As mentioned on my facebook last night, I expressed I'd write a blog post on model safety after hearing quite a few horror stories over the last few days.
I apologise in advance if I seem to ramble, I am never good at doing these sort of blogs. I have been very lucky, and not experienced any true horrors such as the ones I have heard, I have just had my dealings with flaky photographers etc. However, this was when I was first starting out; you start to wise up to certain things...
It's vital to keep yourself safe, not just when it comes to modelling but also in everyday life. However, with the rise in internet based networking and modelling (i.e Model Mayhem, PurplePort etc) I feel it's important to address some safety tips; especially for new aspiring models.
People need to realise that as creative as the industry is, it can come with it's dangers, sadly there are people out there who are just a guy with a camera (GWC) and are not afraid to exploit you and your dreams. When you're a fresh face to modelling, this tend to be where those exploiters like to take the biggest advantage, because you're new and naive. Not saying everyone is naive, but you'll receive emails filled with offers that seem to good to be real; and it shocks me to this day how many people fall for these sorts of things.
When I first started out modelling, I'd receive emails daily from so called "agencies", "magazines" etc telling me how they were looking for the next big face, so on and so fourth. These are automatically generated emails, the majority of these are spam emails, and you'll soon come to be all too familiar with them. All I'm saying here, is use your brain. If something seems far too good to be true, then common sense should lead you to realise it probably is. However, I am not saying you'll never be greeted with fantastic opportunities that are legit.
I cannot state enough how important it is to be safe. Check photographers out before you work with them, research their work, they beauty of sites such as PurplePort is it has a reference system, so you can see how others have found them to work with. However, do not stop there, contact the models personally if you wish; find out more. If you are still not sure, and your spidey-senses are still tingerling, but you still want to shoot with the person; you've always got the option of enquiring to bring a chaperon. I know some photographers are against these, however, I think when starting out within the modelling industry a photographer should/would be understanding to this requirement.
Now some of you reading this might ask what about "amateur" photographers? What about the people just starting out? Where are their references? We all had to start somewhere right, and even with the bare bones of a portfolio, there are still ways to do your research. If they have approached you, they will have some body of work to begin with, for you to look at and conduct your own research. Keep things local and familiar, also this would be an ideal situation where a chaperon would be best suited (if they seem reluctant, then you might have found yourself a GWC). You can ask them if they have a list of references, and if you know who the models are in any of the pictures you can go about contacting them for a references. Also enquire as to whether they are on model networking sites you trust, like PurplePort. It's what I do, and hasn't failed me to this day.
An important subject to discuss is age, regardless of what the model assignment is, if you are under the age of 18, you must be accompanied by a chaperon. The chaperon must be of an adult age and have the legal standing to sign a model release form on their behalf.
Always inform people you know, where you are going, if you can leave them the studio address, or shoot location then please do so. Always have your phone with you, it is wise to let someone know when you have arrived and that you are safe.
When arranging a shoot, make sure that both yourself and the photographer have an understanding of what you are looking to achieve for that day, also make sure that they know what levels you are prepared to work to. At no point allow yourself to be persuaded, pressurised or intimidated into doing a level you are not personally comfortable with; for example: If the photographer expresses they are looking to do a art nude shoot, and you only want to work to lingerie, then please say so. Do not feel like, you cannot say no to working a certain level. It's your body!
This is my view, if I am not comfortable with the idea of my own friends and family seeing it, then it's not something I am going to do; and no one will change my mind on that. Your levels must be respected, and your comfort is important, if you are not comfortable within your day of shooting, it will show within your work.
When it comes to realise forms, it's best to discuss and sign prior to the shoot, rather than after. The reason for this is because it can be quite useful. GWC's you'll find will have nothing, or a template of sorts. Please be sure to thoroughly read everything before signing (like you would with any contract). I have come across some interesting ones when I was first starting off. In addition to this, it will also provide you with a level of professionalism from the photographer. If you have paid for the photographers time, and has asked you to sign a release, you are entitled to decline this. If you're doing TF (print/disc) it's quite the standard norm for a release. Do not give any personal information that doesn't seem necessary, the standard information required is: Name, Model Name, Address, Contact Number, Email. Please remember, if you are under the age of 18, an adult must sign this on your behalf.
If at any stage of your shoot, you are made to feel uncomfortable by the photographer, you are well within your rights to say so; pack up and leave. Do not go along with what the photographer wants because you feel obligated to do so, you are not. I have heard accounts from models who have been made to feel uncomfortable on the day, due to unwanted touching etc; and rather than saying anything they just continue and then feel horrible when they get home. There is at no point, a time for a photographer to touch you without your consent! I cannot stress this enough. Any professional photographer will be aware of your comfort, and if they want you to move some hair out of the way etc, they will ask you to do it yourself, or at the very least ask your permission to do so. They will have no issues with you expressing any discomfort on the day; and will do what they can to make you feel less uncomfortable. You have a right as a model to feel comfortable, and not feel obligated to do anything out of your own comfort levels.
Safety is important before all things, always trust those spidey-senses, If you are not comfortable and feel your own personal safety is at risk, then do not commit. You are working within the world of creativity, it is important to make sure you enjoy what you are doing at all times.
Here is a link to a few other safety guides I have seen posted by others, which are extremely helpful:
Roswell Ivory 2