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Belt Craft

11 September 2015
Book a studio.
Invite a group of creative friends – photographers, painters, posers, performers – who are each willing to cover a share of the cost.
Converge on said studio one sunny September Sunday.
All get naked.
Make art.

Arty Shoots

This was Arty Shoots, a fully collaborative venture between artists and models, dreamt up by Natansky and Phil L. Its central concept was that like-minded individuals could come together in a clothing-optional environment, develop their ideas, create images and freely share the results.

There was an agreement to be signed but essentially our basis for collective working was one of mutual respect and trust. Most of the images created on the day would be photographs, although for some the ultimate intent was to reproduce them as fine oil paintings.

Photographers (togs) Darren Swindells, James W, Phil L and Scott Hortop arrived at Belt Craft Studios laden with gear and props. Painters Adrian and Morris also had their cameras and a sketch pad. Natansky and Violette Rose came as both models and photographers. Betty Rogers, LeeRex PaintMe, Louise, Sharon and I were there simply to model. We brought only our bodies.

Meet the models

beltcraft-01-steve-(scott)
© tog: Scott / model: Steve

beltcraft-02-louise-(morris)
© tog: Morris / model: Louise

beltcraft-03-betty-(nat)
© tog: Natansky / model: Betty Rogers

beltcraft-04-nat-(phil)
© tog: Phil L / model: Natansky

beltcraft-05-violette-(phil)
© tog: Phil L / model: Violette Rose

beltcraft-06-sharon-(darren)
© tog: Darren / model: Sharon

beltcraft-07-lee-(scott)
© tog: Scott / model: LeeRex PaintMe

We posed solo and sometimes in combination: duos, trios or even large groups that included the nude photographers. For me, it was lovely to work with Louise again. We had previously posed together at the Babylon photo shoot just three Sundays before, and found an immediate professional rapport that we carried into Belt Craft.

beltcraft-08-louise-steve-(scott)
© tog: Scott / models: Steve, Louise

beltcraft-09-louise-steve-(violette)
© tog: Violette Rose / models: Steve, Louise

beltcraft-10-louise-steve-(scott)
© tog: Scott / models: Louise, Steve

Sunlight and shadows graced our bare skin as we ranged across the studio’s brushed leather sofa. Angles and contrasts were interpreted uniquely by each photographer. when I posed solo on the same sofa, it was with shoulders arched down to the floor. The stark images captured by Violette were among my favourites from the day.

beltcraft-11-steve-(violette)
© tog: Violette Rose / model: Steve

beltcraft-12-steve-(violette)
© tog: Violette Rose / model: Steve

Photography

As models in situ, we had little way of knowing how our poses were being perceived and recorded. Similarly we couldn’t know which finished works the photographers would choose to express in colour, and which would be monochrome. It was fascinating to see the final mixture of styles.

beltcraft-13-louise-(morris)
© tog: Morris / model: Louise

beltcraft-14-steve-(phil)
© tog: Phil L / model: Steve

beltcraft-15-sharon-(scott)
© tog: Scott / model: Sharon

beltcraft-16-lee-violette-(darren)
© tog: Darren / models: LeeRex PaintMe, Violette Rose

beltcraft-17-betty-(phil)
© tog: Phil L / model: Betty Rogers

beltcraft-18-nat-(scott)
© tog: Scott / model: Natansky

Yet it wasn’t just the photographers who called the shots. Models could suggest or adopt poses and, if they captured the imagination of anyone with a camera, a shoot would begin. When Louse and I next crossed paths we took the initiative with a series of tango-influenced postures.

beltcraft-19-louise-steve-(scott)
© tog: Scott / model: Steve, Louise

beltcraft-20-louise-steve-(nat)
© tog: Natansky / model: Steve, Louise

beltcraft-21-louise-steve-(james)
© tog: James / model: Steve, Louise

The informal freedom with which anyone could interact meant that sometimes models were photographed off-guard while relaxing. This resulted in some wonderfully natural shots. I was taking time out on one of Belt Craft’s many sofas when Scott and Nat glided towards me, their cameras at the ready…

beltcraft-22-steve-(nat)
© tog: Natansky / model: Steve

beltcraft-23-steve-(scott)
© tog: Scott / model: Steve

Props

Opening the door to Belt Craft had been like uncovering a treasure trove of bric-a-brac. Studio props lined every wall. Put alongside the pieces we’d brought ourselves, there was much to play with: a tin bath, furniture, a rocking horse, a pommel horse, punch bag, pick handle, lamp shades, acoustic guitar, bicycle, crash helmets, gas mask, balaclava, giant Rubik’s Cube, cargo net, suitcases, to name but a few.

beltcraft-24-louise-(nat)
© tog: Natansky / model: Louise

beltcraft-25-violette-(nat)
© tog: Natansky / model: Violette Rose

beltcraft-26-louise-(morris)
© tog: Morris / model: Louise

beltcraft-27-lee-(nat)
© tog: Natansky / model: LeeRex PaintMe

beltcraft-28-betty-louise-(phil)
© tog: Phil L / model: Louise, Betty Rogers

beltcraft-29-lee-(nat)
© tog: Natansky / model: LeeRex PaintMe

beltcraft-30-betty-(phil)
© tog: Phil L / model: Betty Rogers

beltcraft-31-nat-(nat)
© tog: Natansky / model: Natansky

One of the more challenging items was a length of rope that Darren secured tightly between two ceiling beams. He and I both attempted to hang from it crucifix-style with outstretched arms, but found it horribly strenuous, lasting only a few seconds. Then Louise tried, and within moments was swinging as light as a butterfly.

beltcraft-32-louise-(phil)
© tog: Phil L / model: Louise

Being a minimalist at heart, I tend to prefer the simplicity of just a nude human body shot in sympathy with its surroundings. Very few, if any, of my own poses involved the use of props, which perhaps limited my range on the day. Even so, Nat and Scott managed to make fair use of my unadorned form in a variety of settings.

beltcraft-33-steve-(nat)
© tog: Natansky / model: Steve

beltcraft-34-steve-(scott)
© tog: Scott / model: Steve

beltcraft-35-steve-(nat)
© tog: Natansky / model: Steve

beltcraft-36-steve-(scott)
© tog: Scott / model: Steve

If the simplicity of a nude human body is to be embellished in any way, then the ideal compliment is a second nude human body. Whether harmonious or contrasting, the duo poses always provided an extra degree of dynamism, maybe even suggesting a subtle narrative – in sympathy if not exact symmetry.

beltcraft-37-louise-steve-(morris)
© tog: Morris / model: Louise, Steve

Serendipity

Occasionally the magic of a great shot would about by pure chance. For instance, during the development of a floor pose in which I would appear gently to lift Louise’s limp body, an unknown person picked up Phil’s unattended camera and captured the image below. It was an opportunist act that found the perfect angle at the perfect moment.

beltcraft-38-louise-steve-(phil)
© tog: unknown / model: Steve, Louise

Another tender tableau was caught towards the end of our time at Belt Craft. Violette was to be photographed laying on bare floorboards, her skin decorated from head to toe with freshly cut chrysanthemums. While Natansky and I worked meticulously to balance small flower heads across her taut body, Scott quietly photographed the three of us in what turned out to be the best ‘behind the scenes’ shot of the day.

beltcraft-39-nat-violette-steve-(scott)
© tog: Scott / model: Steve, Violette Rose, Natansky

Even when we were all done, back in our clothes with gear and props packed away, good things could still happen. With his very last shot, James used manual settings to focus close-up on the paint cracks of a door frame while three of us conversed, casually unaware, in the blur of his background. With chill-out music playing, it was the perfect image to send us home.

beltcraft-40-louise-morris-steve-(james)
© tog: James / models: Morris, Louise, Steve

More besides

The images here are merely my personal top 40 selected from hundreds taken on the day – many of which remain unseen by anyone but their photographer. Elsewhere we have shots of nude models hanging from beams and girders, leaning out of windows, sitting on the lavatory, and even being hosed down with cold water – all for art’s sake.

With seven models came seven different body types, each worn with magnificent confidence and personality, each applied to poses that expressed their individuality, exuberance and character. The photographers brought ease, energy and enthusiasm that struck a common chord with those in front of the lens. We had a lot of fun.

All these things came to pass on 28 September 2014. There had been Arty Shoots before and there have been Arty Shoots since. So far this is the only one in which I’ve taken part. In the right circumstances it would be a pleasure to repeat the experience, but some days are just that little bit special. To recreate the format may be practical; to rediscover the spirit would be divine.

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From → Art

One Comment
  1. Adrian Henderson. permalink

    Best day I have had in a long time.

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