I tried something new for a life drawing class: I posed with another model.
I had never posed with another model before for life drawing, male or female. Now, I was curling up naked with a man in the middle of a room full of strangers. A man who was twice my age, and who I had never met before in my life. You can imagine how nervous I was: there were a lot of ways for this to go horribly wrong.
I expected I would need to slowly learn his posing style and figure out his comfort level. I was wrong. He was a fantastic model, and as soon as we both stepped on the modeling stand, we connected. Over the next few hours, we moved through a series of poses that were never awkward or physically uncomfortable. It was easy to feel secure and let down my guard. I trusted him with my full body weight several times for longer poses—something I had been dreading beforehand.
The experience got me thinking: every time I’ve posed with another model for photography, I would get that same feeling of connection. It’s like dancing with someone that you just click with. You can anticipate their movements before they make them, and you don’t have to talk to communicate.
I suppose it makes sense that it would be easy to connect with other models. Modeling teaches you awareness of your own body language. You have to emote—you learn to use your face and whole body to convey emotions. And the more you learn to convey emotions, the easier it is to read the same thing in others.
But I think that this body language awareness that I’ve learned goes beyond modeling.
Before I started posing, I was a dyed-in-the-wool introvert. My idea of spending time with friends was rereading a book with a favorite protagonist. I was horrible at social events. I’ve been called “aloof,” “intimidating,” and even “ice queen” a couple of times.
Really, I was terrified of people and cripplingly shy. I understood characters in books—they made sense because you could just read what they were actually thinking. People, on the other hand? People were weird. You ran the risk of reading them wrong, and if you did, no narrator would clear it up.
I’ve noticed that as I’ve improved as a model, I’ve gotten better at interacting with people, too. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I’ve caught myself using modeling tricks when I talk to people. I use body language that makes me appear friendly and confident in an image. It helps me get past my fear, and gives me a tool to show who I really am to the people around me.
It helps me read people, too: now I can tell when someone else is uncomfortable or not. I don’t have to rely on reading it in a book anymore.
Do I still have a lot of work when it comes to relating to people socially? Yes, absolutely. I still feel awkward, and modeling didn’t teach me how to talk to people. But at least now I’m awkward and friendly—and I don’t assume the worst in people just because I can’t read them. And sometimes when I connect with someone, it feels as natural as posing with another model.