Eleanor Rose: There’s something intoxicating in being able to mold my body into art. For me it has always been a journey of discovery. Sometimes it’s a discovery of my body – can I make this pose work? Can I climb this tree or hang from this hook? Sometimes it’s the discovery of a story, of a vision that the photograph and I are bringing to life simultaneously. Sometimes it’s a discovery of self. But it’s always, ALWAYS, a discovery, and that adventure is what keeps me booking more shoots. What might I discover next?
DJ Cobalt 60: Acknowledging the role it plays in your work, what does the female form mean to you?
Eleanor Rose: I’m finding this question rather difficult to answer – it’s near impossible for me to discuss the female form in the abstract. There is no one ideal female form, and part of my journey as a nude model has been that realization. The female form is whatever form a female comes in, regardless of shape, size, or genitalia, and what I love most about that is the people, stories, and creativity that come attached to those forms.
With that said, I also view my exploration of my female form through art as an emotional and spiritual journey. It’s about acceptance, beauty, healing, and love. It’s about expansion, of myself and of my ideals, my dreams… It’s about letting go of preconceptions and appreciating the human body as it is, and through that appreciating my body as it is.
DJ Cobalt 60: Has the way you viewed your own body changed much since becoming a model? Growing up did you consider beauty and femininity attributed to a certain look or ideal image?
Eleanor Rose: Growing up, beauty and femininity were not attributed to certain looks so much as values. The ideal woman was humble, selfless, and modest. I was raised to tailor my image for others – I had to care about how I looked, how others might perceive me, to be presentable…but I also wasn’t supposed to take pride in my appearance. On top of that, it was made very clear to me that it was my responsibility to ensure that men were not tempted by me. As a woman, it was my job to protect their virtue.
As a result, I hated my body. I never would have admitted that, even to myself, but in many ways that hatred was my only option. By 17 I had DDDs, a tiny waist, and big hips. I measured at 36-26-36: a perfect hourglass. I’d wear sweat pants and a baggy t-shirt to hide my body and still get catcalled. I did my best to dress down, to hide my body, and I was still assaulted – and the only frame of reference I had was that the assault was my fault, that if I had been modest and demure enough, somehow hidden my body even more, they never would have been tempted by me. I felt trapped in my own body, a body I actually liked (save for the fact that I was blamed for its size and shape, factors I couldn’t control).
Becoming a model was my first step towards rejecting that paradigm. Through my journey as a model I reclaimed control of my body, and embraced an autonomy that not only gave myself all the rights and responsibilities that came with freedom, but acknowledged that others had those same rights and responsibilities. Men could police themselves – it was no longer my responsibility to make myself undesirable in order to save them from themselves. I embraced the ideas that nudity is not inherently sexual, that sexuality is not inherently an invitation, and that I can enjoy being a sexual being just for myself, without owing anyone sex regardless of whether I turned them on or not. And I was able, through that, to begin to love my body exactly as it is.
DJ Cobalt 60: How long have you been modeling and what got you interested in the art-form?
Eleanor Rose: I’ve always been told that I should be a model. My mom loved the idea and tried to get me into fashion and commercial work on several occasions when I was younger. When I decided to give it another shot at 17 I was really just looking for a quick and easy way to make money, but I fell in love with modeling as an artistic outlet before I realized that freelance modeling is NOT a quick and easy way to make some cash.
I started out with “NO NUDES, I HAVE MORALS” emblazoned across my Model Mayhem profile. It was horribly immature and unprofessional, but I had a very knee jerk reaction to the idea at first. I sort of hated that I loved the form, and was repelled by the idea of doing it myself because it was everything I’d ever been taught was wrong. I’d first fallen in love with artistic nudes on a trip to the Vatican the summer prior – the sculptures there were breathtaking and evoked phenomenal emotion, and I was hooked. So though I swore I’d never pose nude myself, I eagerly consumed as much as I could of the genre, falling in love with everything from classical and figure nudes to beautiful outdoor panoramas in which the model was only a small part of the image. I even found myself drawn to the stories and atmosphere of well-done glamour and erotic work.
Eventually, I started imagining myself in those images and wondering if I could create art that profound. I eased myself into the genre, assuming I’d try it once or twice and be done. Nearly six years later I’m hooked: still very much in love with the genre, still aching to push myself and grow and always, always, continuing exceeding myself and make art even better than what I’ve done before. I have pieces that will always be favorites, but every time I get a new batch of images from a shoot I am giddy like a child on Christmas day, thrilled to see what I created, to examine my temporary favorites and see what I did right, where my experimental poses succeeded, and what I can improve on next time.
DJ Cobalt 60: What fuels your creativity these days? Are there any models or photographers who have shaped or influenced your own style?
Eleanor Rose: These days I’m not shooting quite as much as I’d like to be. I was in a car accident and have had to cut back due to injuries – it’s important to me that I keep this sustainable and not re-injure myself. So when I do shoot, it’s very important to me that I’m fueling myself creatively and filling that deep soul need to make art. As for what fuels that creativity – that’s so expansive. I’m inspired by the art I see my peers creating, by landscapes and sunsets and run down shacks in the middle of nowhere, by the light falling on a bare wall at a certain time of day…. I never expected to be someone whose reaction to seeing something beautiful was “I need to find someone with a camera and get naked here, stat!” But it happened. Recently I’ve been really loving creating dreamy ethereal work, shooting a certain flavor of art/glamour/erotic all combined as I flow through poses. I love connection, with the camera, with the environment, and I love being able to just flow and play and experiment.
There are so many models whose work have influenced my style throughout the years. When I started I was hugely influenced by a model named Artemis Bare, who I feel lucky to now count as a friend. She was the first model I surprised my partner with by thrusting a photo of a nude woman at him exclaiming delightedly about how pretty it was before he even ever saw me naked. After that, models who have been particularly influential include Carlotta Champagne, Melissa Trout, Jessi June, Anastasia Arteyeva, Laura Unbound, Lauren Rose Arrows,Jordan Bunniie, and Freshie Juice, though I’ve had to narrow that down quite a bit. I have so much love for all my friends and peers in the freelance modeling world, and they all inspire me on a regular basis.
DJ Cobalt 60: While we’re on the topic of style I’d like to ask you a few questions about the use of nudity in your work. I know modeling nude has had a profound effect on you, you even went as far as to suggest for everyone at least once in their life pose nude for the camera, which I feel speaks to modeling’s hostile symbiotic relationship with its subjects. I’ve spoken to many models who were very shy and embarrassed by their bodies until they did the very last thing they ever wanted to do and place themselves and their bodies under the spot light for people to look at. Modeling is what gave them the confidence to feel comfortable with their body and all its imperfections. When you first started modeling you took your time before deciding to pose nude, what ultimately made you become comfortable with the idea of incorporating nudity into your work and how do you prepare yourself for your first nude shoot?
Eleanor Rose: As I referenced in a prior question, it was a huge shift for me to even consider posing nude. I went over a period of about a year from considering it a horrible sin to considering it the best thing I’d ever done for myself (something I still believe). I definitely made that transition slowly – first I learned to appreciate the art, then I considered trying it, then I eased myself into lingerie work, though I was profoundly uncomfortable with it and did very little at the time because it felt more sexual. Next I moved into implied nude work, which was predictably awkward but got me used to being nude in front of photographers in a non-sexual manner, without having images of me fully nude online. When I decided to try full out nudity I had some important decisions to make: I had a photographer I had worked with before offering me $6k for my first nude shoot, but only if it was my first ever time posing nude, and it would be posted online. As much as I could have used the money, I chose to turn him down. I wasn’t comfortable with the offer, and it was important to me that I knew for sure I was making the decision to pose nude because I wanted to and not for money. (I later pieced together that he must have been shooting for a pay site oriented to a first timer fetish – there’s nothing wrong with that by itself, but it is something that should be fully disclosed and consented to, not hidden while waiving a bunch of money at a vulnerable young college student. I was right not to trust him.)
I set up my first nude shoot with a female photographer who was shooting film for her class final, which would be shown to the class but nowhere else. She took some digital images as well with my permission, and we agreed that images would only be posted online if I consented to such after reviewing them. It took weeks for her to develop all the images, and it must have been nearly a month or two later when we were finally able to meet for me to finally see them. When I first saw them I was blown away – though I look back now and see in my face how young I was, at the time it was the first time I’d ever seen myself as a woman. And I looked so strong and confident in these images, so unlike the scared, timid little girl I felt like. It was a confidence boost like no other.
DJ Cobalt 60: On occasion you have posed nude with your legs open fully exposing your genitals, this tends to be a bit of a touchy issue within modeling and photography. A large number of people within and outside the industries feel that when a woman reveals all of her anatomy for the camera the images she is creating suddenly become porn. Why do you feel a need to cross this so-called taboo line and pose in a more graphic manner than what is typically accepted? I personally would like to note that I feel there tends to be a double standard where photographers can take pictures of women with their legs open and still be seen as a serious artist whereas the women who he has pose for him are not.
Eleanor Rose: I don’t so much feel a need to create such content as I don’t feel a need not to. I didn’t start that way, certainly. For a while I would pose nude but not in lingerie because lingerie was more sexually suggestive. Just like I had to grow comfortable with the concept of nudity and loving my body, I had to become comfortable with my innate sexuality. I now see myself very much as a sexual being, and I love expressing that in my art along with all the other aspects of myself.
Personally, I feel that being able to see genitals doesn’t make an image porn any more than nudity does. With that said, there is a huge overlap between porn and art, and I don’t believe that there is a solid line or that the two need to be mutually exclusive. Some of what I create, while artistic, is meant to be sexually charged. I usually classify that as erotic art – I don’t consider it porn until it becomes explicit, though I know many people have differing opinions. I also have images where my labia are clearly showing that were not created with sexual intent, and I don’t consider those to be porn at all, and many I don’t even consider to be erotic (though some do fall within my definition of erotic art). But to be frank, I really don’t care much about that distinction, or about how people classify my images. My experience has shown that even if I took an image in the most unflattering outfit and pose I could think of someone, somewhere, would masturbate to it. So I’m not going to let a fear of being seen as sexual stop me – I’d rather own and embrace my sexuality and use it how I see fit.
I mentioned earlier that I have a style of my own that is a melding of art, glamour, and eroticism – I love all three, and I’m fascinated by the way they merge into each other. A certain pose could be straight art with one facial expression, but changing just the expression could suddenly make it glamour, or erotic. When I’m hired for just one genre I’ll certainly listen if the photographer definitely doesn’t want anything approaching, say, glamour during an art nude shoot, but I’d much rather just pose and run fluidly through the genres as comes naturally than try to distinguish them into tidy little boxes. Why make art and sexuality mutually exclusive? Nudity doesn’t equal sexuality, but sexuality doesn’t equal bad either.
DJ Cobalt 60: Unfortunately and I think this is important to bring up because people need to take this into account if they are going to model nude, your work has caused some friction between you and some of your loved ones, did you anticipate the possibility of your art effecting your personal life the way it has?
Eleanor Rose: I actually created a video about the topic recently! (https://youtu.be/eFAc3Jyad5E) I did a lot of research before I chose to pose nude, and I knew that I needed to be prepared for my family finding out some day. I didn’t expect them to find out within a few months, and the experience was really traumatic – I was still living with them at the time. I moved out shortly after, and my relationship with my parents remained tumultuous. I actually stopped talking to them at all for a year, though there were a few other factors involved in that decision. When I chose to renew my relationships with them I set clear boundaries, among which I included an end to conversations in which they tried to convince me to leave my career. Those conversations only ever caused more harm than good – there’s really no good way to respond to “if you really loved us you would stop this because it’s hurting us”. If they ever want to have a non-violent conversation about why I chose this path I’d be open to it, and my mom and I have had a few conversations about the ways that it has empowered me to stand up for myself and set boundaries, but I doubt they’ll ever be truly ok with my choices. That’s really painful – I hate that I’m hurting them, but I can’t turn my back on who I am because of it.
I also knew going in that it would limit future job possibilities, though I have to admit that I’m still tempted to eventually run for some sort of political office using my nude work as a platform – stir up the pot a little with radical transparency and an incredibly unlikely candidate. Lord knows that between the modeling and my new company, Empowered Muses, I’ll have the necessary experience. Shoot planning as a freelance model is nothing if not an extended lesson on diplomacy.
In a lot of other ways I’m really lucky though. My partner of six years has been with me since I started and is my biggest supporter. I’ve heard stories from friends who really struggle to date as a nude model, or who thought their partners were ok with it only to have them blow up in a fit of jealousy. I also was incredibly grateful that I didn’t lose friends when I told them what I was doing, and now I always tell potential new friends what I do up front – I’m not interested in being friends with anyone who can’t handle knowing that I’m a nude model. This has made it a bit more difficult to make friends in a new area after moving, but it’s also a great way to weed out bigots.
Overall, even though I did my research, I wasn’t prepared for the ways it’s effected my personal life. Luckily, they’ve mostly been positive. I never expected my work as a nude model to mean so much to me, or to introduce me to so many wonderful, creative people that I absolutely adore. I have such a wonderful circle of friends and peers and fans who have enriched my life greatly, and I never would have had that if I hadn’t been willing to deal with the difficult aspects of this career as well.
DJ Cobalt 60: I know you never got the chance to break the news to your family like you wanted to, looking back now would you have told them as soon as possible?
Eleanor Rose: Absolutely not. I chose not to tell my family for good reasons: I was living with them, so it was a matter of safety, and I also didn’t want to hurt them that way or deal with the harm it did to our relationship. I regret that they found out without me telling them, and I likely would have told them (at least my mother) eventually, but telling them sooner would not have been the correct way to deal with that situation.
If anything, I regret that my mother’s relentless prodding early on, her accusations that if I truly wasn’t ashamed of what I do I would tell other family members, caused me to tell some of my extended family before I was ready. I’ll never recover the relationships I used to have with some of them. I just didn’t know how to have those conversations yet, how to set boundaries or stand up for myself, and it became awkward for everyone.
DJ Cobalt 60: I personally would like to compliment you on your range as model, your figure work is genius, if all you did was fine art nude figure work you’d still be one of my favorite models but, you work in tons of different genres and no matter what genre you always do the genre justice while still retaining who you are and what your look is. By this I mean you’ll do a glamour shoot that’s as straight up as glamour as you can get yet, still keep your hairy armpits. I find that so cool and admirable because I love to see models who aren’t agency standard or a specific genre’s standard shoot photos you never get to see them do. I consider photos like these to be gifts because they shouldn’t exist according to the rules of the industry and yet they do in spite of popular belief. Has working in so many different genres been easy for you?
Eleanor Rose: I really do love playing with different genres, as I’m sure my answers to previous questions have revealed. In fact, I think that I’ve already adequately answered the last part of this question, so let’s tackle what you alluded to when you mentioned shooting glamour with armpit hair.
I really strongly believe that my modeling should always be an expression of who I am as a person. There are certain things I might not do with my body because they will too strongly affect my brand (get a tattoo, for instance), but that’s in cases where they aren’t as important to me as the modeling. If I felt that a tattoo was absolutely necessary for me to be myself then I would get one, period. At some point I realized that I feel very strongly about my body hair and no longer wanted to shave it for shoots, so I stopped. A few people have refused to work with me because of it, and I’ll never know how many have chosen to just never approach me in the first place, but overall it hasn’t really affected my bookings that much. And it was important to me that I continue shooting the same sort of content – I’m no less sexy now that I’ve chosen to have body hair, and I feel that representation is super important. If even one person realizes that they can be sexy and confident in their body as a result of my work, however they choose to maintain it, I have succeeded.
DJ Cobalt 60: Is there a specific genre that is your favorite or one you would like to work more in or try?
Eleanor Rose: Ummm…. If climbing and hanging on things can be considered a genre, let’s go with that. I certainly consider it my specialty.
DJ Cobalt 60: What is an image of yours that you believe best represents your style and aesthetic and what was the situation surrounding it?
Eleanor Rose: The image I chose is very important to me. As I mentioned, I consider climbing and hanging as my specialty, one of my favorite types of posing and one of the things that makes me distinct as a model. Unfortunately, after my car accident I was unable to do any work like that for a very long time. Even after I was allowed to start modeling again, my body couldn’t handle that sort of stress. I have three dislocated ribs still, and at the beginning it was just impossible to do anything that would use the muscles along my chest wall.
A few days before the accident I shot with photographer Mike Narciso. He has this great studio setup where he can hang hooks and rings from the ceiling for people to interact with, and I decided to grab the ring that was up there, walk up the wall next to it, and tuck my legs up through my arms so I just hung there like a pendulum. The result was this stunning image where I’m hanging, protected, in a fetal position. Throughout the long months of recovery I would stare at that image as a reminder of what my body had been capable of and what I was determined to get back to. So when I was finally recovered enough to give it another shot I returned to that studio. I went slowly, making sure that I didn’t injure myself, and found out that I still couldn’t hang my weight from my arms for any long period of time. So I adapted and decided to go one step further – I hung from my legs instead. The image surpassed even the original, and out of all the images I consider to be favorites this one brings me the most joy. This image is a symbol of success, of triumph, of my unwillingness to let the trauma I have been through stop me from expressing myself.