All that glitters . . .

Pip is 22. She’s blonde and she’s comely and, except for a thin layer of paint and glitter, she’s also pretty much naked.

Welcome to the world of body art. Where bare skin is both  encouraged and celebrated.

Pip – who, just for the record, is also clad in nipple covers and black knickers – is a living canvas for Jakkii Goody, the owner of Fabart, one of only two national face and body art companies in New Zealand. Jakkii is preparing for the January 26-29 New Zealand International Body Painting Competition in Taupo by doing a practice run. Tonight she has covered Pip’s torso with the painted version of an Art Deco-themed flapper dress.

I’ve shown up out to do an interview and take photos and give a pair of local ladies some welcome newspaper coverage.

That the two have teamed up is an example of happenstance: they’d met at an earlier event and just clicked.

Talent met body. Cue the magic.

“You certainly have to consider the anatomy and the body shape of the model you’re working with,” says Jakkii. “The breasts and the hips become a really great feature of body art.”

Pip certainly has the body for body art. I’m doing my best to be discreet but it’s not every day that I am in the same room with a shapely young miss displaying this much skin. Even if it is covered by glitter

Am I embarrassed? Yeah, probably. A little bit.

I’m also shy. Pretty girls, even fully clothed, tie my tongue and my shoelaces. I stumble in their presence because they intimidate me. I am overwhelmed by their beauty. I know: typical man.

“Focus on the eyes,” is a standard mantra for photographers and it was never more truer than tonight.

I ask Pip if she’s cold. She says no, because it’s a warm summer evening.

I ask her about the first time she offered her body up to art. It was at the event where she met Jakkii. Pip and a friend served beer. I ask if sales were brisk. She said yes. I ask if any of her customers tipped her. She says yes.

Pip says she wasn’t embarrassed to be clad in little more than paint.

“I felt like a star,” she says. “Everyone wanted to have photos taken with me. Everyone was looking at me as I walked through the crowd.”

I ask if she knows why they were looking.

She says yes.

We shake hands, I wish Jakkii good luck in the competition and I leave. Later, on the drive home, I replay the encounter in my mind. Did I jabber on too much in an effort to mask my discomfort? Did I take too many photos? Do I have one that will illustrate the story without showing so much skin that it causes some pensioner to choke on her porridge when the paper lands on her breakfast table?

My secret goal has always been to be a fashion photographer, to take photos of beautiful women in interesting settings and poses.

Now I’m reconsidering that goal. Maybe I should stick to writing and leave the camera work to those who are not so easily rattled.

Several years ago, a newspaper photographer told me a story about how a young lady had come into the office to ask him about becoming a model. She followed him into the darkroom (I told you it was years ago) where the fellow was developing photos for the next day’s edition. When he turned away from his chemical trays and back to the woman, she was sitting on the counter, completely naked.

I forget now how his story ended, but I do remember having two reactions:

1) Oh, man, that is so cool.

and

2) Oh, God, I hope that never happens to me.

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Art Deco streetlight, Russell Street, Hastings, New Zealand.