Considering my background in theater, I’m already accustomed to being labeled a prude. There seems to be an theory in the industry that an actress or model must be willing to do whatever it takes in order to “make it.” Those who draw a hard boundary line are often slapped with the label of prude or told they’re not really cut out for the job. But this ideology leaves the door wide open for producers, directors or photographers to take advantage of women (or men) who are trying to establish themselves in the business.
This industry is broad. There is plenty of room for everyone to find a niche. There is a place for artistic nudes, boudoir, and even ‘sexy photos.’ And there are plenty of other styles for those who are uncomfortable doing such shoots. What there is not room for, however, is photographers who use a model’s trust and body for personal enjoyment. Whether this involves unwanted touch, unwarranted use of nudity, or simply shaming a model into pushing past her own clearly established boundaries, it is inappropriate and inexcusable.
I’ve been fortunate, thus far, to have been largely treated with respect while on shoots – even by photographers I was later warned against working with. I have a generally positive perspective on the photography community here in Wichita. I have only once attended a shoot where I actually feared for my safety. However, I have attended a couple of shoots where I was asked to pose in a manner that was both beyond the boundaries I established at the time of booking, and also irrelevant to the style of shoot. There was no need to be asked to do “sexy poses” at a headshot shoot. Nor was there an excuse for pouting about pre-approved cosplay costumes not showing enough cleavage or leg. I do my best to screen portfolios to make sure my style matches up with a photographer’s, but when I am approached by a photographer and he agrees beforehand to the style and theme of the shoot, it’s disheartening, to say the least, when I am then treated as though I am “difficult” because I won’t suddenly start acting sexy. I have found this mindset particularly prevalent in “for trade” shoots, where the photographer behaves as if the model owes him compliance because he is volunteering his time. In reality, both parties are investing time and energy into the shoot, and both parties should behave professionally.
We as models need to remember that our time and talent are valuable and that we do not have to compromise our personal safety or standards while on a shoot. Communicate clearly before the shoot begins, speak up if a photographer’s conduct is unprofessional, and speak out if you believe that other models could also be at risk. Let’s all remember that “whatever it takes” should never include harm to or exploitation of our bodies, especially by professionals whom we should be able to trust.
-A Local Wichita Model