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Freya Gallows Interview

Posted on January 6, 2015 by
Freya Gallows Interview

Gary Breckheimer

Freya: I'm an insufferable dabbler and have worked as a massage therapist, freelance writer, math tutor, cognitive research assistant, ski instructor, golf cart mechanic, and have built a few large-scale art projects for Burning Man such as Embrace, a seven-story-tall fun-house shaped like the torsos of two people, complete with beating hearts and windows in the eyes.

Next spring I've decided kill two birds with one stone, and will be modeling in big cities up the east coast...while simultaneously bicycling from Key West, Florida to Bar Harbor, Maine.

Photographer: zhuchkin

FETFAN: How did you get started and how long have you been in the industry?

Freya: I've been modeling professionally since January 2010.

As for the origin story: I'd just turned seventeen and was on an Alaskan cruise, serving as the family babysitter to relieve my relatives of their kids. An attractive young photographer came up and hit on me, and when he realized I was underage, he tried to cover up his tracks and professionalize the conversation by discussing freelance modeling, which I'd never heard of before.

And that was how I learned that girls can travel the world making a living via Internet bookings without an agency so long as they can figure out how to do the work of an agent and a manager for themselves.

I looked into sites like ModelMayhem, and was inundated with predatory messages ["Hey, great tits, I'll make you famous," and so on]. Interestingly, the messages abruptly stopped around the time I came of age, and I started receiving legitimate offers to test. From there, I followed the work of experienced models I admired and contacted them to check references on local photographers until I felt experienced enough to tour.

left Photographer: Ted Williams; right Photographer: Adam Robertson

FETFAN: Your choice of genre is out of the box and definitely not mainstream, how did you decide or discover this side of you as a model?

Freya: Predominantly I make a living doing art and glamour nudes, but from a creative standpoint there's something fatiguing about just looking "pretty" all the time.

I like using modeling as a medium for self-exploration: honest portraiture, work that feels very personal, or work where I get to explore deeper aspects of my identity, from my relationship to gender to my inner psyche. I've had photographers ask to shoot portraits of me while I had a high fever, right after I'd injured my arm in a car accident, and with genuine tears in my eyes. I think good models aren't hampered by vanity and can allow themselves to look ugly, vulnerable, ridiculous, or grotesque when a project calls for it.

left photographer: Benjamin Mcc; right photographer: magicc imagery

FETFAN: Throughout your career I'm sure you have been to many different places, which has been your favorite and what kind of project were you working on?

Freya: I couldn't pick a favorite, but this year I got to work in Tasmania, where I shot everything from gloomy surrealistic studio nudes to clothed portraits in an English style garden to a video interview atop a frostbitten ski mountain.

On my off time I visited a wildlife sanctuary for Tasmanian devils [some of the coolest animals in the world, if you ask me, and they're dying of a facial tumor disease], fed tame kangaroos, sampled local whiskies and ciders, wandered the local market, photographed kookaburras in the Cataract Gorge, and sung on stage at a rooftop bar with a ball pit.

Art Silva

FETFAN: Is there anyone who has inspired your work?

Freya: Of course—the list is long. As a young child I always gravitated towards surrealistic art, from Salvador Dalí's paintings to Hayao Miyazaki's movies, and love working on conceptual projects. A few photographers I've worked with whose work reflects this aspect of my aesthetic are Elena Zhukova, Christopher Lee Donovan, and Oliver Berlin.

Oliver Berlin

FETFAN: When at a photo shoot, what do you love most about the experience and what do you find challenging as an artist?

Freya: There's so much I like about a model, but as far as what actually happens at a shoot itself, I like shoots that feel like experiences, where the importance of process is tantamount to that of the end result:

I've done shoots where an immersive make-believe world was created behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera to get the entire team in the mood: incorporating tea parties or fancy chocolates, ambient music, or a side-trip to nearby hot springs. I've done shoots that were all about the journey, when most of the day involved hiking to our location [like a three-day shoot I did in Yellowstone], or involved extremely intricate hair and makeup [like when my hair was turned into a giant cloud and I flitted around an auditorium-sized studio in artificial fog]. I've gotten to play with an oxyacetylene torch and smash a car with a track loader. Once a photographer sent me an psychoanalytical/random association questionnaire about a week before our shoot, and when I arrived he'd constructed a set of surreal concepts based around my answers.

The biggest challenge I've had over the years, which in five years I think I've finally gotten a handle on, has been toeing the line between wanting to be accommodating, cooperative, and hard-working—and knowing when to assert boundaries and say "No", knowing when not to negotiate. Of course, most models don't want to be perceived as a prima donna, but this is a field where being too much of a people pleaser and too gung-ho can not only be unprofitable, but damaging to one's self-esteem and even dangerous. A lot of models I know, especially when they were first starting out, have injured themselves, been sexually violated, ripped off, or otherwise coerced into situations that weren't healthy for them.

Erin Wilson

FETFAN: How would you best describe yourself using just 3 words?

Freya: Existentially high maintenance.

Andrew Kaiser
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