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December 16, 2004

Confessions of a Naked Model

We're pleased to run another guest posting by "J," an artist and art student who helps pay the bills by working as an artists' model. J's site, where you can enjoy her art and explore some fun links, is here. J's previous postings for us are here and here. John Leavitt contributed the drawings that accompany this piece.

I'm pleased to pass along some happy news about J's modeling career too: the well-known punk fetish photographer Eric Kroll has made a date with J to train his famously transgressive lens on her. So, Dita van Teese? Watch your back. There's a new alpha-fetishgirl in town.

jen::s logo.jpg

Are We Whores?

The Ethics of Modelling for Amateurs

leavitt reclining.jpg

Yesterday I nearly killed a man. With my breasts. I was posing in a seedy hotel in the meatpacking distract. The photographer, a snaggle-toothed sixty, crouched over me, clacking away with his digital. Suddenly, he grabbed his chest.

As he sunk to his knees, I imagined the headlines: "Man Dies of Heart Attack in Motel Love-Tryst." "But I’m a model, not a prostitute," I'd cry to the reporters, like "Showgirls"'s Nomi Malone insisting that she wasn't a stripper, but a dancer. Then I thought about average sentences for manslaughter. I hoped the judge would go easy.

But after sixty agonizing seconds, my photographer rose and pointed a finger in my direction. "Your fault! Out!" He clasped his heart as he peeled off three hundreds. I left without looking back.


Those of you who read my original columns may be shocked at the drop in my morals. "Poor J," you cluck, "going from artists' muse to hotel room sordidness." You make a mental note on downward spirals.

But examine my bank account before judging. Modeling for photographers means $100 an hour, and more independence than any job at the Gap. "Just like prostitution?" asks the cloven hoofed gentleman's attorney. We'll get to that …

If posing naked for dentists from Massapequa reminds you of the world's oldest profession, it's a relationship that came into being with the internet. Before the internet, firm lines ran between model and non-model. Models: the six-foot tall fifteen-year-olds who walked runways and coke-binged in Milan. Non-models: everyone else. If you were not anointed with the proper genes -- and an agency -- a model is something you would never be.


Of course, photographers always realized that there were other fun things to photograph besides adolescent Amazons. But they had no way to get in touch with people to pose. Until the internet. Four years ago,, the world's largest online directory of photographers and models, came into being. It provided portfolio space and an easy way for photographer and photographed to connect. And it allowed girls who didn't have a chance in hell of joining an agency to make a go at modeling. Girls like me.

So we used the two things we held over agency girls. Tits. And a willingness to show them. Joining us were photographers who wanted to take pictures of naked girls, but couldn't get the agencies to supply any for less than $500 an hour. With the internet, the amount of models doing fetish and artistic nude work skyrocketed. And glamour -- which once meant the chick on the beer ad, but now refers to any sexy girl with flat light and a vapid expression -- became a huge industry.

Great for photographers. They could experiment. And great for us curvy, brainy, untraditional models. But there was a third category. Men who just wanted to photograph naked girls, had the money to do it. They range from gelded suburbanites to potential rapists, with the majority being bored marrieds who want to bark orders at a naked woman.

What distinguishes them from photographers is their disinterest in the picture. For them, it's the experience that counts. The photos are like so much spilled sperm.

"Now, J, you're talking like a whore."

But I view modeling for amateurs as far more akin to stripping. Like the stripper who convinces customers she really likes them, I trade in illusion. As I pose for the desk jockey, I convince him that he's really an artist, with an exciting life and a way with the ladies. I laugh at his jokes. I make him like me. Then, after three hours, I've got $300.

scattered polaroids.jpg

Do I feel comfortable with this exchange? Not really. But discomfort is a small price to pay for freedom from 20 hour work weeks and student poverty. My growing bank balance goes to promoting my illustration. My back-up plan when the tits start to sag.

Still clucking your tongue? Well, earnest reader, I can only refer you to Madonna’s response when reporters found out she posed naked as a poor dancer on the Lower East Side: "Who gives a damn?"

And what of the man in the hotel room? Well, the next day's news contained no reference to him. So, I assume he lives, healthy if chastened. And no longer photographing nude models.

Our thanks to J. Here's a sweet glimpse of the lady herself in action. You can click on the photo for a closer look.

posted by Michael at December 16, 2004


$100 an hour????? Wow. My hat's off. I've never earned $100 an hour on my best day.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on December 16, 2004 12:25 PM

The injustice of it! But I bet you'd look good photographed by Eric Kroll.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 16, 2004 02:02 PM

Do you still do modelling for artists? Do you charge painters or sculptors the same prices, or does the longer time they need you to pose justify a sort of volume discount?

Are all of your photographic clients really such losers? During my stint as an art student, and back before I became a happily married man, I hired artists' models, usually on a multi-session basis. I got to know several very nice young ladies that way, and ultimately dated a few of them. Of course, I don't recall barking orders at them either, but I guess I could be suffering from selective memory. I think it was a different ambience, however.

As a 'customer' of models, I'm depressed to think that these guys are giving the rest of us such a bad name.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 16, 2004 03:21 PM

I've been posing naked for artists for almost 25 years. Not ONE female artist ever made a pass at me! Sigh. . . .

Posted by: Michael Serafin on December 16, 2004 03:37 PM

Artists get a much cheaper deal- around $20 an hour. But my back and my pocketbook complain if I do too much work for them.

This is a grumpy essay. I have a more cheerful one planned later. But in general, photographers are a worse lot than artists. It takes neither talent nor training to point a camera at a naked girl. It's a very, very different ambiance.

Take a look at to see some of the photographic geniuses... Not that there aren't amazing people, but the majority is less than.

Posted by: "J" on December 16, 2004 03:38 PM

HA! Micheal, if there were a $100/hr market for fat guys in their boxers, I'd be a star already.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on December 16, 2004 04:09 PM

Scott, package is everything. Demand your recamier (see below), there is whole "reality" market out there, waiting.

Boxers! Thanks for confirmation.

Posted by: Tatyana on December 16, 2004 04:27 PM

As we move further into the age of digital photography we're gonna see more and more breasts on the internet and in magazines of increasingly respectable girls. You're in the right place J, getting in on a market while supply is low and there's a decreasing margin of social taboo. Also, I think I'm in love with you.

Posted by: Brandon M on December 16, 2004 04:28 PM

Pretty girl. Oh wait, there was an essay?

Posted by: . on December 16, 2004 05:00 PM

I often pose nude for female artists. They tell me to get off their goddamn fire escape.


Michael Blowhard uses my favorite artword - "trangressive" - which prompts me to offer my favorite challenge:

Can you point out to me a single idea, just one single solitary idea, in the body of work of any "transgressive" artist, with which the critics do not already agree?

And if not, then what precisely are they "transgressing"? The unwritten law against pandering, perhaps?

Posted by: Brian on December 16, 2004 06:51 PM

Ms. J:

I looked at your illustration work, and I like it a lot. Hope you become fabulously rich from it. Best of luck.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 16, 2004 08:24 PM

Brian -- I'm withya, dude. I once made a list of words I never want to see used in artyak ever again and "transgressive" was high on it. ("Issues" was up there too.) I'm using it here (wittily, I hope) as a genre-indicator: here's a guy whose work many will describe, like it or not, as transgressive. Transgression is his bag, like "crime" is Elmore Leonard's.

Have you checked Eric Kroll's site out? I've always kind of liked his work. Reminds me of the East Village circa 1978. FvB will remember those times too ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 16, 2004 08:29 PM

Three hours! That seems like an awful long time to have to be in close quarters with a guy objectifying (terrible word, but I think it applies here) you. I'd imagine it takes a girl with a strong sense of self, or at least one who can compartmentalize

Posted by: ricpic on December 17, 2004 11:31 AM

re ricpic:

You're right. Posing for amateurs (as opposed to posing for real photographers, which is fine work that I love)is objectifying. It does require a strong sense of self. It is uncomfortable and tough, which is what I hoped to capture in this essay. In no way is bargain basement nude modelling all about empowerment.

However, there is alot of empowerment to it. Freedom has alot to do with financal goodness and spare time- both of which modelling gives me in excess. So, I'm willing to comprimise and do some unpleasent work in exchange for long-term goals and present freedom.


Posted by: J on December 17, 2004 12:11 PM

Because of an interpretation of the state constitution which makes it virtually unregulated, there is said be more various kinds of nude dancing, nude modeling, etc., here in Portland than anywhere else in the U.S. I've calculated that probably 1-2% of the women in town have been strippers at least once. As I result I've known many of them, and there's no psychological mystery. Not all make $100/hr., but $50/hr. is not rare.

For some it's a lark, and some are avant-garde and postmodern, and some are exhibitionists, and some are bullied by their boyfriends, and some are addicts, and some hate the job, but there's no real problem figure out why they do it.

I also know art models, and it's a whole different world that doesn't stress beuaty or perfect bodies. The important thing is to be able to sit absolutely still for longush periods.

Posted by: John Emerson on December 17, 2004 11:24 PM

one other obvious application: take pictures with beautiful women for and friendster profiles. you just need a few shots of them sprawled over you in a suitable state of undress..or even a kiss on the cheek might do. basically it has to be unambiguous (from the camera's perspective) that you are a "couple".

tada, suddenly you're a rock star with an ex-girlfriend who is so hot she testifies silently to your studliness. that puts you at first base right off the bat...

Posted by: hmmm on December 18, 2004 07:02 AM

I'm glad to hear 'J' thinks this is a grumpy essay and that she recognizes bargain basement nude modelling takes it toll. I was beginning to think that it might have been costing her some things she was not aware of. Saying things like "I laugh at their jokes and make them like me" may sound like she's in charge, but actually, I think she's looking for a personal connection that just doesn't exist. It's the experience of power that these guys sound like they want--I can throw money around and make a girl take off her clothes. I don't think they care if you laugh at their jokes, and I don't think they "like" you.

I never posed nude, but I remember being approached in a restaurant once, in my twenties, but I guy who claimed to be a pro photographer and who was looking for redheads with fair skin for pictures for a new skin care product. He gave me his card, wanted me to come in. It was in a residential apartment building in Chicago, decent address, but his HOME. It felt creepy, and not at all artsy. I didn't go.

Posted by: annette on December 18, 2004 11:58 AM

You certainly had more sense than me, Annette.
I was offered fame and money (and complements on my perfect neck-to-shoulders line) for "gymnastics promotion campaign" photos, in a gym with massage rooms rented for night sessions.

I refused - but only because I happen to be just kicked off my college gym team, was enraged and didn't want to touch the balance beam ever ever again.
Somehow the arrangement itself didn't alarm me at all.
Sometimes it pays to be foolish...

Posted by: Tatyana on December 18, 2004 12:34 PM

All due respect (or disrespect) paid to the creepy guys, are any of these hobbyist/amateurs ... I dunno, sweet? Kind? Maybe not -- what do I know? But I'm just thinking, What if a guy has a photography hobby, and really does want to shoot nudes, and knows how to behave? How else could arrange to do so, other than by using something like OneModelPlace? I suppose he could take classes at a photography school or something. But how could he practice? In theory, anyway, it seems to me plausible that maybe one person enjoys playing the piano as an art-hobby and maybe another one enjoys making nude photographs as an art-hobby.

Back in the '50s there used to be things called "camera clubs." 20 photography-hobbyists might band together and rent a model for an afternoon at the beach, something like that. And they'd snap away as she posed in bikinis or nude for a few hours. The famous model Bettie Page worked for camera clubs, among others. Seems harmless and sweet, in its own way. Bettie was certainly one of the great models.

But maybe all these guys are creeps. Maybe I'm a creep.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 18, 2004 01:33 PM

I don't think anybody's taking you off the hook on this one, Michael!

For the poor guy who just happens to have an "innocent" hobby of photographing nude girls?

Take up birdwatching.

Posted by: annette on December 18, 2004 07:02 PM

Re Annette: Your comments make me wonder if you've ever worked a service industry job before. You know how the friendly waitress gets more tips? Its the same principle here. If you're sweet, chipper, and pretend you're not composing a vicious column in your head, you get rehired more.

Makes sense, no?

Posted by: "J" on December 19, 2004 08:48 PM

Lighten up annette.

Posted by: Seriously on December 20, 2004 12:23 AM

Yes, honey, I make my living in a service industry.

Posted by: annette on December 20, 2004 12:51 PM

i just want to see a femele picture that is very cute both naked and non naked

Posted by: jenifer on January 9, 2005 10:20 PM

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