Article by: Claryssa Humennyj-Jameson
I’ve been working as a model for 15 years and have done thousands of shoots – both TFP / collaborations, as well as working for top clients in Australia, the UK, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Africa and the USA. I am also a photographer, and run my own business.
The sheer amount of stories I have been hearing recently about models being placed in very unprofessional and uncomfortable positions while arranging and shooting TFP / collaborations here in our community in Melbourne has lead me to write this post to help look out for my fellow models, and to try and stop photographers exploiting my profession in a terrible way.
First and foremost, use common sense. NO shoot is worth doing if you feel unsure, uncomfortable or exploited in ANY way. Here is a checklist to help establish whether you’re working with an industry professional or a GWC (Guy With Camera).
***ABSOLUTE NOs***
  1. VERBAL: Sexual innuendos, sexual references, sexual stories, referring to your looks or your body in ANY objectifying way, dick pics or anything that you find sleazy, untoward or inappropriate. It’s called SEXUAL HARASSMENT.
  2. PHYSICAL: Touching, massaging, grabbing, or ANYTHING that feels like it belongs in a gross, seedy nightclub. You are there to be photographed, NOT TOUCHED. If a garment needs rearranging, a good photographer will ask permission, or get a female who is on set to do it for them. Inappropriate physical contact is called SEXUAL ASSAULT.
  3. EMOTIONAL ABUSE: Look out for power-plays, promises that are too good to be true (from experience, 99% of the time they actually ARE too good to be true), and be aware for any interaction where you’re pressured to feel like you HAVE to or MUST or OWE it to someone to do a shoot with them. And please be aware of the line “You’ll never be a model if you don’t do [insert word here]”. I didn’t do lingerie for the first 4 years of my career, and I didn’t do an art nude shoot for years after that. Not every model has to get naked, and in fact, if a nude shoot is done wrong it can RUIN a model’s career, not enhance it.
***WHEN ORGANISING A SHOOT***
  1. Is communication professional?
  2. This one is HUGELY important. It sets up the tone for your whole interaction for a shoot. Look out out for any of the ABSOLUTE NOs, as well as spelling, grammar, and off-topic messages. 2. BEWARE OF ONLINE SCAMS. You must always be in control of your image and how it is portrayed, and be aware of who you are meeting or talking too. Casting videos and ‘polaroids’ are used all the time by agency represented models for clients to see how a model moves and looks without the aid of photoshop, lighting and makeup, however being asked to meet using video chats or the like is inappropriate. You have no idea of who is at the other end, nor do you have any control if they choose to record you. If a client wants a video or polaroids done, do them yourself, so you know that your image is being portrayed professionally.
  3. Has the direction of the shoot been outlined?
  4. It’s important to establish the WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHO of a shoot so you know exactly what is happening, and what to expect. That way if a ‘street style’ shoot suddenly tries to become an ‘art nude’ shoot and you don’t feel comfortable, you know you are within your rights to decline and leave.
  5. Are you comfortable with the location?
  6. Some of the best locations I’ve ever shot in have been hard to reach, deserted, or abandoned, even a bit creepy. However I would never do a shoot somewhere I wasn’t sure about unless I have worked with the photographer with no dramas previously. So make sure you are ok with the location. If it’s a first time meeting, ensure there are either people around, or that someone knows where you are at all times.
  7. Is the photographer ok with you bringing an escort?
  8. This is an interesting one. As a photographer myself, I know that having a friend or boyfriend in the same room as the model I am shooting can actually make the model perform very differently (usually not for the better), but I will NEVER decline if a model asks for someone to come with them to a shoot. EVER. It is important to note, however, that your escort doesn’t need to be close to you at all times. It’s ok for them to be in a back corner, or the next room, or sitting in a car nearby.
  9. 6. Are you satisfied with the quality of hair, makeup, styling (whether it be you doing it, or someone else)?
  10. Hair, makeup and styling can really change the quality of the final outcome of a shoot. So make sure you’re aware of the WHO before you finalise the shoot. It’s also good to know if there will be other people on set with you or not.
***WHEN ON SET AT A SHOOT***
  1. Stick to the brief! If the direction a shoot is heading starts making you feel uncomfortable, STOP IT from heading there IMMEDIATELY. Just say no. It’s ok to say you’re not ok with something you’re asked to do or wear. It’s not ok to turn around AFTER the fact and try to stop a photographer from using images you let them shoot.
  2. No means NO. If you’ve said no to something you’ve been requested to do or wear because it makes you feel uncomfortable or exploited, then the photographer should never bring it up again or push it further.
  3. Speak up. If you do not communicate with a photographer about how you feel, then they will take your silent compliance as a sign you’re ok with what is happening.
  4. If you are doing an implied nude shoot, make a deal with the photographer that they will delete any image that reveals more than what was agreed upon. Also remember that a nude g-string with very thin straps (available from Bonds and Bras N Things) can be worn to keep your dignity, as it’s not too hard for a good photographer to just edit out the little straps.
  5. It’s ok to leave if you feel in physical danger! Don’t EVER stay anywhere if you’re not ok with the conduct of a photographer.
  6. Finally, REPORT any untoward behavior to the police first, and then the Melbourne FB group admins. Screen-capture conversations as proof. As uncomfortable as it is at the time, you have a duty to yourself as well as all the future models that will work with that inappropriate photographer. If left unchecked, the behaviour will get worse, so you might be truly saving someone from something terrible in the future.
Remember, you ARE ALLOWED to politely decline working with a photographer at any stage if they are making you feel uncomfortable.
Your safety and your dignity are paramount.
Claryssa Humennyj-Jameson
Model: Bella Management AUS, 12+ UK EUR.
Photographer: ISKA Photography