Tales of shocking conduct

I asked the photography/model community to discuss their bad experiences with photographers and this is what happened.


One thing I take seriously is the security of my clients. I wanted to know about the difficult experiences of people during shoots. As a Croydon photographer shoots can be quite intimate (in the sense that you are often alone with an individual in a space that can be intimidating). In the shadow of recent horrific events and the terrible conduct from primary men towards women, I decided to ask people to discuss their negative experiences on various platforms. The purpose of this blog is to raise awareness and promote good practice.


The stories I recall may be shocking, but I would like to point out on balance that some of the models I knew had never had an unpleasant experience with a photographer. Creepy photographers are rare. The majority of photographers I know are decent individuals and tend to be respectful. However, there can be an imbalance of power. The majority of incidents I did see appeared to be with a more experienced photographer. This seemed to be worse for novice models who may not be aware of things to look out for when on a shoot. I believe the photographer should create a safe working environment for their clients, collaborative partners or hired models.


Researching this topic

To my shock within minutes of posting my question, my post was pulled from a Purpleport. Purpleport is a platform where mainly models get paid to do photo shoots by photographers. Some photographers had got really defensive and appeared to have complained about the question. I feel this may have resulted in the post being pulled. This is not to say that there is a systemic issue with this platform. I can see some reasonable measures to keep users safe, however, the censorship of this meaningful discussion is worrying in my personal opinion.

I have heard plenty of stories from models telling me there is an issue with some photographers' conduct. Some of which may use this platform to engage with these models, for this reason, I thought the subject ought to be discussed. What do you think? Should these issues be discussed or kept silent?

Before it was pulled off I did manage to collate some negative responses;


(Site member photographer)

"........Do we really need this photographer to put himself in a position to cause panic and concern for models who already have enough information on PP to hopefully keep them safe. "


(Site member model)

"This feels like to(o) much information.

Even without mentioning names from the information, you require its still possible to identify the person."


(The admin of the site stated.)

"The reason it's been sent here (sin bin/deleted) is; It's against site policies.

It will languish in The Sin Bin for all eternity, contemplating what it did wrong."


The query was clear, I asked models to share their experience of photographers who had conducted themselves in a poorly fashion. The rules of my post were clear, to be objective and not to name any individuals. I hoped that this will protect people from malicious commentary which would be a breach of the platform's policies. I asked for feedback from the site to find out if there was a preference in the way I asked the question. I have also informed them of my intention to publish. As a result, Purpleport stated the following;


"Hi Christopher,

Thank you for contacting us.

Your group post was removed because this topic has become too divisive in the Groups. It stirs up negativity, with discussions descending into arguments, personal attacks towards others, and the naming and shaming of others. This creates a situation that is unpleasant for everyone.

We strongly encourage anyone who has had a negative experience to report this to our Admin Team directly via support ticket. This provides an opportunity for information to be provided that may be sensitive or confidential and allows us to take the appropriate action where necessary.

If you need any further assistance, please let me know.

Kind regards, PurplePort Admin Team."

Story 1

On Facebook, I was more fortunate. I got some useful feedback from a group I am in. There was no attempt to hush the query, which I thought was more positive. Models and photographers both chipped in to my research, no divisions were caused no names were mentioned. Here are some of the responses I received.

"I was shooting at a catwalk about 2 or 3 years ago and a model from a previous show, still made up, sat close to me and as it was I between shows I asked if I could do some shots and she said no politely, I said no worries, no biggie....this other photographer was watching and went over to her and pretty much demanded her to pose and she said "im taking a rest and coffee" and the guy said "you can't stop me" and started shooting her, I said to the guy "leave her alone she is said no" and he just carried on and I stood in front of him and was about to get in his face and security thankfully put him in his place. The model walked off, she didn't need that. Photographers can be such elitist d&^$"


Unfortunately, this is a situation that can sometimes happen. I have been in a similar situation where I think an amazing photo can be taken, only to be denied (during photo walks). I tend to take it on the chin wish and them well (male or female). However in this case the photographer has ignored the models' wishes. She is in a private setting and is not consenting for her images to be taken. Based on this information I agree that the aggressive nature of the stubborn photographer was very intimidating and highly inappropriate.


Some of you make have clocked on to the point of being in a private setting. My personal understanding of the general law is polarising but clear when it comes to taking photos in public. There is not a reasonable expectation of privacy when in a public space which means it is not illegal to photograph a person in public without consent. This rule applies providing no harm (actual or perceived) or harassment takes place when taking the photo. (Please note this article is not intended for legal advice). Common sense should always be applied.


Story 2

"I ran a model and photographer workshop in London with select people from all over about 2 years ago. Me and 2 of my friends organised the whole thing. When we turned up I’d say the majority of the models were wasted (which I didn’t mind to be honest, I’m not one to judge) but then after the shoot, one of the models was sexually hounded and harassed by one of the photographers that was invited, even to the point where the photographer started to pose as people on dating apps, leaving flowers outside the models house and sending fake nudes to the model. It was a serious cause for concern and if I knew before hand what the photographer would be like, I wouldn’t have invited her"


In this situation, a female photographer was sexually harassing a female model. This case is quite disturbing as it shows the person believed to be causing harm to pursue and stalk this model for a duration after a shoot. Imagine how unsettling it would be not knowing if people interacting with you are who they say they are.


Story 3

"I applied for a casting in one group of modeling, the casting was for a glasses brand ,i emailed the photographer to tell him im interested , then he emailed me back to tell me to text him on instagram ..so i did , then he asked me to go to his studio where he is arranging for the casting .. i went in the date to his studio thinking that its a real casting finally there was no body .. just him.. i asked him where are the other models , he told me they came since the morning then they left , so he spent around one hour and half speaking about that he can make for me better portfolio and he has so many contacts with big agencies and tried to convince me that my photos are horrible and i should do a better portfolio , in the same time he was taking for me some shots with his phone and touching me acting like he is trying to give mr directions to take for me the photos , i felt so much uncomfortable also he was sitting next to me and speaking so much close to my face .. finally he asked me to pay 140£ to make for me a portfolio .. i told him i will think and i will let you know .. i left with a lot of madness inside of me and a lot of self blaming coz i allowed him to touch me , then he kept texting me about the avaialbility of his stuido and that he can book for me x day .. so i text him back to tell him im not planning in the moment to do any paid portfolio , so he kept texting me to tell me that we can do it for 60 £ then he texted me back to tell me that he offers to do it just for 40£ i ignored him and then delete him from my insta , i still blaming my self that i didnt react seriously with the way he behaved ..and the way he lied about his fake casting just to drag me to his studio that took me two hours to travel to him , i still dont understand what he wanted from me and so mad .."


This is clearly an attempt to extort the model. Luring her in with the impression of a casting opportunity gave false hope of possible work. This is awful behaviour and very unsettling. Attempting to use his "power" to pressure her in parting her money in order for a portfolio she never wanted is heartless. Surely the model spent time and money to get there going over her stuff in order to pass the casting. This could have led her to feel she needed to get something from her effort. I don't believe the model is at fault here and she did well to stand her ground. I think this could be grounds to have called the police due to the fraudulent nature of the advertisement and the extortion.



Story 4

A friend informed me she has had a few experiences that have left her uncomfortable. She explained a few examples of photographers pushing boundaries;

"There was one guy telling me "do this do that" and I was like "but I don't feel comfortable doing that kinda thing"

This pressure continued throughout the shoot.


On another occasion, she recalls a different photographer asking her to push the boundaries with pressure tactics.

"Come on then, do it" WIth her having to stand her ground and inform the photographer they do not do certain things.


This model is into a raunchy genre of modelling. As you can imagine people in this field may have different ideas on how to do a photograph. In general, models will state things they are willing and prepared to do. In this case, the photographer at the time of the shoot attempted to push things to a level she was not willing to go. Most importantly she had not agreed to do prior to the shoot. This put pressure on her to comply with the instructions. Due to the nature of this style of photography models can be at a disadvantage as the props and their state of dress can place them in a position of vulnerability. There is also a sense of wanting to get the job done which may cause them to give in to pressure tactics.


This is not my genre of photography so I am probably not the best person to comment here. However, I think it is important that there is a clear agreement prior to the shoot, this gives a person the ability to back away from a shoot they do not want to do. It also allows the photographer to find a more suitable candidate if they want to achieve certain things. Whenever I work on my own projects, I do my best to clearly map out the full concept of the shoot including makeup, hair styling, poses, attire and logistics.


Story 5

I was introduced to a platform that is famed for exposing bad behaviour from successful photographers in the industry. These stories were significantly more shocking and graphic to the point where I don't feel it is necessary to give more than one example.


"%**^% is a predator. He invited me to his hotel when I was 18 for coffee and me being young/naïve I went. He proceeded to make me get naked and tried to make me touch him which I declined being extremely uncomfortable. He then started to touch me even when I told him no and rub h%( ^*%* on me which I didn't consent to. Not to mention he took photos of me naked. He uses his power and popularity to lure young girls to prey n. Beware of this guy at all costs."


Unfortunately in mainstream arenas, photographers of notoriety are literally door openers for upcoming models (in some cases). They know they have the power to make or break carers and use this power to take advantage of up and coming models. They know that for fear of being blacklisted models are unlikely to speak up for themselves (as their reputation in the industry and strong contacts can mean they can easily counter any negative story). On this particular platform, there were several examples of rape and people being taken advantage of models during dressing transitions. There were also examples of models being flown out of the country/continent under the pretence of being paid, then asked to do things they had not agreed to do. Also being offered drugs to make them more compliant (in my opinion).


I can understand that these stories are shocking and there are issues that need to be addressed. But to give some balance, this by no means is this a regular experience for most people on a photo shoot. However, it is still important to highlight some of the dangers that are a thorn in this industry. Unexpectedly throughout my research, I was given some tips models use to keep safe when working with people.


Tips on how models told me they kept safe

  1. Look at their reviews, what are people saying about them? Do you know anyone who has worked with them? If so what was their experience?

  2. Does the photographer ask inappropriate questions? (Blurring professional boundaries by asking about hobbies, relationship status)

  3. Are they trustworthy? Are things as they said they would be? (Location type, people meant to be present at a shoot, sticking to agreements, unexpected factors that would have been known prior shoot)

  4. Do they check for proof of age? (Show an interest in safety)

  5. Will, they let you bring a friend/family for reassurance? (Insisting on being alone or trying to get you by yourself)

  6. Are the photographer's images over photoshopped? (In some cases photographers took images then photoshopped them to look less dressed)

  7. Who will be present? Are you going to be alone? (if unsure of the person bring company)

To be honest, some of the rationales were not obvious to me at first. it was only after seeing the nature of what happens when things go wrong that I understood why these questions would be considered before doing a shoot.


The positive side to my research

In contrast to Purpleport, the Freelancers club members had more positive things to say.


(Site member)

"Great question and important topic. 👍"


(site member)

"Hi Chris, Such an important question that you've asked and I'm really glad someone is talking about it. I've been a photographer for a number of years and was trained by a senior photographer who emphasised the importance of professionalism. However, models have told me about their experiences on set. There is a unique relationship between photographers and models that I believe requires an extra layer of professionalism due to the vulnerability of the model and, on occasion, the nature of the shoot. It is too easy for photographers to abuse their position of power and overstep the mark. This might be an inappropriate touch, asking the model to do something she is not comfortable with or worse. I always advise models to check who else is going to be on set before committing to a shoot. If it's one to one with a photographer, bring a friend along for support. Although 99% of photographers I know are extremely professional, there are some who do not respect the boundaries.*"


This photographer has highlighted some key points. It is the responsibility of the photographer to be professional when working with people. If more people were like him these unfortunate issues would not happen.


These are some practices that I adopt when working with people.

  1. I let them know if it is just me or if any other person is likely to be in the facility shooting in.

  2. Though some poses may require slight discomfort due to core muscles in action I try avoid doing poses that a person is not comfortable with.

  3. If I need to adjust a hair strand in order to nail a pose without messing up the shot I always ask for consent and if possible ask the hair or makeup artist to step in (some shoots are solo). However, in most cases, I ask the person to try to adjust it before intervention.

  4. I encourage clients to send a mood board, this gives me a clear idea of the type of images they want it also makes things clear.

  5. Clients are free to bring a company along to shoots

  6. Models always have to confirm their age

  7. I demonstrate poses to subjects to help them execute the position correctly

  8. I don't allow people to change in my view even if they want to


Concluding thoughts

Conversations like these are taboo, they make people very uncomfortable and can offend.

Nevertheless, I am glad I have had this discussion. I felt I have learned a lot and can now shed a little light on the few that may read or share this article. It makes sense why some models seemed shocked that I give them privacy during transitions of garments. Or why some seem nervous if working with you for the first time.


This article may not bring down a Weinstein, however if it helps one person keep safe during a shoot it would be worth it. I started off this article by stating that it is my responsibility as a photographer to keep people safe during the shoot. It's an uncomfortable thought to have a client or model feeling violated or vulnerable. I tend to check that they are ok and I give them constant reassurance that it is ok to let me know if they are uncomfortable at any point. I am fortunate that people often enjoy their time on set with me. However, I feel it is important to speak up for the minority that doesn't practice this.


The office of national statistics (checked 26/3/2021) stated that sexual offences have "tripled" in the last few years (though associate this with better reporting). "Half of all sexual offences recorded by the police didn’t proceed further through the criminal justice system due to evidential difficulties. This figure reflects the challenges involved in investigating sexual offences, despite the majority of suspects being identified." The hard reality is victims do not feel comfortable reporting offences and this is a hard and complex barrier to climb.


If you have been a victim I would like to encourage to tell someone about it and to not blame yourself for the way you have been treated. Someone will believe you and people should be held accountable. Do not suffer alone but please seek help.


Signposting

If you have been impacted by the discussion please feel free to click on the resources below to get advice and support. I am not qualified to handle these issues however these organisations are.

1) https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/help-after-rape-and-sexual-assault/

2) https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/abuse/sexual-abuse/

3) https://www.womensequality.org.uk/support


References

1) https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/sexualoffendingvictimisationandthepaththroughthecriminaljusticesystem/2018-12-13

2) Human sources will not be disclosed due to the nature of things discussed



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