Apr 182010

Perhaps because I’m chasing a dream, the creation of art through photography is one of the most important things in my life. To me, it’s more than a job, more than a hobby. It’s more than a way to keep my website fresh and more than a means to update my Facebook page. It defines me as a person. Like Jenson Button is a Racing Driver, like Robbie Williams is a Singer/Songwriter I want to be Andy Craddock (Neolestat) a Photographer. I think the capitalisation is important.

Anyone that drives a car can be a driver, anyone that picks up a mike at a Karaoke bar or joins a local choir can be a singer, anyone that picks up a camera come the weekend and takes a few snaps can call themselves a photographer. But. It takes passion and determination to become a Driver, a Singer or a Photographer, it takes passion and determination to be defined by your trade.

It takes passion and determination, it also takes a lot of hard work, a smattering of luck and skill.

Passion and determination I have. Hard work I have and will continue to put in. Skill is subjective and down to you to, the viewer of my work, to decide whether I have or have not got it. Luck hasn’t been so forthcoming.

There is one other thing a photographer that specialises in people, like I do, needs; Like a Driver needs a car and a support team of mechanics and analysts, like a Singer/Songwriter needs a studio full of sound technicians to mix his sounds and a team of PR people to promote his music, a Photographer needs models.

An excerpt of one review I received said: [Andy Craddock] “does it with a variety of beautiful, but not necessarily professional models”. I like that! I like that because not once have I worked with a model I didn’t want to work with and not once did anyone but me choose the models I’ve worked with. It implies (to me at least) that I choose well.

I used to find models on internet modelling sites, Net Model, Model Mayhem and One Model Place. One Model Place was my favourite, it felt more professional and the models seemed to flake on me less. I let my subscription slide about three years ago and started scouting on the street and on Facebook. Scouting takes more effort, is more hit and miss but one can find hidden gems that the modelling sites miss. I like the challenge of scouting.

To me, Facebook is a functional tool. On one hand it allows me to keep in contact with family and friends and on the other hand I can spend my spare hours at home, wandering it’s streets prospecting for those nuggets of gold hidden away in it’s depths.

The downside of randomly scouting for talent is wondering whether I’ve found a genuine 24K nugget or fools gold.

In my world I find the relationship between the photographer and the model a bit of a balancing act. Even on a professional level models are prone to flaking (not turning up) due to a variety of excuses; dead grandmothers, illnesses, a previous night on the lash and often with no excuse or contact. I’ve heard them all, I even had one model whose grandmother managed to die twice!

There is no commitment between the model and myself other than trust in the beginning. I give her a time, date and place and hope she turns up. Many times I’ve sat there at the allotted time, date and place only to watch the clock tick past the given hour until I’ve given up and gone home with a no show.

I’ve contacted the model later only to find that in the rush to get her monkey to the vets for a suspected outbreak of Ebola Syndrome she forgot to call me. We’ve re-booked a shoot and again she was a no show; a light aircraft crashed in her street or some such.

I have no idea what the real reasons for flaking are. Fear, anxiety, period pain, an outbreak of spots or sheer laziness but I often wonder whether the model looses as much sleep over the no shows as I do? Where a run of no shows damages my faith in people and deadens my soul a little.

If I approach a potential model either in the street or on Facebook it’s because I truly believe she has something I want to work with. I’m not a collector of friends and buddies on Facebook to make me look more popular than I am, I’d rather have twenty people I know I can rely on and talk to than eight hundred that never respond to my posts and updates.

If I’ve scouted you on Facebook or in the street it means one thing; I want to work with you. It means I find you attractive and hope my audience will too. It means I want to work with you, that I think you have the looks to make it as a model and if I can help you on your way I will. It doesn’t mean I want to stalk you or date you, it doesn’t mean I’m looking for another notch on my bedpost and if I were, if I found you ‘that’ attractive I hope I’m professional enough to keep that to myself.

What I do want to do is build a working relationship with you based on trust and friendship that allows me to get the best out of you that suits my needs and gives you the best possible images to either earn you a little extra cash or help bulk out your portfolio.

I’d like the majority of models I work with to become a muse of sorts, an inspiration to me and hopefully I to them. I can be there on both a personal and professional level if need be for the right girls. It is like any other professional working relationship. On the shop floor we talk shop, in the canteen we gossip. The relationship between photographer and model is without doubt a working relationship that needs work to maintain.

To that end, especially for my Facebook friends; consider carefully please. If I’ve sent you a friendship request I’ve probably sent it with a note saying that I’d like you to model for me. If you intend to model for me and have accepted my offer of friendship then hello and welcome.

If you accepted my friendship but don’t intend to model for me please… remove me from your friend list. We’re probably never going to talk, we’re probably never going to be ‘friends’, we’re just going to litter one another’s status updates with inconsequential junk and inboxes with spam.

If you do accept my friendship and do intend to model for me please also accept the invitation to my South West Modelling group and interact with it, join in the discussions, post modelling news on the wall, post pics you want the group (and myself) to see and start discussions of your own. Ask me questions, ask the other girls questions, become a modelling community and lets see our successes grow.

If you talk the talk be prepared to walk the walk… If you don’t or can’t, please don’t kid either yourself or I and please delete yourself from my virtual community so that neither of us waste our time.

Apr 172010

So part one of the master plan is complete… I have a new Facebook group set up exclusively for models and want-to-be models in the South West I want to work with.

Following the ‘Church’ controversy it was easy and nigh on impossible not to get a huge following on my Facebook account. It peaked at around 4900 ‘friends’ of the maximum 5000 friends a personal page is allowed to have. While it’s a great feeling having that many requests, so many in-fact that I had to start ignoring requests to keep space open for those people that mattered, there’s a downside to it too: One misses out on most of the relevant posts from real friends and family only to be swamped by a home page full of horoscopes, iHearts and other such irritating and time consuming interwebs kibble.

The vast majority of these friends I was never going to interact with, never going to meet, they weren’t going to give a toss for my humour and seeing as it was my personal page weren’t really going to be at all interested in a status that read ‘sunny day – must hit the beach’.

It was time for a cull! A time for a brutal and much needed sweep of the scythe and a much needed poke around with the proverbial broom.

I hit up the edit friends page and took to deleting with a vengeance; 4900 strangers whittled down to less than 600 strangers and a 100 personal friends and people I admire in a day. Gone are all the US and UK porn stars barring a few I know personally. Gone are all the want to be porn photographers. Gone are all the pretend Lothario’s and understudy Casanova’s fervently trawling my friend list in the hope of meeting the porn starlet of their dreams. Gone are all the time wasting internet models that never bothered to reply to my offers of work and gone are all of the friends of friends of friends.

If I kept you I love you, like you, admire you or want to work with you. If I kept you, you are now ordered into neat lists of family, personal friends, photographers, models and South West models.

I now have an interesting group of approximately 500 ‘friends’ in the South West models group; more than enough I think to kick-start a healthy new website into existence.

I often work on the assumption that as a healthy and regular, Mr Average type male, if ‘I’ fancy a model then the majority of other males will too. After all, in the world of glamour that’s the main criteria no? I’m not looking for the model that will suit the latest fashions I’m looking for the model that will look the most appealing taking those fashions off.

I’m not looking for the mega-boobed, big haired and California tanned, impossible to connect with other than with a bottle of baby oil and box of tissues US style porn-star, I’m looking for the girl next door.

I’m looking for the girl that makes you look twice in Starbucks. I’m looking for the girl that catches your eye on the dance floor and the girl that earns you that crushed thigh when you double-take while driving with your girlfriend and she’s been resting her hand on your leg.

I’m going to be looking for that elusive mix of Angel and Devil. Of shyness and understated flirtation. I want to photograph models that are just the right side of adulthood before the weight of the world’s responsibilities crush the fun out of them.

In my world a cheeky smile and a flirtatious grin are worth far more than a size zero figure.

I want to show you a world where a peek of a lacy bra and a flash of panty are in equal measure, every bit as sexy as a naked porn star if not more so. I want you to understand that these girls are real and not just objects of desire. That they have lives and boyfriends, family and friends. I don’t want you to see the models I work with as machines working in an industry providing titillation for the masses. I want you to understand that they have feelings, I want you to understand that they are real people and one day you might meet one of them in a bar.

I want you to love and respect the models I work with and if you ever do meet one, treat her with the respect she deserves as a person. She’s not your plaything, she’s not someone to be pawed over and leered at, she’s a girl with friends and family that has real feelings and desires of her own.

Thank her for sharing her beauty with you and leave it at that. She will think far more of you in the long run if you treat her as a woman rather than an object of desire. She might grace my website in all her glory but that won’t mean she is public domain. Only her image will be. Her body, her soul and her friendships remain hers to give to whom she chooses.

I hope we understand one another.

Apr 142010

I’m done with flakiness and excuses, this is my last chance at making a living out of something I love and probably my last chance to keep my head above water in Cornwall. I have two business models to play with… One; I personally know a girl up-country that was making between two and three thousand pound a month in her website’s heyday. Her pics are still doing the rounds on UseNet and I know I can easily match the photography on her site.

Could I match her income? I have no idea but surely it’s worth a bash.

Two; A business model that’s usually used for internet ‘models’ in Russia and the US. Two of my peers use it to great advantage and I don’t know anyone in the South West using it at the moment.

Both business models require commitment from the real life models that want to get involved. At least five shoots to begin with and if a particular girl takes off then probably five shoots over a two month period onwards.

I won’t consider any model under 16 years old and between 16 to 17 they will need their parents consent and participation. I won’t shoot a model under 18 without a parent or guardian in attendance.

This is a business opportunity. I accept that models have difficulties and have to cancel on occasion but if a model cancels on her first and second booking then I’m done with her. Two strikes and out I’m afraid.

I’m not looking for the next super model, I’m looking for the girl-next-door kind of beauty. I’m not looking for seven foot tall, willowy models with five foot legs. I’m looking for real girls. The high street honeys, the girl in the pub worth a second glance, the kind of girl that is as much fun as a mate as she is a girlfriend. I’m not looking for time served models I’m looking for confidence. I’m not necessarily looking for models that can hold an awkward pose for fifteen minutes I’m looking for girls that can smile at the camera and tease.

For girls aged between 16 and 17 that feel they could glamour model at 18 this is an ideal learning curve. Everything will be done legally and above board. There will be model release forms and image release forms where necessary. All monies earned will be on a straight 50/50 split basis.

For girls aged 18 and over there will possibly be nudity or at least topless modelling involved dependant on your comfort level. If a girl wants a test shoot first on a TFCD basis to find her own comfort level then I’m happy to oblige. Tease is where it’s really at though… Playfulness and the ability to flirt with the camera are essential. Bottom line, as far as I’m aware; the more you flirt the more you’ll earn. If you can’t  or don’t think you can flirt with the camera I’ll teach you as long as you’re willing to give it a go.

If you’ve really got what it takes then I’ll look to getting you published and look to getting you further paid modelling work. I’ll promote you according to the amount of time and effort you’re willing to give me. Both business models are based on partnership. The more time you put in, the more I’ll push you and the higher your capacity to earn.

Interested? Leave me a comment on here or Facebook and I’ll get right back to you.

Apr 092010

Hopefully you’ve read the ‘about me’ page? If not, I suggest you do so to make sense of and understand this post.

The studio in St Austell closed pretty much as soon as it opened. I was like a goldfish in a bowl where the only people coming in to swim in my waters were the drunks, the druggies, the morbidly curious (the rubberneckers) and friends. Everyone else just peered through the glass at the sad and lonely fish bouncing off the walls and the fetish furniture.

Over the period of three months I shot three models on a TFCD basis and had one paying customer that couldn’t afford the full amount so I let him have the shoot half price. It was for his girlfriend on her birthday; I’m a sucker for people doing good deeds.

It seemed that the local LGBT community was a closed group run out of a bar in Truro and the local BDSM community weren’t half as liberal as the communities I’d known in London. I was kicked off their forum as a few people disagreed with the religious aspects of my work and I later found out that in Plymouth, at a Torture Garden/Club Rub type affair the bouncers actually removed crops, whips and swatches from the customers prior to their entry to the club.

The models that I wanted to help promote didn’t show. There were lots of girls wanting to be shot but no-one seemed to make the effort to actually show up and be shot. To the girls in Plymouth, while seemingly wanting to work with me, obviously found the forty minute trip to St Austell to be similar to trekking across the Gobi desert on foot and un-supported. They never showed. Perhaps they wandered off, lured by a mirage somewhere near West Taphouse.

A depression that had been brewing since the beginning of the year took full hold of me and in October I shut the studio doors for the last time. I hung up my camera and immersed myself into an autopsy of a failed business.

In December, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I had to give up sugar, lose weight and control my blood sugars with a daily round of tablets added to those I was already taking for the depression. Half of my family disowned me over money issues and having signed on to the electoral role when I moved to Cornwall all of my past debtors caught up with me in one fell swoop.

After a fairly dismal Christmas without the majority of my family and without money, I was struggling to deal with day-to-day issues and even those things I found pleasurable felt like chores. My bodyboard went into the same not-to-be-opened box as my camera and kites. I hung up my wetsuit and became reclusive. In January, when I thought things could get no worse I received court orders from the CSA and managed to spectacularly offend my last remaining close friends.

Our neighbours rallied around my partner and I and with them and our dog we managed to get by. As proud a man as I am I felt weak and humbled by their help. I hate to be seen as looking for sympathy and I hate being in a place where I need help rather than being able to offer it. I felt I’d made a bunch of lifestyle choices that were detrimental and that my rebellious nature far from defining me had been my undoing. At times I even envied those people stuck on the M25 on their way to sensible office jobs in the morning and similarly stuck on the M25 in the evening on their way home to their three bedroomed semi’s in suburbia with their 2.4 children and their doting stay at home but ultimately unsatisfied wives who were busy having affairs with their gym instructors.

I went for a psychiatric assessment. I became a 20 hour a day World of Warcraft playing hermit only venturing out of the house for shopping and cigarettes. If I wasn’t online then I was asleep in bed.

I had over four and half thousand ‘friends’ on my Facebook account and only twelve of them were friends. Of that twelve I missed most of their posts and updates and had upset over half of them into not talking to me.

Still, I had Jo and the dog… They stood by me and refused to give up on me. Still, I had my father who surprisingly was the one to rally round and support me of all my family. Still I had our neighbours who were there daily to chat, smoke and drink coffee with. Surprisingly I also had the Church I’d so royally offended but felt I was worth trying to convert and save.

More than that I had a dogged determination not to give up. I wanted a blog in which to vent and throw open ideas, I badgered my ISP into providing functionality which although they are one of the biggest and most professional ISP’s they didn’t offer unless one was paying a vast sum of money for hosting each year. I wanted a new slant on the business and I wanted my health back.

Sympathy can make one weak. It’s nice to receive in small doses and can make you feel loved and cared about but can ultimately leave you wanting more and losing the will to fight while wrapped in that cotton-wool ball of love.

It’s sometimes easier to shut yourself away in a room of your own and weather the crushing blows of your depression alone. It’s easier sometimes to sit alone and think and write and to measure your own failures and successes looking for that break in the weather to make you want to walk in the sunshine.

Alone you can make your own decisions and define your own future rather than being told how you’ve failed and how to avoid making the same mistakes over and over.

I’ve had to sell everything but my camera and one lens to survive since October. All the lights are gone, my car is gone and my DVD collection comprises only of those films I love and can truly watch over and over.

But… I have my blog now and I have a fresh slant on an old idea. I still have half a family and I have friends if only I show them love back. I have Jo and Sid my dog.

I’m not prepared to give up just yet and am tossing around an idea in my head that will not only be financially viable to myself but to any of the models that sign up for it. I was down but never completely out. I still have issues but I’m willing to iron them out. I still have faults but I’ll hold my hands up to them and try to overcome them.

I’m going to give it one more go. I might have a space in which to start a new studio, I might have an idea that will pay the bills but not satisfy my soul. If I have that space, hell, even without that space I might also have the idea that satisfies my soul and pays the bills.

Who’s willing to take a chance with me and step on-board?