Models Are Using Closed Facebook Groups to Bring Awareness to Sexually Predatory Photographers

Models Are Using Closed Facebook Groups to Bring Awareness to Sexually Predatory Photographers

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]

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8 Comments

Joao Camilo's picture

Finally models have a voice...
I work with my wife most of the time.. And if it's just me and a model, I ask for a friend of the model to come along to help and make sure that everyone feels comfortable...
I like to tell my models that I want to fall in Love with their photos... Not themselves, but what I capture in camera... And I explain that my wife, being a makeup artist, will be the person responsible for any adjustments in the model, not me.

It might be unfair when someone can lie about our professionalism in Social Media... But it has always been unfair to models before...

The roles are changing, and some photographers will be wrongfully accused eventually... But as a professional, I prefer to make sure all my team feels safe and comfortable while working, than just to cover my ass to act as I want...!

And I've made models feel uncomfortable as well! I've F***ed up, and achieve exactly the opposite of what I wanted... Should I blame de models for not getting me, or should I act in a way that leaves no doubt in there mind, so both of us can do a professional work?
We are moving towards a society where Consent is the main goal... To ask for permission for everything...! And I'm happy about it!!

Thank you for sharing your opinion Danette!!

David Moore's picture

But then if the friend was accused they need another friend, and the model's friend might need a puppy. Might as well just shoot in the middle of a higschool football game so there are enough people. =P

Dallas Dahms's picture

Amen.

It is for this reason alone that I do not pursue any human subject photography that goes beyond corporate headshots. I know what lurks in the human heart and in too many cases it is a dank, foul place that I would rather avoid. The best way to do that is to shoot things that can never result in an accusation of impropriety.

Daris Fox's picture

Models have been doing this for a long time at least 7 years that I'm aware of and has been an open 'secret', and some model sites had model only forums to try and prevent predators. Sadly one of the more prominent model sites today was created by disenfranchised photographers kicked off sites for dubious behaviour.

Robert Nurse's picture

"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."

I can't stress this enough. I've lived by this code and it works. It even has the added benefit of making everyone comfortable.

Quinn Wilson's picture

This is a well written article, but I just want to mention that if you do photograph children I highly recommend having the parents sign a model release form made specifically for children. This helps cover you. Give the parents a copy as well for their own records. Generally, whenever I do a one on one shoot, I will have the model sign a model release form. That way they know their rights in regards to the usage of the finished image and understand that the photog may have to ask them to do certain things with clothes, their body, etc. I also make sure they know that if they feel uncomfortable, than they should speak up, because it's 100% not my aim to EVER make a model feel uncomfortable and unhappy.

For a few years, before I shut down my studio, I ran security cameras at all times. I let the models know upfront that there would be a video of the shoot and all areas of the studio except the dressing room and that they were entitled to a copy of it if they would like it. This was actually in my contract with models and sitters.

This protected both of us.

Kenneth Hammes's picture

This is why models AND photographers need to be aware and protect ourselves. Creating art can be a very intimate act where we bare our innerselves to be seen and judged by the anonymous public. We should do all we can to protect the two-way trust between model and photographer.
I personally don't have an issue with these groups, although I do have concerns about the potential for spiteful abuse. But if these groups take themselves and their mission seriously, they should be well moderated and false claims, as well as those who make them, should be exposed just as vehemently as the predatory photographers.