As I consider topics for this blog, I consider what’s important to me or discuss situations I have come across. Sometimes, it’s just a concept that I consider. As I had time recently laying in a hospital bed and recovering at home, one topic kept coming to mind but I wasn’t sure how to approach it. One consideration that can be positive but also a dangerous thing to keep in mind when working with models. How am I going to feel about them? What is a muse to me?
Miriam Webster defines a muse as a source of inspiration. The word also means to ponder; “implies a definite focusing of one's thoughts on something so as to understand it deeply”; “focused daydreaming”; “implies going over the same matter in one's thoughts again and again”.
“The Muses were the nine Greek goddesses who presided over the arts (including music) and literature. A shrine to the Muses was called in Latin a museum. An artist or poet about to begin work would call on his particular Muse to inspire him, and a poem itself might begin with such a call; thus, Homer's Odyssey begins, "Sing to me of the man, Muse" (that is, of Odysseus). Today a muse may be one's special creative spirit, but some artists and writers have also chosen living human beings to serve as their muses.”
I like to meet a subject before we work out a concept for our shoot. I have many ideas but until I meet someone, knowing what will work is a gamble. I often have chatted on social media or messages with a subject and have an idea of their thought processes and a life outlook. I know I am generalizing a lot so when we finally meet, I can start formulating how I can visualize a final idea with them. I believe a connection is very important and it’s this connection that you are capturing for the time you are working together.
I have spoken with photographers who say my approach is going too far and they just shoot the model and go. It’s just work. However, when I asked if they are attracted to the model in some way, they all say yes. Most deny a physical attraction and some may be honest in their assessment. My unasked question is that if there is no physical attraction and they don’t want to know the model at all, what are they attracted to?
I understand the attraction to beauty and a beautiful image. Sometimes that is what I am aiming for too. Often though, for me, I like deeper concepts and those who know my work know that I often use Psychology as a concept. Now, when I chose this path with a subject, I see something in them that inspires that concept. They suit it. They know it. That’s how the work looks believable. The difficulty arises when what occurs is something referred to in Psychology as Transference or more accurately, Counter Transference.
Transference is when a patient or client transfers feelings they have for someone in their life onto the therapist. Counter Transference is when the therapist transfers feelings onto a client or patient. Can this process be evident in an artist - muse relationship too? I believe so.
I also think that it is absolutely possible to fall for a subject. I have to admit after working with someone, I have feelings for this person. I have to. The connection is important to me and my work so it’s obvious I will feel something toward them. I am emotionally intelligent enough to know what constitutes physical attraction and what is emotional attraction and what I feel towards a subject. I try very hard to avoid physical attraction and when I do, I aim to contain that biological drive. I do not and have not ever acted on it.
Once in a while, a muse will come into my life and they inspire me emotionally. I feel a lot for them. Not only in photography but through out my life. In photography, I am smart enough to know I am an older man and they are very attractive and younger women. Biologically, it’s inevitable I may be physically drawn to them and by being honest with myself and being very aware of this, I can monitor and direct my desire. Emotionally, it is harder.
There is one subject I felt a great deal for. I cared for her. She inspired me. She was my muse. She continues to be although we haven’t worked together for a long time. It’s difficult and this is the dangerous part I referred to. This woman inspires my songwriting and my concepts in photography. I wonder how she is doing when I am daydreaming over coffee. To be absolutely honest, it hurts. I know there is no chance of anything other than this longing and feeling of unrequited ‘love’. Yet, it inspires me and drives me to express myself. Isn’t this the purpose of an artist? To share their experiences and life through their work? Maybe it helps others recognize their own pain or feelings.
How many artists’ work are driven by this passion? How many songs, how many famous paintings, and how many poems? Is this a part of being a deep feeling artist? A consequence of the muse?