November 13, 2017
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What does “alternative modeling” really mean?
This was a blog topic suggested to me and I immediately felt the writer’s pang of “oh boy, that’s going to be a tough one to write about.”
This is a tough subject for me, but I enjoy a good challenge. According to the characteristics (defined later in this entry), I would be considered an “alternative model” for the years I have modeled for “alternative photographers” as well as an “alternative photographer” who has photographed other “alternative models.”
However, I tend to reject and discard labels due to their restrictive nature.
Boundaries can stifle creativity with some, but they can also help creativity flourish with others. I tackle the issue by working within instinct and personally defined boundaries for a conceptual shoot.
We will explore the definition of “alternative modeling” and all that it entails for inquiring minds, those new to the site and those who, like me, have long ago tossed labels aside and might want to reconnect with their roots.
The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word alternative as “different from the usual or conventional: such as (a: existing or functioning outside the established cultural, social or economic system.”
I don’t know about you, but from what I gather in the above definition, “alternative” could apply to anything that deviates from cultural norms and traditions.
We may arrive at a better conclusion by what alternative modeling isn’t.
What are the modeling norms of our society?
Just take a look around at any grocery store and pick up the latest Vogue, InStyle, Elle, or Cosmopolitan. Though these magazines have and are occasionally branching out with their models’ looks, they have consistently featured a typical waifish “girl next door” photo shopped into hyper-reality with “natural-looking” makeup. To me, that’s about as boring and bland as eating a bowl of only organic brown rice for 50 days in a row.
Don’t get me wrong; there is a place for high fashion, runway fashion and everything fashiony in between.
Some people, however, find all of that drab and dreadfully boring and are looking for something different.
The alternative world exists on the fringes of society. It’s sexy. It’s dark. It’s mysterious. It’s dangerous.
Though “alternative” may appear in mainstream, popular fashion every now and again, it will never be a regularly featured item on the normie menu. Coquettish eyes belonging to hyper-sexualized 16-year-olds, 6-foot tall Ukrainian models will keep peering out from the front covers of popular magazines for the rest of mainstream modeling history. And that’s what a lot of people enjoy ingesting with their eyes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it.
It boils down to aesthetics. We’re artists after all, aren’t we? We’re allowed to have our likes, our dislikes and our 1,001 flavors of ice cream. Although it may not always be a matter of having fun, the genre establishes and enforces a certain creativity and collaboration.
Not to mention, alternative models typically have a place in alternative modeling a lot longer than the easily discarded high fashion models: “You turned 17? Get OUT!”
Alternative models also typically carry certain distinguishing characteristics or aesthetics about them: whether it be tattoos, dreads, piercings or an overwhelming sexuality that makes them appear so dangerously striking in a photo.
Photographers are often shelved in this genre without a chance to object because they either have “not otherwise specified” in their portfolio diagnosis or don’t subscribe to a list of “genres I must adhere to so that society can sort of understand what it is I actually do because to be understood, we have to put everyone in tiny little boxes.” Some even define themselves specifically as alternative because that is their preference and they hope to attract only alternative models to work with.
This wide-sweeping genre can range from fashion to fetish to conceptual to fine art and everything in between. There is so much freedom that it makes me wonder why it’s not the more popular, mainstream choice.
Let me include a further distinction for the sake of clarification. Alternative music and its fashion (such as tiny blonde girls wearing ties with pin stripes and pasty white boys donning guyliner) can fit in this genre. They do not define the genre, however. That could confuse anyone. While such musical artists are outside the norm aesthetically, there isn’t much other than fashion that gives them that special uniqueness.
“Alternative modeling” may also be used to distinguish that which is not found in an episode of “America’s Next Top Model” or overflowing on supermarket shelves with covers featuring celebrities who have been overly processed and airbrushed beyond recognition: “Hermione, is that you?”
Why join the site? What will you gain from working with freelance alternative models and photographers?
The possibility of experiencing the entire gamut of creativity is possible. What this really means is you have the freedom and creativity to do whatever the hell you please because you are not stuck working within set, strict boundaries of industry standards. The possibilities are endless.
Go, now, and be creative! You’re expected and especially, encouraged, to think outside the box.
PostScript – Although open to endless creative possibilities, it is imperative that both photographers and models are comfortable with one another and ideas/settings/situations, etc. Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming article on advice and tips to help ensure safety and a happy photo session for all parties involved.
Author: Carolyn Amanda