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What do I look for in a model?
"Beauty and authenticity for sure, the rest depends on the type of work I am asked to do."
"When given a commercial assignment, the clients will choose and decide the models they want to use. They after all pay for them. Sometimes however, they may ask me if I can suggest them a suitable model, or they may want a particular girl of one of my publications. For example, Sofie, who features in both my books, was offered editorial assignments, a cover shoot and a publicity campaign just by showing the clients the artistic work we had done together. Nevertheless, most clients will book their models through an agency because for commercial work you need experienced and professional models."
"Commercial photography is teamwork, with clients, art directors, stylists and make-up artists, all creative people with a personal taste and ideas. A model has to be patient, expressive, flexible, self confident, communicative and punctual, apart from having a symmetric face and the right measurements. And she has to be cheerful, as nothing is more stressful than an annoying model. After all the result of a shooting depends on her."
"I also do model tests, which are far more relaxed. Certain agencies send me models to create or update their portfolio, which is a nice way for me to get to know new models and it also facilitates future cooperation: good for the model and her agency, good for the photographer and his client."
"For my artistic work, I will forget the professional standards, the measurements and photographic experience, and I will choose my models purely intuitively, based on a gesture, a way of looking or moving, or a smile. I have a preference for women with fragile, slender but feminine bodies who at the same time have a natural grace."
"I don't like fancy or special make-up, hairstyles or accessories. My 'models' don't have to look like models -although some of them are models-, the women I choose as models can be smaller and a bit rounder. Very often they show an intriguing mixture of being proud and insecure at the same time. You can be a dancer -I love working with ballerinas- or an actor, but mostly you will be a young woman I meet unexpectedly, in the street, at an exhibition, any place any time."
"Experience isn't important. Enthusiasm is, as well as a certain degree of mutual commitment and understanding. We have to be 'partners in photography'. My models will have to accept my frame of work and my subject. My art work is all about sensuality, in all its different forms. I will have to discover and respect their (photographic) limits."
"I will try to capture intimicy, illusion, dreams, joy, happiness and lust, but also pain, disrespect and grieve. Girls often reveal a hidden side of themselves, a secret fantasy or a painful experience. Although the identity of my models isn't important, their personality will make the picture."
"Sometimes I receive e-mails and phone calls from enthusiastic models. Girls who are inspired by my work, and would like to see a picture of themselves published in a book, or hanging in a gallery. This is the right way to do, don't hesitate!"
"Sometimes girls hope to find a start in their modelling career, and why not? Who dares, wins. But those who dream about fame and money, must know that they have to be able to work professionaly, and need the right measurements: what is so unimportant in my art work, is a paramount in the commercial photo world."
"Then of course there are my private assignments. Photo minded people ask me to portray them. Women come for a session, a surprise for their husband's birthday (or the other way around). Couples come for an intimate session, they have sometimes been dreaming about it for years. The pictures are -of course!- meant for their eyes only, unless they have an explicit different wish in this regard. They are prepared to pay my fees because they feel treated respectfully and with the necessary discretion."
"People won't show part of their intimicy to someone they don't trust or feel uncomfortable with and and I also have learned not to accept assignments which I don't feel comfortable with. Although their bodies are not always as young and beautiful as those in my books, they love to see themselves immortalised in a piece of art."
"Yes, I have chosen a job I love."
(Interview by Hervé de Varez and Birgit De Leuze, 2002)