12 February 2011
Mel Butler: Alt Model Interview
Mel Butler, aka PunkyKitten, is an alt model from Southampton, and has been building up her modelling portfolio for about three years. She was featured in Scott Chalmers' 'Steam Punk Circus' shoot which was on display at Devolution Magazine's Alt Collective II, where she was also in the catwalk show for Phaze Clothing. She was recently the main subject in Marc Jaytin's 'Big Face Project' photographic installion in Southampton parks.
Blackavar caught up with Mel to find out more.
How and when did you get involved in modelling?
I have always considered myself a creative and artistic individual. Throughout my teenage years I studied art. One of my retail jobs whilst in college involved playing the role of a personal shopper and outfit builder and so I discovered I loved being creative with clothing and fashion styles, and this later transformed into modelling the ideas myself. I admired the work of models mainstream and alternative, and when a friend suggested I applied to a local alternative online magazine to further my writing experience, I jumped at the chance. I started off as the Journalist Model Correspondant and then got working with the magazine in front of the camera as well as behind the scenes interviewing.
Has it always been alternative fashion that has appealed to you, or have you been involved with more conventional modelling also?
I have always had a wide range of taste in fashion. I find a variety of styles interesting even if it is not something that I would choose to model myself. I like unusual, couture, striking styles and I suppose that is why the alternative fashion scene as a generalisation appeals more to me. Personal style involves punk, pin-up and rockabilly, but I wear anything I like despite what fashion genre it is classed from. I have always admired Gwen Stefani's sense of wide fashion style if I had to pick a personal favourite.
You have BA Hons in Media Writing, have written a Burlesque screenplay and told us that you are interested in exploring creative ideas and expressions. How do your creative projects and your modelling career influence each other?
I find they feed off each other. For example, through the research for the Burlesque screenplay I discovered I loved the Art of the Tease - anything that shows off your curves like corsets and lingerie. I also found I had a pssion for the 50s pin-up fashion and rockabilly music too. i grew a lot as a person through that project and it generated some main themes that run through several of my photo shoots.
You describe yourself as a 'curvy size 10' and you are tattooed and pierced. In this age of size zero 'perfection' and conventional beauty, would you say that the alternative modelling industry embraces individual beauty more than the mainstream?
Yes definitely. I really don't find stick figures attractive - I definitely feel lucky I have curves! I think it is the overall look that is important rather than what dress size you are. I have met models of all sizes and their work looks fantastic.
What has been your favourite shoot to date?
Picking a favourite shoot is actually really hard for me as I have been exploring different directions. 'Pin-Up at The Fun Fair' was great fun because I was working with a good photographer friend James Sheppard and we had the use of the fun fair before it opened to the general public. Marc Jaytin's 'Big Face Project' was great too as it was the first time I worked with a make up artist and loved it! I looked very extreme; especially the eye make up and red hair, and this was a public art piece in Southampton that featured in the Daily Echo.
Scott Chalmers and Devolution Magazine's 'Steam Punk Circus' shoot was lots of fun and was published in Devolution Magazine Issue 25. Here I modelled as a snake charmer and my outfit was a belly dancer outfit all the way from Egypt! I also took part on their catwalk for Alt Collective II where the Steam Punk Circus shoot was exhibited.
Another shoot that really boosted my modelling was the Hot Rods and Choppers, Hot Rod Garage (www.hotrods-choppers.com) where I am featured in the gallery. This is most definitely a path I would like to explore more - pin-up and classic cars! I plan to attend the big Hot Rod show held at Beaulieu in June where I will be modelling with classic cars.
You told us you would like to shoot more with classic cars. Please describe your dream shoot.
My dream shoot would be a pin-up/rockabilly shoot with Sabina Kelley, as she is my biggest idol in the modelling world. Probably a location shoot on a beach in California with the cars too. It would be a dream shoot to do a cover for a magazine.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a model?
There is a lot more to it than just standing in front of a camera looking good. You have to work hard with fashion, creating styles, themes, generating and being flexible with themes and poses at the time of the shoot, not just in preparation. You also have to be prepared to take the time to contact people and work hard to get yourself noticed - it won't be just handed to you on a plate. I've been modelling for about three/four years now and have put a lot of time and effort into knowing the industry and what makes a good picture, and I still have a long way to come. I have had several modelling jobs for published work, but it takes a long time to get to this point as building up a strong portfolio with various photographers is very important.
What are you plans for the future?
I would love to continue along the path I'm going. Getting more into paid modelling work for clothing companies I admire would be lovely, but I started modelling as a hobby and I am just enjoying the opportunities that present themselves. The last shoot I did with James Sheppard was a latex shoot and I loved this, so I would like to explore this avenue further. I am also planning on doing more work with Hot Rods and pin-up. I am just going to work hard and enjoy myself along the way!
Photography Credits (top to bottom)
Scott Chalmers Photography
Scott Chalmers Photography - Steam Punk Circus
Marc Jaytin - Big Face Project