My off-line contact with Sharon Smithers prior to our shoot had been restricted to a quick introduction and hello at a group shoot that I was able to attend only too briefly. This meant that I did not do any real shooting with Sharon myself but I was able to see some of the results that Sharon had obtained working with other photographers and I was impressed by the confidence that I perceived in front of the camera.

I was determined that one of my early shoots would be with a life model who was well away from the stereotype of the photographic model, a real life model of character if you like. As I became aware that Sharon liked some of my other work she became one of the first two models that I contacted about participating in my project.

After I had invited her to participate and she accepted, she added me to a secret Facebook group “Life Models Only” where, given the title, I felt a bit of an imposter. It’s secret in the Facebook context, rather than as you and I might otherwise understand the word, which means that I can mention it here. I accepted the invitation because, as it quickly became apparent, it is in fact Sharon’s own group, a busy community of over 300 life models networking online to help each other in a variety of ways. So in working with Sharon I felt a little extra pressure to produce good results!

Despite a persona which seemed rather stern in the images that I had seen of her coming from the group shoot where I had first met her, I was greeted by a softly spoken personality with generous smiles. She lives at her modest home in Whitstable that she shares, now that her son has flown the coop, with her husband Alan, who is the fan of the Marx brothers. 

I discovered that Sharon has worked in life modelling for some 15 years now. To her it is an important source of income, and running the Life Models Only group helps her get known and gain work due to word of mouth and the cooperation of models within the group. She also organises an annual life modelling event in Whitstable, her home town, which is called Naked Ambitions, where 5 male and 5 female life models are available to pose for artists individually or collectively at Whitstable’s Horsebridge arts centre.

She explained how she loves life modelling, how it allows her to express herself, “to be me”, feeling strongly that her modelling work is her own artistic expression. While being totally relaxed about other people seeing her naked, she does not consider herself to be a naturist. She laughed when I asked about whether she does any exercise to keep herself in shape. No way, she said, she drinks beer and enjoys herself! In that context the display of medals for participation in the Whitstable Run for Life for the last five years may seem a bit surprising. She admitted to being rather slimmer when she started as a life model and in fact in her teenage years learned ballet. Now she is confident in her own skin and as as she says, it’s tough on them if other people think otherwise.

Sharon also gets involved in work as a film extra and in photographic modelling, unabashed to mention erotic work as something she enjoys. Although Sharon was aware that some of my own output enters this territory, this was not something we explored. She enjoys getting involve in group photographic art projects that involve nudity, participating, for example, in projects by Angelo Musco, Nick Simpson and the artist known as The Dualism. These can be challenging projects for some people but she has great faith in the integrity of the artists and is very supportive of their work.

Her life modelling work is known to everyone, friends and family. She does not want to be secretive about the broader range of her modelling so I am allowed to mention it here. She mentioned especially that her mother is proud of her daughter’s work!

For those who would like to work with Sharon, she is best contacted through her Facebook page

These are the images that I captured on film that I most like. I have some digital images that I rather like too and I will post them separately.

Sharon Smithers Sharon Smithers

Sharon 2014-13014 Sharon Sharon



I had known Natasha for about 6 months by the time of our shoot. We’d cooperated is some ‘arty stuff’ as she would describe it but this would be the first time that she would have posed individually for my camera. 

She would be considered by many to be a naturist but when I suggested this she described herself instead as a believer in naked freedom. When nude, Natasha is a very unselfconscious individual and she is unconcerned about publicly promoting what she believes in.

What surprised me, considering the way she throws herself so wholeheartedly into all sorts of things including life modelling, body painting and now being an organiser for the London World Naked Bike Ride, was that she had only been involved in all this for just over a year. Indeed her uptake of naked body related activities in its entirety only dates back about 20 months when she was persuaded by a work colleague to take part in her first London World Naked Bike Ride in 2012.

If naked freedom is only a recent conversion, it may seem strange that her parents were naturists, an activity she firmly rejected for herself as soon as she had reached her teens. Despite then and in her early twenties being slender and no doubt attractive to those around her, that was not how she viewed herself, never particularly being accepting of her looks. She describes how then she was a tomboy, and, in the way she dresses, considers herself even a little of one now. When naked however, she feels unquestionably feminine.

Following marriage to Matt and having had two children, after taking the plunge on that 2012 bike ride and throwing herself into a host of ‘naturist’ and life modelling experiences, she found herself happy in things body related. This was despite the natural changes that aging and having two children brought about. Coming with this new body contentedness, there is now a desire to keep things in shape with regular exercise.

There is no doubt about it, Natasha loves getting involved in arty stuff. Whether as creator, behind a camera, body painting or painting on a canvas, or as an ‘enabler’ through modelling, she sees herself as contributing to new artworks and learning.

Natasha is quite open with friends, family and work colleagues about all her activities – she drives a tube train and life modelling now brings in a little extra income. She uses the name ‘Natansky’ online to separate her arty self from her mainstream life, more to make sure that her contacts get to have what they are most interested in channeled at them than to hide what she is from anyone. You’ll find her at:


Natasha Natasha Pentax MX 50mm f1.4 with Tri X film. 2014-10-033 Pentax 645 with Tri X film. Natasha

Life, at Home – a deeper perspective

This is aimed primarily at those who might want to participate in the “Life, at Home” project outlined in my previous post.

To summarise, I would like to shoot life models at their homes. The emphasis for the project is on the nude & the resulting images will be black and white shot on film in a personal style bearing the imprint of the model’s personality.

To illustrate the type of image we might capture, I’m including here some of my images, most of which have not been published previously. There is a life model in another’s home and an artist at home with his life artworks. None of these images feature a life model at home.

I would like photographs of any participating life models to say something personal, albeit enabled by the presence of me as a photographer. But an important part will be the relaxed image too – this is not all about intensity, but about wider humanity and all kinds of emotions.


Other work with the nude includes environmental nudes included within my professional photography site here.

If life modelling does help with body issues then I would like this to emerge from the images and accompanying text. But having said this, I do not want to exclude those who use life modelling to celebrate their bodies and even those who simply don’t give a damn about nudity, art, whatever; it’s just a source of income!

Do not shoot with me if you are nervous about the images appearing on the internet. However, I intend to to follow principles I apply to myself to do the utmost to preserve anonymity whenever desired while giving the images from the shoot maximum exposure. You will be able to review images prior to any being published and, within reasonable bounds, individual images which you do not like will not be published at all. You should not pose for, or ask me to shoot, any genre of image that you would not wish to see published.

The shoot…

…will be your home, and that would include your garden if you wish. During the shoot I may on occasions use a digital camera too. This gets the model used to the dynamics of the shoot and gives me instant feedback on the lighting conditions, helping me use film to its best advantage.

Models will be very welcome to have other people about during the shoot, even included in some of the images, especially if they are part of ‘home’. In fact I’d prefer it – a distraction from the all enveloping presence of the photographer and lens can yield some great natural images.

Only the model who is the main subject need be nude. The fundamental of this project is that that subject must be a genuine life model willing to be photographed nude at their own home.

Who will I work with?

If the models in these images seem young and/or skinny then that is because I have not previously sought to shoot with life models, who I know will occupy a full spectrum of body types and ages. This project is a challenge to me to do something different – in working with film and with life models I hope its a challenge that will stretch me to produce some diverse and interesting images.

I want to achieve a balance of the sexes and ages. I live in Brighton. In shooting with film I’ll be incurring extra time and expense – but in this regard location will be a bigger issue. I will of necessity have to probably restrict this project in the South East and places I can easily connect to. As I become more certain of how the project is developing I may be able to deal with other areas or a sudden opportunity may arise to shoot further afield. So wherever you are, do not be afraid to register your interest.

What’s in it for the model?

Participating models will get to review proofs and will receive high resolution retouched digital files of their 10 favourite images together with similar files of any other images that I chose to publish. They will have the right to print for their own use and sell prints of these images, credited to me as photographer wherever sold. They will also have the right to use images in online portfolios or on social networks, again giving appropriate credit to the photographer.

When using images, as far as it is in my control, I will give credit and link online to the model’s portfolio or other source.

If there is a book then it will be made available to models at cost.

There is no payment either way. I have never paid a model or made any money from shooting art images; nor have I been paid to shoot by models who like my work. What I most want is to put all this aside to shoot with people who see the style of image I produce and say to themselves “I want photos like those, but imprinted with my personality”. I want to shoot people who want to engage in a genuine artistic collaboration, what is shot being driven at least as much by the model as by me.

What will I do with the images?

This blog will be illustrated with several images from the shoot and present a few freeform paragraphs about you that will come out of the Q&A. I may well publish these or other images from the shoot on social networks such as flickr and tumblr. Images may finish up getting shared from these sources to Facebook and I will follow instructions on whether or not they should be tagged. Wherever I can, I will credit you in whatever way you prefer, including web links, wherever images are used.

Ultimately there may be an exhibition or a book. I reserve the right to print and sell the book and prints of these images to hopefully recoup some of my costs

And finally, the Q &A …

Ahead of the shoot I will ask for answers to the following questions. I’d like you to answer them all as honestly as possible. When images from the shoot are published in a blog post and/or in a book, I will use the answers to write a short profile of the model.

When making initial contact I ask that in some way you deal with questions 1., 9. and 10. so I can make a judgement on how the shoot is likely to turn out in the context of the project.

  • For how long have you worked as a life model? To what extent (if any) do you do it to earn money
  • Have you previously undertaken photographic modelling and if so, as an experience, how does it compare to life modelling?
  • Are you a naturist and if so what does that mean?
  • Is life modelling a pleasing experience and if so in what way? Or is it just another job?
  • Do you consider yourself an artist?
  • Away from modelling, do you participate in public or artistic events that involve nudity??
  • How do you look after your body and is this any different because of your life modelling?
  • Is life modelling an activity known to friends, family and acquaintances? If there are exceptions, why should that be the case?
  • Where are you located? What name do you use as a model and is it different from your real name? Please share any model portfolio links with me. Can I share them with others?
  • I am somebody who has had issues with what is perhaps a mild form of body dysmorphia. I have used myself as a nude model, for example in some of the environmental nudes linked above. Do you have any ‘body issues’ that life modelling has helped you deal with? Equally, let me know here if, for example, you simply celebrate your body or don’t give a damn…
Life, at Home – a deeper perspective

The Life, at Home project

During 2013 and 2014 I found myself building up a group of life model contacts, not by design but by accident. I found it interesting how many said that they had not modelled for a photographer and this, together with my interests in more personal photography and the photography of the nude led me to the idea of a project to shoot life models at home, nude.
To take myself out of my comfort zone, I decided that I would shoot the project predominately on black and white film.
Being a life model is often quite an impersonal activity, especially when modelling for a group or class. For life artists there is often little or nothing that can be known about the personality of the individual model who is naked in front of them. The poses are often intentionally contrived to be interesting to the artists while not so uncomfortable for the model to hold a pose for lengthy periods.
In what I will be asking for I am conscious that the project will take many life models out of their comfort zone, indeed some may never have been photographed nude and perhaps few in a away that may create an emotional connection with the viewer.
These are portraits, not figure studies. The face is all important. Reflecting my use of the word ‘personal’ I intend to to follow principles that help maintain anonymity where desired.
The fundamental is that the subject must be a genuine life model willing to be photographed nude at their own home.
The Life, at Home project