I’ve been doing this for 7+ years. I’ve been part of someone wonderful images. And mostly I have the respect of many others in the community both locally and up to internationally. I’ve worked hard to get to that point. But just because I don’t demand payment every time I shoot x or y or at all, people think I’m stupid or not doing right by myself or whatever else they think.
I love posing. Posing in itself is like a big, fat cake for me (I like confetti cake, so for me it’s that). I the actual act of posing, of developing a concept, of seeing the lights being set up. The resulting images are like my way of sharing that cake and that’s really important to me too, but sometimes the cake doesn’t really turn out well enough to share even though I had fun with it myself (shooting the images). Obviously, I’m going to try to be mostly selective and choose to have as many cake sharing opportunities as I can, but sometimes to get to those I have to try a few times, sometimes I have off days, or I work with someone whose ingredients/skills don’t mesh well with my own. That’s part of being an artist, part of being human.
That’s just my take on it, though. I’m totally okay with other artists doing it other ways, having different motivations and paths. But what irks me is when they act like their way is the best way and my way is wrong. Or when they tell someone else that there is only one “real” way or one “right” way. All of those things depend on your goals and motivations as a model. My way seems to work pretty well for me and it’s been shaped by my circumstances and where I live now. If I lived in a different area or if I were a different person, I’m sure it might be very different.
I firmly believe that payment does not make someone “professional.” Yes, you are far more likely to be paid if you behave professionally and are skilled at what you do, but there are unprofessional, unskilled people who get paid too. But even more importantly, there are people, like me and many others, who are models and photographers because we love what we do and our motivation is not money. Our motive is to create. Sometimes we may take payment or pay others, but we don’t let lack of payment bar us from creating with those we want to create with. And yes, we are lucky because we can do what we love and we earn a living some other way, so we don’t have some of the pressures that those who create art for money do.
Am I saying it’s bad to earn a living from modeling or photography? Of course not! I know many models who model as a living who are extremely talented and happy with what they do. I know photographers who are the same way. But I know others who come to hate modeling or photography because the push to earn money from it made them hate their craft. Some of them have quit. I know others who probably could make a living from it, but who choose, like I do, to create without it being their sole source of income. And I do still earn a good chunk of my income from my modeling, but I’m not solely dependent on it. We are all different. We should all be able to respect that.