Shaun Tia on Being a Model
Despite a chorus of voices telling her she could not be a model, Shantia Veney (known to her fans and peers as Shaun Tia) has relentlessly pursued her passion to become one of our most prolific creative talents. Her expressiveness, along with her unique charisma is attracting an ever growing audience of art lovers and fans. Many of them are discovering modeling as an art form, for the very first time.
Shaun Tia is a rare breed of art model who has taken her experiences from in front of the camera and has integrated them into her own unique perspective as a photographer. She brings a passion and exploration to her work that seems adventurous, bold, sensual and sometimes playful. Rather than trying to rigidly control the process, her work implies that every image is allowed to be a discovery. As a result, her work is full of sensuality, honesty and authentic surprises.
As you experience her work, we invite you to let yourself be impacted by her passion and willingness to be fully expressed. Her spontaneity and deep sensuality might catch you a little of guard. Enjoy, take a moment to consider the lighting, the forms of the body, the mood and the overall atmosphere in her work. Her sexuality, her innocence and her creativity are all expressions of her unique artistic style.
Photography by JMAC
Model Interview With Shaun Tia
What is beauty
Beauty is defined by the individual, but I believe there are two types of beauty… inner beauty and outer beauty. I enjoy the challenge of capturing both. When scouting models, I do not look for the generic ‘hot’ girl, I am scanning faces for unique features that others may deem as ‘ugly’ or ‘weird.’ I find, interestingly enough, that those who have grown up being the ‘weird-looking one’ typically become the greatest people, and ones I am glad to have met and photographed.
What have you learned about yourself from modeling? How has it changed your perspective about yourself or life?
After graduating from a culinary school and waiting to walk with my friends from high school, I found I had a lot of spare time on my hands. It was then that I decided to sign up with Model Mayhem and try this whole “model” schtick. This was an out-of-character choice for me, as I had never even worn makeup before. I actually believed that wearing any mascara made me look like trampy, because my eyelashes were so long! The reason I started was because I saw on a show that a young woman, who wasn’t particularly beautiful, had beautiful black and white art nudes done of her–I wanted that. When I am 80, old and wrinkly, the art hanging in my house will be of me, and I love that idea.
So I started modeling and was immediately told that I didn’t have the body, the face, or the ability to make it anywhere other than fetish or porn. Instead of giving up, I took this as a challenge. I became a perfectionist and worked hard to hone my poses, expressions, makeup abilities and even learned what aperture, ISO, and shutter speed were and how they affected the photo. The motivation to always better myself and my photos is what set me apart from the rest and I quickly became one of the best models in the Southwest.
But to end the rambling, modeling has undeniably sculpted me into who I am today. I run my own business, model full time and am consistently hired as a photographer to shoot what I love. Teaching is also a passion and modeling has opened doors for me there as well. I would not be who I am today without the incredible experiences I have had during my modeling career and my life’s perspective has direction and a purpose because of it.
What do you want people to experience when they look at your images?
As I have mentioned, I started modeling to have art hanging in my house that I was directly a part of. Collaborating with some of the most amazing artists around the world is the most gratifying experience, and being able to provide artwork to a grander audience than I ever imagined is a dream come true. Not only do I get the opportunity to have art of mine in my house, but thousands of people all over the world will as well.
I love most of all being an inspiration; someone looks at an image of mine, whether I am photographer or model, and thinks, “Damn, I wish I had done that. Well let’s do something better!” Photographers and artists have sent me derivatives of my work that they have recreated, and it is always exciting to see their interpretation.
What inspired you to step behind the camera and start creating as a photographer?
Learning how to shoot was incredibly important to me as a model for many reasons. Namely, so that I knew how to best pose myself in different lighting situations, knowing how different settings and lenses warped or skewed me, and if a beginning photographer hired me I could offer advice on how to light and set up the shots that they wanted to achieve.
My first teacher of photography was Jesse Paulk, who not only taught me basics, but retouching as well. It is because of Jesse that I not only shoot today, but model as well. He allowed me to experiment in front and behind of his camera during shoots with traveling models.
Jim Hesterman taught me how to refine my shooting, as soon as I was graciously given a huge discount on a Nikon D30 by wonderful photographer and friend, Anthony Randall. Jim taught me so much about lighting, rules of photography and Photoshop. From knowing the sync speed when using studio lights to how to use frequency separation when retouching skin. Jim’s black and white photography has greatly influenced how I shoot now, and while our styles greatly differ, you can trace my foundations to him.
I finally came into my own in photography style right before moving to Austin, Texas early this year. And my former fiancé, Jaime Ibarra gladly shared with me a wealth of knowledge that has skyrocketed my photography and photoshop skills into what they are today. The art of compositing, the mastering of color, and the pure artistry that photoshop allows is vast.
So initially, it was the will to learn that inspired me, but the wealth of knowledge that I have yet to learn and the creation of art and style keep me going.
How does your experience as a model effect how you work with other models as a photographer.
My experience as a full time traveling model undoubtedly helps me when working with my models. I bring my perfectionist-tendencies to the table at every shoot, and expect a lot of my models. But it is this drive for perfection that will ultimately allow the models to receive photos unlike anything else they have in their portfolio.
Since teaching is a passion of mine, coaching models comes naturally. I know how to direct a model without making her feel uncomfortable, and to put weird poses or expressions into relatable terms, because I have been in their position before.
I also know that working with a female photographer can help newer models become more comfortable, faster. Being in competent hands doesn’t hurt either.
Photography by JMAC
What inspires you the most about this art form? Can you tell us about an experience when this feeling of inspiration was most alive for you?
Inspiration comes in many forms for me. I am overly artistic in almost every aspect of my life, from cooking to organizing, playing guitar to modeling, and designing clothes/accessories to photography. Modeling and photography are just other outlets to release creativity for me that I cannot find anywhere else. Anything is possible in the realm of photography and photo manipulation.
For example, a good friend of Jaime’s and mine, Gretchen Chappelle posted a photo of origami water boats floating on a lake. It was that photo that inspired me to do a cute shoot of me playing with origami cranes on a bed, making them fly around, and then they all start flying around me. I wanted to have a lace curtain blowing as if the wind was picking them up. Jaime is the master of compositing and color and so we made it happen. So while the original photo really had no other connection than origami, the inspiration was there. It’s weird how the mind works.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be a model?
Being a model is hard… Being any type of model is hard. You will be judged, you will hear awful, hateful and derogative statements about your body, your personal life, and your artwork. You will get banned, receive offers for porn, and sexual messages from random people.
But I can tell you, it is all worth it if you can rise above those who cannot find better things to do than judge others.
You must be strong–both in will and of mind, have a passion to learn, and know that you are never finished learning. You must constantly study the greats and those who inspire you. You must become adept at lighting, posing and emotion.
An art model must know that you can tell a story with a pose and not even show your face. That the arch or static-ness of one finger can change the emotion of the entire image. To always, always, always, always, point both of your feet. Know angles and shapes that your body can make. Don’t overextend limbs or eyes. Always be over prepared.
Most importantly, take care of your body and your mind. Modeling is an art form, and should be treated as such — not just a way to make money. Be happy and healthy with yourself, and it will be a uniquely rewarding experience.
Shaun Tia is a very special member of the Model Society community. Sensuality, creativity and artistry abound in her work. Her relentless exploration of this art form is an inspiration to many of us who practice this craft. If you are captivated by her beauty, if you are distracted by the sexuality of her nude modeling, we encourage you to embrace your experience and then look a little deeper into the artistry and creativity that makes these unique images seem so alive.