An actual professional photographer in action.
Being a model, from what we hear and have seen (but obviously have not experienced) is no easy task. The struggle to stay relevant, the tight competition, the backstabbing and making a name for one’s self are but just some of the difficulties most models face in the modeling industry. Some persevere, some call it quits halfway through and others through sheer hard work, dedication and sleepless nights, make it to the big leagues and rightfully so. “Is there a shortcut?” some of you may ponder. Sure there is. As with any job, you can make your way to the top the ethical way through what you do, rather than who you know (or… in certain instances, who you do), but not everyone opts for what is right. As Terry Richardson himself once said, “It’s not who you know, it’s who you blow. I don’t have a hole in my jeans for nothing.” How repulsive is that? In case you weren’t aware, Terry Richardson has produced countless tasteless photos but two in particular displayed a whole new level of douchiness. One is of a woman in a trash can giving Richardson a sexual favour as if to suggest she is 'garbage' and another is a picture of a woman giving Richardson a sexual favour with the word 'SLUT' written on her forehead. And then you have big brands associating themselves with the likes of him.
Loveable, ain't he? (Image: fashionbombdaily.com)
But that’s not what we’re here to discuss. We’re here to talk about a certain group of people taking advantage of this whole scenario. They know it’s a competitive industry and to make your way to the top, you’re gonna need exposure – and loads of it. These photographers know this and sickeningly take full advantage of it along with the gullibility some models possess – especially the younger, fresher ones who are just entering the modeling scene. We’re talking about pervy photographers. It’s terrifically clear to you, along with us and the average cabbage, just how very unprofessional that is and how it messes up the general reputation of photographers who are really in it for the craft. And based on some of the experiences shared by models that you’ll read below, some don’t even have proper photography skills to begin with. Something else we learnt is that some photographers are creepy without even knowing it – totally oblivious to their lack of professionalism and just how uncomfortable they make models feel. Whatever it is and no matter the excuse, it’s just plain wrong.
Then there are these guys. The plain stupid ones. (Image: AsiaOne forums)
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?! HOW DO THEY TAKE ADVANTAGE?
Well, for starters, some photographers actually pretend to be official photographers for certain magazines/publications/websites or talent scouts in hopes of having some gullible and naïve model fall for it and agree to a shoot. It has happened way too often and probably is still taking place today. So always consult with the publication to make sure they’re legit. Others will use lines like, “It’s for my online portfolio” or “Don’t worry, I know people. I’ll get your photos published using my contacts”. More often than not, the photos end up nowhere except on his personal hard disk for whatever questionable reason. But that’s not all they do…
TRAITS OF A CREEPY PHOTOGRAPHER
More often than not they’ll be lurking around Facebook, stalking Facebook groups and personal pages of the models. There are even groups that organise dodgy photo shoot sessions with poor unsuspecting/naïve models, where suddenly they’re surrounded by more than 10 heavy-breathing 'photographers' who seem exceptionally happy to see those said models. Back on Facebook, they do their very best to send messages, with the focus being more on complimenting asses than making images. Look, to them photography is a means to get into close proximity with nude/sexy women, to 'pick up' some chicks or to fulfill some sick sexual desire. It’s a clear abuse of power for selfish sexual gratification because as a photographer, you’re in charge during the shoot. You dish out instructions on how to pose, on what you feel would be best, suggestions of outfits and whatnot, and some models who may not get what they’re getting at, unwillingly oblige to live up to expectations. They become submissive subjects much to the photographer’s delight and when this happens often enough, that’s when the photographers think they can pull the same trick with every other model out there. Joke’s on them though, because forget the stereotype, models aren’t stupid.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE PERVY KIND
We spoke to some local models to find out if they’ve had any unfortunate encounters with unprofessional photographers. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them did. Here are some of their stories.
Image: FHM Malaysia
“I get quite a lot of requests from photographers and a lot of the times they send me drafts of the shoot. There have been some where the girls were naked or barely in any clothes. It's basically the mood board and the idea for the shoot which they are suggesting to me. Lots of them ask how much it would cost, but mostly they ask because they think it's something I would wanna do. The thing is... if you don't know the photographer, it could be some creep that just wants to see you take your clothes off. I just received one recently as well. It's kind of creepy and lots of them are quite pushy about it. I think I would only do it if I got the photographer myself and suggested it myself.”
Image: FHM Malaysia
“Well, I've had photographers approach me for nude shots, for their 'own collection'. A few asked if I wanted to do a portfolio then asked to what extent I could accept nudity and such. I also experienced one with a local online college magazine that got me in awkward 'sexy' poses for the camera. The pictures came out not only unsexy and bad, but the whole intention was for the pleasure of the photographer.”
LAURA PATRICIA CHANDRAN
“In my eight years of modelling, I’ve had several encounters with pervy photographers. However, this particular dude by far was the worst! So, this photographer approaches me for a shoot asking if I have sexy outfits like school girl, policewoman, nurse etc. I didn’t seem to think it was too much at the time and obliged as he agreed to a ridiculously high model fee that I had proposed to him.
So I get to the shoot and he seems rather nervous and fidgety. He kept walking around arranging things and drinking water. He decides to get it out there before we begin our shoot, 'I’m going to be very honest with you Laura. I’m expecting something wild from you today!' I laugh and brush it off and we begin shooting. Midway through, once he gets a bit more comfortable, he asks me, 'Can you pose like a cat?' Basically he meant pose in the doggy style position. I look at him in disgust and tell him that pose would make me rather uncomfortable.
So after a good half an hour of him taking less than tasteful shots and making perverted requests, I go to change my outfit. Here is where it gets bad!
The changing room consisted of a flimsy curtain with no lock or security whatsoever. I get in and am about to take my top off when I see a lot of movement from the corner of the curtain. I stop and look into the mirror where I can see the reflection of the curtain. I literally see this sicko peeping in and attempting to take pics with his camera phone while I’m changing! He catches me looking him dead in the eye and moves away quickly. I storm out and he appears to be in a fake convo on his phone far away on the other corner of the room. I walk up to him and ask him what he was doing near my changing room. He starts stammering and stuttering that he just happened to be standing there so I demand to see his phone shots. He says it’s his own privacy and I have no right to ask him for it. I tell him that never in my eight years as a model have I seen something this desperate and unprofessional. He makes some quick movements on his phone where I assume he deleted my changing room shots and innocently shows me how he has no such pics of me on it.
I refused to back down as I knew what I saw and decided to cut the shoot short.It was rather shocking as the guy genuinely looked like a harmless, nerdy university professor. I guess sometimes the most innocent looking ones are the most dangerous. A word of advice to new models in the industry, always bring an escort with you to the shoot if you don’t know the photographer personally.”
Image: Teh Young-Sun, Eyedear Photography
“Okay, so I was the emcee at this event once and there was this one photographer who kept stalking me all night. He literally took dozens of photos of me and was trailing me around the ballroom of the hotel. He would literally make me stop for photos every 10 minutes at random locations other than the stage and the photo wall. He even had this notebook which he asked me to write my contact details in and when I glanced through the pages of the notebook, I found the telephone numbers, email addresses and Facebook pages of other models and people he had taken pictures of. To be honest, he didn't look harmful at all but the whole experience was just plain creepy and annoying. Oh, and the photos he took weren't that great either.”
“Back when I was a model in nude/implied art, I had a lot of encounters with photographers who are just downright shady/sleazy. This one guy had a really good portfolio and he texted me. He got my number somehow, which was rather scary. He told me he wanted to shoot me and it seemed pretty legit. I’ve only seen him once at an event. Anyway he was gonna get my wardrobe sponsored. I said ‘Sure, but I’ll be coming with a friend, just lettin’ you know.’ And he was like, ‘Oh... uhm... can you just come by yourself? I would be really shy if there were other people there.’ If there’s anyone who should be shy, it should’ve been me!
After a while, he called me and said he also wants me to pose in lingerie, to get naked and just 'tease' him in front of the camera. And he said he’d double my pay and all that. Then I knew where that was going.
I hung up, I sent him a really mean text and that was that. I blocked him and haven’t heard from him since. I really lost respect for him at that moment. In other instances, photographers would just hold me or grab me without asking. Some would just grab my thigh and shift it aside and be all super touchy and I was never really fond of that. Others would just straight up say stuff like, ‘Oh, too bad you have a boyfriend’. Then there are some who even when they wanna move my hair outta my face will go, ‘Can I… or can you…?’ and actually show me respect in that sorta way.”
Image: FHM Malaysia
“I was about 20, and was to replace a close friend of mine for a photoshoot. She's an intelligent person and I trusted her judgement. It was a bikini photoshoot and the payment was RM500. And since the venue was in a public area, I figured why not. The night before the shoot, the photographer contacted me and kept asking if I would be coming alone. I wondered why but never thought much of it. The next day, I picked him up from KL Sentral (which he requested) and we adjourned to the venue of the shoot.
Before we started he asked me to write my details in his little black book. Details which included, MY HOME ADDRESS, which I left blank. We then proceeded to the shoot. He was such a creep. I wore a sarong which he had a problem with and asked me to remove it. When I gently declined, he got aggressive. He then kept asking me to pose in compromising positions, which I kept refusing too. This made him mad, and his aggression became worse.
He kept scolding me with foul languages in English and in Cantonese. A little bit of ‘f**k’ and ‘cib*i’ throughout the shoot. All the while asking me to pose like a slut and asking me to take off my sarong. At one point, I snapped and said, ‘I’M NOT A PORN STAR’, he slapped my legs open and yelled, ‘I WANT PORN STAR!’
I was shocked. After a while when I wouldn't give in, he lost interest in me and saw random strangers in bikini and swimsuits in the pool area and approached them. One of them was a mother with her child. He asked them to pose for his camera, which they agreed to. It was awkward, but they didn't seem to mind. And they seemed oblivious about what a creep this guy is anyway. By then, I was already quite shaken and paralysed by fear. So I didn't make a run for it. After a while he returned and started shooting me again. The whole ordeal was about four hours. After the shoot he paid me, and asked me to drop him off at KL Sentral. Great, I've to have this creep in my car again. But I did anyway.
Fast forward two years later, I bumped into him at an event. And he was quite excited and asked if I remembered him (Oh, yes I did), then here comes the creepy part. He handed me a hard copy of a photo of myself from our photoshoot and we parted ways. I blogged about it and it went viral. When the post came out, he dropped me a message on Facebook and apologised. But he didn't seem to understand why I was uncomfortable or how he was inappropriate. Anyhow, I'm glad that post went out, and indeed after it did, many other models confided in me to talk about their experiences as well. And worse, a few of them were victims or knew people who were victims of the same photographer!”
TWO MODELS WHO CHOSE TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS
“This one photographer likes to insist guests take pictures with them. And like not just one. But like, many! And once he kissed me on the cheek immediately after the picture. Which is really inappropriate lah. Omg!”
“I have encountered a few photographers who happened to be really annoying during conversations even after you tell them countless times you don't do nude photoshoots. Then they try to negotiate for an implied nude and when they can't get their way, they ask you ‘Till what level can you go?’ That's one. Then there was this other photographer who tried to convince me that nude is art, so it's okay. I just have to be open minded about it. Hahaha! I agree it is a form of art to certain people, but I live in Malaysia, and my parents wouldn't be too happy about it. So yeah, I passed on it. Then there are those who flirt and think I'd do anything for money, so they set the theme and try to get me to do anything they want for the picture. When I say it's not possible, instead of trying to switch up the theme to something different, they switch the price higher. But the worst one I have encountered was sadly, this guy whom I was really excited to meet since I've heard that he's a great photographer. He told me that we were going to do a high-end fashion shoot and nothing too much. I, of course, trusted him because his work was professional and he was well known.
I went with it only to realise then when he tried to make me do weird things like not wear a bra and strut poses which are really uncomfortable and inappropriate. If there is one thing I would have to comment about is this: photographers who tell you that you need to pose this way or that way to look sexier is total bullshit because I think being sexy is a feeling. You have to feel sexy in order to look sexy. You can't just be sexy when your mind is thinking about nasi lemak or your favourite dessert right? Or you can't be sexy when the photographer kills your vibe by trying to indirectly tell you that you need to show more of your cleavage or more of your ass to have the picture look sexy. And from what I've learnt throughout really weird encounters is to never ever go to a photoshoot alone. Unless he's a trusted friend. Or a recommended photographer from a trusted friend. Because lately a lot of these people work unprofessionally and tend to take advantage, which may seem like it’s part of the job but it really isn't.”
Shocking stuff, isn’t it? But it’s the reality of the industry and this is happening right here in Malaysia. Don’t fall victim to these 'photographers'. Don’t let someone you know face the traumatizing experience and more importantly, if it does happen, keeping quiet only leaves room for other unsuspecting models to fall prey to these pervy predators. We spoke to Leng Yein and she had some great advice to dish out.
AND NOW FOR SOME ADVICE FROM LENG YEIN
Image: The BKL Photography
“It happens all the time! Photographers keep trying to talk their way in to make me do topless and implied nudes. And swearing over their reputation and promising not to share the photos anywhere. To me it’s like ‘If you don’t want something to be seen by others, DON’T EVER do it!’ There is no trust between models and photographers. It’s our JOB. Someday, somehow, someone will see the pictures on their hard drives. Whether it’s posted online or shared with their friends, partners or colleagues, someday, somehow, somewhere, something WILL go awfully wrong.
I’m the pioneer and sex idol of Malaysia. Being the only Bad Girl in Malaysia and taking it internationally makes me more prone to meeting psychos and irresponsible pervs. Been there, done that. I’ve seen it all. Girls getting themselves in trouble and even trying to kill themselves or move out from the country and hide and delete all their social media accounts and change phone numbers and move out and such. And why? Because you trusted a photographer friend? If they aren’t paying you to buy your topless/nude pics, why do it? Some girls do it for fame, some for money, some just for the experience and some because they are plain naive. If one does it for work and gets paid, I respect that. No wrong, innit? But to those who are afraid to be seen naked, don’t ever do it.
Photographers who touch you, those perverts who try putting lotion on you to ‘make your skin glow’ and start rubbing your private parts, taking photos from angles that are just obscene or directly exposing you isn’t proper and it is not the way it should be. Even sending photos through e-mails can sometimes go wrong and have the photos leak out. Or sometimes, if you argue with a photographer after a shoot, they leak the photos as an act of revenge. That’s not right.
At any time, if a photographer keeps pestering you to take off your clothes and is being anything but considerate or professional is not right. Make a clear stand and walk off. Some photographers don’t allow you to bring anyone to the studio and sure, out of professionalism I understand that because it could be a nuisance, a distraction or in severe cases, they could even mess up the place. But if a photographer at any time at all forces a girl into doing something she doesn’t feel comfortable doing, tell them straight up! Learn to stand up for your rights and protect yourself.
And if all else fails and he’s gone from bad to worse, text your location, send his picture and details to your friends, copy his vehicle registration number, social media links and phone number, ask a bunch of friends to pick you up, karate kick him and leave!”
And to you photographers who may have stumbled upon this article – whether you are guilty of such unprofessionalism, or may have been doing it unknowingly, either way, here’s a list of ways on how you can free yourself from the label of being a creep. Do yourself and the models a favour and read on, yeah? For the majority of you out there who do a stellar job at photography, keep up the great work and don't let these guys continue to tarnish the Malaysian photography industry!
• Take your sexuality, pack it up inside yourself and tell that f**ker to stay put till you’re done with work. Nobody is claiming that anyone should be able to not get aroused, not be attracted to people or anything like that, that would be ridiculous. What you need to be able to do is keep it in till you’re done with your photography.
• Make sure you have a feel for people before the shooting starts. This is part of why the pre-shoot talk is so important, preferably on an entirely different day. This is where you feel people out, get to know what their humour, attitude etc. is like when they’re not in an intimidating situation, and that knowledge empowers you to not trample all over their boundaries once the shoot starts.
• Put some energy into being sensitive to people’s reactions to what you do and say. We’re actually pretty good at understanding each other, us human beings, and if you devote a fraction of your attention to it, you’ll be able to recognise when you’re crossing the line with people. When you do, acknowledge it, apologise and back down.
• Realise that the situation is about one thing, and that is to create an awesome image. That is why everyone is there, not to make new friends, not to blind date photographers or models and certainly not to be subjected to your sexuality. If that isn’t why you’re there, then stop photographing people and start saying hi to them instead, and ask them out for coffee.