In 1979 I was living in Exeter, in Devon in England. I had just started Art School, at the old Earl Richards’ Road campus. It was a wild place. I already knew that photojournalism was my thing. The corrosion of Postmodernism had already begun to infect the school, even then and the painting school was collapsing. Even Sculpture was showing signs of infection. Only Photography and Printmaking seemed to be holding up, probably because without at least some craft skill, these areas are off-limits.
The Head of Photography, the late Oscar Mellor, was very kind and helped me. He brought me a book of some nude photographs taken in a ‘domestic setting’. I think it was called ‘ A model in the House’ or something like that. They were all silly, stunted-up, ersatz toss that had no value.
I though, ‘I can do better than that,’ and I did. Nothing posed or stunted, all straight photojournalism.
I photographed Kirsten as a part of the Gaia series, taken in 2009
The location was The PlashMill, in Friockheim, Scotland, where I then lived. It was August, and quite warm. I ended up standing in the lade — the stream you can see — in order to get better pictures. This seemed to amuse everyone greatly. Kirsten brought a chaperone — something I encourage strongly — who photographed me at work.
If you’re photographing the nude, there are two things you should do. The first is to obtain a signed Model Release form. This is not a legal requirement in the UK but it is the the US and you will have no end of problems trying to sell work to that territory without one.
The second is the chaperone. You will be working with a young woman who will be in a vulnerable position since, after all, nude photography usually takes place in private. The presence of the chaperone will set the model at ease, especially if she is not a professional model (Kirsten was a student.)
The chaperone performs another, crucial role, however. She protects the photographer against accusation of improper behaviour — accusations which in the current climate could have very serious consequences. Also useful for making cups of tea and photographing the photographer!
These images were made using an MPP MK IV 5×4 technical camera with 150mm Schneider and a Bronica ETRS. Film stock was Ilford and Kodak.
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