I get messages daily asking me about information on Suicide Girls, booking in with me or tips in general – too often, though, I am receiving messages from girls hurt, angry and upset with how they’ve been treated on a photoshoot by a creepy photographer. Too many times I have photographed someone after years of hiatus with their modelling ambitions because of something nasty or disgusting someone has said or done to them. Just today, someone who was interested in shooting with me finally got back to me to let me know she’d changed her mind, she just couldn’t deal with the gross, ‘perverted men’ disguised as photographers that this industry invites.
I do question why so many male photographer get into shooting ‘glamour’, especially when there’s no money in it any more (most of these photographers work for free) and no Lads Mags to get published in. Nude photography is something I fell into and slowly my work progressed into what it is now – it just so happened that that journey led me to Suicide Girls. However, I regularly have men contact me either totally out of the blue, or they currently shoot landscapes and they want to get into shooting for SG or nudes in general….Why? Where did you make the link from landscapes to nude women? I can’t help but think it’s often just an excuse to get to be around nude women.
This acceptance of inappropriate behaviour has been going on for far too long and it’s not just nude modelling – we all know the stories that have received coverage in the media with photographers over-stepping the boundaries, harassing and even raping, kidnapping and murdering young women and yet, sometimes, these warnings make no difference. People still want to work with those photographers because their work is good – people still want to see Chris Brown perform because they like his songs. Why do we constantly excuse men for their crimes because of their talent in other areas? You only have to look into cases like Brock Turner and see that men with talent are allowed to do as they please with women because we are less important, as human beings, than their skills are.
This is an open letter to new models, experienced models who have learned to keep quiet and women in general. I’m not saying this to scare you. I’m saying this to educate you, be aware of the darkness that surrounds the industry so you can stay out of the shadows and make intelligent, careful decisions about who you work with. Know yourself and what you want before you allow others to decide those things for you. I work pretty exclusively with Suicide Girls these days and there is an amazing support network there – even though SG is a submissions based site and usually have nothing to do with the shoot process until after it’s done, if you have issues with a photographer you’ve shot with please do tell them. Whether they’re new, established or even Staff they will listen to you. Whether you paid the photographer or not, they will listen to you. Even if nothing comes of it, speak up. You don’t have to put this out publicly – I know lots of you are scared of the backlash from photographers, their supporters and fellow models that have had different experiences but maybe your complaint isn’t the first. Even if it is, maybe it won’t be the last, but without your story no one will be any wiser.
If you’re new to modelling, please, please, please do your research about who you want to shoot with. This is particularly important when you start out as many girls fall into these traps and put up with things they shouldn’t because they wrongly think its the way things are. These types of abusers prey on the vulnerable, they know who to push and who not to and hopefully after a couple good shoots behind you, you’ll be able to spot the ones you should avoid. Word of mouth reviews are probably going to be your best friend and whilst you shouldn’t believe everything you hear, please do be aware that if someone has ten good reviews and ten bad reviews that, you should still consider where these bad reviews have come from and what the pattern is. A lot of photographers will have raving reviews from experienced, well known models (those which the photographer thinks they’re lucky to work with so won’t push their luck because they know they would be shut down if they even tried) but riddled with negative reviews from first timers (those they think are below them, don’t know any better, easier to persuade with less understanding of the industry) and I just think that’s really shitty. It reminds me of the typical situation with someone being nice to you on a date where they’re trying to impress you but an asshole to the waiter, it shows their true colours and speaks volumes. Respect is respect and everyone deserves it.
So many girls have suffered the same bad experiences, some multiple times, and many of them have never spoken up because they didn’t want to cause drama so here’s a few ground rules of what is or isn’t normal on a photoshoot, including real-life examples from models:
Your photographer should not make you feel uncomfortable in any way.
Anything you wouldn’t be expected to deal with in a normal working environment is not normal to deal with on shoot. There’s a certain etiquette that comes natural to most good photographers and they should enable you to feel completely comfortable – most girls work with me again and again not because of my technical skill being above anyone else (far from it) but because I make them feel comfortable. I’m friendly, personable and flexible to different personalities. There may have been one or two girls where conversation hasn’t flowed, (maybe they were nervous or maybe they just didn’t like me) but I have always done my best to make them feel comfortable, safe and relaxed. I always let the model know she is in control, it’s her shoot, she calls the shots – I just take them.
“The photographer sat directly next to me the whole time I touched up make up and then tried to stay in the room whilst I undressed stating he would be seeing it all anyway.”
This is not normal. There are girls I’ve shot completely nude several times and I will still allow them the privacy to get changed, or at least not stare at the whilst they do it. Sometimes there isn’t the space or a model just really doesn’t care and will strip off there and then but modelling nude is very, very different to the intimacy of getting undressed in front of someone in close proximity. Nude modelling is showing a version of yourself you’re allowing people to see, someone catching you getting undressed is very different and often very uncomfortable for most. Spacial awareness is always important – you wouldn’t expect to have someone squashed up next to you in the office, breathing over you, looking over your shoulder so imagine how much more uncomfortable that is when you’re nude or scantily clad with a photographer you don’t know. Allow models their personal space.
“I’ve had a photographer on a boudoir shoot (I work up to implied) wait till I was in position (on all fours, head down) to then go directly behind me so that with the flash my underwear went see through. He uploaded these open leg images online and resurfaces them on new websites. He also undressed and got changed on the shoot directly in front of me, walking around topless for a while stating he was as comfortable being naked as me.”
This is just fucking weird. Models don’t want to see their photographers naked and don’t care how comfortable they are naked…It’s irrelevant and unnecessary.
“I once worked with a photographer who approached me, he had a great portfolio full of glamour images and I was flattered. This was only my second shoot ever, so I was very naive. He shot at my house, and as soon as I met him I felt uncomfortable. He had very sinister eyes, which sounds ridiculous but sometimes you just get this feeling. The shoot was awkward, uncomfortable and all he did was criticise me throughout, saying he preferred to work with blonde, tanned fake breasted women. I just wanted him to leave. After, he blocked me on all social media and I had to contact another photographer who was a mutual friend who managed to coax about 6 images from the shoot that were roughly edited and poor quality. I never heard from him again.’
Your photographer should not sexualise you for themselves. This includes speaking to you in a sexually explicit manner.
In an industry where it’s normal to tell someone you’ve just met that they have an amazing bum or you love their underwear it really does come down to the way you say things. There is no need for your photographer to be pushing personal boundaries – your nude modelling says nothing about you or your sex life and it doesn’t make it okay to talk to you about sexual topics. It’s not professional to leave explicit comments on your photos, to ask for your premium snapchat or speak to you about any sex work you’ve done in the past that they might have seen. It’s just not fucking normal, don’t do it. I’ve even heard of photographers sending models nudes of themselves.
“I told my agent about a photographer who got his cock out and tried to pull me onto him and he said ‘I’ve never had any complaints about him before’ and booked me in for another test shoot with him.”
“On a recent shoot the photographer asked me if I was wet…I just looked at him and pretended I didn’t hear it, I was so shocked. He’s now deleted me from Instagram and I doubt I’ll be getting any of the photos back as when I was there he deleted the previous girls photos in front of me, saying ‘she was ugly anyway’.”
“I shot with this photographer a couple of times, nice and normal, then he starts telling me how he hasn’t fucked his wife for 10 years…he’s shagging a 21 year old model…best sex he’s ever had (every gross detail despite me making my disinterest abundantly clear), he “accidentally” slipped nudes she sent him into our mood board file, kept making assumptions about my sex life; “I bet you don’t let your husband XYZ”…I bailed within half an hour. Never had to do that before. I didn’t feel particularly UNsafe, just tremendously uncomfortable. He’s a big reason I stopped shooting, I didn’t like how someone I considered normal and nice turned out to be so seedy and greasy.”
I hear stories like this all the time and it’s so sad when they start out fine and then, all of a sudden, they’re way too big for their boots and shit on any rapport you had with them by acting completely inappropriately. It’s not just ‘creepy old guys’ either, lots of these experiences have happened with younger photographers which seems to shock people more.
“First shoot I ever did I was nervous, so the guy told me to masturbate and see if that helped me feel better, then winked and left the room.”
I can’t help but think it’s a control thing – like cat calling in the streets, they just say it because they can, do and will get away with it. It’s almost like they get off on making you uncomfortable whilst knowing you won’t do anything about it. You could pass some of these things off as banter but I don’t think that excuses it, we all have different levels of banter we reserve for different friends, family, strangers…this is no different.
“I got booked on a shoot by my agency where the photographer locked me in his car for over an hour then came back and asked me loads of sexually suggestive questions to the point where I had to get out of the car in the middle of the road and RUN AWAY. I reported him to the agency, and guess what? They continued to send models to him.”
‘Once had a photographer say he’d spank me, me being naive I thought he was joking and then he actually did. Same photographer told me to look at him as if he was my boyfriend, as if I wanted to “have a go”‘
‘I was told, “look at me like you want to fuck me”
‘I was once offered $1000 for “an hour of my time with a video camera”.
Your photographer should not touch you.
Not without prior warning and without your consent, ever. This goes for any part of the body, it’s not professional to just start grabbing a models arms and legs to move them around into a certain pose unless it’s something you’ve discussed and she’s agreed and you definitely should never be touched in a sexual way by your photographer.
“I’ve had a photographer tell me he is a trained massage therapist and does happy endings, who also knows a ton about posture and tried placing his hands on my pubic bone and lower back to show me how to make me look skinnier.”
“He tried to grab me three times in various places, I asked what the fuck he thought he was doing and he said ‘you looked cold I’m just keeping you warm’.”
“At one point he tweaked my nipple to ‘make it harder’ which obviously was really uncomfortable.”
Your photographer should not harass you.
Your photographer shouldn’t come onto you, it’s harassment. You should not be getting harassed by a photographer at any stage of the shoot process. It’s creepy and unprofessional – they should not be making flirty or suggestive comments before, during or after the shoot. Shooting is working together, that’s all, it does not give permission to try anything more or open any doors for personal relationships. Yes, I’m sure there are times when models have willingly dated their photographers but there are so many photographers that are constantly asking every one of their models out…Just stop! Everyone can see what you’re doing.
“He actually tried to talk me into cheating on my boyfriend at the time with him, not to mention making girls drunk at shoots so he could have a chance to get something from it. The sad part is that most of us still defended him when outsiders talked about these things that they knew he did.”
“The worst is probably a photographer from the early Myspace days. He was super sleazy and was put in jail for rape a couple of years ago and has been banned from practising photography. He worked with literally everybody and had loads of high profile clients so he was hard to avoid for a while but he was the fucking WORST. Fuck him.”
“When I was seventeen my photographer told me it was fine to shoot nude because I was under his adult supervision. He gave me lots of alcohol during the photoshoot and tried getting to me to do spread-leg shots. After the shoot, he wanted me to go home with him for a threesome with his girlfriend for ‘art’.”
This is another one I hear all the time. Under eighteen years old you should not be shooting nude, at all, with anyone. Another girl once told me the photographer told her that model release forms for nude work are only if you’re over eighteen, as long as you’re over sixteen and under eighteen you don’t need to sign release forms and it’s fine to just shoot nude. That’s not true. It’s not fine.
Your photographer shouldn’t be trying to get you drunk at work.
For starters, after a few drinks, you’re not going to look great so I’d be very wary of the motives. I’ve photographed girls who have turned up drunk or stoned and it usually leads to heavy eyes, weird expressions and a red face. Im sure there are exceptions to this rule and i’ve definitely shot girls who have wanted to have a drink to relax but a drink for that reason is very different.
“Always be wary of the ones that give you booze as well to ‘loosen’ up. I was a bit tipsy after a photoshoot and the photographer tried to kiss me at the train station when he dropped me back off. When I pulled back he said he thought we had a ‘good vibe’.”
They should not be rude about you, your body, your skin, your shape, telling you that you need a lot of photoshopping, that you need to lose weight etc or anything sexually inappropriate. A professional photographer will not make you feel bad about yourself – what would we have to gain from it? Why would I make a girl feel ugly whilst I take photographs trying to show her confidence and beauty? Those are not going to be nice pictures. You do not need to be a photographers ‘type’ because you aren’t dating – this isn’t Tinder, this is work. I’m a straight female and there are still certain attributes I think are attractive but they are personal to me and nothing to do with my work so I do not need to belittle anyone for not having these traits. I have heard a lot of this talk from other photographers about what kinds of girls they do or don’t like, what ‘does it for them’ etc.
“He said he could only shoot me from far away, I’m not a face close-up type.“
“I was told I looked fat in all of the pictures and that he was not using them.”
“I was told ‘suck it in fatty’ – at the time I was in size 6 clothes and 18 years old. He also told me not to eat or drink anything that day.”
“The photographer pointed out and was shocked that I had stretch marks.”
“I have heard many times that the only thing I have going for me is my ass.“
“I have had a photographer say to my face he was told if he wanted tits not to hire me but luckily my facial expressions made up for it.”
“When I got to his house where we were shooting he was obviously disappointed with how I looked. He took a test picture of my face from the side, zoomed in on my nose and showed me on the camera, asking ‘do you like your nose?’….this is something I’ve been insecure about my whole life and at that time it was a big deal to me, I was so taken back by it, he was trying to bring me down the whole shoot. He continued to be creepy about the fact I’m a lesbian…I’ve heard lots of rumours about him since then but lots of girls still shoot with him regularly. He was just gross. Nasty.“
Your photographer should not push you into shooting higher than your usual levels.
This means that if you only shoot implied nudes, inform them of that beforehand and if they ask for more you must say no. Unfortunately it’s not always that simple and I can’t even put a number on the amount of girls I’ve worked with who have gone on to shoot with other photographers much more explicitly because they’ve pushed them into it and the fact that it’s ‘not a big deal‘…Baring in mind most of these photographers aren’t nude on the internet. A little bit of your vagina from whatever angle is still your vagina and if you don’t want your vagina in a shot then you get to decide what is too much and what isn’t. Don’t allow someone else to convince you otherwise. If they push you and you regret it, tell them that they cannot use those images right away and if you are still ignored, contact the company the images are for.
“I was laying naked on the bed and the photographer was standing over me shooting down. He told me to lift my legs up so that my knees would be in shot. I was pretty uncomfortable but he promised you couldn’t see anything. As we were shooting he was focusing on my face but as he actually took the photo, he quickly snapped the camera down. Eventually I said ‘you definitely got my fanny in that one!’ – I said it jokingly because I didn’t want to seem accusatory. He looked at the back of the camera and promised, again, that you couldn’t see anything. While he was in the toilet I picked up his camera to check and yep, you could straight up see my actual vagina. In some he had even cut out the top of my head so it was obvious that it wasn’t an accident, he had intentionally moved the camera to do that. I literally went home and cried. He’s well known and recently did a shoot with another girl I know and persuaded her to to go topless. He posted a pic she didn’t know he had taken online and then kept pestering her to go for drinks with him.”
“When I worked at a model agency, if a girl applied and was pretty but didn’t want to do topless the photographer would tell me; ‘just sign her and we can just make her do it later on a shoot'”
“On my first ever group shoot, the photographer and studio owner took me to one side when the other models had left and suggested we take a few more photos and use bondage tape. So here’s me, seventeen, and pretty new/naive to the scene and despite the fact I was underage, I end up naked wearing only bondage tape, whilst chained to a whipping post and gagged while he took photos. I never saw the images so god knows what he did with them.“
“The first time I was ever in front of a camera, it went from a ‘lifestyle’ shoot to bondage real quick. Super uncomfortable and I never saw the pictures. I think I was 19.”
“I had been an admirer of this photographers work and jumped at the chance to work with him. We had two really great shoots, I never felt uncomfortable, or in an danger and actually had a really good time. He wanted to get into more pornographic stuff and I said that wasn’t something I was into but as we are setting up our third shoot, he is telling me that he would like to do stuff that pushes the boundaries a little bit more, and possibly do some POV stuff, where he would be grabbing my panties, or his hands on my neck. I wasn’t really sure if it was something I wanted to do. I know now that I should have said something immediately, but I didn’t – I said I wouldn’t be against trying it. He then sends me photos of him having sex with a girl from behind. It’s full on his dick in her vag and it’s not tasteful or artistic in any way. I did not ask to see this photo, he just sent it with the caption ‘my bad if it bothers you.’ He starts asking if I would do implied sex with him on camera. Again, this is when I should have said no, but I was into the idea of doing something that pushes the line between art and porn. I still had yet to receive the images from out first and second shoots, so I think I was trying to not burn any bridges. Bad idea obviously. A few days later we start talking about the shoot again, he ends the conversation by saying ‘I hope you don’t mind me being naked. If you need to see how I look I can show you.’ I sent no reply to that. The day before, I’m feeling super uncomfortable and anxious, so I ask if he would shoot my friend and I together instead. His response to asking if she could be there was “I am down if I have the energy. Can we shoot first and then she can come after our session?’ That was the final red flag for me. I asked him specifically what he wants to shoot and he describes images of us together having simulated sex and asks if I’m really okay with that. I tell him simulated doesn’t really bother me, but I am definitely not having sex with him so he tells me to just forget about the whole shoot. It was just proof to me that he was going to try to do more during the shoot. I guess he was just assuming he could change my mind once we started shooting.”
Your photographer should not put nudes of you online without your consent.
If you have signed a model release to shoot nude then your photographer won’t necessarily need your permission to use anything shot that day and definitely won’t need to get your consent for each image. However, when it comes to shooting for Suicide Girls I just think it’s fair and good etiquette that I let the girls I’ve shot see the photos throughout the entire process and confirm before they are submitted. It saves me any drama later as we both know we are on the same wavelength. However, this is especially relevant when a photographer ends up posting nudes of you online when you never consented to them being taken; ie if the photographer tells you ‘you cant see anything’ or that they will fix it later and they don’t, that’s wrong. I have even shot girls completely nude that when it came to editing, they changed their mind. I have had to not submit entire sets because of this, some of which I shot for free…Yes, it’s a waste of my time and I’m not going to pretend it’s not annoying, but it’s your naked body and you decide. I have also shot girls nude who then decided they didn’t want their vagina on show (even though they’d done it before and consented on the day of the shoot that that’s what they wanted) and this is also fine, we just didn’t use any of those images! It’s important to be flexible as a photographer with things like this because the issue of nudity and a models personal levels is a very sensitive one. I hate being tagged on Facebook in a family photo where I think I look bad – let alone have a full set of fifty nudes I hate going online without my permission, be considerate.
“Two different photographers I’ve shot with I’ve had to ask them to remove nude photos of me from the Internet that I didn’t approve to be posted.”
“I don’t shoot open leg, I never have and I never will and make it clear before even discussing a shoot that those are my levels. I shot with a guy who was absolutely fine up until about two hours in when we got to the nude work. He asked me twice to do poses I wasn’t comfortable doing, ie. Turn my bum to the camera and bend over…I said no straight away and told him again that I don’t do open leg. He tried again and I said look, if you don’t stop I will walk out…WITH payment. He also asked me to sign a document and at the bottom it said note down any images that you want deleting and they won’t be published, so I wrote down the ones I wanted deleted and I deleted them myself. Obviously he knew how to recover the images off his memory card and he published several images I had signed LEGAL documentation to have deleted. I had a stern word and threatened court action and the images were removed. Needless to say I shan’t be working with him again.”
I have NEVER posted nudes of a girl that doesn’t model nude. I have NEVER posted nudes of a girl that’s nude all over the place but hasn’t consented to that specific image being taken and published. I have NEVER come onto any of my models. I have NEVER touched one of my models inappropriately – or at all without their consent. I have NEVER tried to kiss one of my models, touched their nipples or lied to them about what I was photographing. If I say you can’t see anything in the photo, it’s because you can’t…if by some mistake you can, I’ll delete it instantly. I don’t even keep deleted images in my archives, I only keep the confirmed final set, everything else is deleted forever. There is no archive and it will NEVER turn up on any website, ever. I have NEVER pushed a model with her levels, quite the opposite. Girls often ask me when they’re unsure whether I think they should be fully nude or not and I always say, if you aren’t sure and you haven’t thought about it, don’t do it. You can always do it next time but you can never take it back. I have NEVER pushed my own fetishes onto models. I have NEVER spoken to a model in an overtly uncomfortable and sexual way. I have NEVER asked them about their sex lives or anything else inappropriate to try and ‘turn them on’ to get ‘better photos’. Don’t stand for it. The more you accept and promote the same photographers you complain about, simply because you like their work, the more it will happen to others, and those others become newer and younger, more inexperienced and more vulnerable and who knows where it will lead. Make your own judgement and trust it. Do not ever risk your own safety.
YOU ARE NOT A PUSSY. If you didn’t ‘stand up for yourself’ and you don’t think you said no in a forceful enough way, it’s not because you are a pussy. If you have ended up being pushed into something you didn’t want to do, guilt-tripped into allowing images of yourself online that you are unhappy with…This does not make you weak or at fault. The most common thing I heard from models when researching to write this was that they thought they were the only one or that they overreacted, chances are that is never going to be the case because whilst these excerpts are all from different models, many of the photographers are repeat offenders and this is only from a small circle of girls that I know – the actual issue is so much bigger than that. You are not alone, you are not the first and unfortunately you won’t be the last.
“When you got naked by choice for the shoot who is going to say it isn’t asking for it or whatever. I felt like it’s my own fault for putting myself in that situation.“
‘There’s a reason some people just choose to walk away from this industry. Not that it solves a damn thing, but it made my life 10000000 times happier.”
Don’t quit. Don’t use fear of these things happening as a reason to stop doing what you love, use it as a tool to work with only those you feel comfortable with. It’s really not that fucking hard to not be a creepy asshole but, low and behold, people do it and the longer you stay silent, the more girls it happens to and no one says anything to each other.
Photographers – STOP using your work to try and ‘get’ models for yourself, STOP creeping on them, STOP pushing the boundaries of professionalism, STOP being revolting and STOP using them as your own private sex show. Start doing your job.
Other Blogs in this series: