At the farm, in the old family Churchyard.
At the farm, in the old family Churchyard.
With the Harvey Weinstein and Terry Richardson cases making headlines I fee the need to say something about how I work. The problem is that young women and men are not prepared to understand or handle a situation like this. An older man with power and influence carrying on, saying this is the way its done in the business. That is the concern I have about expecting young models to think through all the ramification of posing nude. The problem I have is thinking these “kids” as fully grown adults. That they should be treated with all respects at any age is a given. Early twenties they are still kids in so many ways. I haven’t wanted to take advantage of them, I do run the risk of being seen as patriarchal, I feel that is well worth the risk. Yes I will shoot women who have reached the age of eighteen if they are willing, However my preference is twenty-four, I feel that by this time they can make a more informed decisions. Yes I do get a release, but that does not give me the right to ruin anyone’s life because they agreed to shoot with me. It doesn’t mean I can use the images indiscriminately, I ask the women who are in contact with me if I can use their images for whatever I am trying to accomplish. Those that decide to not keep in contact are still deserving of privacy, and should be kept from their lives harmed. Noting the developed my own brain has given me an appreciation of the not yet fully developed brains. I know a lot of photographers who say “well I have a release!” To my way of thinking, yeah you do, but you should ask first…, maybe she has a reasons (like kids) not to want to be exposed like that, or to use identifying information with an image.
I had a model who was twenty-four at the time, but a young very naive twenty-four. She came from a farming background, wanting to make up for lost time. I could see that she was testing herself, testing her limits. We’d been shooting nudes for quite sometime
, she was bored with that, not a challenge any more So I said, partly in jest why not masturbate? NO she said, but I could see she was thinking about it, was she brave enough. Now don’t go jumping to conclusions, I knew she was ripe for someone to take advantage of her. I also knew the way I worked, knew that I would be willing to protect her and her images. She said yeah but I have to get comfortable. So I got some really lovely images mainly because she didn’t know any better than to fake it, when she left she was happy as a clam. Only after she had second thoughts, asked her friends, they told her she was nuts, that her job was in jeopardy. I told her not to worry, I wasn’t going to do anything without asking first. I kept my word, but still her concern was what did I think of her.., what kind of girl did I think she was. Finally a few summers ago we had the chance to really talk. Told her that I didn’t think that she was that kind of girl either, that I respected her, that I was still protecting her and her images. She was relived that I didn’t think poorly of her. We went though the images again, told her how proud of was of her, that she needed an outlet at the time that wouldn’t harm her. That I had thought of all the ramifications before we actually shot, that I was willing to protect her, while someone else might not. I still have hopes she will come for another shoot, but she has other priorities now.
Not everyone works the way I do, with my past mistakes of my own, made when my brain wasn’t fully developed. I have learned a hard lesson, and would really hate to be held accountable for mistakes in judgement I made in my twenties. I think of a shoot as having the features of the Stockholm syndrome; a model gets so comfortable with a photographer so she wants to please him or her. Then has second thought, but by that point, the damage has been done if she has signed that release. I don’t want to be that photographer…, ever! I want to do the right thing by my models then and now. I think that’s the reason I haven’t had problems. I do the right thing, even if it cost me money. I have found that the rewards far outweigh any monetary harm.
I’ve been asked more than a few time if I worry about working with nude models alone. To tell the truth I have never given it much consideration because of the way I work my craft. I offer references, give the model a straight forward idea my style of work, now I give the access to my website so they can see what I shoot, and them what to expect. I am very welcoming to significant others check me and the studio out so that everyone is comfortable. I make it clear before any shoot happens that I expect to work with my model’s undivided attention.
For my part I am very respectful of the models rights, and my responsibility. When I work with a nude model I realize that their personal space is much more important for them. To date I have never had a model who even thought I have done anything in the least bit inappropriate. Once I had a younger model who I plan to work with at a friend’s farm. On the way over I told her that I wasn’t sure who else would be there, I assured her that she was not going to be put on any shows for anyone. That if worst came to worst we’d have the nice meal I had brought, and just call it a day. At the risk of being called paternalistic, I wanted her to feel at ease. That’s is the problem though, the same preparations I use to make my models comfortable, are the same tactics predators use to lull their victims into a false sense of security.
Then there is the matter of the release, I want my model or subject to see everything I have captured before they sign. I want for them to be comfortable with what we’ve gotten, after all we work in a collaborative manner. Many times I work without a release at all, preferring to be able to get in touch with the person, tell them what and were I want to use our image(s). Since I use real film this can get quite expensive, a few times the model decides to not sign. Those few times the whole shoot has been an expensive waste of resources. I can only use the images for display only, no sales are permitted, really that is fair. Now not everyone works as I do, my models work with the anticipation of sales to follow. My work is sold in galleries, or used in books, my website, or I donate it to various organizations that foster a positive sex culture.
Again not everyone works this way, but I feel very strongly about my images, and the way I work. I work very hard at my craft, I get some beautiful images in the pointillist manner. I am proud of my work, the people who chose to work with me…, how could I not take the steps necessary to make it a beautiful experience for all.
The second time Ruby worked with me out the friends farm, we worked in and around the family graveyard. Way off
in the woods, small trials led into the area protected by its remoteness. I found it very peaceful, we worked with a respectful quiet. The mosquitoes, however were out for blood; she sprayed her front, I her back to help repel the little beasts.
In early spring the day was mild, the clouds…, like a giant scrim floating in the sky. As this was our second shoot, Rudy had no inhibitions about nudity, she worked very well…, creatively. Very playful as the camera loved her, she in turn had different looks she tried for effect.
She was one of those “kids” that are at risk, newly eighteen, already trying out the sex trade. I saw her portfolio which featured tight shot of her pubic region. I knew I could do a much better job, and maybe show her photographs as art. She came to the studio, and changed into a really cute short bathrobe. She sat there, smoking a mile a minute, a haze of blue surrounded her head. For what seemed like 5 minutes, she when on about what questions she would answer, and never ask personal questions. She sat there, tight as a spring, and asked, “any questions?” Yeah, I asked “do you get “nekked”? She threw off the bathrobe, preening, she turn to me like “feast your eyes on this”! I studied her saying, “naw, let’s get you in a dress”!
She burst out laughing, and we were friends. That is an important skill I have, knowing what to say in the moment. Respecting my models, and having fun at the same time. And not backing down when they test the limits.
Cross Processed film all the way! I had to talk really well to capture this young lady. Shot at Onion Creek, Texas on a family plot in the woods. Started of well, got good images, but I gave her some advice that didn’t sit too well. She said, ” I already have a dad!”…, ouch!
Easily my youngest and most vulnerable model ever. After getting comfortable with each other, we settled to the business of art. That small chip she carried on her shoulders fell off, and she began to trust me. After the session when I showed her what I had gotten, she turned to me and said this like “real art”. I told her there was a difference to working with me, I have your back still.
Now in her thirty’s and wife and mother. Long time has passed and she too has talked about getting in front of my camera once again. We’ll see, but even the idea that she’d come again is great.