Monday, July 29, 2013

Of Muses and Magic - Part 2

O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention. - William Shakespeare
In her prior post, Miz B eloquently shared her views on what makes working with a model transcend into muse magic.  I agree with all she shared and will only add my own few additions or nuanced ideas and comments.

First, all parties involved must be physically, emotionally, and creatively present and involved.  They must come in with an understanding of their own abilities, talents, tastes, boundaries, and a confidence in themselves along with a desire to push themselves and their art into new areas.  Without this combination of experience and desire to explore, magic rarely happens.
Rain DeGrey - 072913 - SideB
Second, all parties must develop trust in each other.  I will push a model to work and create in new ways that may be new and make potentially feel anxious, so I must earn her respect and trust in me first.  I must also allow myself to be pushed out of my comfort areas by her and the moment and trust her to push me.

Almost every professional model, and most of the amateur models, I've worked with have been a muse to me in their own ways.  Some are quiet influences that set a flow to the session where the greatness of the collaboration slowly evolves out of the shared time.  Others are like wild forces of nature where we keep kicking down boundaries and make edgy, rough stuff that will require hours and probably more sessions of collaboration to finish.  I greatly enjoy both of these types of inspiration.

I've been asked by a few if I have ever been physically intimate with one of my models, especially the nude models.   The answer is no.  The muse/artist relationship is its own type of intimacy that doesn't need a physical consumation for me to enjoy and need.  I am not saying that I don't get aroused by my models or the session, but the sexual arousal is just a small part of the greater arousal from creating something much grander than I could have made without her/his muse magic.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Of Muses & Magic

“The woman who appeals to a man's vanity may stimulate him, the woman who appeals to his heart may attract him, but it is the woman who appeals to his imagination who gets him”

~ Helen Rowland

Time and time again, we've received variations on the ultimate compliment for an artist :  "Your photos tell a story ... it's not just the beauty, it's the feelings!"  Every time it gives me shivers to know that through some magic, the emotions and concepts in the creative process have leaped from the page or screen into the minds and libidos of our viewers, resonated there, and very likely stimulated their own passions!  

I believe deeply that over-analyzing and dissecting anything organic, natural, and magical is a surefire way to destroy it.  When people ask me HOW, I usually take the question as rhetorical.  I'm downright superstitious about poisoning the mojo with conscious thought ... so my best answer is "PFM"  {pure fucking magic!} .   What I will speak on though, is some of the work that goes into attracting, inspiring, and capturing that magic as photographs.

Julie - 072513 - Miz B

Obviously the first step is understanding that like attracts like.   You won't find boring models on my sets.   It's not that I don't hire or collaborate with them, it's that boring people run screaming from the building and hide under their cars when people like me show up!   Don't get me wrong - there's a huge variety of styles, attitudes, comfort levels, etc. among my models - but they are all comfortable in themselves and open to exploring.  To create magic on set, one must start with people who carry magic within them!   Photographers who ask me "how do you get the models to do that?" have already given me insight into why models won't "do that" for them ... I don't talk models into doing anything they aren't comfortable with ... I just invite them to play with me in the shadows we both enjoy!  

Asia Submits - 072513 - Miz B

Next, and I suspect most importantly, we create a safe space in which models feel free to  express themselves.   People will drop their clothes, their masks, and their inhibitions ONLY after you earn their trust.   Obviously, many models get nude for photographers they don't trust - and they look pretty and sexy in their photos.   But I maintain that the true sensuality and beauty they possess doesn't shine through, their personality doesn't leap off the page, and the images don't carry a narrative ... they are two dimensional, like paper dolls.   I've been guilty of modelling this way, and found it unfulfilling compared to posing with a trusted co-conspirator behind the lens!  Everyone on our team has to be open-minded and accepting of others' fantasies, foibles, and flaws.   The models must know without reservation that they are respected and adored - that we will always make them look their best, respect their boundaries, and allow them to explore and experiment without judgement.    Once they are secure in this creative space, they are free to share themselves fully in their images ... and you are able to see the best in them - we are just the delivery system! 

As a side note, all of this works best if you cast outside the box.   Seems like a no-brainer to me that if all you shoot is 19 year old Barbie dolls, you will not capture the same depth and emotion and experience that breeds magic in our studio!  This is why I refuse to photoshop every model to the same distorted body image as most major publications.  I will photoshop out a lot of flaws, but you will find cancer surgery scars, etc. featured proudly in our photos.   Our models are relatable because they are REAL!  They are survivors, they are diverse, and they bring real experiences to their expressions.   Sometimes a pretty picture is just a pretty picture ... but a model is never just a model - they are a soul with joys and pains, hopes and fears, victories and defeats.   How could we take vacuous photos without subtext when we are shooting such multi-dimensional, deep, nuanced subjects?!  

Finally, I think that the creative miracle {not unlike love} flows to us only if it flows through us.   I have a deep devotion to my muse ... and I know that she's not fond of being ignored.   When I fail to prioritize the creative yearnings deep inside, when I get scared to express what's truly lighting my fires and sizzling my nerves, when I settle for a project that is less than my heart desires ... that is when my muse falls mute and work becomes, well, work!   Every photo isn't a masterpiece.   But every model is.   Every vision can be.   The magic of each of us is always there - the art is in capturing it for the world to see!  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I'm bored ... take your clothes off!

In reading Side B's last post, I had one overriding thought - that I pick models exactly the same way ... except completely differently!! :-D  His very well thought and logical process does happen in my studio as well ... but I guess I'm not really conscious of it most of the time.   Nobody here will be surprised to hear that I tend to follow my passions and they lead me to the right model at the right time!   The quest for, and decision to team with, a model in my world is clearly just another form of seduction.

I agree with Side B that sometimes there is a particular creative itch that needs scratched - either because of a client's parameters or because I have a concept that is battering relentlessly at my subconscious, screaming for fulfillment.  I know exactly what I'm hungering for, and I begin to look for it everywhere I go.   Obviously it helps to be social and shameless ... I'll talk the guy bagging my groceries or my local librarian into taking their clothes off for our lens without hesitation!  Fortunately, these days I have an extensive body of work to lend credibility to the pitch ... in the early days,  I suspect that many potential models were pretty sure I was just a cougar on the prowl (fortunately this rarely dissuaded them from posing and they eventually forgave me for my lack of ulterior motives!)

Lay Me Down - 072113 - Miz B

I think my favorite experience, though, is the magical moment when I see someone, either for the first time or in a new light, and suddenly that huge lightbulb goes off in my head (or more accurately a laser light show with full soundtrack and a little fog just for kicks!).  I call it a "muse moment."  Most of us do this in our heads to some extent (think of that person you saw at the mall and had a sudden fantasy of them pressing you against the wall and nuzzling your neck - that's not just me is it?!) but never act on it.   Fortunately for me, I get to go talk to that person and suggest that they would be the perfect person to press me against a wall and nuzzle my neck - while a photog captures the magic for posterity!
Nina - 072113 - Miz B

Just as sexual chemistry is often mysterious and unexpected, the same can be said about the creative chemistry that happens with a model.   I am often right about who will be a good match at first sight, but I am also open to the pleasant surprises!   I vividly remember a shoot I'd cast in Heidelberg, Germany.  There were 4 men involved, and I was pretty sure I knew which one I'd "click" with on set. I also knew which one I was not particularly impressed with.  Turns out I was WAY off base!  The camera, however, never lies.   It's a funny thing how some people get in front of a camera and just lock up.  And how others suddenly turn on that mega-watt je ne sais quoi and OWN the set.   Turns out the model I was excited to work with was nearly a dud, and the one I almost passed up joined me in making some of the most intensely erotic photos of my career (on either side of the camera)!   Life lessons - it's never just about someone's look or day to day persona ... it's about who they are when the lights come on (or go out, as the case may be)!     

Years ago, I ran a male revue in paradise (Aloha, Honolulu!  Howzit?).  Part of my interview process was to meet in a public place, converse for awhile, flirt a little (necessary skill in that line of work), and then look at the candidate and say "I'm bored, take your clothes off!"  Their response to this was the best indicator I'd found for how well they'd do and how much money they'd make for both of us.   Mind you, it wasn't a yes or no question ... and it wasn't  necessary that he get naked in Starbucks to get hired - but it was necessary that he kept his cool, and either played along or managed to make me smile at how he declined.   It wasn't the skin that was sexy, it was the playful spirit, the attitude, the tease.   The same applies to models - I don't particularly care if they are willing to do full nudes or erotica, but I do insist that they keep us all hoping that they just might if we can inspire them properly!  

Life Is Good - 072113 - Miz B

I know from my experiences modelling that the trust and chemistry with a photographer evolves over time and shows through in the photos.   On either side of the camera, I want to work with people who create images that the viewer swears are real, not Memorex.   If you look at my work and think "that's a posed shot and they are not really into each other or having fun," then I've failed.   If viewers are absolutely certain that it's a free for all, hair on fire orgy every single time I step on set, they'd be wrong, but I'd be overjoyed!  My models and photographers share this vision - they put in the work & play to create genuine energy in the moment and they are fearless.  They bring many shapes, sizes, colors, orientations, kinks, opinions, fetishes, loves, fears, and feelings to every shoot ... but every single one of them brings honesty and an adventurous spirit.   The number one qualification is a genuine comfort in one's own skin.   If any of us look sexy, passionate, happy, satisfied, or any of the other yummy things we try to convey, it's because in that moment, we are!  I can photoshop for physical perfection, but I can't give someone a personality.   Even when there are breasts and buttocks alllll over my set, a huge number of the "keeper" images will be the ones that focus on that mischievous twinkle of an eye or the unguarded flash of a genuine smile.    Don't pose for me ... just let loose and BE with me ... the photog will do the rest!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Will you model for me?

I was so nervous the first time I asked that of a model.  It was back in 2003 (when I still only used film) and I had found Katie's ad on Craiglist offering her modeling services.  She sent me a few of her photos and I sent her samples of mine and then I popped the question.  She said yes and then the rest became a whole other story on her bravery and endurance in creating art.

Katie - 071913 - SideB

There are two different circumstances for me to ask a person to model for me - I am being paid for the work, or it is for my own art and pursuits.  Both have different requirements.  The paid shoots usually have an artistic director, production crew, etc.  My freedom to choose the model is limited and I work within the parameters of the moment.

When I am photographing for my own private work, I usually find my models one of two ways.  The first is I develop a theme, create the narrative and think of the colors palette, message, location, photographic style, and discern what I want from it in a mega or meta way.  At that point I start to think about the model and what he/she will look like and the types of expression/emotion I want from her/him.   I go through all the models I've worked with and see if one will be perfect.  If none fit, then I go to Model Mayhem and search for one.  I almost never have to "settle" because I usually find one that is an instant "YES" that I want for the shoot.  After that, the photographer/artist/art model/muse courtship begins.

One example of this was my work with Valya in New York.  I was visiting the city for a week of photography and I wanted a model that represented the city as I saw it.  I wanted a dark-haired beauty with a unique look that conveyed sultry realism that reflects how I experience New York.  I found her on Model Mayhem, looked at her work and new instantly she was the perfect model.  We corresponded a bit via email to set up details and work the theme and narrative.  I've worked with her three times now.  She was the perfect model to work with and I greatly appreciate her.

Valya - 071913 - SideB

The second way I find a model is serendipity or "model first".  This is usually when a model contacts me wanting to work together.  This happens a bit since many models give me as a reference to their friends or models find me on Model Mayhem or my website.  Depending on what the model says she has found interesting in my work, I then review her portfolio and ideas start springing to mind from there.  I will create a whole theme/narrative around her.  An example of this was meeting Candace Nirvana.  She contacted me and I saw her fair skin and new I wanted to experiment with LCD projections on her.  I've worked with her three times as well.
Candace Nirvana / After Salvador Dali - 071913 - SideB

Even though all this process sounds very logically thought out and systematic, it actually comes down to the one moment when I first saw their photos or portfolios.  I usually knew within one or two images that they would be perfect for my work.  Something about them spoke to me and I knew I wanted to work with them.

What is that something that spoke to me?  I guess it could be called the X factor. It is hard to describe, but I appreciate how Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear describes it.  It is that extra specialness that makes something transcend the ordinary.

For me, it has to be unique beauty, style, feeling, seduction, emotion, energy, attitude and sexiness that matches what I want or need for the art.  She or he has to have that spark that makes them more than a two-dimensional pixel representation and become something tactile, palpable, and wanting to spend more time with.  I have to feel an instant connection to her, usually feeling inspiration suddenly flowing through me.  It feels like I sense her powers as muse from just a few pictures.  This sixth sense for me is almost always true for when we meet and work,  the energy grows and fills the moment.   I've never been let down by this gut feeling when I chose a model this way.

I haven't found a model that is perfect for every photo shoot and that is because no human is perfect in every condition.  This is also true of me as a photographer as well in that I can't create all types of photographic arts.  Some just aren't a part of me.  (With all that said, almost every model I've worked with that has seen my projection work wants to play with that after the shoot is over.  I always accommodate and work with them to determine what I should project onto them.  It becomes very personal for both of us that way.)

I've been very blessed with the models I've worked with.  All have been sexy, creative, professional, friendly, exciting, and great to work with.  Many have been one-time models for me because they were perfect for the moment while a few have graced me with their magic multiple times.

In a future post we will explore what we do to get what we need, including working with the models, pushing them to give us what they rarely, if ever, share with others while respecting their boundaries.  It is a delicate balance.

PS - If you want to model for SideB or Miz B, we are open to gender, look, age (18 +), and style. Please be in the San Francisco bay area or Las Vegas for SideB or the San Antonio area for Miz B, & contact us via our email address  We do travel quite a bit and are open to shoot in other locales for the right project.  Please also note that we do discreet private commission work as well - not all of our erotic work goes on this blog - some of it is for our clients' eyes only, as it should be! :-)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Erotic Eyes: The Look of Love

His eyes are so intense I want to look away . . . 
or never look away, I can’t decide.
~ Kasie West, The Distance Between Us

The Look - 071613 - Miz B

Her eyes were those of someone who's just fallen in love, someone who sees nothing but her lover, someone who has no fear of anything. The eyes of someone who believes that every dream will come true, that reality will move if you just give it a push.”
~ Banana YoshimotoAsleep

The Look II - 071613 - Miz B

 ~Lauren Oliver, Delirium

Friday, July 12, 2013

Time Flies When You're Having Fun!

At the risk of sounding like smitten teenagers marking anniversaries in weeks, we couldn't let today pass without celebrating 6 months together with you, cavorting in the shadows!   Over 15,000 times, you all have validated our work, enriched our conversations, and inspired us to shoot, write, and play more!   THANK YOU!!

One of the most common questions we receive from readers is simply about how we decide what to write about.  Sometimes an experience will trigger a topic.  Sometimes an image from a shoot will lend itself to a certain discussion.  Sometimes a conversation with a friend will lead us to wonder what our shadowsexposed readers would have to say.   Most importantly, though, many posts are the direct result of the fantasies, questions, and requests of our amazing readers!   As we get to know each other better here, you've all begun to share your memories and secrets, fetishes and fears.  Some of you actively comment here, many more prefer to email privately.   Either way, we are stimulated by and grateful for your contributions ... in keeping with our sensual theme, let us just say "YES YES YES - don't stop!   MORE MORE MORE!"   

Classic Heart - 071213 - Miz B

First, I want to thank Miz B for her ever-present spark that always makes fire.  She keeps this place smart, sexy, sensual, and exciting.  I want to thank all of you for reading, sharing, commenting and inspiring.  Without you, this would be just us talking (writing) into the wind.  

I look forward to all the sensual mayhem, erotic intelligence, and hot images that are ahead of us.   Let's keep it in the shadows!

Gabbi - 071213 - SideB

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cover me, I'm going in!!

Never let it be said that I take the safe route and steer clear of dangerous ground!   I'm not one to tiptoe through life and if you are going to ask for my opinion, you'll get it no holds barred!   I think it's time to address the number one question I get in my inbox and let the chips fall where they may ...

"Miz B, how do I get my wife to be like you?"   "Can you teach my wife?"   "My girlfriend is uptight and not into sex like you are ... can you talk to her and fix her?"  The variations are endless, but the answer is always the same :  "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!"

First, let me say that if everyone's wife was like me, I'd be something else entirely - I'm contrary that way!   Second, be careful what you wish for.  Third, if you wanted a woman more like me, why didn't you date/marry one?!  And finally, if I hear one more man call his woman defective when he can't inspire her to be a sexual cartoon character, I will scream!

I suspect that very few men really want a woman like me.   I'm fiercely independent, easily bored, opinionated to the extreme, impatient, and frankly spoiled rotten!   As a fantasy all of that can rock ... but in daily life, it means you have to have the patience of a saint, be very secure, and be willing to tread softly while I rage.   I'm sexually demanding, used to getting whatever I want when I want it, and not likely to reassure you that the flavor of the day wasn't better/bigger/yummier than you.   

I am absolutely certain that most of these queries come from men with beautiful, sexy, and loyal wives/girlfriends.   But they want more.  There's nothing wrong with that.  I'm a huge fan of the idea that we should all be able to explore our full potential and sexuality is no different.   But I do take exception to the idea that somehow there's something "wrong" with your partner if she isn't ready to jump into a three-some or dress up in latex and flog your ass.      If those things are really important to you and she is absolutely opposed, then take a mulligan and choose your partner more wisely the next time around - guaranteed you will only make each other miserable.   But often, you'd be wise to LISTEN ... maybe your kinky ideas trigger her insecurities or fears, but I'll bet  she has some of her very own that might rock your world!   In general, women tend to be more practical on these matters - you are thinking about how hot a scenario will be, she is thinking about what will happen if the baby cries while she's chained to the wall.   If you introduce ideas slowly and in ways that are meant to please her instead of turning her into your personal blowup doll, you will likely meet with more success.

Lip Service - 070913 - Miz B

In the be careful what you wish for department, you've got to realize that what's good for the gander is also good for the goose.  If you want a woman who understands your need to go to the strip club and occasionally  hunt some temporary fun, you'd better be the man who understands her need to do the same.   Want a 3-way?   Then don't freak out when she does too - but with her hot male personal trainer instead of the female stripper you had your eye on!   Realize that the sexually adventurous spirit you hope to awaken in her will not always revolve around you.  When she explores bisexuality, you might not be invited to spectate or join.   And when she discovers a love for domination, don't come crying to me that you forgot to have a safe word ready and how do you put the genie back in the bottle?!   

Trust Me - 070913 - Miz B

It may also be time to evaluate yourself instead of rating her a dud.   When was the last time you hit the gym?   You can't expect her to react to your couch potato physique the same way she'd react to The Rock.  Are you adventurous in other areas of life?  Do you try new food, movies, and vacations that she wants to try or do you insist on maintaining a tried n true, meat & potatoes life?   Do your daily actions show appreciation for her and her unique sexiness?  Believe me, nothing makes a woman feel less sexy than being constantly reminded that she's gained a few pounds, is boring in bed, and generally just isn't enough.   Simply put, happy women secure in themselves and their relationships have a safe, solid foundation from which to explore.  

Finally, let's have a little reality check.   Life is not always a 3 ring sexual circus.  I don't care if a women is a porn star, a swinger, a freak, or simply free ... she's not ALWAYS going to be in full sexual overdrive.   It's easy for those of us in the business of fantasy to be the ideal woman ... you see what we want you to see.   When I have a headache, I don't go out and shoot.   When I am stressed over my kids, I'm not going to be blogging about it.  When I'm PMSing, I'm going to stay in my sweats on the couch and stay out of the world in general.   The women you share your lives with don't have that luxury ... you get all of them, the good and the bad.  Fantasy women are never upset with you over those $3000 golf clubs you just bought ... your wife actually has to juggle all the aspects of life with you.   That's the beauty of real life and the curse ... nobody can live up to the fantasy ideal - myself included.   Believe me, I have references!  I have no doubt that the men in my life have often wished they could trade the whole real me for that Miz B on the internet - she's just more fun!   

**Shameless plug alert :  If you want to test the waters with your lady and see what she really thinks/feels about some of these topics, pop a bottle, cuddle up and enjoy a trip through the shadowsexposed archive!**

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sexual Independence

Independence is a condition of a nationcountry, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over the territory. The opposite of independence is a dependent territory. - Wikipedia 
Another Independence Day has passed in the USA and got me to pondering that word, Independence.   I then started thinking of my childhood and the 70's and all the Independence Days from that time.  Along the mental journey, I thought about the sexual revolution, which I missed by a decade or two.

Krysta Kaos - 070713 - SideB

In that mighty revolution, people were not trying to get out from under an oppressive foreign government.  They were finally taking ownership of their sexuality and gender and shaking off the yokes of religious, political, and cultural dogma holding down their sexual lives.  They were striving for their sexual independence.

I can't imagine the sexual life prior to the sexual revolution where the genders had prescribed roles.  On tv, couples slept in separate beds.  Sex, for many, was a hidden pleasure that could not be celebrated.  For those in power, sex was their private playground they dabbled in with their wealth and prestige, but was kept as secret as possible.  If you were gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender,  or questioning, you were lucky if you were invisible, otherwise you could be prosecuted, beaten or killed for your sexuality.

Now if we fast forward to the present, many criticize the hyper-sexualization of media and culture and blame it on the relaxing of attitudes since the 1970's.  The recent civil rights struggles for equality in marriage are starting to turn to acceptance of gays and lesbians having the freedom to exchange nuptials.  Walgreens has a Sexual Wellness section online as well as in their physical stores that sell vibrators, lube, condoms, as well as pregnancy and other sexual health items.

So, at this time of celebrating freedom and independence, take a moment to think about what it means to be sexually free.  Question what is holding you back.  Is it culture, the system, or your own limitations?  Are the limitations reasonable or are they shackles, something you should fight against?  After contemplating all this, go have some fun with a partner, a group, or by yourself and celebrate your sexual independence day.

Chained - 070713 - Miz B

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

La Petite Mort

Earth-shattering, mind-numbing, toe-curling ecstasy!  Who doesn't love an orgasm?  To some this "little death" is elusive, to others an addiction.   Some live for it, others find it overrated.   They cum (pun intended!) in many forms and permutations, but orgasms are undeniably primal.   Just like you can't keep your eyes open when you sneeze, orgasms render us nearly useless in any other endeavor.  If a meteor falls on your house in the middle of one, you may not even notice!   In those precious few seconds, we surrender completely to our sexual essence ... liberated absolutely from our higher reasoning and other limits to raw, instinctive FEELING!

Le Petite Morte - 070213 - Image courtesy of Zakka

Orgasm is a moment of brutal honesty and vulnerability.  We are frozen in motion, unable to control our expressions, sounds, and movements.  I playfully tease one lover about his "grand mal orgasms" because I've learned to duck and cover - his convulsions are nearly violent and I've learned how best to dodge his flailing.   Humor aside, though, I am never left to ponder how it was for him ... never considering that he wasn't fully engaged ... always certain that his world is rocked to the core of the Earth and my work here is done (well, until he catches his breath!).   Orgasm is validation of our prowess and our passions.   Orgasm is a celebration by every cell in your body.  Hip hip hooray - let's go celebrate! :-D