In My Day…How Modelling used to be in the DARK AGES!

I was on my shoot yesterday and we started talking about how things used to be. I thought some of the newer models starting now might be curious as to how modelling was ‘when I were a lass’…

1) Everyone smoked in the studio

YUK! Everyone (apart from me) smoked, inside, constantly. It was grim. Make up artists would have a fag in their mouth whilst doing my make up, daintily blowing smoke to the side of my face (as if that made any difference).

Studios would become an inescapable fug of second hand smoke, and it was really horrible. I am so happy about that smoking ban, as I don’t have to head home after a shoot smelling like I’d been out in the club for hours…

2) Trips were common and well-paid

Trips still happen, but they’re few and far between. There used to be way more high street magazines (online blogs have killed those. Oops.), and they’d all go on three or four trips a year. Plus the trips would be incredible – Cuba, India, Thailand, Caribbean islands, the Amazon…it was all about finding an incredible location, rather than a cheap location company.

Plus you’d be taken out for one or two weeks. I remember going to India for a fortnight, staying in a palace and doing two shoots and being paid half rate for days off. It was ridiculous! And awesome.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 18.21.46This was shot in an Indian palace, where I stayed. I was actually that colour. 

Obviously it’s incredible to be going to away for your job, but I can’t deny it’s changed. Trips are way shorter – 3 or four days – and you’re expected to do at least four stories without sleep or rest. It’s still great, it’s just much harder work and you don’t get to see as much of the country you’re in. But I really oughtn’t grumble.

3) We Shook it like a Polaroid Picture…

Polaroids were THE BEST! Photographers would set up the light, take a photo and then lay down a small square Polaroid on a table and busy themselves, transmitting an air of anticipation.

Then the whole team would gather around this little magic white square, breathing on it lovingly, until five or so minutes the back was peeled off and the Polaroid analysed in depth. At the end of the day, you’d sometimes walk away with a few Polaroids to take home and put at the back of your portfolio.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 18.20.57

So many shoots disappear into the ether. They don’t get placed in a mag, or the photographer can’t be bothered to send it to your agency. So this was particularly great if you’d shot for a cool mag or big photographer, as you still had a little picture to have in your book and tell clients.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 18.35.35It doesn’t matter that nothing came of these Polaroids – I still told everyone on castings it was from my shoot with top photographer David Sims. They didn’t know he was testing the light on me before Gisele came…

Agencies would take Polaroids, and that would be great fun. They were sooooo flattering and again – they had a little bit of magic – when you got that *one* really amazing Polaroid.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 18.38.04This was an old sheet of Polaroids from my old agency, Select. I was so skinny! 

4) Mobile phones were fairly new

OK, so every evening at 5:30, we would ring the agency with a pen and piece of paper. The bookers would have to slowly dictate and spell out the address of each casting as we diligently wrote them down.


You’d then sit in front of your well-thumbed A-Z, noting down the co ordinates by the address and plotting your routes and itinerary to ensure a smooth day of casting. Pfff to Google Maps and TFL Journey Planner.

Panic would ensure if you were given a new casting midway through the day – you’d have to whip out your pencil case and write it down in the street.

FYI apparently, before mobiles, models had to phone from a photobooth every hour or so to check they didn’t have any new castings. Imagine that!

Rebecca x

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PS! Having posted this on my Facebook, a booker and friend of mine who was booking models before I started (making it sometime around the Paleolithic Era, so at least her diet was on point) says this:

“Hahaha. So true! Crikey, i remember the days BEFORE computers and all model charts were clipboards attached to a big swivelling wheel in centre of a round table and covered with post-it notes. The funny thing is…..NO ONE was ever late for, or missed their castings/jobs!!! It functioned smoothly. We thought it was state of the art! Xx”

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