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Open Letter

Dear employers of life models, tutors, and the artists and students who draw them,


Life drawing has never been more accessible. Across the country and in tandem with tutors who are passionate about teaching the human form in art, life models are inspiring artmaking at all levels. They bring their own artistry, skill and improvisation that informs stronger, more compelling artwork. Those who enjoy drawing or sculpting from a life model will be dismayed to hear that life models in the UK, despite the booming popularity of life drawing, have for a long time faced inconsistencies in pay and conditions.


Not everyone can or would want to be a professional life model. It requires a particular skillset and a willingness and the professionalism to work nude. Life modelling in academic settings often involves lengthy project poses, rigorous anatomical scrutiny, and sculpture students approaching the model with callipers for direct measurement. And yet a significant number of art schools and ateliers who rely heavily on trustworthy, vetted, experienced life models are among the lowest payers at £9 to £13.96 an hour. With the cost of living as it is and rising, such rates are being called into question.


It is recommended that the minimum rate for UK life models is £20 per hour.


We consider it more appropriate to view life models as performance professionals; as skilled practitioners engaged in work that is physically and emotionally demanding. Most would agree that life modelling is a specialist skill and is deserving of a more appropriate standard of recognition, respect, and pay.


The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted the ability of professional life models to work. With life classes offered by drop-in drawing clubs migrating online, it’s never been more important that these employers reward life models in an equitable and transparent way, and valuing the effort required by a life model when they are asked to work online from home.


It is important that a life model’s privacy and safety when working online are protected, and that hosts and attendees seek consent before recording or taking screenshots. It is only fair that photography, either online or in real life, is additionally remunerated. 


As pandemic conditions prevail, it is critical that employers appreciate the health risk inherent to public transport and indoor spaces. It's never been more important that the equipment life models are asked to pose with, on or near to are risk assessed and safe. Life models typically travel long distances and are expected to arrive early. Compensation for out of the way travel and a culture of tipping can also make a difference to life models.


Ask any life model and they will tell you how passionate they feel about their work. They might also tell you that there exists an unspoken fear of a loss of work if they call out things that may be questionable. Those who enjoy working from life models can help by taking an active interest in equitable pay for their models, and by not supporting exploitative practices such as unpaid 'auditions' where profit is being made.


Life modelling as a profession can benefit from coming more into the light with contracts for projects, electronic records of bookings, model release forms, and receipts. In such a way, life models can evidence the need for better, more transparent pay and be truly professional in how they earn.


We hope this letter will help chart a course in uncertain times and encourage a spirit of mutual collaboration.


Thank you.

January 2022

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