The Trouble With Models: Hi Chaperone
I’ve heard some pretty harrowing stories from (female) models over the years about photographers making sexual advances or other inappropriate and unprofessional conduct. The forums on modelling/photographer interface sites such as Pure Storm regularly feature this as a topic and so it is clearly a very real and ongoing problem for models. And let’s face it, photographers have long been the butt of jokes about their less than honourable intentions.
Perhaps not surprisingly then, some models prefer to take a chaperone – a parent, partner or friend – along to shoots with them. But some photographers actually forbid models bringing along a chaperone. Here is my summation of the argument on both sides…
The model’s perspective: Who in their right mind would go off to meet a near stranger in an unfamiliar location, or even a photographer’s home without taking someone along for safety? What’s wrong with having someone else there at the shoot? Surely, if a photographer objects, he must have something to hide. Having someone there will save me from being put under pressure to work to levels that I am not happy with. If the photographer isn’t alone and you end up being assaulted, it’s just your word against theirs.
The photographer’s perspective: Having a partner or parent in the room can greatly inhibit the whole mood of the shoot and might actually prevent me getting the shots I want, and might even be paying for – I don’t want the model looking over to dad/boyfriend to gain approval for every pose I suggest. If model and photographer are both alone and the model claims to have been assaulted or harassed, its just one’s word against the other’s, but if there are two of them and the photographer is alone, they could could make allegations and the photographer would have no-one to back him up.
It’s a tricky one. Personally, I have never discouraged model’s from bringing along a chaperone and in fact they can come in pretty handy as coffee-makers/fetchers, reflector-holders and kit-carriers. They are also sometimes a good way to get real smiles and laughter from a nervous model. However, I have known a situation (only one – a group shoot) where a chaperone, in this case a clearly disapproving and/or jealous boyfriend, has cast a gloomy presence over the model and definitely hindered the shoot. But perhaps this one-off situation is a small price to pay for the safety of young women – and it’s women that I’m mainly referring to here – in this industry.
In my experience, only perhaps one in about eight-to-ten models brings along a chaperone and it is very rarely ever a problem. But with an increasing number of photographers of all levels choosing to work from home studios, one might expect that models will have more and more reason to want to take along someone they trust to shoots with photographers they don’t know.
I’d be very interested in hearing your views on this, whether you’re a photographer, model, parent/family member of a model – or anyone else.