As a photographer, I see many misunderstandings as I work with models. Misunderstandings occur from perception issues, two people on the wrong thoughts, and even bad days and mistakes. I had something happen recently where I was blocked by a model on Model Mayhem. It was a first. This seemed out of the blue. I sent a message that I would need to delay our shoot due to drama in my life, and that I haven’t forgotten her. I then messaged her on Facebook and asked if this was a mistake. She sent a message back that “Here’s a hint for your “professional” photography: Don’t talk about your personal life.” and then blocked me on Facebook. For those of you that don’t know, my father in law passed away a week before Christmas, and then my brother in law had a stroke Christmas Eve and passed away on 6 Jan. Most models and photographers around me know what has happened – and the four other models who I sent a similar message wanted to know if it was serious and what was going on. You may be asking why I have mentioned this?
This is how misunderstandings start and harsh feelings occur.
When you block someone, it is because of something serious. A simple message that she no longer wanted to work with me would have been enough. Instead, nothing and blocking. If you block someone – always send a message saying something to the effect that you do not want to work with them because of … and then block them. Just blocking them will confuse them and cause harsh feelings, so anything you can do to explain why will soften those feelings.
Make sure the actions you take are appropriate. In this situation, I am not sure why the model has gone off like this. With other photographers, she has flaked on them the day of the shoot, and told them things like “I fell down a stair and broke my nose”. She encourages people to get to know her in her profile, then links to her personal Facebook page where she posts a LOT of personal things. So, her actions to me don’t make much sense for the response I received. This is one of those “confusing messages”.
I am sure that she didn’t mean to be confusing. Communication is key to keep people who you interact from being lost on some deep end. I am not sure why this stern reaction, but I am sure there is something I haven’t quite grasped in this situation. From my point of view, I was being professional and letting the model know there were delays in getting a shoot set up. From the model’s perspective, this wasn’t professional behavior. Know you are dealing with people, and those people have feelings, too. If you are trying to get away from feelings, modeling isn’t the vocation to be doing.
Edit: I have received a lot of feedback on this post. Most of the people who have responded know me – realize that this model did not. There is a big misunderstanding or disconnect here, but nothing will be known on this until the model decides to communicate. She has made it clear it wasn’t a mistake and she doesn’t want to talk this out. That is her choice as a model. It upsets me that she feels this way. I also need to state that many people have figured out who the model involved, and provided some really interesting images capturing comments this model has made to other photographers. Several of the comments are inappropriate to make to a photographer (and the comments from the photographer were inappropriate, too). Some have made me wonder if she is using modeling as a dating service or for something similar. I really don’t know.
Edit2: The first model who I have worked with sent me a message on this blog entry (I worked with her 28 years ago) and said to me that I have to realize that I am very personable and care about the people who I work. She pointed to herself as an example in that I haven’t worked with her for 24 years, and we still stay in touch as friends. That isn’t something that is typical for the model/photographer relationships.
Edit3: Most photographers have fallen on two viewpoints: a) you shouldn’t be mentioning anything personal – if there is a delay for any reason, then all you say is there is a delay. Nothing more. This is business. (the majority of photographers who have responded have said this). b) you should be as personable as possible without being manipulative or dishonest. It is better to provide too much information, than not enough. (minority of photographers, and majority of models). A small minority of photographers and models have indicated that some models are this way, indicated some interesting descriptions, and similar. Pretty much all individuals said that this isn’t the model you want to work, and something to the effect that it was better to find out now than during or after the shoot. Don’t worry about this.
Edit4: As a model, you need to know your actions reflect who you are. Reputations are formed by your actions with photographers, designers, art directors, and anyone you come into contact. As this model was worried about personal life influencing work as a model, this is a small world and photographers, makeup artists, and models do talk with one another. Not a single person who I have talked to about this matter who has seen the conversation stream has sided with the model, and all were very heavy handed about the model’s actions being wrong. When I go to Indianapolis’ Gatherings (an informal meetup for artists, photographers, models, makeup artists, and body painters) or the Louisville Photography collective (just photographers that meet professionally and informally) or talk with any of the photographers who know me throughout the world through other organizations and meetups, you can be sure that I will mention not to work with this particular model because of her actions and choices in how she handled this situation. The same occurs with photographers from models. What you should take away from this blog post is that you want to avoid misunderstandings, and try to work them out amicably. In this case, I was unable to work this out amicably between us.
Edit5: It has been a few weeks (approximately 3) since I wrote this post. Over this time, I have realized that most models become friends with me or my wife after I work with them. Unfortunately, this is something I will have to watch and make sure it isn’t excessive or unwanted by the model. In the case of the model in this post, there weren’t unprofessional or too many personal comments made. If anything, there were a lot fewer than I normally make to a model who I am working. I can only assume that part of this reaction from the model is postponing a shoot for more than a month, and that was a contributing factor. If it hasn’t shown from previous blog posts (and this one), I never want a model to feel bad or have bad feelings from when I work with them. I go out of my way to make sure they have a great time, and if they don’t, I feel as if my goals for the shoot haven’t been met. The same applies to the “dance” that all photographers and models do prior to a shoot. Something happened during our messages to one another, and misunderstandings happen. This just happens to be one of them, and I will probably never understand what triggered this stern reaction from the model until she is willing to talk with me again. In the mean time, I have put her on a “Never ever work with for any reason” list that also conveys a bad reference if someone asks me for an unofficial reference on her as a model. There are now three names on that list. I wish there were none.