& Modelling Safely
the increase of internet modelling sites such as One Model Place, Net
Model, Model Mayhem and similar, it has never been easier to promote
yourself either as a model or a photographer and there has been an explosion
of want to be talent on both sides of the camera in recent years. Nowadays
anyone with an internet connection and a couple of hundred £/$’s
can set up an internet modelling account, go out and buy a professional
looking camera and call themselves a photographer. Like any trade there
are professionals, there are great amateurs and there are sharks.
For the sake of
this article I’m going to use the industry standard term; GWC
(Guy With Camera), for the sharks. While I don’t want to misalign
anyone personally, it has been my experience that for every two professional
photographers I’ve met, I’ve met a GWC only in it for the
girls, the glamour and their own egos. Hopefully this article will help
the new model to decide who is who.
Firstly, age is of prime importance. Any model under the age of 18 in
most countries (including the UK and US) can only work to lingerie/swimsuit
levels and then only if modelling for fashion or portfolio work unprovocatively.
A model under the age of 18 can not work to topless/nude levels under
any normal conditions. There are of course certain grey areas where
artists such as Sally Mann and David Hamilton have blurred the lines
and produced artistic nudes featuring minors but both of these artists
fought long, hard and expensive court battles to prove that what they
were producing was art rather than titillation. It would be best practise
to just accept that a model under the age of 18 can’t work to
nude levels, ever!
Regardless of assignment a model under the age of 18 must always be
chaperoned by an adult with the legal right to sign a model release
form for them. In an industry with so much glamour attached it is the
photographers responsibility to insure that he conduct himself in a
professional manner and refuse to shoot an underage model unchaperoned.
He, after all is the adult and has a responsibility to all children.
As a photographer, always treat children with the same respect that
you’d want your own child treated. I would also add that a photographer
should always check some form of photographic ID before he shoot with
any model that could possibly be under 18. I personally have a space
in my model release to record what the document was and that I saw it.
If you, as a model are over the age of 18 and are lucky enough to be
ID’d when going to a bar or buying cigarettes be sure to take
the same ID to a photo shoot.
As a model, adult or otherwise, having a sensible chaperone attend the
shoot with you is always a good rule of thumb, especially when working
with a new photographer for the first time. Make sure that the chaperone
is someone that you can trust to behave themselves and remain quite
and courteous. A good friend is often a far better bet than a partner
in my opinion. I find that a model will always look to a partner for
approval when direction is given but not so with a friend. Neither you
nor the photographer should have to spend time chaperoning the chaperone.
Always check for references when approached by a photographer for the
first time. Ask to see some of his work. Does his style reflect how
you want to be seen as a model? (Do you want to be a fashion model or
a porn star?) Does he have a website? (Is it a generic MySpace one or
a personal and professional domain?) Is his email address a generic
hotmail address or does it link to his site? Can he supply references
from previous models and will he let you choose who to contact from
his past work? (Giving you a list of ten models and their contact details
is preferable to him giving you his best mates girlfriends mobile number).
Will he let a chaperone attend? (If not, ask why!)
Always let people know where you’re going, preferably leave them
with the shoot address. Always have your mobile with you charged and
topped up if pay as you go. It is a wise precaution to arrange to let
someone know when you get to the studio, that you’re safe and
all seems above board.
Before the shoot: Discuss modelling levels, that both the photographer
wants and that you are prepared to work to. If the photographer expects
an art nude shoot and you are prepared to work only to lingerie, say
so and do not be persuaded or intimidated otherwise. If the location
of the shoot changes at the very last moment ask why. Is the photographer
trying to get you to a secluded spot and prey on your vulnerability?
Discuss and sign ‘Model Release Forms’ before the shoot
rather than after. This serves a few purposes - first, GWC’s tend
to either have nothing, something unsuitable, or a template of some
sort. Second, it will immediately provide some insight into how "professional"
the photographer is (reluctance, resistance, excuses are all bad signs).
Finally, it allows the model to check for surprises - I've reviewed
a couple of "custom" releases that had all sorts of wacky
terms in them.
If it is a portfolio shoot that you are paying the photographer for
and he asks you to sign a release form, you are well within your rights
not to. If it is a TFP/CD (Time For Print/Compact Disc) shoot then it
is usual for a release form to be signed by the model. Do not give any
more personal details on the form than seem necessary. Usually just
your legal name if working under a modelling name, your address and
your mobile number are sufficient. If you are under the age of 18 then
your guardian/chaperone will also have to sign the form by law or else
it is invalid.
During the shoot: If a photographer is making you feel uncomfortable,
say so. Do not under any circumstance go along with what he wants because
you feel you must. Any professional worth his salt will be as aware
of your comfort as you are. Unless pre-agreed beforehand due to difficult
costume changes; corsets etc (ideally the job of the chaperone) never
let a photographer touch you. If a photographer can’t express
his desires through lack of communication skills what are his camera
skills like? A photographer should be able to explain what he wants.
He should never have to touch you and if he is, he is probably getting
off on it. If the communication worries you and the photographer is
asking probing, unnecessary questions; “Is this turning you on?”
as I have heard from one model. Stop the shoot, pack up and leave. You
have a right as a model not to feel uncomfortable.
Remember that a relationship between a model and photographer is usually
business based. It is rare that a friendship ‘needs’ to
be formed, you can leave as friends but you do not need to be ‘friends’!
Overly friendly contact before or after the shoot is often a warning
sign that things are not quite what they seem. How many web site designers
or graphic artists need to be friends with their clients? If you are
having regular IM chats with a photographer that you enjoy talking to,
that’s absolutely fine. However, if the conversation becomes uncomfortable
or intrusive, block them. There will always be another photographer
around the corner as good as, if not better to work with. Friendships
‘are’ made of course, people are people after all but be
careful in the first instance. If a photographer turns up unexpectedly
at your doorstep, let someone know, give them his details and ask him
politely not to in future. If he apologises and leaves all is well.
Some won’t and expect friendships to become more. You as the model
be the judge here.
Lastly; safety becomes before all things. Always, always, trust your
instincts. The greatest photograph in the world isn’t worth it
if your personal safety is at risk. Be happy, have fun, make some great
art, meet some great people but most of all be safe.