Three Women on Modeling Sites Go Missing in Denver

ModelMayhem is to budding photographers and models everywhere what Craigslist is to...well...budding photographers and models (and then some) everywhere, though with a few more perks that let you have a profile complete with photos, model measurements and opportunities to network within the site. Unfortunately, just as anywhere else in the world, both have their share of creeps. And when three young women go missing in one area, we have to remind ourselves yet again: no matter the situation, be safe...

Nineteen-year-old Colorado Springs resident Kara Nichols apparently told her roommates she was going to Denver for a modeling job October 9th and hasn't been seen since, according to Denver's ABC Channel 7 News. Twenty-two-year-old Denver local Kelsie Schelling's car was found empty February 4th. And while authorities now consider 17-year-old Aurora native Raven Cassidy Furlong a runaway (her ModelMayhem profile was logged into yesterday), the other two have yet to be heard from, and all three have profiles on the popular website (or something similar).

A few more details can be found in the original story, but what's important to remember is that this isn't an issue specific to ModelMayhem. The internet is littered with stories of infamous Craigslist killers (yes, there are several) and other unfortunate cases. So women, girls, even men (let's not be too sexist, here) -- please be careful and smart about your decisions when going to shoot photograph new models or be photographed as models.

For convenience, here are some common and not-so-common sense tips for -- really -- meeting anyone new online:

1.) Meet somewhere public and, preferably, in the daytime (or at an open and busy Starbucks or similar venue)
2.) Have a friend with you. Girls/Women/Men/Anyone: Two girls are better than one (creepers don't think that differently from the rest of us). But for our younger or less experienced readers, that goes both ways. It can give you the attention you want but can also make you the kind of target you really don't want to be. Having a man that you know well with you is your best bet (that's not sexist, just common sense).
3.) Have some kind of weapon with you. This includes self-defense knowledge, pepper-spray, stun guns, and other items that are easy to use -- and know full well how to use them safely and legally if worse comes to worst.
4.) For everyone's sake, Google the guy. And don't just click on the first link of his copyright-infringing website of Vogue images. Be smart about it. This should be your first step, but for those that don't get this far, the top three should hopefully keep you covered if you stick to them. If you get ANY vibe that's just a little off, now is not the time to quote Nike. Just don't do it.
5.) If it's too good to be true -- do I have to say it? -- it is. Don't fly out to LA or NYC or Timbuktu because a "manager" of "the just-launched National Geographic Exotic-Yet-Tasteful Women Swimsuit edition" -- none of which exist on Google -- wants you on the first cover ever. And if you absolutely can't resist, follow steps 1-5... Yes. Five, too.

We hope these young women are found soon and safely. If you hear, know, or suspect anything relating to the case, please contact local authorities who can use the information to find these women safely.

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Pethatic, such guys (I'm assuming...) are a disgrace to photography and make us all look bad. Same goes for creep-with-camera blokes that really use their camera to meet up with girls. How about expanding the old 'never date a roommate' to 'never date one of your own models'?

Tam Nguyen's picture

Or simply "Don't shit where you eat".

Jason Lei's picture

Nothing wrong with dating your own models. They're people as well and if feelings develop between two people... Well you generally start a relationship.

woofa's picture

We're not talking about dating here, we're talking about sick people that use a tool to get what they want. Nothing more. 

Lloyd Grace's picture

I think you have reached your parenthesis quota in this story  ;-}

the_pro_amateur's picture

No one wants to hear it, but it's the fault of these sites and other photographers allowing anyone to learn basics of their cameras and editing software.  There's so much hand holding and "tricks" like instagram filter bullshit, that all these creeps can learn to get sort of passable images and lure people in to take their money, or their life..  These people would never learn this stuff if the barrier to entry was higher.  I've seen posts on here about learning flash sync (it's in the manual!!!!), and simple talks with retouchers who are then bombarded with questions about exactly what settings they used for a particular brush in a certain version of PS on a Wednesday night.  FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELF.  Most people claiming to be photographers are just artsy snobs who are desperate to get out of their job where they're told exactly what steps to take, and what result they should get.  How do they "learn" photography?  By expecting to be told step by step what numbers to plug into where.  Same mindset, same pathetic outcome.
I can say I've only worked with/seen on forums about a dozen real photographers in my entire life.  The rest of you are beyond horrible.  If you take offense to this, you're one of them.  Just face it.

The creeps who are responsible for people going missing are of the same mindset as all you "wedding photographers" who have 10 or less mediocre weddings on your freely hosted website.  In that case, it's just to make money by lying to a bride about your talent.  These Model Mayhem creeps use the camera to rape/murder.  Two sides of the same coin and no one is doing anything about it because they're making money off the hand holding.  Fstoppers and sites like it, get ad dollars by teaching creeps what their fucking camera settings do.  What's the solution?  Hope for more creeps to "learn", and just tell models it's up to THEM not to get themselves in trouble.

Adam Burks's picture

Your line of reasoning allows the blame to be extended all the way back to Bryce Bayer for developing the technology that allows professional cameras to no longer be cost prohibitive.
You're nothing but a troll. 

the_pro_amateur's picture

Wrong.  Stupid people always seem to have money (though cheaper cameras are also a problem).  Initiative will always be out of reach.  Maybe you're upset because you're one of those who can't learn on your own?
Also I really don't see the need to insult my personal appearance.  Very immature.

Adam Burks's picture

All right, I’m calling you out.


All you do is leave little comments on fstoppers. Ha! Talk
is cheap. Let’s see some of your work.


I’m challenging you
to a duel!


My photographs against yours.

Time to put up or shut up.

the_pro_amateur's picture

Uhhh no?  I'm sure you think you're tough and super duper smart, but no, I don't have to do either one.  What scenario do you think would play out?  I post a link, you post a link, and then... you don't like a picture, so my statements are invalid?  It's pretty likely that you knew I wasn't going to suddenly post links to my personal stuff, and then you wouldn't have to, and/or so you could say, "Well that proves it!  You must suck!".  Then you can hit enter, cross your arms, and sit back proudly in your chair.  You accomplished something today.Sadly, I'm not a child who falls for that stuff, I have no interest in competing with anyone so I feel better about myself, and insults don't really do anything for me either way.  There are people who agree with me because it's true.  Sorry if you're used to a sugar coated world where everyone gets a trophy for showing up.

Your name says it all.

the_pro_amateur's picture

...People on here are kinda dumb huh?  The guy who thinks I was serious about my troll comment, and now you thinking I'm calling myself a pro amateur.  That's the joke pal.  It's a contradiction.  Most of the people reading this call themselves "professional" when they're anything but.  I wonder how many other people are missing the point.

Mbutu Namubu's picture

They really are professional amateurs lol Anybody that's hawking DVDs and doing workshops is making money from an audience of amateurs. Bourdieu wrote about this phenomenon in his book "Photography, a Middle-brow art." He observed that there was a whole class of failed or precariously positioned commercial photographers that were able to make a living by teaching naive amateurs how to be pros.

Don't expect most online photographers to be receptive to the fraudulent nature of amateur-pros. Most people really enjoy the fantasy. The sad part is that many of them really think it's real. Going online and talking about the photo business is a virtual reality entertainment and there is a whole industry of false modeling sites, do-it-yourself lighting formulas, and you-ban-be-a-pro business advice that enforce the illusion.

Your original premise is spot-on. Fraudulent photographers create an environment where lies become normal. It's hard to know who is real from who is fake, and predators take advantage of the situation.

I think it's great that lots of people are interested in photography and connecting and sharing. But, I wish that they'd admit that they're just amateurs and having fun and stop acting like they're the real thing.

joseph molina's picture

hahahaha, calling you a troll has nothing to do with your appearance. Its a term used on the web for people who post inflammatory comments just for the sake of their own amusement  Shock for shock value kind of crap. 

New to the internet huh? 

Not Her's picture

wow.  your sense of humor is um, missing.

Dan Speicher's picture

Sorry but your reasoning takes all blame off the perpetrator and places it on an industry because you think the entry fee is to low. Sorry, this crap has been going on long before these websites, long before 35mm, or instant film, and long before any of us were born. 

Simple fact of the matter is, 99.9999999999% of people on here care to learn about being a photographer. Ansel Adams had mentors, and so did you. You didnt learn it on your own, so blaming it on websites is like blaming overeating on farms. 

Only thing that matters from this, is that people should be safe. Check out people, get references, and have planned check in times. These guys are sick, and if the women have been harmed, I hope the perps are caught and forced to face a jury

 because heaven forbid we place the blame on the people doing the kidnapping/raping/ its the fault of people who dont know how to use cameras and fstoppers...must be!!!

woofa's picture

This is laughable. BTW, this sort of thing goes back long before the technology we have today. If you weren't just born yesterday you'd know that. None of this is new, there are just new means.

THE GREAT ZEEE's picture

Stuff like this will never stop. These are the days where every one wants attentions. You see it on facebook, you see it on twitter, instagram and you see it on sites like model mayhem. Every one wants attention, money and fame which makes it easy for predictors to lure these gullible individuals, most of who really aren't internet savvy to go look for links and find out information about the other person.
It has already gone to far and there is no standard or criteria for being a "model or photographer" due to sites like model mayhem. We can definitely look forward to more people going missing and only time it will "slow down" is when it happens to some one who is of any importance.
In the mean time look out for the guys who say "dont bring and escort" these are the biggest creeps.

Not Her's picture

don't just look out for them, call the authorities. great to stay out of harm's way, better to get harm out of everyone's way.

Mbutu Namubu's picture

I hope the missing people are found and safe...very worried about them

We really need to have a serious conversation in photography about standards. The fact is that all online modeling sites are cesspools. The only work that pretty young girls will get on those sites is from low-rent (questionable) commercial photographers that are too outside of the industry to work directly with a reputable agency or straight-up porn/glamour producers.

Young girls are naive and innocent. They are also insecure and want to be liked. They want to be pretty and be models. Unfortunately, this makes them easy prey for an army of lying fraud photographers. Most photographers claiming to be fashion photographers are faking it but they're still usually perfectly safe and harmless. But, the fraudulent nature of the fake online modeling industry creates an overall environment where very dangerous characters can easily take advantage of the situation.

Photographers need to stop lying and calling themselves fashion or lifestyle etc photographers when they are nothing but amateurs doing trades. Stop lying. If you're an actual fashion photographer then you're also working through a reputable agency....PERIOD

Photographers....stay away from these degenerate modeling sites like MM. If you're serious about your career then make a contact with a reputable agency. There is no other way to do it. BTW I'm not telling people to do anything that I didn't do myself. When I was 19 and getting started in film school I did testing for the top agency in my market. I understand that everybody has to start somewhere...but MM and the other modeling sites aren't even "somewhere"....they're "nowhere" and it's time to start telling the truth about them.

Jorge Moro's picture

I've worked with Model Mayhem.  At our shoot, we had models from 16 years old (who was smart and BROUGHT HER MOM) all the way to a 40 year old USAF Captain that would kick most of our butts up and down the road.  These women a: wanted to earn a few extra bucks.  B: do it to fill their portfolios and sometimes, yes, to become famous.

Bum Bul Bee's picture

This is going to sound so weird. But I'm a lifestyle photog, mostly babies and families and usually outdoors but in the winter I go to a lot of people's homes. On newborn shoots I take an assistant but on family shoots I don't so my boyfriend and I have this system. I always text him the address and then I hide a card in the family's home. I tuck it in a place where they can't see it but if I ever go missing my boyfriend knows he can tell the cops where I went and that if they find my card in this specific spot that I was there no matter what anyone says. I also feel that since its my card, if they find it later it could have just fallen out of my bag.

Studio OC Photo's picture

I wonder if MM has to give the authorities access to the models' accounts so they can see who they setup shoots with...?

THE GREAT ZEEE's picture

that would be a wise thing to do.

Joe Gunawan's picture

My newest model is someone I'm trying to coach in terms of sorting out the legit opportunities from the shady ones, and how to be be safe, so this news does ring close to me. It's better to be more cautious than not, I'd say.

So recently, we were talking about some modeling gig that was offered in Miami (we're from LA) and it just sounded fishy to me. A couple of veteran models that I know chimed in with some good advice to the new model: 

Model 1: "Ask the photographer who else is going, then contact those other girl(s) about it.
Also, ask for references - models he's worked with from his agency, business associates from his clothing line - as contact 4-5 of them to make sure it's legit."

Model 2:" For me, if I suspect that the person is shady and wants to lure me in with some sort flashy shoot, I tell him meet with my lawyer to create a contract, letting him know that i am serious. I let him know that he can bring his lawyer as well. I do have a good friend who passed the bar last year so he has accompanied me on the one occasion."

- Joe

IEC Studios's picture

What's ad about this story is that no where on model mayhem is anyone discussing this story. I have been a member for years and I'm sad to know that there are people pretending to be photographers so they can take avantage of your women.

Smart_Alex82's picture

 Actually, IEC, the admin of MM encourage this type of behavior- not disappearing models, per se, but whenever I've seen a specific example of a photographer abusing their power- it's been deleted from the forums within hours.

They tend to be very accepting of photography misconduct there, unfortunately.

IEC Studios's picture

 If thats the case then we as professional photographers should stand up and leave the site in protest. That will make them think twice about protecting models that are new and don't understand the business.

Stefan Parol's picture

"Three women have gone missing in Denver, all with one thing in common: They left for a modelling gig found through Model Mayhem."
Thats what it says on your Facebook teaser.
Turns out, totally different story: One is missing but considered a runaway. The other two are not both on ModelMayhem, one of them is on a different site. Also, you miss to report about the people who have booked the girls- there must certainly be a trace of them? 
I find this kind of journalism very distasteful: teasing with what seems to be a solid story, and then turns out as a consideration. Still, the going ons here are suspicious to say the least, but with a headline like this you are fooling your audience, leaving them annoyed, and not concerned about the matter.

Smart_Alex82's picture

 Unfortunately, this is the Fstoppers nouveau, take it or leave it :/.

Douglas Lochmiller's picture

Come on, lets be realistic; opportunists are everywhere.  From kleptomaniacs, to those that are on the prowl to kill, they will do anything to feed their obsessions.

The advent of cheap cameras is not a factor.  You can post anything on most web sites saying you are a pro photographer.  Pay a few bucks, and you are golden.  How can anyone truly know their credentials?

Predators can find anything online, and post as theirs.  Models that might be starving for money to pay their bills, are not looking to discredit, they are looking to make money they desperately need. 

How many people do you hear of that have been fired from top level positions in Fortune 500 companies because of a lie on their resume?  Take into consideration, pretty much all of them are people that had a face-to-face interview with the companies brass...and were hired!

These girls undoubtably fell into the hands of a predator (he or she); the Internet is full of them!  Model Mayhem is not to blame.  They are an excellent forum for those of use that are true professionals.

What about a certain football player that was fooled by a "girl" online?

Eric Fialkowski's picture

Sadly, this sort of information shows up and then photographers start having to defend themselves because they suddenly are guilty until proven innocent. I've seen models start posting on FB that they will be bringing their boyfriends to shoots to make sure things like this won't happen to them. The reality is that said boyfriend is way more likely cause them harm than a photographer. 

Now, I'm not saying don't be safe (I don't mind models bringing escorts, I just prefer that they aren't significant others) but do you take an escort to see a dentist? Because there are a few that have raped patients while they were under. How about when you see a doctor? Same has happened. Office hours for a professor? Guess what? There are creeps there, too.

The point is that there are creeps everywhere. Using ModelMayhem or some other online model site to find models doesn't not increase the odds that you are a pervert looking for someone to rape.