Even Some of the Most Prominent Male Photographers Still Don't Know How to Treat Women | Fstoppers

Even Some of the Most Prominent Male Photographers Still Don't Know How to Treat Women

Even Some of the Most Prominent Male Photographers Still Don't Know How to Treat Women

It's 2021. Why are seasoned male photographers still treating female models like sex objects under the guise of education?

This all started when someone brought up a product page for a nude photography course with a focus on fetishes and BDSM. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but obviously, given the subject matter, a high degree of professionalism and respect should be established and followed by the photographer in regards to their interaction with the model, especially considering this is an educational course that will set the tone for other aspiring photographers. 

And so, it was especially bothersome when I saw that product page, and it was enough to make me physically cringe. I clicked around to other tutorials on the site and was even more disgusted. Here's a sampling of the headlines for some of the products, always shown in large, bold fonts on the respective pages:

  • "[Model name redacted] as you've never seen her!"
  • "Small Hotel Photoshoot Uncensored 18+"

  • "[Model name] is back!"

It was not until well down some of these pages that it was even clear who was actually teaching this course.

Pretend I haven't told you this was a photography tutorial site. If you just read that list of headlines, where would you think they came from? They sound like pornographic advertisements to me. Have you ever seen a photographic education course lead its sales pitch by naming the model? What a strange way to convince customers that your photographic and teaching skills are strong enough that they should buy your tutorial — unless that is not what you're trying to convince them of.

Clicking on the preview shows a video that opens with the sound of a heartbeat while a model's corset is laced and she draws her hand over fishnet tights. The same heartbeat sound effect returns throughout the video whenever nudity is shown, interrupted by talking head segments often preaching about professionalism. We only see evidence that this is an educational photoshoot during the multiple nudity segments for a few brief seconds; the rest of the time, the camera mostly pans over the model's body while that same heartbeat drones on. The two sides of the preview feel weirdly contradictory, with the way the nude segments are shot and edited making the appeals to professionalism feel disingenuous, as if to provide plausible deniability of the fact that the video is leading with sex, not photographic education.

The thing is, the photographer here is not some unknown who just picked up a camera. This is someone with follower/subscriber counts in the hundreds of thousands, with many years of experience. This is someone to whom people look to not just for education, but for how to behave around a model. 

And to be clear, I am not accusing this photographer of being a predator or of doing anything improper while on set. However, the simple fact is that there are other people out there who are predators, and some of them carry cameras. And when we normalize this kind of treatment and representation of women, we enable those predators by creating an environment where warning signs of their behavior are less likely to be seen as crossing a boundary.

And then there are those who are not outright predators, but who are new to the trade and who look to those who are more experienced for guidance on how to behave. They know that a nude model is in a highly vulnerable position and that there are certainly boundaries that must be respected, but maybe they are unsure of what exactly those boundaries are. Can you ever touch the model just to fix their hair? Can you use words like "sexy"? 

Vulnerability and trust extend beyond the set.

Vulnerability does not end when the shoot does, though; in fact, it is only just beginning. Because now, the photographer takes those images and presents them to an audience. And some take it one step further, becoming educators who teach others how to take similar images. And all the time, the way they show the model, the way they talk about the process, and the way they advertise their education all demand further respect of the model's vulnerability in both process and representation.

When an advertisement for education leads with a message that appeals to sexual thought instead of photographic creation, it attracts both the wrong kind of person and gives people the wrong motivation to study the genre. Because no one should ever be in a room with a nude model and a camera because of sexual desire under the pretenses of artistic photography.

There is true fine art nude photography out there, and it has its rightful place in the photography world and deserves as much respect as any other genre. This is not it, though. And yet, this is not something overtly inappropriate. It's more insidious, and in a sense, more dangerous. Because when something is overtly inappropriate, most of us will recognize that and reject it as an example of what's acceptable. Sure, there will always be predators, but this is about a different group of people.

But when something is subtler, more insidious, people are less likely to outright reject it, particularly if they are untrained and perhaps unsure of exactly what is acceptable — even if they have good intentions. And so, if people in positions of power continue to normalize behavior that is just a bit over the line or that cloaks inappropriateness in a veil of plausible deniability, up-and-comers will see that behavior and assume it is acceptable, and eventually, it is accepted by broader society. And then the boundary gets pushed just a little further, and the cycle repeats. 

What saddens me is that I keep hearing the same refrain over and over: "it's [year]! Why is this still happening?" Only the year keeps changing: 

"It's 2008! Why is this still happening?"

"It's 2016! Why is this still happening?" 

"It's 2021! Why is this still happening?"

There are many reasons it keeps happening, unfortunately. But if those in high positions lead by example, perhaps it (and I leave the pronoun ambiguous to encompass all its ambiguity captures) will happen a bit less. 

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156 Comments

Jan Holler's picture

For many years I occasionally watch videos of this photographer. For some time now, I have noticed that there is more and more nudity in these videos. While I admire naked bodies, I often see no reason why naked or nearly naked women would display their bodies for a lens or camera test or a basic photography tutorial.
And yes, the person (in this case the woman) is not perceived as a person, but as an object. That is the disrespect that repels. So I also stopped watching videos of this photographer because it makes me feel uncomfortable and alienated.

JAMES MALLORY's picture

For many years I have watched Television Series on non-broadcast or streaming services and I have noticed that there is more and more nudity (and sex) in these shows. While I admire naked bodies, I see no reason why obviously talented actresses would display their bodies in nude scenes that aren't necessary to advance the narrative of the series.

Dave Dundas's picture

Let's leave Whataboutism back in 2020 along with all the other garbage please. Issues should be discussed on their own merits, there's no need to attempt to de-value them by pointing out that there other issues that you think may also be problematic. That just shows that we have more to do, not that this isn't a problem.

Richard King's picture

Why....

Because there is a huge group of males who only are involved with photography to have access to undressed women.

When a nude photo is posted in a Facebook group, these photos get the most attention, and the conversation is about the model, not the photography.

Whats a shame is that the rest of us male photographers get tarred with the same brush. I hate having to start off by building trust, because of the perception that we are all into photography for the same reasons.

Pan daBear's picture

There are enough of those types on this site: those that become “photographers”just to interact with women they wouldn’t be able to normally without the crutch of a camera. It’s sick and sad.

AJ Jones's picture

There are enough women who become "models" in order to gain maximum attention from men they wouldn't normally have access to. It's sick and sad.

Pan daBear's picture

Why resort to “whataboutism” on this?

Oh never mind, I see you’ve created an account just to post about #metoo and victim shaming. I have my answer, unfortunately.

Enjoy your troll account!

AJ Jones's picture

Bro, I was responding to your misandry with turnabout. Just because someone counters your argument doesn’t make them a troll.

Pan daBear's picture

Nah dude, "countering" an argument doesn't make you a troll. All the other bullshit you're spewing does.

Best of luck here: I'm excited to work with you!

AJ Jones's picture

I'd love to hear you address my "bullshit" with counter arguments (further ad hominem doesn't count).

Pan daBear's picture

You don't get to dictate what I address or don't, or what "counts", especially when you throw out red herrings.

Fuck off, loser!

Jon Winkleman's picture

Richard are you including Richard Avedon, Annie Leibowitz, Scavulo, Helmut Newton and Bill Brandt? What about Picasso, Degas, Gaugin, Edouard Manet, Titian and Raphael? Did they paint nudes to creep out on women. As people clutch their pearls in this forum that are discounting the majority of photographers and artists recognized in art history textbooks as nothing more than creeps. Shooting, sculpting or painting nudes is not dirty or creepy and has been done since prehistoric times. Sexually explicit art is that old as well and can be legit art. There are photographers and artists who work with completely clothed women and bully and sexually abuse them. The theme and genre of a photo does not indicate abuse or the artist’s motivations. How they treat their models during the shoot does.

Richard King's picture

Actually I know a lot of professional artists. Thier approach for nude or erotic work is entirely different.

My issue is the motivation of the sleazebag photographers

Jon Winkleman's picture

Picasso and Gauguin were both brilliant artists who deserve their place in the canon of art history. However both were also misogyist womanizers who treated the women they screwed very poorly. They both were sleazebags as well, just very talented brilliant sleezebags. Terry Richardson is a brilliant image-maker and art historians and critics agree. However his approach to pressuring models who did not agree to nudity to get nude is abusive and unethical. Talented sleezebag who is also a real artist.

Meanwhile I know directors who shoot porn and photographers who shoot for girlie magazines who models and actresses love because they treat talent with respect and create a safe professional work environment. It is not about the nudity, sex or even the talent/ lack of talent. It is about consent, respect, being upfront about what will be shot before booking the model, not manipulating or pressuring the model into doing something they did not agree to and to treat them as a professional.

Iain Lea's picture

1. be profiessional
2. don't touch the model
3. try and balance the team so you have at least 1 women present
4. explain in minute detail what you want to achieve with the shoot
5. get them to register their details upfront, check age on id, contract!

Anything else and you are asking for problems... especially in this day and age!

AJ Jones's picture

I think that more men are realizing that the risk of associating with women just isn't worth it.

Max Wiltshire's picture

Misogynistic bollocks.

AJ Jones's picture

^not an argument

Dave Dundas's picture

That's because no one argues with ridiculous comments. It gets dismissed, as it should.

Iain Lea's picture

I am certainly now way more selective in who I work with and have dusted off my 14-24 and ND filters as I may start shooting landscapes again... way less metoo and way more moo too :-)

Dave Dundas's picture

I don't know that I'm looking forward to a shift in your work... but, if you insist on moo-ving along, I guess I'll keep checking it out anyway! :)

Jacques Cornell's picture

Yeah, for men whose lizard brains are bigger than their frontal cortexes, it really isn't worth the risk. And, a good thing, too, because we don't want them reproducing.

AJ Jones's picture

Good luck with that, you’ll need it when a woman’s false accusations are directed at you

Jacques Cornell's picture

You obviously are afraid of something. Perhaps you recognize that your own behavior may invite criticism and/or a lawsuit? I have no such worries.

AJ Jones's picture

I'm a gay man which gives me a great deal of protection against false accusations from women. I've seen how straight men I know have had their lives ruined by #metoo and #believeallwomen hysteria though. The anti-male narrative is out of control and all reasonable men should be cautious.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Look up the etymological origins of the word "hysteria". Hint: It's derogatory toward women.
I'd expect you, as a gay man, to have a better understanding of how negative stereotypes are generated and why it's incumbent on people who are not in the targeted class to speak up in defense of those who are discriminated against.

SMH

Jon Winkleman's picture

AJ that is B.S. IT is harder for creeps to get away with bad behavior but any professional male in photgraphy or any other field who treats women with respect will not have any problems.

Max Wiltshire's picture

I think we all know who this photographer/YouTuber is.

I watched a few of his videos on gear, which seemed reasonably informative.

When I watched his videos on actual portrait photography I was quickly struck by a certain consistent quality in the models he chooses to work with. And it isn’t just that they are all good looking and slim.

I wonder if he realises that he is so publicly blurring the lines between teaching photography and indulging his own (very obvious) fetishes. It really looks to me as if he is making (and publishing/publicising) these videos as a way of being around/photographing/lusting over naked women who conform to his particular “type”. He seems so totally lacking in self awareness about it.

Tomash Masojc's picture

Okey. So who is this photographer? He did something wrong to model? Photos are bad?

Pan daBear's picture

FIFY: “Some males still don’t know how to treat women” lol!

All kidding aside, great article with a very important message, Alex. Timely, unfortunately, as well with the murders in Atlanta motivated by a racist objectification and hyper-sexualization of Asian women.

Alex Cooke's picture

Much appreciated, Tim. Always appreciate your thoughtful comments as well!

Jon Winkleman's picture

Akari and Jean Paul Goude both are known for their sexy objectifying photos of Asian women and yet neither has abused or murdered any. It is not helpful to compare sexy photos of women including women of color where all parties had full and equal consent to the shoot and the women were treated professionally to the racist misogynist Atlanta shooter who murdered people based on gender, race and profession. It has been proven that nude photos, porn, video games and other pop culture things are not the cause of mass shootings. Racism and sexism dose. The majority of American mass shooters have ties or have shown interest to White Supremacist causes.

Shooting or viewing photos of your own sexual preferences that involved fully consenting models is a healthy way express your desires. That is good. The Atlanta shooter might have gone down a different path if he had a healthy consensual outlet for his desires.

Photographers like Terry Richardson or Mario Testino that have forced themselves on or pressured models to shoot nude or explicit images they did not agree to in advance of the shoot is abuse. I am not a personal fan of the photographer in question’s work. However if he is booking one of the thousand of female fetish models who enjoy doing these shoots professionally and they knew what the shoot involved in advance, then let’s focus on actual abusers.

Minh Duong's picture

I think an article like this should at least contain the response of the photographer in question as well. Since this person is active on Youtube, he should probably be available to present his side of the story.

Pan daBear's picture

The photographer is not named in the article and is presented as an example to present a larger point. In this instance I see no reason to get a response.

Mike Ditz's picture

Well the headline is sort of throwing Granger under the bus...

Pan daBear's picture

He’s not named. And there are no accusations of the photographer doing anything illegal, in fact, Alex states this numerous times. Hardly “throwing someone under the bus”

Mike Ditz's picture

I never said anything about illegal? Where did that come from?

The author said "Even Some of the Most Prominent Male Photographers Still Don't Know How to Treat Women"

and

Then gave enough info about what made him cringe to lead to Granger, who from what people say is not a "bad actor".

Pan daBear's picture

Good point: you did not say illegal. Apologies.

Michael Comeau's picture

Soooo... Fstoppers called out David Alan Harvey and Magnum but is afraid to call out a YouTuber?

Kristopher Armstead's picture

Exactly...

Richard Twigg's picture

I think we all know who this is. I've wondered if his sales increased so dramatically when he started doing nude stuff that he decided to just do more of that to make more money? I'm not saying I know, just guessing.

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

I don't.

And I don't need to know, because it's not about the photographer in question, it's about the type of behaviour.

Pan daBear's picture

Thank you! Why is this so difficult for some people to get?

Richard Twigg's picture

Yep, agreed.

Casper Maarly's picture

What a load of Baloney. Next you will be telling us we are racist for drinking water from a Dixie Cup.

Pan daBear's picture

I don’t get it. What do you mean?

Jon Winkleman's picture

not because it is called a “Dixie” cup but because the owners of the company, the Koch Brothers have funded white supremacists causes.
https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/how-charles-koch-is-helping-ne...

David Pavlich's picture

"And to be clear, I am not accusing this photographer of being a predator or of doing anything improper while on set."

We know that there is a dark side to this hobby/profession. There's no place for it. What is the answer? We can wish, but that changes nothing, just as pointed out in the article. But....

....if the You Tuber you are using as an example did nothing wrong, why did you choose this particular photographer? Perhaps you should have done a little digging and found a photographer that was actually doing something wrong. As pointed out earlier, the Magnum fiasco was pointed out and names were named. The same should have been done with this article; find a shooter that's been accused/convicted of wrong doing while doing nude photography.

Pan daBear's picture

Alex answers your question in the next sentence after the one you posted:

“And when we normalize this kind of treatment and representation of women, we enable those predators by creating an environment where warning signs of their behavior are less likely to be seen as crossing a boundary.”

I hope you just missed that somehow and didn’t purposely ignore his statement. That would be rather disingenuous!

David Pavlich's picture

No, I didn't miss it. I asked why he didn't use a 'bad guy' as an example, that's all.

'We' is a broad brush. You could ask 100 photographers what is 'normal' and you'll get 100 different answers. You may look at a shot that you consider an artistic nude and I may look at it and say it qualifies for the Hustler centerfold. Who draws the line and who decides where that line should be set?

The article brings up a point that doesn't have a solution beyond speculation, wishing, and hoping. If there is a solution, it's been hiding for a long, long time. We can't figure out how to stop people from shooting heroin, how do we expect to stop photographers from thinking what they think?

A person that has less than noble thoughts while shooting nudes that reads this article will, in all likelihood, just roll his/her eyes. If you have a solution that is workable, let us know. I certainly don't. Trying to change human nature is like paddling a canoe upstream using a cue stick as a paddle.

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