As the time of year for Festivals was once again upon us, my mission was to find a summer event that is not as well known as Glastonbury, but might be just as much fun without rolling around in mud! I think I may have found one!
A Fair Warning, however – if you find painted breasts or men in Budgie Smugglers (small tight swimwear) offensive for whatever reason, then stay at home as this event definitely celebrates the human form in an overt if artistic way. Having said this, I would definitely regard the event itself as family friendly.
Being a pro photographer I have always liked capturing events that have a certain ‘Wow!’ factor and one of the models I had worked with had told me she was going to the ‘World Body Painting Festival’. I looked it up on the Internet and after a bit of research decided this one was well worth exploring!
The World Body painting Festival (WBF) has been held for the last 15 years, currently in Pörtschach am Wörthersee, one of those fab places of which most people (me included) have never even heard of. The Body painting City graces the shores of a 20 km long crystal clear lake with artists from all corners of the world descending on the pretty little Austrian town to compete in many different categories, but most with the hope of being crowned World Bodypainting Champion. The main events span three days under the fascinated eyes of over 30,000 international visitors. Intrigued, I booked a room and headed to Austria not knowing what to expect!
This fist event was the ‘Body Circus, basically a launch party to get the ball rolling so to speak. One has to buy a separate ticket online (19 Euros) but I would consider it a must if you’re thinking of heading there. It’s a great party allowing you to mingle with models and artists alike and get a good feel for the show’s vibe and this is also where I made most of the contacts for the rest of the weekend. Arriving at the party you’re encouraged to just go for it and paint yourself up – or your face at the very least. If you don’t have the skill set required then a volunteer artist will give you a quick splash of paint or alternatively you can just buy a mask and indulge in some fantasy fashion.
The party had great tunes with a flurry of top DJs (mixers or spinners as they are known) with some great tunes, catering for a real mix of different tastes. In spite of looking like Mad Max’s last stand, it was a very friendly, warm crowd that love the camera (see attached!). Even Alex, the organiser, had time for a pose. The participants were mesmerising, all dressed and painted up – some with extreme make up, others with full florescent bodies – a fabulous night and great (safe) fun for all!
The following day I had been invited to visit some of the training events taking place around the WBF Village, another activity to enjoy at the event and where classes are held for beginners to experts on all aspects on Body Art Painting and make up before the main event. Here I met up with Astrid from Swaziland and Yatsushiro Kumamoto from Japan who were attending the Basics of Body Painting course (see attached photos). They were loving the event and it seemed to me that it was the process of painting as much as the finished Body Art that gave them the most enjoyment!
At the other end of the scale it’s all very serious and I met and filmed for Johannes Stötter from Italy, last year’s world champion in ‘Brush and Sponge’. Several models were waiting for a chance to pose for selfies with him. One girl from the USA enthused to me “he’s so hot and amazing” and asked if I could arrange an instant photo with him, a request which I duly complied with realizing very quickly that even in the world of Body Painting, there are celebrities!
I asked him if I could interview him at some point over the next few days. He replied (in a very Zoolander sort of way) “if I have time you can try”. I had to smile, but with all due respect, the following day – allied with a hangover – I realized what he meant. He was there in his gazebo, his prepared designs on display and paints all laid out, a man on a mission. Painstakingly he would gently dab paint, every now and then stepping back from the model – his canvas – tilting his head from side to side and then moving back in. He and the models endured over 6 hours of this in his attempt to secure the coveted title of World Bodypainting Champion 2015.
I also met and interviewed David Gilmore, an artist from America who had a team of three assistants and a top male model named Hannes Mayer, provided by the sponsor MAC. Quizzing David about MAC, he told me the company had been a sponsor of the event for many years. “MAC isn’t just for faces”, he explained, going on to say that he paints both male and female models although in America, due to legal reasons, the female models have to wear a top of some sort making it difficult for artists to get the consistency of line needed in art. For this event, Hanes Mayer was just because David decided to do something different to most of the others and indeed, from what I saw, the vast majority of the models were female, and actually a male model has yet to win the WBF title.
This year, however, no such result for David, although he did rank 18th out of over 60 contestants, substantially increasing his position over the previous year. He’s already planning the possibility of returning next year, so will he be the first World Champion with a male model? Time will tell. As for Johannes Stötter, he secured 4th place this year, passing his crown to the stunning entry from South Korea’s Min Ah Kim.