The origins of RAM can be traced back to 1992, when two full-time life models, Angela Snowdon and Vic Stevens, decided to set up a life drawing workshop in Holloway, North London. Both had begun their life modelling careers in the 1960s.
Initially, the idea was simply to be able to pay themselves more than the appalling rates generally obtainable at that time. Although several models have since followed their lead and set up their own workshops, Vic and Angela were almost certainly the first to think of it.
In order to provide the customers with a slightly wider variety of models, they soon invited two other very experienced models, David Windle and Caroline Love, to join them.
Over Christmas 1994 the four of them famously met in a Whitehall pub to discuss what could be done to improve the lot of the artists' model. They realized that there were three basic problems to be tackled: very low pay, poor public image and unsatisfactory standards of competence, conduct and reliability.
To tackle low pay they decided to start writing letters of complaint to employers. The very first letter - to Hounslow Adult Education - resulted in the rate being doubled! Beginner's luck, perhaps, but it was a huge boost to their confidence.
On the public image front, they decided to get themselves recognized as the people to go to, whenever a journalist wanted to write an article or do a television piece on life modelling. As a result, the usual story lines about life modelling being the last resort of the desperate and the easiest imaginable way of earning money were soon being replaced by something better informed.
Possibly the best idea of all to emerge from that first meeting was the newsletter which was distributed to every tutor and model that the four came across. In the early days, part of this newsletter consisted of David Windle's private list of London models, which he carried around in his pocket for the benefit of the many tutors he worked for. A star was placed by the name of every model who was known to any one of the four as being competent, cooperative and reliable. It was in this way that the first tentative steps towards tackling the massive problems relating to the competence, conduct and reliability of models were taken.
At first the newsletter, whimsically called Bare Facts, consisted of just a couple of typewritten and photocopied sheets stapled together, but with acquisition of a computer, it soon evolved into a smart magazine, published four times a year. As its circulation grew by leaps and bounds, so did the register of models within it, and it became necessary to charge a membership fee.
That Whitehall pub meeting turned out to be the first of over 30 meetings, called the 'Get-togethers', which were held at the Clapham studio of sculptor Tony Kelly and the Willesden home of model Hana Schlesinger. At their height, the Get-togethers were attended by up to 35 London models. They discussed matters of policy and were allowed to vote on them.
It was at the 5th Get-together, in 1996, that the decision was taken to separate the magazine from the rapidly growing register of models it contained. In fact, the idea was that the register should form the basis of an organisation in its own right. As its title within Bare Facts had been 'Register of Artists' Models' it was decided that that might as well be the name of the new organisation.
Although that meeting decided that Vic and Angela would now only produce the magazine, while others would be responsible for running RAM, it soon became apparent that RAM was going to sink without trace unless Vic regained control of it, and ran both RAM and Bare Facts magazine. From that point on, the Get-togethers were solely about RAM, not Bare Facts.
The democratic priciple continued for the time being and RAM, with the Guidelines for Models and Employers at its heart, was influenced by the many votes taken on a wide variety of topics until the Get-togethers eventually stopped, due to almost total lack of interest on the part of female models, in 2004. In 1998, Vic Stevens decided to start a website for RAM/Bare Facts - another pioneering project, as it would be several years before anyone else in the world copied the idea of a life modelling website. In fact the second one to be launched was in the USA. It seems strange to us now that for the first year or so the RAM site contained no list of RAM members. It was only concerned with publishing the Guidelines and with being an online version of Bare Facts, containing news, opinions and reviews of life art shows. But as models and tutors slowly began to wake up to the Internet, RAM members began to expect to be able to advertise themselves on the site, and tutors expected to find models there. Thus the membership list, with profiles, came to be regarded as the most important aspect of the site, rather to the regret of its founder.
The printed version of Bare Facts magazine ceased publication in 2000 and the online version didn't survive, except as an archive with historical value only, beyond about 2003. By 2004, with the democratic process of the Get-togethers having come to end and the majority of models now looking at RAM membership primarily in terms of how much work might result from it, the time was right for a change of direction - away from the trade union ethos and towards a business-orientated outlook. However, up to his retirement in 2008, Vic was careful to ensure that as many as possible of the original aims and objects of RAM remained enshrined in the new more commercial approach.
Vic Stevens believes that by looking back to the early 90s, you can easily see the improvements that RAM has brought about, not just for models, but for life art tutors as well. The early crude (but often surprisingly successful) attempts to improve pay simply by writing to employers was replaced by the more sophisticated method of publishing a 'RAM Recommended Rate'. Models still complain about pay, but it's a fact that it's lot better than it would have been without RAM. The public image of life models is not so bad as it was prior to the many RAM-inspired media pieces, and there has been an important shift in the type of people offering their services as life models. This was brought about partly by the RAM strategy in the 90s of bringing to the attention of Inland Revenue that life models were generally not being paid 'through the books' - they were part of the 'black economy'. But the main reason for the change in the kind of people coming into the job has been the very existence of RAM, with its continuing emphasis on competence, conduct and reliability.
The life models' magazine ceased publication as hard copy in 2000, but lived on for a while online before fading away due to lack of contributors.
These are some of the archived items from Bare Facts Online. Please note that they should not be read as topical items - they are purely for historical interest.
|Index to pages|
|AUG 2003||RAM at the A&I show, 2003|
|JUNE 2003||Miss Vanek - obituary|
|MAY 2003||George Callaghan - obituary|
|MAY 2003||Review - Ron Mueck at the National Gallery|
|FEB 2003||Life in Eden|
|DEC 2002||The Bare Essentials - review|
|NOV 2002||Tell me what to do!|
|AUG 2002||RAM will be the winner in employment shake-up|
|AUG 2002||RAM at the A & I Exhibition, 2002: It was great!|
|MAY 2002||Models - are they the least qualified workers?|
|APR 2002||Morimda's Big Plan|
|MAR 2002||Ogling and groping nude models - does it matter?|
|DEC 2001||RAM and its Swedish equivalent forge historic link|
|NOV 2001||Myths and reality: funny ideas that models get|
|SEP 2001||Euan Uglow - 2 models' accounts of working for him|
|AUG 2001||The Naked Bon Vivant: Quentin Crisp show in NY|
|JUN 2001||Vic Stevens on Quentin Crisp the London Model|
|MAY 2001||Penny Arcade on her friend Quentin Crisp|