At first, I wasn’t going to post this blog entry (it was written on 14 Dec 2011) but after some thought, I figured it would be good to post this for those people who might even think about doing something like this. The frequency has increased with this happening to various people in the industry. Many new models expect to get clothes from fashion shows and shoots just by being in the show or shoot when most regional based shows are volunteer time and if you are lucky, they will give you a steep discount on the clothes that you purchase that day. Otherwise, you must pay for the clothes like the rest of us. I attribute attitude this to the fashion reality shows.
The quickest way to end a career in modeling is to walk off with clothes from a show or shoot. By walk off, I mean leave with clothing or jewelry or makeup that isn’t yours and that you haven’t received permission to take with you. The minute you realize you have something you shouldn’t have, contact the person and ask them to set up a time to return the item(s). Do not delay or think you can wear the item for a few days before returning the item. Most often, they will be reported as stolen the day of the show or shoot.
In my 30 years of being a photographer, I have never had anyone take something from a photo shoot without it being an accident. Recently, this has changed. This was a night shoot, and afterwards, the model drove off with an expensive pair of designer leather boots. From the perspective of the model, she honestly believed that wearing the boots at a shoot was “loaning” the boots to her for an indefinite amount of time. Never ever assume anything is loaned to you or given to you without this being explicitly stated to you as a model. After she left, she was texted to return the boots. She didn’t. Another time was set up, and she was amazingly absent on that day. Worse, a model had to have her outfit changed in a fashion show and yet another model didn’t have a set of images taken because this one model never returned the boots. Still more times were set up and she never showed up for any of these. She was warned that she had one more time to return the boots or criminal charges would be filed for theft and what those criminal charges would be. She then indicated she gave them to someone else, and to stop bothering her. It is the first time I had to file criminal charges against a model. The police contacted the model at her work, and gave her 24 hours to return the boots or they would pursue her with criminal charges. Her text message to me immediately after this was that I went too far and that this would ruin her life. From my perspective, she took the boots from the shoot location without permission – that is theft. She was given several opportunities to do the right thing and give them back. She knew that her keeping the boots impacted others, and she still kept the boots. The good news from this is that the boots were returned – significantly worn and scuffed up from the new condition they were in when she took them. Obviously, she won’t be shot by me in the future nor is she welcome to be any where near a shoot of mine. Other photographers who had worked with her were asked for various pieces of information that they had on her to see if it matched and was accurate (which it didn’t – she had intentionally filled out the wrong information on her releases to mislead anyone wanting to pursue her). And, don’t think that photographers and designers don’t talk – we do. She will never be a model from her actions. No one wants to deal with a thief. There will be a civil suit, too, and she will be paying for the costs in damages she caused from the fashion show and shoot where she didn’t return the boots. She will also pay for the wear and tear that she caused to the boots. The model is lucky to have not had to serve any jail time (three to five years is normal).
If you are a model, don’t ever think of taking something from a show or shoot without this explicitly being stated and preferable with a writing agreement that you are allowed to take what ever it is. If someone then contacts you to return whatever it is that was loaned to you, do so as quickly as you can. Failure to do this is theft. The consequences can ruin the rest of your life, and not just your modeling career.