Monday, January 7, 2013

Listen to your gut!

I have worked very hard to establish a certain kind of image for myself as a model... It is based off of my personal preference of what I will/will not do, and has helped me attract the kind of photographers I really love working with and click well with... and I think it has helped me avoid photographers who do work that I am not interested in doing. If you remember from my earlier posts, I kind of got the modeling ball rollin' through some of those group shoots. They are such a great way to meet a bunch of people all at once- perfect for networking and safer because you're usually around a pretty large group of people. There was one group shoot, though, that taught me a very important lesson, a lesson I had already known and had avoided having to actually experience because of the precautions I have always taken...

As with any group shoot, you never know who will show up. You don't get to see their work ahead of time, and they don't get to see yours. You don't get to check references either. I was one of the featured models for this particular shoot, with a character/theme, and there were parts of the costume that made me nervous upon my assignment-I thought it had potential to be taken in an inappropriate direction if put into the wrong hands...but I knew a bunch of the people in charge, most of the photographers, etc. so I brushed it off, assuming that in this setting, with all these people I know, I won't be put into an uncomfortable position. 

On the day of the shoot, before I was even finished with styling/makeup, a photographer had approached me to start shooting--he was antsy, we were running behind, so his "pushiness" seemed to make sense. I let him know how we're being shuffled around and that I still had a few pieces left to my look, but will definitely work with him as soon as I was able. He approached me a couple other times early on, eventually I went to work with him. Everyone was in the same room, so nothing was private--made me feel an extra sense of safety. But I started to have a weird feeling, that pushiness was still there. 

We started shooting... He'd pose me, and then he'd mess around with lights/camera stuff... No big deal, that's how it works... So I'd break the hard-to-hold pose because it was impossible to hold for a handful of minutes and didn't make sense to continue to hold while he wasn't ready to shoot anyway... At first I thought he was just giving me a hard time when he'd tell me "You broke the pose!" But he repeated this, after other difficult poses... I soon felt he was seriously scolding me. Some of his poses made me incredibly uncomfortable,  not just because they were difficult to hold, but I worried they were going to look "sleazy" when he'd tell me to get into that position, I'd "clean it up" a bit to the point I felt comfortable...he wasn't ok with that, and would push me to do what he wanted. The wording he'd use just elevated my level of discomfort... this all felt "trashy"...Very much not the image I want to portray in my work... Am I just overreacting? 

People had walked by us and told me that I'm really lucky to be working with this guy, he's so good, etc.  So even though I felt he was putting me into inappropriate poses, again, I brushed it off--everyone says he's so great, so maybe this just feels worse than it looks...? Maybe I am just being too uptight? Maybe we're just not clicking that well, but that doesn't mean the images will be as bad as this feels, right? But I became more and more frustrated with the things he'd make me do and his harsh tone... he'd cut me off, he'd scold me for breaking poses, he push and push to get what he wanted, one issue after another...I had never had this many problems with a photographer, I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to be rude or mean, I didn't want to ruin any of this for anyone. He didn't seem to understand the difficult poses he was putting me in, and he sure as heck didn't seem to catch on that I was incredibly uncomfortable with the nature of them. The look on my face had to just scream "I'm hating this!!!" Eventually, I just stopped talking completely, I closed up, and just waited for this to be over. More signs you'd think would be easy to read... I still tried to tell  myself that the photos have GOT to look better than they felt... I was able to fit in 2 of my own poses (I can take direction and I don't mind it, but I do love "collaborating" with a photographer and finding my own poses... All photographers are different...this photographer preferred to control the poses himself...there is no right or wrong, just preferences/styles), so that also gave me hope. I had a very difficult time getting myself to enjoy the rest of the group shoot after working with him, so many things felt so wrong... I actually felt "dirty" in a way! I was so worried about those images. I tried to shake these feelings as best as I could for the rest of the shoot. The bad feeling only returned after the shoot, that pretty much the only thing I could think about! I didn't want to ruin my image. I didn't want to be put in a tricky situation on the Internet. But all I could do was wait, and hope.

Then one day I logged into facebook and was horrified. He had posted one of the images that I was most dreading to see. And guess what? I felt it looked just as inappropriate as I had feared and went against that image I have worked so hard to build up over the past couple years. Oh crap! Now what?! Now there's this image that portrays me in a way that I do NOT want to be seen, I feared that image would attract exactly what I don't want. I was torn.

I confided in two photographer friends, I needed a professional photographer's opinion... I needed to know from their perspective, "If a model wasn't comfortable with an image you took of them and posted, is it ok for them to let you know that in a professional and respectful way? And what would you do?" Both assured me that any professional photographer would understand and not take offense, they want the model to like the image and to be comfortable with it, especially. But I'm an artist, I know how difficult it can be to receive criticism, and I didn't want to offend this photographer. After taking some time to think about it, I reminded myself of how hard I have worked for my "image"...and that I do not want this photograph to change that image and open me up to the type of work I do not want to do. I was frustrated looking back at that shoot, he wouldn't listen to me, he was so pushy, he'd yell at me, etc...but all that aside, I was most angry at myself. Despite the handful of people who had walked by talking this photographer up, despite the fact it was a group shoot, despite the fact that he was so pushy and I'm just a quiet girl, Iiiiii did NOT feel comfortable with the things he was making me do. Iiiiii should have listened to that side of me and done something about it, even if he kept cutting me off, I should have kept trying to stand up for myself (as professionally and respectfully as possible). I don't like conflict, I don't want to make people upset, but THIS is not a good situation to find yourself in either. So I carefully constructed a message, trying to be respectful and cautious. I didn't want to demand anything, I was just hoping we could talk and come to an understanding. I let him know I wasn't comfortable with some of his poses but did not know how to express that while we were shooting... and that I was not comfortable with the image he posted, I do not feel it is a good representation of me as a model and where I'd like to go with modeling. I asked him if he would consider removing the photo. I let him know that I had looked at some of his other work and was a fan, and that I was interested in seeing some of the other images he shot of me from that day, and that I appreciate him making the trip to the group shoot and working with me. And then I had to wait again...

Simply put, the photographer's response to my message lead me to believe he did not understand where I was coming from, unfortunately... BUT he did end up removing the photo, thankfully... And well, he also removed ME from his contacts...

So the lesson from this experience was to never let my guard down... While I had worked hard to avoid situations like this, that did not make me immune. I caved in and didn't listen to my gut at all that day. I listened to everyone else and crumbled under this photographer who I felt intimidated by. I was the one in that situation and I knew that it wasn't right. I was so mad at myself for not holding my ground better the day of, for making excuses as to why I must have been over thinking things...However, I am thankful for the lesson and that it came in the form of a group shoot, rather than something more serious and in private. 

It is so important for you to know what you are/aren't willing to do, and if possible, communicate this clearly with the photographer's you'll be working with ahead of time. (If you aren't able to discuss this ahead of time, like in this situation, personally I believe you still have a right to communicate if you are uncomfortable and the photographer has a responsibility to listen-you need to listen to each other.) You need to know the kind of image you want to "sell" and don't cave in if someone pushes you in the opposite direction, no matter what the situation is...It is YOUR image on the line. No side is wrong, as far as what kind of image you choose to sell, as I mentioned earlier it is personal preference. Where I am, at this stage of modeling, I feel I have to be very careful with what I open myself up to... and images like the one that photographer posted I feared would open up the wrong doors for me. 

1 comment:

  1. Well written, N, and something aspiring models should read and take to heart.