This year has been marked by a single hashtag: #MeToo. From Hollywood to the Oval Office, it seems that accusers are finding their voices and taking a stand for themselves and countless others who haven’t been able to speak out. Naturally, awareness of sexual harassment is coming to light in all industries, and the photography industry is no different.
This week Time named “the silence breakers” as their annual Person of the Year for 2017. The magazine hails “the silence breakers” as “the voices that launched a movement.” It launched a movement of victims speaking out against those who victimized them. The #MeToo movement has brought with it the awareness of Facebook Groups within the photography industry of models “outing” photographers for sexual harassment.
This week CBC News came out with a story of a local closed Facebook Group for models that exists to warn other models about sexually predatory photographers. The group’s tagline is “Safety comes first!” and its purpose is to be a safe place for models to come and share experiences about photographers to other models. The group, which is strictly moderated, takes accusations of sexual harassment very seriously and the admins try to do as much research as possible when an accusation is made, including contacting the photographer in question to receive their side of the story.
The CBC News article was shared on Reddit where many photographers noted that similar groups exist all over the U.S., and internationally. Some photographers have expressed their concern with a system wherein someone can be accused without their knowing, resulting in their reputation being tarnished, while other photographers have expressed their disdain for such groups because they feel it creates an environment where models can defame a photographer’s reputation out of spite. Regardless, all accusations of sexual harassment should be taken seriously.
The issue comes from the fact that a photography session can be a very vulnerable experience, and if anyone with bad intentions is involved, it can be very easy to take advantage of the situation. That's why it's so important for both model and photographer to have a system in place to protect all parties involved, as well as reputation.
The idea that a model can use a closed or private Facebook Group to defame a photographer’s reputation with false accusations of sexual harassment would be a non-issue if we, as photographers, are taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves and the models we work with. Moreover, it is our responsibility as professionals to help educate new photographers and models alike about warning signs when deciding who to work with.
A Few Tips
Oftentimes, since a single model may be working with a single photographer, meaning only two people involved in a photo session, it's a good idea as the photographer to invite the model to bring someone along, particularly for new models whom the photographer hasn’t worked with before. Although having an additional person with the model is always a good idea.
Making sure that expectations of professionalism are set is also important. Letting the model know exactly what to expect before, during, and after the session is an important tool of professionalism.
Having a “hands-off” approach is always advisable when working with a client. However, when needed, asking permission whenever the photographer has to physically guide the model into a pose, or adjust clothing is also very important.
Lastly, photographers should never work with underage models unless a parent or guardian is present.
The #MeToo movement marks a year full of empowerment and accountability. Photography, like many other industries, has been plagued for far too long with sexual harassment. It's time for us to do our part to elevate the industry that we’re apart of to a greater level of professionalism and respect for fellow photographers, models, and clients.
Photo by lum3n.com via Pexels.
[via CBC News]