This story happens much more often than any of us would like to believe. A beautiful model receives a text from a highly respected photographer asking if she would be interested in doing a swimwear shoot at the beach. The model has heard great things about the photographer or maybe has even worked with the photographer before and jumps at the opportunity to shoot with him. The model, back home for the holidays, drives 7 hours across the country for an opportunity of a lifetime only to find out that she has been catfished by a creeper posing as a real photographer.
The above story is basically what recently happened to a popular Instagram model two weeks ago. She received a text from an unknown number who acted like he was someone else. That someone else was swimwear and lifestyle photographer Joey Wright. The model, whose name we will call Kaitlyn for privacy purposes, did not expect anything out of the ordinary when she received the text claiming to be Joey. Below is the initial conversation.
From the text above, it is easy to see how with just a little persuasion someone could easily fool you into believing you are talking to a friend or acquaintance. The "creeper photographer" obviously found Kaitlyn's cell number, but he also knew that she had shot with photographer Joey Wright in the past through social media. By simply acting like a flirty photographer, the imposter was easily able to make the unsuspecting model feel like she was talking with Joey himself.
Over the next few days, the photographer posing as Joey persuaded the model to drive over 7 hours down to Miami, Florida for a shoot on the beach. Miami is a hot bed for swimwear and catalog photography during the first of the year when many fashion cities like New York and London are buckled down during winter. For many models, any excuse to escape the snow and head down to paradise is a very welcomed invitation. Unfortunately for both Kaitlyn and Joey, the deceptiveness quickly reached a scary threshold once a photoshoot arrangement was agreed upon.
As you can see from the string of text messages sent to the model, Kaitlyn never questioned the authenticity of this new phone number. What she should have done was call the number to speak with Joey directly or even sent Joey an email through his website to discuss the photoshoot in detail. However, you can't easily see how this sort of thing could happen since corresponding through text and email are often the preferred way of communication for many people.
As you can see from the final string of text messages below, Kaitlyn arrived in Miami 10 days after the initial contact only to find that the person behind Joey Wright's new cell number had flaked out on her. For Kaitlyn this was a bit of a godsend . You can easily imagine what could have happened had the meet up actually taken place. Without knowing what this creepy imposter looks like, there would be no way to truly know what or who the unsuspecting model might have encountered. Luckily for Kaitlyn the text messages went cold the day of the actual shoot. In a bit of frustration she messaged Joey through Facebook only to realize that he had not been in contact with her at all through this new text thread.
In the end, it appears the person behind the text messages was either harassing Kaitlyn or was too scared to go through with the original plan. Either way, this is an insanely scary situation that far too many unsuspecting girls are faced with in this industry. Joey and Kaitlyn have both contacted the proper authorities and currently the New York 347 number is being investigated. To help prevent this sort of thing from happening, I have put together a few tips on how both models and photographers can prevent themselves from falling victim to those wishing to prey on girls in this industry.
Set Up Actual Phone Calls
The most important way to prevent being catfished by a photographer is to actually call the photographer directly. By talking with someone on the phone you can easily figure out if the person on the other line is infact who they say they are or if they are trying to pull a bait and switch on you. In the case of Kaitlyn, she was friends with Joey and had worked with him in the past. A simple phone call would have instantly tipped her off that the person behind the new phone number was in fact not Joey Wright. If you are working with a new photographer that you have never met before, make sure you contact them through their commercial or personal website. Never assume any unknown number is the actual business number of a photographer without doing a little digging around online.
Only Email Through Confirmed Addresses
Another important thing to do when scheduling a shoot with a photographer is to make sure you are in contact through a direct and authentic email address. An authenticated email address should be found on the photographer's website and usually looks official by the way it is formatted. Joey for example might have email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. However, as you can see, multiple emails can easily look authentic but one might be owned by the real photographer while the other one might be setup to look like the real photographer. This means that you might have to search an email address and make sure it corresponds with the photographer's other social media accounts before accepting it as the real address. This is more important when you receive a random email in your inbox than when you are emailing the photographer directly from his or her website.
In writing this article, Joey has told me that he has heard from models that photographers have emailed them through fake emails. Something like JoeyWright2012@gmail.com or JoeyWrightStudio@gmail.com might not actually be registered to Joey Wright after all. The best way to confirm an email is to research the photographer's official website and make sure you are only corresponding through that email. It is also wise to confirm any emails over the phone when you set the initial phone call as mentioned above. Save those confirmed email addresses into your contacts so you can more easily recognize if a suspicious email matches the one you have on file.
Photographers Should Have Bio Photos On Their Sites
As a photographer, having a profile photo on your website needs to be a top priority for your business. Not only does it allow you to market yourself as a fun, approachable, and professional individual, but it also prevents other people from completely stealing your identity without you knowing. Imagine if Kaitlyn had not worked with Joey before and Joey did not have a profile photo on his website. Someone could easily act as if they were Joey, setup a shoot with an unsuspecting model, and perhaps even complete an entire photoshoot without the model knowing she was shooting with someone else. In an even worse case scenario, if the model has no idea what the photographer is supposed to look like, she could place herself in grave danger if she were to get into his car, meet him at a private location, or meet him alone in a public area. If a model knows what you actually look like it will greatly help her not fall victim to a scam or something worse.
If Something Seems Off, Dig In Deeper
No matter if you are a photogapher, model, makeup artist, or some other creative, if something doesn't quite add up or seems out of the ordinary, you should always do a little investigative work early on rather than later. In the case of Kaitlyn, she instantly recognized that the person behind Joey Wright's new cell number was acting unusually flirty which is not something Joey does with his clients and friends. That red flag should have been a warning sign to setup a phone call or to try reaching out to Joey through a more trusted means of communication. In the end, it was a message through Facebook that exposed the lies from the imposter photographer. Unfortunately by that time Kaitlyn had already made the journey down to Miami.
Speaking of digging in deeper, you should also be 100% comfortable with the type of shooting you will be doing. If a photographer is known for lingerie or swimwear photography, yet hints at doing nude or implied nude work, you should be comfortable with that upfront or raise an eyebrow if those requests seem out of line for the type of work that photographer is known for publishing. I have actually heard of a story where a model new to the industry showed up to a lingerie shoot in a hotel only to find not one photographer but a group of much older photographers waiting. None of them were the acclaimed photographer she thought she had been in talks with and the conversation was quickly moving towards something more risque than she had agreed to shoot. Instead of having to deal with an awkward departure, this model might have saved a lot of frustration by doing a bit of due diligence before agreeing to meetup.
Stories and situations like those Kaitlyn recently experienced are unfortunately not too uncommon in the photography industry. It breaks my heart when I hear so called photographers manipulating girls who for better or worse give them the benefit of the doubt. It is also infuriating being a photographer whose identity has been stolen in an attempt to exploit talent for their own gain. While this particular story deals with the inner workings of fashion models and swimwear photographers, Fstoppers has all too often reported on similar stolen identity stories among wedding photographers as well.
Photographer Matthew Simon's recently wrote an article on Fstoppers called How to Not Be A Creepy Photographer which all photographers and models should read. I hope articles like this one and Matthew's article can help make everyone more aware of just how scary a situation like Kaitlyn and Joey's can be for both models and photographers. In the end, always make sure you protect yourself when dealing with new emails, texts, and phone calls and if something seems out of line, speak up and say something.
Great article but scary stuff that that actually happens. Also glad to hear the worst that happened was that the model had her time wasted (and presumably cost her a bit in travel expenses). If somebody was prepared to put that much effort into luring her into a setup like that it could have potentially gone a lot worse.
LOL! I texted the number and see what happens, bet anything that number is no longer working.
That, was a disgusting read.
Stay safe out there! :s
Meanwhile. In Sydney Australia...
Maybe it's just me being old fashioned here, but I have to agree that this problem could have easily been avoided with a simple 5-minute phone call. Like everyone else these days, I utilize text messaging, but I can't imagine driving across the country to meet someone without at least talking to them on the phone for a few minutes about the specifics of the event (even if it was someone I'd worked with in the past).
All of that aside, there's something seriously creepy about that situation, and I'm glad to hear that the model has reported it to the authorities. For someone to lure a model across the country under the guise of being someone else that she has previously known suggests some real malicious intent might have existed.
I've been in photography for over 40 years, and there's always been those sleazy guys out there. In the digital age it's way to easy for some jerk to come across as legit. Models, check and double check, before you agree to meet a photog, or give out personal information. If they contact you, after the conversation, go online and find the photogs contact info and verify that they contacted you. It can be dangerous out there, and you need to be careful. And NEVER give out your home address, but have a PO Box you can give out.
This is exactly the reason why models and photographers should ONLY work through established (brick & mortar) agencies.
It's smart to assume that everything on the internet is fake. Real photographers hire real models from real agencies...PERIOD
Also, it's not just models that need to be protected from photographers. Photographers have much more leverage when they cast through an agency that has a reputation to maintain. The agency helps to filter out demanding, accusatory and unreasonable diva-behavior models.
So does that mean poor photographers are fake?
A buncha big, fat phonies.
Everybody knows that everything on the internet is real.
I think you're going a little overboard there Mike - aka: You're cure is worse than the disease.
I don't need a lecture. Direct booking is a great way to work with tattooed circus people or to find a pretty girl for a workshop. But those aren't real models. Dan, you should know that.
Could your hostility towards the original post have anything to do with lacking the budget to work consistently with agency models? For example, maybe the resources are available for shooting an advertising catalog but then it's back to beg/borrow/steal for editorial-type shoots???
Can we see some of your work?
If I remember correctly, it was one of your blog posts that inspired me to sign up to Fstoppers. I really liked what you had to say.
I am not here to self-promote. I don't need likes.
I'm actually glad that you replied to me because you'd be the perfect person for me to say goodbye to. I definitely don't belong here if there is this much hostility to my opinions.
Good luck with your photography career. Take care and if anybody else replies to my posts then I will not be responding back.
Hi Mike, thanks! I'm flattered. Discussions get heated because we are a passionate species and with internet we can have the magical veil of anonymity that gets the testosterone jumping. Our opinions are often formed by our experience. Everybody has theirs. Too bad you don't want to share yours. Maybe we could have learned something from it. Best of luck.
In the early 2000s, I worked several times with a model that had an agent based in LA. She did a lot of shoots for glamour magazines and traveled all over the US. During her travels, her agent and people that she knew weren't always around. Photographers started approaching her to work direct and go around her agent. She was young and thought she could handle it on her own. One day, she was drugged and raped.
A few years after that, a local photographer setup a shoot directly with a "model" outside of an agency. Her boyfriend came along on the shoot. While the shoot was taking place, the boyfriend hit the photographer over the head and knocked him unconscious and stole all of his gear. The photographer recovered but he was never quite the same afterwards because of the head injury. My understanding is that he had to quit his business because of this injury and I've never heard about him again.
In the mid 2000s, there was a model that I had worked with when she was younger (probably 23ish) that I still kept in contact with. She was pushing her late 20s and wasn't able to get consistent work through her agency, so she started doing direct work on the side for internet photographers etc. She did several shoots with another girl and the two became friends. One day, the other "model" got offered to do a shoot out-of-state and took the gig. She was raped and killed by the "photographer." At the time, it was national news and my friend was really shook up about it because if the photographer would have asked her instead then she would have definitely taken the job. My friend felt like it could have been her if circumstances had been slightly different.
The reason for mentioning these stories, is to demonstrate why I tell ALL aspiring models and photographers to do their best make contacts at agencies. The one factor that all these events have in common is that they were the result of being booked directly.
I decided that I had a duty to make this post in case there are any young up-n-coming photographers or models that might read this thread. I want them to know that I'm not trying to put a damper on their dreams or anything like that. I just want them to be safe and to avoid the margins of the industry as much as possible.
Photographers that have experience need to be very careful what kind of advice is handed out to the young folks reading online. Their safety should be top priority even if it the advice sounds harsh and isn't exactly what they want to hear. If a model can't get an agent, then there's a good chance that she can't be a model in the first place. If a photographer can't make contacts with an agency, then that's usually because he's not legit, he's marginal and doesn't have the money, or he's got a bad reputation. The agency helps to filter these people out. Agencies aren't all the same neither. Some of them are nothing but fronts for call-girls. So it's necessary to ask around before choosing an agency to try and make a relationship with.
The bottom line is that agencies exist for a reason. A real photographer hires real models through a real agency. This is the safest and most professional way to do business. The people on the fringes and the margins of the industry are the ones that are always the most forceful in advocating alternative ways of doing business.
Also, photographers that are starting out can often do trades with an agency even if they are poor and have no budget. There are always new models that need portfolios and the agents are happy to get decent pics. That's how I got started.
Dan, I'm not really making this post for you. You're not a person that I want to know. I'm making this post for any young people that might be lurking and deserve to hear a serious point-of-view on these matters before they go off and make big life decisions.
"Photographer to Agency bookings do not account for 100% of real professional projects."
Dan, you and I are in total agreement! Your statement is 1000% truth. My experience is that there's no way to explain to a young person all of the different particular contexts that might exist. That's why I think it's best to give them a standard and then let them take the risks when deviating from it on their own. We appear to disagree about approach, but I'm glad that at least we seem to have some common ground. I'll consider this as a learning experience and will make certain to state things a little differently next time so as to avoid confusion.
Stay safe and enjoy your Super Bowl Sunday!
Don't do business over text. If this person had shot with Joey before she would already have his number and hopefully would have at least talked to him on the phone previously.
I would hope that would weed out some(obviously not all) of the creeps like this a little earlier.
Pretty sickening stuff to read.
This seems bizarre. I wouldn't head to a shoot in town with someone I've only spoken to over text, let alone jumping into a car or flying somewhere 7 hours away.
I don't think you read it correctly. The model knew Joey and has worked with him before. The reason she would travel 7 hours to Miami is because....well she shoot swimwear and needs a beach. A large percentage of east coast models have relocated to Miami for the winter so that's where everyone is at the moment (think of it like snowbirds).
Many girls pay good money to reputable photographers to have new photos taken for their comp cards, agency sites, their own websites, instagram, etc etc. Nothing is shocking about why she decided to go to Miami to shoot with someone she respects and knows personally.
Maybe I'm over thinking this, but you changed the name of the model to Kaitlyn for privacy purposes, but included the screen shot of the text with the model's picture, which is in Joey's portfolio in Fstoppers with the model's name, so are you telling us the model was Tia McDonald, or another picture was used in the text message screen shot to protect the real model's name.
You are definitely over thinking this :) Who is the creeper now
I knew it! That's what I get for trying to be a smart ass, thanks for the clarification.
I was thinking the same, Gabino! :))
And never send photos to a "new" models email, that you photographed :) Always ask in social media account or somewhere, is it really she written.
Good point! I heard story about that from Charles Lucima podcast.
Don't disagree with the comments made already....but come one, how many reputable/professional photographers message a model that they may have shot once (that's is indicated in the messages)....with lines like that....with the initial one at 2:30am? The model was a little (or a LOT) naive buying into it...... Use your brains people!
Reading this while listening to the Terminator (1984) soundtrack, makes it even better...
Emails and Phone calls. No texting from Random numbers.
This is essentially a variation (and a rather frightening one at that) on the well established social engineering practice of pretexting. Not heard of pretexting before? This blog post does a good job of explaining it - https://blog.mailfence.com/2015/11/13/pretexting/
This post highlights not one fault with how people in our industry are conducting themselves, but two. Solid communication has become a thing of the past it seems with most models relying on text messaging now as their go-to form of communicating. Many do not even have their voicemail accounts set up. As a professional person I need to know that the person on the other end received my message. Text and emails are so unreliable. I myself have received text messages from others as much as 24 hours after they were sent. In a pinch, yes texting is convenient, but if the message is truly important then pick up the damn phone! If it can wait a little while then use Facebook messaging if possible. At least you can see when the other person received your message and there is a record of it.
While we're on the subject of phones, MODELS learn how to use the CALENDAR feature on your phone. You make an appointment (any appointment), put it in your calendar. It takes less than half a minute! You learned how to master the camera on your phone, learn how to use the calendar too. It would save so many of us from a lot of frustration. Thank you!
soooo did you kill her? Problem solved :)
A quick Google search on the phone number http://dncl.website/phone/347-894-5921
It's interesting the comments on that number through the site. I wonder how often that number has changed over the last month or so.
lol I looked up my number using this page and there is some bs posted about it with recent date. This website is a scam.
Sadly, there used to be a serial killer who used photography as bait too...
The content of the text messages should probably made her skeptical, or is it normal in the US to start a conversation with "you awake ??". I doubt that a successful photographer would show such a bad behavior and use such a slang in any kind of business relationship.