by Kevin Casha
I had the fortune of meeting Nikki Hafter whilst doing a photography workshop at the Societies Convention in London, in January 2013. It was a somewhat fortuitous meeting as Nikki was assigned by the organizers to be my model during the workshop I was conducting. I was instantly very impressed by her preparation and professionalism. We hit it off straightaway and the images which came out of our collaboration clearly evidenced that . Having worked with models for over thirty years, it’s not every day that I am impressed by up and coming models, but Nikki was one exception. Her maturity and intelligent mind actually belies her young age.
Nikki Hafter with a ‘familiar’ Malta background during the MIPP convention workshop with John Denton
So I met the news with pleasure when Juliet and Phil Jones, who regularly collaborate with the Malta Institute of Professional Photography’s (MIPP), agreed to bring over Nikki as UK lecturer John Denton’s model for the October convention. This time, during a hectic three day schedule, I took the opportunity of interviewing her and trying to discover what makes her tick.
Modelling has always been a tricky and demanding job. One does not only have to be beautiful and talented, (as Nikki surely is), but intelligent enough to navigate through many pitfalls as well as sift through people who are really interested in art and the model’s professional input and those who have ulterior, not so noble motives.
Nikki is a 23 year old full time model who hails from London, UK. She is a graduate of Fine Art so she is naturally creative in various art spheres. She models for runway, photography, video and fine art, including classic and very stylish nude work. During the last year, she has established a great working relationship with photographer and tutor, John Denton, and has been regularly working and gaining experience all around Europe. She had got to know John through a friend of hers who had previously modelled for him.
Nikki actually started out by modelling for a hair salon at the young age of seventeen. In fact an offshoot of her involvement with hair salons is that she also learned to dye her own hair.
She recalls that she participated in a nationwide contest and made it not only to the grand finale, but actually winning and being given the opportunity to feature on the front cover of Hairdresser’s Journal Magazine. Her commitment to both her modelling and art career was tested when the actual cover shoot clashed with her university graduation art show. Typical of Nikki’s drive and determination, she ended up squeezing in both in one day!
Whilst studying at Leeds University, she had met sculptor David Williams Ellis who invited her to model in the nude for one of his works. This was Nikki’s first experience of art nude modelling, though she had herself drawn from nude models many times during her art education. She was lucky as her parents are quite open-minded and their policy with Nikki was to give her space and, in their own words let her “do whatever makes you happy.”
After graduating, Nikki had spent some time at care job, but found the level of emotional commitment and long hours very challenging, so she took made her take the plunge into full time modelling. She secures her work through model agencies as well as independently and through social media.
Nikki has a naturally beautiful delicate complexion and, when needed, she expertly does her own make up to perfection. I think her smooth, flawless skin is particularly ideal for strong studio lighting and will avoid the photographer plenty of tedious hours at post processing. There is really very little to correct in Nikki. Although she does not really involve herself with dieting, her lifestyle is always geared at keeping herself and her body healthy. Nikki is a pescetarian, loves fish and is intolerant to dairy products. She actively frequents a gym and loves swimming. Drinking a lot of water also helps as well as her love for the outdoor life – although she takes care to use sun cream due to her delicate complexion. No more so than during her visit to Malta!
Nikki Hafter with Kevin Casha during the interview
Nikki prefers working on a one to one basis with photographers as it contributes to establish a better working relationship and that way she can also collaborate more in depth through her personal input. During a workshop, with various participants shooting at the same time, that is not really possible. It is always better when a model and a photographer are regularly working together as this usually guarantees better and more creative results.
A tip for models, coming from Nikki, is that in such a competitive world, if one thinks he or she is good at what one does, do not be afraid to ask for fair remuneration for your work. For Nikki, modelling is a serious job and, as I can vouch for, models need to do so much background work and effort to try and remain in the business – a business which, like photography, is becoming ever so more difficult to maintain due to the hordes of people now doing it for free. Still, Nikki is not bigheaded at all, and has her feet firmly planted on the ground, so she does recognize the difficulty and importance of maintaining standards. People who do not keep a bargain or take advantage highly irritate Nikki. She sometimes finds people who try to get more time or change the rules during a session.
Nikki is aware of how short a model’s flame can last, so she is already looking towards the future. Her wish is to be able to have more opportunities not only to model professionally, but to involve herself in styling, make up and props. Her keen visual sense will surely provide her with such chances in the near future.
She sees her future mostly as a further extension of her artistic lifestyle and is considering involving herself more and more in the art world. Yes, another fickle and difficult job, but then with her talents, definitely not beyond her. She likes sculpting and installations and works mainly from found objects and media. Performance art is another of her pet likes – and she has had good experience on this: what is modelling but a form of performance art? Nikki motivates herself with the right people, particularly when they are creative. She mentions sculptor and installation artist, Cornelia Anne Parker as an influence and an inspiration. Nikki is looking forward to completing an artist’s residency next year, between January and March, in Berlin, considered by many to be today’s culture capital.
I really wish Nikki the ability to retain her independence, retain her charm and enthusiasm for life and continue doing what she inspires her but at the same time manage to balance this with a job that can ensure her future. All she needs is her continued determination and yes, why not, the right breaks!