Photographer Gets 25 Years Prison for Drugging, Raping, Sexually Assaulting Teen Models

Photographer Gets 25 Years Prison for Drugging, Raping, Sexually Assaulting Teen Models

Carlsbad photographer Robert Koester has been sentenced to 25 years in jail for heinous acts carried out on teen models he was paid to photograph. There is evidence that some of the teens were drugged by Koester.

Koester was originally charged back in November, 2017, for allegedly assaulting a 16 year old girl. He'd been sub-contracted by the modeling firm, Frank, to take images of the young model. However, she accused him of sexual misconduct and reported him to police. Koester was then arrested at his home, where police also found evidence of child pornography. Following that initial arrest, three more teen models came forward and Koester was hit with a total of 35 felony charges. This week he was formally charged after pleading guilty to 23 charges. He will spend 25 years in State prison.

As a father of two young girls it's very difficult for me to process such a case. Koester was sub-contracted by a modeling firm and, as the parents of one the victims and the Deputy District Attorney said, he had a solid reputation as a professional photographer. One can only assume that the parents and the modeling agency believed Koester posed no threat. Thus, has society now reached a stage where everyone needs a chaperone or a third person there to act as carer or witness? Indeed, at my university, we are no longer allowed to hold meetings with female students in our offices unless the doors are open and there are others in the vicinity. This has only been introduced in the last few years but is ubiquitous across Japan now. A (good) sign of the times?

Will measures such as these help to eliminate or at least reduce horrid crimes such as those committed by Robert Koester? 

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20 Comments

Tony Clark's picture

I tested models for the first couple years of my photo career and had no problem with someone bringing a chaperone. It was only an issue if the person acts like an art director. I don't blame the victims of these crimes but where were their parents? I hope that he serves the full sentence. Needless to say, I hope this guy has the same thing happen to him in prison.

I think a third person should be present, always. It is utterly unprofessional to work alone with a young girl. Actually a male photographer should never work alone with a female model. It is also to put yourself in a situation where you can be accused.

Rob Davis's picture

That’s quite an overreaction to call it unprofessional. I shot senior portraits in my early days and often the teens aged 16-17 would ask their parents to go get coffee or something because it’s awkward to pose in front of their mom, dad or even a friend. My secret was always not to rape them. I found that to be the best defense against accusations of rape.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

It's not always what you do. How long ago was this?

Rob Davis's picture

A little over 10 years ago. No that long. I'm just not going to worry myself about the minute risk of false allegations. It's not a rational fear beyond being falsely accused of any other crime. I don't walk around in fear of being misidentified as a bank robber either.

A lot's changed in 10 years. In the MeToo age it's far too easy to get your life ruined by a disgruntled client or employee or what have you. And the easiest way to avoid that is to cover your ass by having somebody else always be present.

I've had a female coworker tell me "you're a guy, I will always take her [another female coworker] word over yours no matter what". So yeah, CYA. Always.

Rob Davis's picture

MeToo didn't make false accusations more likely. They made credible accusations more likely to be taken seriously. That's all.

I didn't say it made it more likely. I said it made it easier for somebody to ruin your life because it moved from "innocent until proven guilty" to "guilty because somebody said so". Look at what happened to the guy in the Mattress Girl story. Imagine he didn't have evidence to corroborate his side of the story? All it takes is a malicious person, and you might as well change your name and move countries. I mean you do you. Want to open yourself up like that? Be my guest. But having personally heard what I mentioned above, I won't be taking any chances.

Iain Stanley's picture

I think it comes down to protecting yourself in potentially vulnerable situations. A shoot with a teenage model falls into that category. Just like car insurance, you don’t get into the car every day thinking you’re going to plough into a brand new Benz. But if you did.......

Claire Whitehead's picture

and none of us know who the mattress guy is.
You do realise that plenty of actual rapes happen but the case goes no where because of lack of evidence? That's what happens in the majority of cases. That happened to people I know personally.
It really does prove that your claim about women's lives being destroyed is untrue because you are clearly here indicating that you honestly believe that without the evidence to pursue a legal case, a claim of raoe MUST be a fabrication.

MeToo happened because men were ACTUALLY abusing girls and women. These comment comes off as pretty tone deaf. Abuse has been pretty well known within photography. Especially when so much photography is male photographers trying to get younger female models to look 'sexy' on camera.

You should have a third person in the room to make them feel safe.
An predator would be trying to get them alone, so you are making your shoot a safer place.
Significantly more women are raped, than there are men "falsely accused".

It's not an reaction. It's a precaution. It's about beeing professional in behaviour. How would you like your 16 years old daughter go to a fashion shoot with some photographer - alone?

I also make portraits of teen age girls now and then, and mom or dad comes to. As long as they are around the corner, that should be fine. I never have received a child alone in my studio.

It's not hard to ask a young model, or any model, to bring a friend. Or have a stylist or makeup artist or your wife present.

Ask Jason Lanier. He even suggest to record the session on video. Just saying.

Rob Davis's picture

I seriously doubt this was a mystery in his professional community, which is a tragic reality I've often seen. No doubt they're playing dumb now, but among agencies and models photographers who cross the line are a "known issue." I've heard so many stories about so called "hands on photographers" from models and their agencies either didn't believe them or didn't care. Look at Terry Richardson for example. Everybody knew what he was doing and kept sending him work for many years. Agents knew and told models it was the price of shooting with him. Finally that seems to be changing I hope.

Still I don't think the answer is treating every man like a potential rapist. I think the answer is treating every victim as a potential human being.

Iain Stanley's picture

Whether it means anything or not in this context, female professors/lecturers at our univ. must also keep the doors open when meeting students. It’s not just the men.

Do you have to keep the doors open when meeting all students or just female ones?

I've done some test shoots with new teen models, and they've always brought their mother along. And that seems like a good idea to me. I've never had any creative control problems with them on set, plus once they're comfortable with things, they can watch the gear if we have to go a little ways to a different spot. And that is a HUGE peace of mind for me. I basically add them to the crew list.

please bring your mom, father, friend or ill make sure there is another grown up female. its in your best interest. with your i mean both the photographer and model. i always bring a make up artist.

Cristian Perotti's picture

I work a lot with underaged girls. I always require their mother, father or both of them present at the shoots. Otherwise, I just do not shoot them. Some of them say: "My mom let me" or "Can my mom call you to tell you that she gives me permission?" The answer is always "no".

I have lost money because of that, but I prefer to be protected. If they are underage, they can not come alone to my studio. Period.

Timothy Turner's picture

Not only would I bring at least one other person, I would use as long a lens as possible, I any adjustments needed in hair styling would be done by a freind or relative, I would not touch the subject at all, that may seem overly cautious but these days you cannot be too careful, I may even video the entire session

As a fashion photographer who test shoot models, I ALWAYS tell every model, before the day, to bring ANYONE who they feel comfortable with to the photoshoot. I could care less if it's a boyfriend, a brother, sister, mother, father, it makes ZERO difference to me. What I want is the model to feel 100% comfortable working with me. That brings out the best in their abilities and mine. Too many prima donna photographers say, "Well, if they're a professional, they don't NEED a chaperone." Yes they do! This article proves it. This is an industry that has an underlaying belly of abusers who take advantage of models, both male and female, and it needs to stop. Models call me on a regular basis to work with me because I provide them the security they need to do their job to the best of their abilities. Anyone in any field would ask the same thing. Having a great reputation in fashion photography is key.