Corpus Delicti

Generally the inexperienced photographer is embarrassed and surprised on discovering how unmanageable an apparently compliant model can be. Like someone who has incautiously committed a murder, he is left with an awkward corpus delicti on his hands, a certain amount of flesh which he must dispose of gracefully, but which, in his mounting panic, becomes increasingly unmanageable with his every desperate effort to do something with it.

Perhaps he has heard that natural poses are the best. So he may attempt a laissez-faire attitude and let nature take its course in the matter of posing. But he soon learns that, photographically at least, Nature is an unpleasing, stupid, lumpy, blowsy wench. The artist in any medium is unhappily compelled to cope with the damnable perversity of things, but none so much as the photographer is aware of the utter uncooperativeness and the implacable stubbornness of Nature. The painter may adjust perspectives and warp arms and legs into attitudes that are more becoming or compatable with his design. But the photographer must take things as they are. The arms and legs that he deals with are flesh and bone, and are uncompromisingly unmalleable.

The photographer with a model is a Creator with a little bit of Chaos. He must learn the Word that will give it form.

William Mortensen, The Model: A Book on the Problems of Posing (1937), p. 16