Note | Nudity On Monday, we published an Ageless Fabulosity interview with British fashion and nude model, as well as highly-credentialed intellectual, artist and researcher (Dr.) Alex B questioning Dr. Carla Johnson, Managing Editor of Carrie Leigh’s NUDE magazine, and also a gifted intellectual, writer, lecturer and cultural critic, about her career, spirit and work as a model.
Today the two women reverse roles.
I do not exaggerate when I write that you are reading about the A team this week. These two women who have enjoyed success and recognition from some of the finest universities in the world. They are imaginative, adventurous, spirited females with a rich compedium life experiences, scholarship, artistic exploration, involvement with young people and progressive self-development.
It’s impossible for me to interact and post the words and images from these two talented and beautiful women without having an emotional response myself. I so admire the decisions both Alex and Carla have made to interact with women of every age (and men, too, of course) on a wide range of topics that are just not discussed in such an open, highly-trafficked website as Anne of Carversville and Sensuality News.
Their ‘unveiling’ has give me a sense of purpose in advancing their ideas and positions on beauty and aging to a very large audience. You can assume that I’m already creating more vehicles in which the two friends can continue express their ideas and inspire us with their approach to achieving Ageless Fabulosity.
We don’t want to waste readers’ time; many of you will have read my background comments on this project in Alex’s interview with Carla. I’ve reposted my comments for readers at the end of this interview, after the bios. If you’re starting out here with Carla’s interview of Alex, you might want to scroll to the end of this article, or read first Ageless Fabulosity | Dr. Carla Johnson Interviewed By (Dr.) Alex B.
Today we reverse the tables, learning more about the life and images of Alex B.
An Interview with (Dr.) Alex B By Dr. Carla Johnson
Q. Women traditionally peak as models in their late teens and early 20s. As a model in her 50s, you have broken through several ceilings. First of all, you are older than most models. Second, you already had a doctorate and a university position when you began modeling. How old were you when you first modeled, and how did you come to begin?
A. Traditionally models, especially fashion models, don’t really continue to model after they hit the mid-20s; only very few models have staying power, the Kate Moss, Elle MacPherson, and Naomi Campbell of the fashion world, to name a few. But in the past decade there has been a trend for famous models, currently over 50 and 60, to resume their modelling career, if not on the catwalk, certainly in advertising campaigns - Twiggy is a case in point. So when I took up modelling in my mid-40s, initially as a commercial model, there was some demand for older models, so much so that every reputable model agency would have a senior division. The work is sporadic, but there is work for older models, increasingly so.
After being with an agency - still am - for almost five years, I branched out and took up art nude mainly because it had a connection with life modelling which I had done quite intensively during my student years and which I had also started doing again in my 40s. It’s a case of one thing leading to another and me being open minded and curious enough to want to try several things at once.
The Internet has had a great impact on modelling. Agencies were deregulated in the UK about ten years ago, and loads of model sites have appeared on the internet since then, where anyone can set themselves up as independent models, not represented by any agency, dealing directly with photographers and would-be clients. Independent models do not earn as much as agency models and do not enjoy the protection given by a tough negotiator, the model agent. Unlike agency models they may not bother with membership of Equity, the union of entertainers. The choice jobs still go to agency models. But agencies will not touch art nude. It remains something that is up to the individual model and photographer to negotiate. Basically there is little money to be made from art nude; this is one of the reasons agencies are not interested in it.
When I started modelling I only wanted to do commercial work. I already had a job as a university lecturer, I was looking for something to do in my spare time, and I fancied the idea of appearing in a few ads and earning some extra cash. It’s only later that the idea of doing art nude began to appeal to me and not for the money as there is hardly any money to be made out of it!
Q. What is your doctoral specialization and how does it support your work as a model?
A. My doctorate is in art and archaeology. I specialize in Asian arts, covering both the visual and performing arts of south and southeast Asia. I studied Asian art and archaeology, but I am also a trained dancer. My dance training is something I fought for. My father agreed to support me while at university in London reading a ‘proper’ academic subject, but I also attended courses in modern/contemporary dance, while studying for my degree.
After my doctorate I traveled in Asia for a while, continuing to train in different dance forms, and eventually took up a position teaching courses in dance studies and visual culture. I have kept my modelling very separate from my life as an academic and have routinely hidden to people in the modeling world the fact I was educated to degree level, let alone having a doctorate. I felt safer that way. Conversely I have kept my modelling a secret for my university colleagues and students, especially because the bulk of my modelling work is now art nude.
I don’t think that my academic studies have had a direct impact on my modelling, except of course that education has the habit of sticking to you - I cannot help being well read and well traveled, and yes, I have a good eye because of my involvement in the creative arts.
Currently I am retraining as a dance movement psychotherapist as I felt the need to reconnect with dance as a practice and was intrigued by its therapeutic effects. Again there is no direct connection between art modeling and dance therapy but I have stopped looking for direct connections in anything I do. I know that deep down one will find a connection and I think that self expression, however channeled, is what provides the link between all these disparate activities.
Q. What type of modeling have you done? What type do you prefer?
A. I have tried everything apart from porn which really does not interest me. I have done commercial work, fashion, and of course nude. Within nude I am still exploring. My strength is classic art nude, but I am interested in erotic nude and also, to some extent, fetish. I find these boundaries a bit artificial though. I don’t think they are binding.
Last month I finally had an opportunity to do an erotic art shoot with photographer Michael Culhane and model/dancer Michael Cooney, in Dublin. It was an amazing shoot, very moving, and the resulting photographs have been well received.
I actually love fashion and would love to do a bit more of it. I would like to do more work with clothes on, something dark and edgy. I have a very retro rock chick look if I let my long hair hang loose and a little unkempt and love wearing men’s clothes . But truly I am very open minded and interested in exploring.
Q. Since models such as you have broken the taboo on older women modeling, especially nude, how do you think people should refer to older models? I have heard older women called mature or non-traditional models. Or do you think models are models, and no designation need apply?
A. In an ideal world age would not have to be mentioned, but in the real world it is something one has to live with. I don’t actually mind being referred to as a mature model and use the label myself. I do think, however, that it would be better not to have to disclose one’s age on model sites. Sometimes people do not book you because they have preconceived ideas about age.
Q. You have achievements a 20-something model would envy. Please tell us about your publications and your work with British fashion photographer Rankin.
A. I worked with Rankin in connection with his exhibition RANKIN LIVE in a London gallery last year, when he cast a thousand people from all over the UK to be photographed daily by him for about a month. Their portraits were hung in the gallery, side by side images of the rich and famous. The brief for the shoot was to wear something outrageous. I turned up with a black shawl and insisted on an implied nude during the preliminary negotiations. When I finally met Rankin and told him I was an art nude model, he asked me to be photographed topless which I did. I really loved the image. Rankin was great to work with, very laid back, with the gift of making anyone who models for him feel very special.
I also had my picture published to illustrate an article in the Sunday Times, dealing with the credit crunch, a couple of months ago. It was one of the stock images taken by photographer David John Green. It was quite a thrill to see myself in there.
A few weeks ago I appeared in the Unison campaign (the trade union for those who work in the public sector) and saw myself in the Metro, a daily which has a very wide circulation.
I did a fashion spread for photographer Harley Weir - me completely nude, the fashion models scantily dressed - commissioned by a very edgy magazine, The Flux, in August 2009 and last week, while in Spain to model for artist Martin Robinson, I did an editorial/fashion shoot for French photographer Christele Jacquermin, for which I wore a white evening gown by upcoming Spanish designer David.
I find that opportunities are coming along without me seeking them. My greatest achievement so far has been to appear in Carrie Leigh’s NUDE, a publication which I regard as the best in the field of fine art nude photography. I have not yet seen the December 2010 issue but I know I am in there sharing the honour with London based Italian photographer Marcello Pozzetti , who took the picture. Like Rankin, Marcello has had experience of photographing very famous people and is also a very affable, down to earth man, who loves what he does and can communicate that enthusiasm to the model.
Q. Was it difficult to find an agency to sign you? And what are your experiences with casting calls?
A. I am signed with more than one agency, but the work is, as I said, sporadic. Still it’s good to be on their books. Casting calls? Well, they can be tricky. I remember going to one for a hair product and was turned down because my hair was silver/gray, and I was too old. These things happen. But I also got a job for Getty precisely because of my hair. So you just don’t know what might happen.
Q. As someone born and raised in Italy, can you tell us how the English attitude toward an independent, educated woman who models nude might compare to the perceptions of you in Italy?
A. I don’t know what it is like to be in Italy and work as a nude model, I can only guess. I never did any nude modeling in Italy. My family would definitely not approve if they knew, so I have kept it from them. On the other hand, I am in touch with an artistic community in Sicily and will probably be doing a couple shoots over there relatively soon. It will be interesting to find out what attitudes are like. I think that they vary depending on the environment and the people you mix with. Artists are always more open minded.
Q. Has the UK been conducive to the advancement of your modeling career or do you think it might be easier if you lived and worked elsewhere?
A. I can’t say whether I could have had a better career as a model if I had lived elsewhere. Sometimes I think that in the United States there are more opportunities than here. I came to modeling quite late in life, and really it is not my main career. It happened to be in England because this is where I live. Probably the UK is a good place for modeling, though the photographers I really want to work with all seem to be in Eastern Europe!
Q. If a model considers herself as an equal collaborator with a photographer in the creation of art, as I believe you do, what obstacles will she encounter?
A. Photographers can be very precious about their work and often, even though they may acknowledge the collaborative aspect of their interaction with models, they do, deep down, tend to believe that the photographic work is theirs and theirs alone, which can be a little tricky. As a model I adapt. I used to get a bit angry about this, but now I just take it in my stride. Most photographers are courteous, they do listen if you volunteer a suggestion and they are happy to share profits from a print sale.
I get irritated though when photographers want to do Time For Print/CD and they have very poor technical skills. What use are those images to me, poorly lit and badly composed? I realize they want to practice but in such circumstances they ought to pay the model. Even worse is the case scenario of a photographer wanting to do TFCD and not bothering to edit a selection of images. DVDs with unedited images are useless.
Q. What are your concerns about perceptions of models as artists in their own right, in fact, perceptions of models as professionals to be respected? Do you feel the traditional, early 20s models share your concerns?
A. When talking of young models one has to remember that some of them are very articulate and well educated, and definitely with a mind of their own, whereas others are not. It is the same with older models. So perceptions of one’s role as a model will be colored by the general outlook of the model, regardless of her age.
Q. Have you been successful in forging a place for older women on the runway and in commercial and fashion work?
A. Have I been successful? Well, I am still trying. But I must admit that having been seriously modeling for only the past two years, now into my third, I feel I have done quite a lot during this time. And no doubt there is more to come, I don’t intend stopping any time soon.
Alex moved to London from Italy at the age of 19 to study at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where she obtained her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. With a PhD in Art and Archaelogy, she pursued an academic career, as a research fellow at several prestigious universities in the UK. Alex B studied dance for many years. Anne and Alex B became Facebook friends. See Alex’s Blog.
Bio|Dr Carla Johnson
Carla has worked as a special assignment and freelance arts writer specializing in celebrity intrviews and dance and theatre reviews. After achieving her PhD in Modern Drama from the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Johnson taught at a prestigious women’s college for 20 years. She has presented papers at international conferences, most notably at Oxford University and Cambridge University in England, and published books, all distributed internationally. Two editions of one of these books have been published in the United States, India, Indonesia, and China.
Dr Carla Johnson is the Managing Editor of Carrie Leigh’s Nude Magazine and met Anne through an article she wrote in early in 2010 on New Eroticism, in which she mentioned Carrie Leigh’s Nude Magazine. See Carla’s blog.
Note: PLEASE don’t use images or concepts from the Ageless Fabulosity series, without crediting Anne of Carversville. One person, in particular, is about a day behind me on everything I write. This is original work, and I expect it to be credited. Thanks. Anne
Sensual and Superyoung | Ageless Fabulosity
I am thrilled beyond words with our new project Ageless Fabulosity, born of my promise to readers that Anne of Carversville will launch an Old Ladies Rebellion in 2011.
Our Ageless Fabulousity celebration of timeless beauty and sensuality is officially in liftoff mode. Enjoy honest straight talk and inspiring words, combined with provocative, deeply-sensual images of two highly-credentialed, real-world women who are nude models, as well as established career women.
The clues to Dr. Carla Johnson’s real age, emerge in her interview by Alex B. We will post Carla’s interview of Alex B on Tuesday, December 7, 2010.
These interviews initially had nothing to do with me. After reading Anne of Carversville, Alex B and Carla asked me if I might be interested in publishing their private online dialogues and sensual, sometimes nude, art and fashion photography. Within two seconds, I said “Yes, let’s do it! I’m in.”
Ageless Fabulosity is focused holistically on mind, spirit and body. We will be talking to — and looking at — real women of a certain age — but always over 50 — who celebrate their sensuality and physicality as key to their self-identity, good health and positive well being.
I’m so excited by the confidence and positive attitudes of these two women about their bodies and sensual beauty, that I want to know them inside and out.
Behind every Sensual and Superyoung woman is a sense of control about the decisions she makes for herself. How have these women learned to love their bodies, celebrating them with confidence and a love of the woman in the mirror? Don’t answer “It’s easy with their genes and beauty.” I know that these women have challenges like we all experience.
Please add your questions of Carla and Alex B in the comments section after their interviews. Links to nude and sensual images of both Carla and Alex B will appear all week long at Anne of Carversville and Sensuality News.
Enough of me. Sound the trumpets. Let the Old Ladies Rebellion ignite the era of Ageless Fabulosity. The truth is that only women can take matters into our own hands, insisting that we be regarded as beautiful, sensual creatures at every age. Only we can change our cultures.
Do remember, American ladies, that French, Italian and Brazilian cultures celebrate the inherent sensuality of older women.
Let all women believe what these women already know about themselves. They enjoy Ageless Fabulosity. Anne
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