They say the title is one of the most important aspects of an essay; it has to be concise and draw in your target audience. Intending to impart a bit of wisdom to those new to photography or new to working in portraiture, I’m hoping my title has the required effect. With this also being my first blog entry on the spectacular, still-in-the-works website I hope you either enjoy it or hate it so much you have to share your outrage with others (thereby still giving me page hits). I have noticed a trend over the past half-decade in regards to how photographers behave towards models and vice versa, and I think the start of a new year is the perfect time to take stock and gain some insight. This will be a two-part series, and both parts should be educational for both models and photographers.
First up, let’s tackle the photographers (after making sure their expensive cameras are safely put away). Portrait, fashion, and art photography is a lot like massage therapy: some people learn it solely to meet women and see them naked. “But James, surely such deviant and conniving people don’t exist!” you say. Well Little Tommy, unfortunately they do and we like to refer to these people as “creepers”. Creepers make the entire photography industry look bad, and in my humble opinion deserve to have their naughty bits smothered in honey and tied to a fire ant hill. The creeper comes in all ages and in both sexes and because of them models and other photographers need to be on guard.
If your sole purpose in pursuing photography is to hang around scantily clad 20-somethings, walk away now. Photography is an art form and it encompasses many different styles, from landscapes to fetish, and what separates the creepers from the true photographers is their approach to that art. Photographers should at all times be professional with their subjects! Do not touch the models without first asking permission (this includes fixing wisps of hair), and do not comment on how great their breasts, buttocks, or other genitalia looks. Do not try to force a subject into a pose, outfit (or lack thereof), or theme that they are uncomfortable with. Do not try to get them loosened up with alcohol or drugs, and don’t try to shame them out of brining an escort to a shoot. Oh, and please for the love of sweet little baby Jesus, DO NOT try to verbally paint a picture of a scene with words commonly found in a “Dear Penthouse” letter. Models do not want to be leered at, do not want your opinion on their lifestyle choices, and do not want to work with someone old enough to be their parents and grandparents that tells them how well they fill out an outfit. Imagine your grandmother winking at you as you’re getting out of a shower, and you’ll know what being creeped out feels like – you can thank me later for the nightmares and the need for therapy.
Having said all of that, I am not implying in the least that a photo shoot should be as drab and droll as Walter Cronkite reading the classified ads. Have fun! Different photographers have different ways to break the ice and help their subjects relax. Some are goofy (like me), some tell jokes, some use the barbershop technique where they talk about everything and nothing. Find a way that works for you, but don’t be a creep! Compliment your subject, make them feel special, and learn to convey how to pose in a non-sleazy manner.
For those photographers who are doing it right, it’s up to us to educate those who are doing it wrong. Sometimes a person doesn’t realize they are being a tool, and sometimes they just don’t care. If you witness a photographer stepping out of line, take them aside and talk to them or ask them to leave. Let’s all act like adults and take responsibility for protecting the creation of our art and those that help us make it happen.