Avoiding the villain: model advice

Silvena Toncheva Photography

I have now been networking with creatives from the Fashion and Art industry for over 7 years and I see quite frequently in my newsfeed ‘warnings’ from models about an unprofessional or even abusive behaviour from some photographers. Being faced with domestic abuse in the past myself, I am extremely sensitive to any form of violence towards other person’s personality or physical being by taking advantage of situation or manipulation. I find such cases quite upsetting but I am glad that the models who ‘name and shame’ have the bravery to do so and protect others from getting into the hands of predators.

Couple of months ago one of the models I work with contacted me for advice on whether to undertake a certain photography project as she had doubts about the motives of the photographer. I already had an answer in my mind even before hearing additional details as you can very often trust your intuition and if you feel something is not right, it usually isn’t. Even if there was nothing suspicious about the photographer, I told her that the fact that she is in doubt would negatively influence the photo-shoot (she won’t feel relaxed – simple as that) so it’s better not to undertake the project. She confided that he asked questions of personal matter such as whether she has a boyfriend which is meant to raise an alarm straight away. If it’s a purely professional motivation would her relationship status matter?

I decided to put together a few tips which would give models an extra piece of mind before a shoot and I hope you would find them useful.

  1. Trust your intuition.
  2. Avoid photographers who ask you too personal questions (which have nothing to do with the shoot).
  3. Check the e-mail address from which you are contacted. If it has an url in it this should be quite easy (ex. jimmy@example.com – simply type ‘example.com’). If it doesn’t, and he/she uses some of the popular e-mail providers such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. then you can try searching his/her profile on Facebook by simply entering the e-mail address in the search tab. In case I don’t find anything I try google-searching the email. If nothing comes up anywhere or if you find something suspicious, then you should be careful.
  4. If in doubt ask some of the people he/she has worked with for advice or check the feedback on his/her profile if available.
  5. For extra security when travelling and shooting on location or home studio feel free to bring along a friend of yours. I as a photographer myself find this completely reasonable condition from a model.
  6. Always have your mobile, fully charged, with you.
  7. Avoid first-time shoots on desolated locations or at unusual times (Midnight-6am).
  8. Learn to say ‘No’ for things you are not comfortable with.
  9. Carry in your handbag pepper spray just in case.
  10. Some of you may consider taking on a martial arts course. I have myself trained Karate-Do 5 years and 2 years Aikido and found it a fascinating experience, it’s also a good way to build your team-working skills, build strong spirit, release stress and keep fit. Or alternatively undertake a self-defence course.
  11. Avoid giving out personal details such as home address, etc.
  12. If you become suspicious during the shoot, find an excuse and leave as soon as possible.
  13. Do not accept any drinks if you have doubts about the photographer and you are on your own in his/her home studio or remote location.
  14. If you find any discrepancies between what he/she tells you, try clarifying the information with him/her and ideally with another person who can verify the information.
  15. Make sure your close one(s) know the address/location at which you are shooting and warn them of the approximate time it should take.
  16. Confidence can be your best self-defence mechanism.

I would imagine many of those go without saying but maybe my list can be a little reminder and may give you couple of useful ideas. As people say – ‘Better safe than sorry’. I would be happy to hear your opinion, feel free to add to the list.

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