What’s The Real Alternative?
First there was comedy. Suit-wearing middle-aged men in working men’s clubs and on our most popular TV shows telling jokes about mothers-in-law. And then came “alternative” comedy. Younger, casually dressed, men – and women – telling jokes about absolutely anything and everything, including subjects which had previously been taboo. In time, the men in suits began to disappear, or adapt, and the “alternative” comics became the most visible form of comedy in the media. At some point, the term “alternative” ceased to be used, just as it ceased to be relevant.
Browse any of the model/photographer interface sites, even the mainstream ones, such as Model Mayhem, Purestorm, or PurplePort and you’ll see lots of models listed as “alternative”, or simply “alt”. And you’ll find plenty of castings for “alternative models” placed by photographers too. And over the last couple of years we’ve run a few “Alternative Studio Evenings” at Fotofilia.
But I have a couple of questions about the “alternative” label…
- What actually IS “alternative” (in modelling terms)?
- At what point does alternative become the mainstream?
Someone once told me that “alternative” was another word for “tattooed”. I’m not convinced that that’s very accurate but then I can’t really come up with a better… erm… alternative. According to our old mate, Wikipedia, alternative is…
“…a branch of the modelling industry that features models who do not conform to mainstream ideals of beauty. Alternative models are often niche-specific, with a personal style that represents subcultures like goth, burlesque, latex and fetishism. An alternative model may for example be tattooed, pierced, or have distinctively subcultural hair (shaved, dyed a distinctively unnatural colour, mohawk, or in dreadlocks). Alternative modeling can be clothed or unclothed. Alternative modeling was given substantial mainstream media coverage in the last decade, partly through the creation and popularisation of community-based alternative modeling sites, like GodsGirls, SuicideGirls and BlueBlood. Alternative modeling community sites promoted their models for their personality as well as for their looks and portfolio.”
Yeah, okay, that’ll do for me. But with the proliferation of this branch of the modelling industry gaining ground, at what point does it cease to be truly “alternative”? I don’t know. What i do know is that I like the added variety it has brought to modelling. There was a time when unless you looked a certain way – either beautiful in a classical/fashion kind of way (tall, bones structure, flawless complexion etc), or glamourous in a glamour kind of way (well, busty), you simply didn’t go into modelling. Or at least it was hard for photographers to find you if you did. I welcome this broader aesthetic and think photography is all the richer for it, but a part of me is always wondering when it will no longer be alternative and what will be the next thing to challenge it’s hegemony.
The images shown here are from Fotofilia’s “Alternative Studio Events”. Look out for new events on the “Learn” page of http://www.fotofilia.co.uk.