Monday, May 14, 2012

How (NOT) To Be A Magazine Model

Last Tuesday I was a magazine model for the day. It was one of those classic situations when the magazine rang up, asked if I could help out, and I said Yes, but it wasn't until I put the phone down that I began thinking about what I had just let myself in for.

(Perhaps now is the time to point out that I hate having my photo taken, which is why I prefer to be the one taking the photos.)

Anyway, Rachel (pictured), staff writer at Country Walking, rang to say that she was coming to Much Wenlock to do a feature and was going to walk one of the walking routes I'd recently been commissioned to write. She was bringing the photographer, Tom (pictured) with her, and wanted to have another mug walker in the photos too. Would I be able to help them out?

Thankfully, the weather was good, but being a magazine model isn't all it's cracked up to be. Firstly, there was no Winnebago or make-up entourage to make me look photogenic (but then there are some things in life that are unachievable, so why waste the effort trying?). We met in an isolated Shropshire Wildlife Trust car park on Wenlock Edge at 10.30am, with Rachel and Tom having left Peterborough at 7am and driven straight across to Shropshire.

Now, being a (walking) magazine model isn't just about putting one foot in front of the other. No. Firstly, the photographer has to spot a potential shot. When he does, this usually involves asking the models to retrace their steps for the previous 200 yards, so the photographer can capture them walking through the scene ... yet again. At which point the sun goes in, which upsets the photographer, meaning the models have to retrace their steps once more and wait for the sun to re-appear. We did a lot of cloud watching that day. They don't tell you that in the "How To Be A Model' guides do they?

There's also an art to being a walking magazine model. You have to be able to stride out confidently, whilst gazing out across the amazing view, without tripping over. (You try walking and not looking at where you're putting your feet.) I also learned that to be a photographer of magazine models, you need to be able to shout, "Look up!" every two seconds.

Then there was the section of the route marked on the Ordnance Survey map as Jacob's Ladder. It's a 270 feet climb at an angle of 1:2. There are no steps, and after the wettest April on record, we decided it should be renamed as Jacob's Slide. Cue photographer at the foot of the climb, as we climbed up. Hmmm ... does my bum look big in this? I bet it does as a double-page spread - that's all I can say.

In the photo above (yes, I managed to get my revenge on the staff photographer!) you'll see Rachel and Tom sitting on a water trough. Tom thought this trough would make a good photo and asked Rachel to sit on the trough, with me standing beside her, passing her my water bottle. Now, photographers like to take several photos because we models aren't perfect all of the time - the false grin sometimes slips, the wind might blow a strand of hair across our faces, a horsefly might land on our nose. So Rachel then had to pass the bottle back to me, so that I could then give it back to her. We spent several minutes passing the water-bottle-baton back and forth, until Tom was happy he'd caught a good shot. At the end of that one shot, I felt as though I'd passed more batons than every nation taking part in the Olympics this year.

Later on, the route travelled through a section of track where the path and the local stream share the same bit of land for about 100 yards. When I walked the route in March (dry) the stream was only 2 inches deep. After the wettest April, it was now nearly a foot deep. Of course, as magazine models, we had to do this three times - once wading through with the photographer taking photos from behind, then we had to retrace our steps through the water and then walk through it all again, so the photographer could take our photo as we were walking towards him.

As you can imagine, our 8.5 mile catwalk turned out to be nearer 10 miles with all the to-ing and fro-ing. And after 10 miles of walking, one doesn't tend to look their best, so I bet the magazine uses the shots taken near the end of the walk, not the start!

We got back to the car park at 3pm, which was lucky, because Rachel and Tom were meeting someone from the Wenlock Olympian Society at 4pm. Then in the evening, they were off to a festival event to interview someone else. (Short working day, then. Just remember that the next time your email pitching your latest brilliant idea doesn't get answered straight away.)

So, if you've always wanted to get into magazines, perhaps you should give modelling a try. Especially if you enjoy getting hot and sweaty and retracing your steps several times a day.

Good luck.