Earlier this year I wrote an article entitled “How to not be a creepy photographer.” The piece details an issue I’ve witnessed in the young photography world; artists are commonly making their models uncomfortable with their inappropriate behavior on set, and less commonly but more egregiously, they are sexually taking advantage of their models and talent. I wrote the article as satire originally, but the more I wrote the more I realized that what I was putting down on paper needed to be seen. The piece still reeks of satire and poor attempts at humor, but the points I tried to make are still cutting. The article hit my blog on a Monday in April, and in one week had reached 100,000 people. I didn’t expect that last part. I wouldn’t consider myself as being particularly popular or well known in the photography world. I mean, I don’t even have 2,000 followers on Instagram for goodness sake. But none-the-less, the article spread, and was hosted by several other blogs and websites. My inbox was overflowing for the next couple weeks. Models, photographers, activists and other interested parties emailed me, commented and messaged me with their thoughts. Most of the feedback I received was good. Some of the feedback I got was… Not so good. (But we’ll get to that later).
The first thing I want to talk about today is the positive feedback my article received, particularly the feedback directed at me. I got many comments and emails praising my integrity, some making me out to be some kind of champion for women’s rights in the photography world. This made me cringe a little bit. Not because I’m bashful, or because I can’t accept praise, but because it’s not true.
I have about as much integrity as a drug dealer who thinks he’s clean because he doesn’t smoke his own product. I’m just as culpable as the men I discuss in my original article. I’ve done my fair share of oggling, and I’ve made plenty of inappropriate comments to some of my talent. Do I coerce girls to do things they aren't comfortable with? Well, no, but just because I’m not the worst of us, doesn’t make me the best of us either. I wanted to set this straight, because I feel it’s important to be transparent when I write about these things. When I say I’ve seen this type of behavior first hand, I am including myself in that statement. That said, my own stake in the issue does not weaken the message: Stop being a douchey creep.
While I work on my own douchey creepy issues, however minor they may be, it seems as if others in the industry found that being confronted with their own douchey creepiness was a tough pill to swallow. For every three or four positive messages I got, I received one negative one. All of them from male photographers, of course. Many guys in the boudoir/pinup/fine art industry messaged me saying that they’ve not seen the type of behavior I am talking about. And I believe them. But much like The Force, or Donald Trumps hairline, just because you cant see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. After all, that’s the whole reason why I wrote the article, because I felt like the negative Nancy’s of the photography world weren’t seen, or being held responsible.
Here are some of my favorite reactions:
“I'm extremely offended that this article only mentions male photographers. Men are not the only gender than can be "creepy." Women can be just as creepy as men…This article would be much much better if it was written in a gender-neutral fashion. Especially considering that the author of this story is a man. He should know exactly how male photographers are treated and not want to write a story that could continue this ridiculous thought process.”
“Just had to comment. ....I'm a photographer. ...male....scumbag.... get over it, lol. Women are not innocent, helpless, delicate little flowers. Women are awesome…Sorry for all the little helpless females who got taken advantage of, really, it sux. But women take advantage of men too since time began...don't hate the player, hate the game.”
But the one that takes the cake for me is this one, penned by J.D (John) Horwitz:
Actually - if you study art history, you will clearly see that male and female models were depicted dressed, semi-nude and fully nude from the very earliest depictions...and his quote "This was because depicting a model undressing was seen as being voyeuristic, inappropriate and inherently sexual..." is not only laughable inaccurate but also childishly naive.
If you wish to caution photographers against being douchebags with models - fine. BUT please do it as an adult!
And - I've been doing this for 58 years, including a decade shooting for Pent House Magazine...and find the majority of shooters nothing like what was described in the article.
When you are mature (not older) you will understand what I have said. You didn't invent the world - rather you are a pimple on its behind. Best of luck in your career - hope it leads past your parents basement!”
I’ve been called a child, retarded, faggot, among other things for writing the article. But reactions like these only add credibility to my argument. That argument remains as relevant today as it was six months ago: Photographers, specifically men, are massive dicks to their models sometimes. Of course I don’t mean all photographers. Of course I don’t mean all men do this. Even one instance of inappropriate behavior on set is too much.
The whole reason I’m writing this follow up piece is to not only remind people about the importance of this issue, but also to affirm my own writing with the reactions of those who didn’t care for it.
I want to personally thank every last one of you who read and shared the original article. It gave me the legs I needed to start taking my writing more seriously. More than that though, it was incredibly humbling and heartbreaking to hear some of your stories and experiences.
As always, work hard and be kind.