The Ugly Truth About the Sexual Harassment of Models

The Ugly Truth About the Sexual Harassment of Models

This is something that I am proud to hear being said, and I genuinely hope it continues to be said. When I saw this article making the rounds online, I knew I had to help spread its message, not just because it is important in my industry, but also in my personal life. Sexual harassment of any kind is unacceptable, and I will always fight against it. Awareness is step one, speaking out is step two.

I work professionally as a glamour photographer. I have worked with hundreds of models over the years, and have (sadly) heard so many awful stories of what models have gone through with some photographers, agents and industry people. On top of that, my wife of 15 years also models, and my 10 year old daughter and 8 year old son have been to major agencies to interview to possibly get into modeling (a decision they eventually decided against on their own, for the record). I refuse to sit back and let the industry I work in, and basically live in, continue on this terrible path. posted a detailed article about this "ugly truth", and it hit close to home; I have heard so many similar and equally horrific stories from models that I've worked with over the years. 

So if you're reading this, you can help. Spread this article around, especially the in fashion and glamour industries, and refuse to stay silent. I've learned over the years that the biggest challenge most models deal with is simply the naivete of youth, and it makes them easy targets for abusers and predators. Being sexually harassed or raped is never, ever the model's fault.

If you disagree with me on that, then you and I are not friends. We are not associates. And I have no respect for you. Photographers who abuse or sexually harass models are very much my enemies. And let it be known, I'm gunning for you.

Share this message any way you want, but do share it. Awareness is everything.


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Michael Rapp's picture

(All it takes for evil to prevail is a few good men to do nothing - E. Burke)

Adam Bender's picture


Karl Shreeves's picture

Spot on. It helps the profession if we make it normal to have an atmosphere in which harassment is difficult, too. I have a policy -- I am NEVER alone with a model. There are always at least three people on set (usually more). Also, I encourage models to bring an escort if they want, and no, this has never caused a problem. I have had young models bring boyfriends, girlfriends and even a father once. In my experience, they know the model is there as a professional, so they have to be professional (sometimes they help). I've never regretted this policy; to the contrary, I find that the models are more comfortable and we're able to build a trust relationship quickly because I've made it clear they are in a safe environment. If, as a community, we made such practices the norm (there are other ways to accomplish this goal), it will be harder for the creeps to create situations that they can exploit.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

Having other people in the room is the norm for certain businesses where people are going to be exposed in some way. Many OBGYNs have a policy to have a nurse in the room when performing a pelvic exam... which I know isn't the same thing but the CYA reasoning is very much the same.

Eric Mazzone's picture

I have a similar requirement, the only way I'll work without is if I've worked with someone before and know them quite well, and even then I prefer to have a 'battle buddy'. After 17+ years so far in the army the battle buddy system is ingrained in me.

Besides IMHO having an extra set of hands on set for somethings is very helpful.

Now I know of one photographer in my area who refuses escorts, for figure studies even, then tells the model he wants to work with she will only be a cute face unless she shoots nude with him, yet claims he doesn't pressure models. For a while I was the escort for this model since we've known each other for years before she got into modeling and I got into photography and we were local to each other.

Nino Batista's picture


Refusing an escort is one of the main signs of a creeper photographer. Some photographers love to say "An escort gets in the way and ruins the creative process", which is almost always bogus. Especially in commercial work, as I do not pretentiously refer to myself as an "artiste" or whatever.

Lack of confidence and insecurity are also reasons why some photographers refuse escorts - they cannot "perform" on set with people watching because they are nervous. An experienced professional photographer will actively kick anyone off set who is causing disruptions, but they also won't even notice they are there if they are behaved and considerate. Models who bring disruptive escorts to jobs will eventually stop getting jobs, and/or dropped from their agency, as word gets around of these problems with said models.

The vast majority of "I don't allow escorts or boyfriends because it causes problems" claims stem from the amateur realm, where shooting is a trade thing, or "for fun", more than anything. Actual work, clients, etc, aren't usually involved in the amateur ranks, so it just ends up being a personal thing. Hence, the zeal in which non-working model photographers whine about models and "blacklist" models or whatever for simple "transgressions" like showing up with a boyfriend.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I'll admit, I don't like a lot of people around when I shoot because I just don't. I'm not terribly great at directing models yet. But, I get why people want escorts there and parents of young girls want to be there. Honestly, I do feel that this is one area where being a woman and a mom is an advantage to me because I'm not seen as someone trying to take advantage of girls. I've had a couple parents show up, we chat for a minute, then they go get coffee.

Anonymous's picture

Like it or not, this is a forum where the standards of our industry are discussed in what many believe to be an open forum. When you write an opinion piece and then delete comments that express a dissenting opinion you jeopardize the faith of your readers.

Nino Batista's picture

This is the first comment you've posted that you didn't act like a spoiled asshole in. So, I won't delete it. Just a fact.

Anonymous's picture

I disagreed with you so you deleted my comment and now you're calling me names?

This is who you guys have writing for you now, Lee?

Nino Batista's picture

Your arrogance, which you will deny aggressively I suspect, is what pisses me off about your posts. You fall squarely into the cocky model photographers who overplay their own importance.

You made a shit ton of rational points, but in an incredibly cocky, douche bag way. I get it, you're just "blunt" and "honest", but I call a spade a spade.

You can be right, AND be a jerk, Greg.

Eric Mazzone's picture

Heck 90% of my work is trade, but I much prefer having people around for shoots. I still get nervous, but I'm usually so busy trying to do my thing that I don't really care about who sees it, they tend to help me calm down if anything.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

Ugh, I cannot stand creepers and pervs. My mother wanted me to be a model when I was a teen. I went to a photographer for some headshots and he was just so creepy the way he was talking and the things he was saying, and my mother was right there! My films were horrible and it's pretty obvious I was not comfortable. About 2 weeks later I picked up a camera to take my first photography class and we can see which side of the lens I ended up on.

The fashion industry is strange. If you're a model, sex appeal is what agents are looking for because sex sells. Many ads are sexual in nature. I can definitely see what drives the creepers to become fashion photographers. I mean, they're in the middle of an industry that parades around young, beautiful girls, in various states of dress, using sex to sell clothing and accessories. Once you've made it as a photographer, you can coerce women into favors with promises of free shoots at the least, fame at the most. Of course it's a haven for pervs.

This is in no way taking the accountability off the photographers and agents who harass these women, but the entire industry contributes to this, and consumers do indirectly as well. The people doing the harassing are obviously responsible for their own actions, but it is part of a bigger issue too.

Eric Mazzone's picture

Are we referring to a particular photographer known for his one ugly light?

Doc Pixel's picture

Did you even bother to read the article at Flair before asking?

Eric Mazzone's picture

Wow, someone obviously can't read sarcasm. Besides my question was in reference to the OP in this thread NOT about the article.

Doc Pixel's picture

Sorry. A bad day with many threads in diverse forums going down the drain due to people not taking time to read the article. I thought this was just another one of those. BTW: that's not really a sarcastic question that you asked there, also sarcasm is most often punctuated at the end with "/s" to be clear in your intent, especially for non-English visitors to a site. Regardless... my apologies.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

No one in particular. I've been fortunate to not cross paths with that individual. There is no shortage of creeper photographers in every market area though.

Edward Porter's picture

This is a completely valid concern, but your efforts would be best spent attacking the hands that feed these photographers. Circlejerking other photographers might make you feel good for a moment, but don't think you've actually done anything productive.

Nino Batista's picture

Tomato, tomahto...

Jason Ranalli's picture

I agree with what you're saying, however, I did take this article to acknowledge this terrible behavior and secondly take a stance to say, "we as photographers should not tolerate this on our turf..even if others are enablers".

That being said, I think there's a lot of temptation there with these beautiful women where those employing them may be less than professional. Probably draw the line at asking them out on a date and anything beyond that you're in very grey area.

One of my biggest apprehensions in photography is not coming off as a creep to my subjects whether they be women or little children. I'm paranoid but seeing stuff like this doesn't help our community.

Business should remain as professional as this stuff for your personal life.

John Harambasic's picture

Agreed here.
Funny thing -- a "real" photographer with the right intentions has to work HARD on a shoot to get quality shots that stand out. There's no time for flirting and provoking the model with sexual innuendo.
Others who find time for all the exploitation aren't likely worth their salt as photographers - voyeurs maybe but not artistic.

Ralph Berrett's picture

It is funny as in strange that this topic comes up this time of year. In November of 1996 I was walking into the newsroom after a weekend of shooting College and NFL, the news editor asks me if I had a photo of Linda Sobek a former Radierette. I had photographed her a few times one which was for a special football section. She had a warm personality and look that both grabbed you in person and through the lens.

It turned out she had been missing after a photo shoot with Photographer Charles Rathbun. I remember spending about two rainy weeks covering search for her. It later turned out that Charles Rathbun had raped and murdered Linda Sobek,

After that I have been a little over sensitive about sexual harassment. I was also raised by a pack of lawyers (Mom was a Deputy DA, Dad was a business and family law lawyer). Finally by working for newspapers I also learned corporate policies on sexual harassment I developed some simple rules for working with models.

(1) Before any shoot discuss in full details what is expected for the shoot. So there is no surprises for the model.

(2) Always shoot with at least one or more assistants. The reason is simple if a sexual harassment issue does raise its head you can avoid he said, she said.

(3) Under aged models always have a parent or guardian with them.

(4) Escorts are allowed with these rules:
The Model is completely responsible for the escort like any pet. All expenses: transportation, lodging and feeding come out of the model's pocket. Escorts are not allowed on set, they can stay in the green room, if we are on location they stay in the back in the green room if we have one or at the local Starbucks. Escorts do not participate in the shoot.

(5) All shoots models must sign a release.

(6) All models must have a photo ID that will be copied/scanned and attached to a model release. If nudity or implied nudity a social security number is required.

What I strive for on shoot is someplace where all the people involved can be comfortable.

I can give you two reasons why it is in the best interest to have solid policies for sexual harassment.
(1) Terry Richards, forgetting his style, what has really done his reputation damage is sexual harassment. If he had some solid policies and practices he might have avoided the damage to his career.
(2) Bob Shell is the poster child for doing everything wrong. One model died and he ended up with a life sentence in prison.

Also "Blow Out" was a movie.

Claude Laramée's picture

Parents should be wise and not gullible. The hope is that many good female photographers are now emerging, challenging the "old boys establishment". Emily Soto, Lara Jade, Lindsay Adler are young themselves and can relate better with aspiring models. Also young fashion designers are changing the rules of the game (just like Apple did with the music industry), by going directly to indi stores taking "snapshots" of buyers wearing their cloths and posting them online...
I agree with u Nino this form of sexual harassment and intimidation is shameful and I admire Coco Rocha for telling what's going on .

Chris Adval's picture

What you think about the PetaPixel article about taking down "Iconic V-J Day Kiss" as it "promotes sexual assault on women"...?

Nino Batista's picture

I have to look into that - just now hearing about it.

Ralph Berrett's picture

As a photojournalist I will say, you can't look at history with politically correct glasses. You have to look at the context of the event and culture of the time. History by its nature is not politically correct nor nice. WWII was by its nature one the most extreme events in human history.

So personally I would say it represents the iconic moment. By today's standard yes it could be viewed as sexual harassment but at that moment of time with cultural values of the time, that answer is less clear.

You may want to look at this:
Sailor, nurse from iconic VJ Day photo reunited

Rory Rafuse's picture

I like this - very cool stance: "Photographers who abuse or sexually harass models are very much my enemies. And let it be known, I'm gunning for you."

Ste Visi's picture

What would you recommend to do in order to fight!?
I'm a model and so far I met 2 guys using their power on me trying to make me sleep with them; I recorded their talking. Now in order to make the maximum profit(money) and to save my future career what should I do with those audios? And of course the priority Is... make them suffer! For them knowing their stupidity.

Forgive my grammar.

Nino Batista's picture

Yikes! First off, I am sorry this happened to you. Awful! But I will also add that your recordings of their offenses are very likely a legal matter. If you are certain you want to take them down, legally, then go to the authorities with the recordings. However, expect to take the fight all the way to the end. If it is a serious enough offense, and you want to get them stopped, then go right the police. But also make as many public statements about it as you can. Get support from the industry. But also your friends and family. Often, these legal matters can be a long, drawn out struggle. I cannot advise further than that, but I will say to strong, be consistent, and do what you feel you need to do.