Dignity as a Model

Posted on August 6, 2013

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One of the things I see most often lately is the demoralizing of models. This can be manipulating them to do something they wouldn’t, taking credit for work the model did, and even sexual favours for the work that they have done. While this has always been a “dark side” to the industry, lately, it just seems more prevalent than what I have seen in the past. I don’t believe that models should ever be demoralized or abused or not given the credit they deserve. What am I talking about? As I hear from many models, in order to get to a point where you are established and making it as a model, you have to have very few limits to what you won’t do as a model. “What?” you ask.

Let’s take an example of a photographer who is fairly popular in the US who humiliates models on a regular basis: Terry Richardson. He doesn’t have any talent or skill. He is one heck of a pervert. His popularity is based on the shock value of his “art”. The question is if his “art” is art. From my point of view, it isn’t.  Terry Richardson uses models to fulfill his whims and fantasies.  He doesn’t care what happens to the models – just as long as he gets some sort of fulfillment or notoriety from his actions. The majority of the industry know of his predatory and abusive behavior – you can read about some of it, too, just by searching Googling for him (looking him up on any search engine!). Amazingly, top notch magazines publish the less erotic works and keep him busy with day to day work. Why doesn’t someone do something? Mostly because of fear and being sheep from the lower ranks. Who wants to lose their job and be blacklisted in the industry? While many models have spoken up about him, he continues to abuse models.

If you are in Indianapolis like city, I am sure the same applies here as most other cities. There will be those that are known and some that aren’t known. I say this because every city has its creeps and scum.

After spending this past Monday talking with a traveling model, and what she puts up with, I am appalled that people act like this. I then think about my own little town, Indianapolis, and it’s community of models and artists. We have photographers who shoot hard core porn with the photographer starring in the same movies they shoot, photographers who drug the models and take advantage of them in the drugged state (we have one who is awaiting trial who was arrested last year for filming this with a 16 year old), photographers who blackmail models to do more revealing work because they will ‘release” images of indiscretion that were shot while the model changed in a changing room or while they were inebriated during a party, photographers who do TF for the model and then expect sexual favours in return, and so called designer-photographers who, sometimes with their brother, tell models that they have to sexually play as part of being a model and this will be expected of them, and another who plays the casting couch scam on everyone who walks through his door. This doesn’t include the number of photographers who want models to go with them to California or New York, and then push them emotionally to the point the do what they want after burning through their cash they have. These are just a few of the things that go on here. There are others. I could go on about other things that I have seen or heard from models. The point here is that this is common place and accepted by everyone. Just by publishing this, I know there will be many ramifications from the models in this area for publishing this much. I have been told it is best to just sweep it under the carpet and ignore it. Several photographers and artists have told me that a session should only be between them and the model – no one else. I have to disagree. If the model is in a relationship, then  she should be able to tell her significant other anything that happened during her session. The model should also be able to tell the police and other models. In reality, most models put up with what happens for fear of what will happen to them (and their modeling career) and don’t warn others who are modeling for those artists. The few who do get warned either don’t listen or believe that it won’t happen to them.  Yet others get sucked into the cycle of abuse and become part of it, scolding those who ask about what happens and working to bring others into the cycle.

Another form of abuse and humiliation is that models are looked solely as mannequins to look pretty even though they may do a lot more. I can cite several instances where models receive  almost nothing for their concepts and ideas of what is being shot, the work they put in styling a single or multi model shoot, doing makeup  and hair for models, and the photographer takes all the credit. In a few instances, I can point to actual published print where a model or group of models work the concept out, did the makeup, and coordinated the shoot, and the photographer takes all the credit for all the work and the entire concept. Worse, many of the models in those shoots go back for more of this treatment. I don’t know how humiliating it is to see your concepts and ideas taken, in print, from you. What do the models get from this? Maybe a few low-res and watermarked images from the photographer and images in a print magazine.  They also get the humiliation of being taken  advantage and their ideas stolen from them. The photographer gets the fame, credit for the shoot and concept, and the paycheck. How often can this happen?

I hinted above about how models can’t say they are in committed relationships or even married. Why? Great question. I can’t answer that as I am not a model. I can tell you that most artists want models to just do what they want them to do – no matter what it is. As I said before, “what happens at the session is between the model and the artist and no one else”.  Being married or a committed relationship means that the model has significantly less chance of being manipulated into doing sexual whims with the artist and is less “available”. That shouldn’t play into the “demand” of a model, but unfortunately, it does. On the flip side, as a photographer, I am not here to date the models or pursue them (it is one of my peeves with models). Many of the models I talk to expect this of photographers – talking daily, taking them out, going to movies, buying them clothes and jewelry, constantly texting to them, etc. When you don’t talk to them every day – even several times a day – they lose interest because you aren’t interested in them enough and the project just fades away. I encourage that models NEVER play the sexual commodity game for ANYONE. A photographer isn’t someone to date or a sugar daddy to get you things you want. Being a model and having a relationship are two totally different things and should always be kept that way. Twenty five years ago, you weren’t allowed to date the models that you had in shoots (you could shoot the ones you were married, though) because of the issues that crop up. If it ever was found out, you would be black listed as a photographer.

When I work with models, I view my work with them as a collaboration. Without them, my expression wouldn’t be possible. I do my best to respect the model’s wishes and how  they wish to be presented to the world. I am up front and honest about what they do for me and how it will impact them. I won’t blow sunshine up their skirt and promise them the world like some artists so they will do anything for their dream. I also won’t make them part of some cult kink “family” that has nothing to do with their well being and growth – and often only damages their chances of being a model if the images get out in the public. Even worse, as other predatory artists see them, they will expect the same for them creating even more.

As a model, having limits and dignity will probably restrict your clients and potential paying photographers. I’m sorry. That is just how it is. As a model, you can chose safe or abused. Once you shoot an image and it is released, it will be out there in the public forever. No one has control after it is released. I know there will be several women in time who regret their selling out for their shot at fame or giving in to some photographers. Some of this is already occurring. It is just a matter of time before more of this happens. I am already seeing some of this from models that some of these artists have thrown to the side after being used and abused with their dignity stripped from them. Someone new and more interesting who has taken their place.

As a model, you should always stay true to yourself. Never compromise your honor or dignity.  Have pride in your work as a model now and in the future. Only do what you are comfortable doing and work that you are proud doing. Be honest to other models when they ask about the artist.

Posted in: Modeling