Updated: Apr 2
A photo shoot is an activity that should always be fun and exciting. Despite this, the modeling industry faces a darker side that can lead to a far less positive experience. There are many cases where models are being harassed or even assaulted by photographers, who use their profession as a way to take advantage of the models.
I’ve always been a huge enthusiast of participating in photoshoots. For a long time, I even wanted to become a model because of how much I loved to be in front of a camera. When I was 15 years old, I received a professional photoshoot as a gift from a relative. I remember I was so excited because I only had positive experiences previously, and thought it would be amazing. I didn’t bother to do any research on him, just because he was stated as a professional photographer. The day of the photoshoot my grandma was with me, sitting right outside the room. The door wasn’t even closed, but little did I know, how uncomfortable the experience was going to be nonetheless.
So where did things go wrong?
I remember I had a moment where I couldn’t think of a pose to do next, so I asked the photographer for some suggestions. He suggested that I should spread my legs (I had a skirt on) and more than once he suggested that I should pull the skirt up. I was 15 at that time, let’s keep that in mind.
A few other incidents happened too, like when I wanted to change my clothes, and he told me to change in the same room he was in. Even though I had not experienced anything like this before, I remember feeling like something was majorly off. In fact, the very start of the whole thing should have been a red flag. The photographer was so surprised when he saw that my grandma was with me, and so sure I was alone that he almost closed the door in front of her.
Although this happened a long time ago, I still remember that he was completely serious when making those inappropriate suggestions. Despite that, I stayed until the photo shoot was finished and went home like nothing weird had happened. Frankly, I was young and completely ignorant. Looking back on it now, I couldn’t be more happy that my mom was strict and didn’t let me go there alone.
My mindset back then was that since nothing horrible happened, it wasn’t serious enough for me to tell someone. So, I kind of forgot about it for a long time until I stumbled upon a video called “Dark side of modeling”, by the talented photographer Jessica Kobeissi. In this video, she talks about the dark sides of modeling and shares her opinion on what is appropriate for a photographer to do and what is not. We also see some real-life examples from models who share their stories. Thanks to this video, I realized that what I experienced wasn’t normal and professional at all. I highly recommend that you check out her video:
Now that I’m older, I have a completely different perspective on it. What people like him do, is wrong and a real problem that should be addressed more.
Here are some things you can learn from my experience:
1. Don't go alone!
This applies not only to teenagers but also to adults. If you don’t know the photographer personally, and none of your friends or family members have worked with them - don’t go alone. If something happens or seems off, you can have someone there to help you. My experience contained so many red flags, you could imagine what would have happened if I went alone. Having someone with you should never ever be a problem, even if it’s a brand that wants you to represent their product. If you get a feeling that something is off, leave.
2. Do the research!
I really don’t remember doing any research on him, which was obviously wrong. The studio was in a huge apartment building and the studio itself was a small and chaotic one-room apartment. I wasn’t even mad about the condition of the studio though, as I have lived in different conditions, good and bad, so that wasn’t a problem at all. If we look from a different perspective on it, I must admit that it looked suspicious and his behavior proved it.
3. If the photographer's comments make you feel uncomfortable, speak up. If they don't listen - leave!
Comments like “Spread your legs open” and “Pull up your skirt” are not normal, nor professional. You have the right to tell a photographer that their comments make you uncomfortable. I think it’s so important to positively vibe with the photographer so that the result of the photoshoot is amazing. Unfortunately, there are so many predators who use their profession as a way to take advantage of models and it applies to both genders. This is such an important topic that everyone should be aware of.
This post is meant to make you more cautious about working with photographers you have never met. Nonetheless, there are many talented and professional photographers out there who are genuinely good people and who care about the models’ well-being. So be cautious and stay safe!