‘What it is like to be me’ is a series shining a light on people living and working in Southland. This week reporter PETRINA WRIGHT found out what it is like to be Shannon Taylor, a nude model.
DRAPED among the rocks on a Riverton beach enduring the cold of the ocean and a sandfly invasion without a stitch of clothing for protection is all in a day’s work for Invercargill fine art nude model Shannon Taylor.
Shannon has been working as a nude model for about three years after being approached by fine-art photographer Cory Varcoe.
“I was excited by the opportunity,” she said.
“I had been following his work for a while and I absolutely love it.”
When Cory approached her, she had just returned home from travelling overseas and felt on top of the world, she said.
“I felt I could do anything and when that opportunity came up I thought, why not.
“I didn’t want to look back in years to come and wished I had done it.”
Having known others who had modelled for Cory and being familiar with his work, had also influenced her decision to give it a go, she said.
She had felt really nervous at first, but Cory had been “incredibly professional” in how he approached the shoot, she said.
On finding out she was a nude model, no-one had ever said anything negative or derogatory to her about it. Even her mother was really supportive, she said.
“People were more concerned and more inquisitive, and asked a lot of questions.”
The Riverton beach shoot earlier this year was a one-off, she said. Normally they worked out of the studio.
“[The beach shoot] was about trying to get the body to mimic nature.”
The biggest challenges posed by the outdoor location were avoiding the gaze of passersby and the sandflies, she said.
“I was bitten alive, but the pictures he got out of it were worth it.”
Shannon said thinking nude modelling was the same as pornography was the most common misconception people had.
“To me there is a massive difference.
“Nude modelling has been going on for centuries and centuries. It is not sexualised, whereas pornography is more suggestive… which is not what I am doing.”
Nor did she did think Cory’s work objectified women.
“It is about embracing the human form.
“[Cory’s art] is quite ambiguous and for that reason it does not objectify women,” she said.
Modelling was often associated with severely underweight models, but Shannon said her weight was not relevant.
“I appreciate Cory takes models who are all shapes and sizes.”
At her first shoot, she was about 15kg heavier than she was now, and when she viewed the photographs of herself taken then and now, they looked “equally amazing”, she said.
She could not afford to become underweight, she said, as it was important she maintained a healthy weight for the other roles in her life.
You would be wrong to pigeon-hole Shannon based on the stereotypes nude modelling or her slight build and well-groomed, attractive appearance may throw up.
Shannon Taylor truly is the embodiment of the saying – ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.
“It’s cool to break stereotypes,” she said.
By day, the 26-year-old model is a crane operator at a Southland business.
She was part of a “really good crew” at her workplace, which had accepted her as part of the team, she said.
Shannon’s workmates found out she worked as a nude model last month.
Their reaction? “It was a positive reaction. They made a few jokes, but nothing offensive.”
Shannon said she had not set an end date for her modelling career at this stage.
“[But] it is hard work. The poses you have to get yourself into, it’s beyond yoga.”
Being a nude model was a liberating experience, something she recommended others should try.
“You learn to appreciate your body when you see it under a light like that,” she said.
“It improves your self-confidence and your body image.
“The way [Cory] captures your body, is not how you see yourself. He makes it more beautiful.”