So You Think You Can Hand Model?

Every single thing that I have learned in my life has come into play at some other time when I least expect it to. For instance, in university I studied Italian art as the major component of my minor in Fine Arts History. While the aim was to provide me with an enriched understanding of the world around me, it weaved its way into my photography this week. Michelangelo studied the human body and moved it into positions to that it became a beautiful ideal to behold. He was a master of form and flesh.

The hands mirror the grinder to form two similar bulbs that push and pull..

I am not Michelangelo, but I was able to call him to mind when I began my latest work on a series of pepper grinders for Padinox Inc. I have to admit that I liked this particular product quite a bit, and am going to take the luxury of some time to produce a wide variety of images to match the quality of each piece. The main hurdle to overcome was how to shoot these in the studio – I needed some hands to hold each grinder. Fortunately, my good friend Gina was able to spare some time to come down and help me out by being my hand model for thirty-six minutes.

The hands create an angular rectangle that pinches, yet supports, the shape.

Hands are one of those fetishisms that some photographers become drawn to in their fine art work; they focus on hands as a window into a person’s hard life. I was never particularly into hands, myself, but by channeling some of the basic aesthetics I learned from Michelangelo I approached the series with a keen eye towards making each image unique, matching the form of the wood and perhaps playing with the slightly seductive.

Like the mind of a chess player, this is a complex, expressive pose - almost like a lotus flower opening.

Frankly, it was a fun experience to attempt to consider something intrinsically commercial as art. It was also fun to see how something as simple as two hands can produce many subtle connotations from how they are positioned in relation to each other and a third object. My M.A. thesis was on sexuality, vampires and part-objectication, so I understand how the human mind creates metaphors with random objects, and I think I was able to objectify the hands to create connections beyond the individual parts. The hands are disembodied, but retain their ability to attract and hold our attention as part-objects.

The bamboo is pulled in tension from both ends of the hourglass shape.

Women are funny about their hands. I would have expected my female friends to be eager to have the chance to jokingly say: “I did some modelling for a photographer in my younger days.” Nope. Na da. Not my hands. Perhaps I underestimate how self-conscious female nature is. I heard a lot of self-deprecating comments about what was ugly about each woman’s hands: nails, wrinkles, eczema, scars, spots, finger length. I am not sure that men think about their hands in the same fashion. I am curious now as to whether other men think of women’s hands as objects of desire. Fortunately for me, Gina was cool with the hands, as long as it was only her hands. I should note that I have heard many women comment on how much they love their feet, but that I cannot imagine any cookware that involves naked feet demonstrating it use.

The thumb drapes down the side of the modern wood like the long leg of a tango dancer.

So from my minimal experience what makes a good hand model [or any model for that matter]? One feature is the ability to follow directions with accuracy. The little details like being able to move single digits to match the instructions of the photographer. Another is that hands need to be delicate; fingers need to be slender and curvy. Finally, patience and a sense of humour makes thirty six minutes of holding pieces of wood under blinding lights go by so much faster. Major props go out to Gina for taking the time to help me out – in these days of crazy, so few people help any one.

I doubt that Gina will give up her day job just yet, but to quote David Duchovny’s character in the film, Zoolander:

“I’m a hand model, mama. A finger jockey. We think differently than the face and body boys… we’re a different breed.”




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