One of the most important topics to discuss and tackle during these modern day times of the internet and huge social media world is model safety. Booking shoots online, bad press stories and the dangers of using the internet and how safe it is, are popular topics in the news and have been on and off for a decade. Pedophiles searching for potential victims using online chat rooms, social media sites, and other similar stories have appeared on numerous occasions in the news throughout the world. From the news stories one can deduce that it is not just children and teenagers who are at risk. Adults, both male and female, young and old, are also at risk from unscrupulous individuals who hide behind any facade they wish to choose using the internet and a computer as a smoke screen.
With this in mind I would like to discuss the topic of safety specifically for models and the dangers they could potentially face, alongside some basic safety advice when using sites such as Model Mayhem. This article of advice is by no means a fool proof guide to avoiding potentially dangerous people or situations after booking shoots online; nothing ever is guaranteed, and life is constantly full of surprises and risks. However, I do hope this article is circulated and passed on to new and aspiring models to help keep them a little bit safer and open their eyes to the potential dangers and pitfalls an inexperienced person could face when entering the modeling industry and gives them a few skills to exercise and hopefully avoid certain unsavory individuals and situations. As a new model you will be an easier target, and to keep oneself as safe as possible is an absolute necessity. I hope everyone reading this article will pass this information along and comment with other ideas and tips. Safety should be your number on your list of priorities.
The numbers of models now available has increased a thousand fold due to the internet. Sites like Model Mayhem attract millions of people from all around the world. The same goes for photographers. DSLR cameras are now readily available to anyone at reasonable prices, therefore many more people supplement their income, and/or have a creative outlet through photography, now than in the past. The result of these two issues combined, has meant that the number of potential issues with safety has also increased. The internet has also provided the means by which people can create false identities and become something, or someone, they are not, thus the safety risk is far greater for both the models, and indeed for the photographers than before the web.
Primarily your safety should be your priority: no job is EVER worth compromising your safety for. Due to the fact that the internet has meant you do not have proof of whom you are talking to I insist when you do book work online that you check out whom you are looking at working with before you agree to a shoot. If you have reservations; do not agree to the shoot in the first place. Do this by checking with other models how the person is to work with, and always ask the photographer for references so he/she knows you will be checking on them and their professionalism.
I cannot stress enough that if you do book a shoot with someone, and you do feel after getting there that you made a mistake, NEVER be too scared to walk out. Always make sure you have the means to leave in case of emergencies.
The need for models to take escorts with them on photo shoots for safety is a direct result of the internet explosion of photographers and models, some of which can be individuals with ulterior motives than a shoot and use this world as an excuse for other behaviors. The internet growth of models and photographers has meant that a smaller industry has increased in popularity and the members are now unknown to each other. Back before the world wide web most photographers could only get models via an agency and most models could also only book in modeling jobs through their agent. Therefore this meant that both parties were somewhat known to each other, which added some level of security and safety. Taking an escort to a shoots for safety is the result of not knowing whom you are going to work with, so a second person with you offers some level of protection.
Despite what is meant to be a positive action to maintain safety, which should be a priority, taking an escort to a shoot is a controversial subject due to the fact that in a lot of situations an escort is completely unnecessary. The issue is caused by people being able to hide behind a computer and the fact that there are many mentally unstable people out there in the world whom have access to the internet, thus it has becomes difficult to know for a model if she will be safe or not. There are many cunning ways to get references to ‘check out’ as safe and professional such as fake profiles and email addresses, and stealing photographs and using them in profiles which the individual never took etc. So to a new model I have to recommend taking an escort on a shoot with you and discussing that with the photographer you will be working with, to act as a safety precaution, as well as checking references.
The problem with taking somebody with you to a photo shoot is that someone being present at a shoot can inhibit a models capabilities by being distracting; so I can see from a photographer’s point of view why one would not want a model to bring someone along with them, and especially a jealous boyfriend. However, if you do not feel safe on a shoot, if a photographer has an issue with you bringing someone and them being in the next room for example, then I do not think you should be doing the shoot at all as there is no trust on either part before the shoot has even begun.
It is also important to remember that photographers can also be at risk from models too. Models have rightfully, and wrongly, accused photographers of rape and sexual assault in the past. So trust goes both ways. Perhaps a model with an escort can become a two against one situation in an accusatory case and this can make photographers wary resulting in some wanting a makeup artist or art director present to prevent such situations. This show how important it is to meet in public places and using professional photography studios for first time shoots and meet ups.
It is actually really sad that either side of the camera have to feel the need to worry about this topic. I do not actually believe there is an answer to the ‘bring an escort to a shoot‘ debate. The only conclusion I can come to is that you have to be in control of your safety. Therefore, if you are at all unsure, do not do the shoot at all.
Constant vigilance and screening of whom you work with as a freelancing model will never cease to exist. It is extremely important to be aware of the fact that even though you have worked with someone on several occasions, this does not mean that you will be OK a seventh, eighth or even on the hundredth shoot. Trust does build over time and there are many wonderful people out there whom you will be able to trust in and gain a bond with, which may grow into a long lasting friendship. However it is best to guard yourself and understand that there are many sad and sick individuals out there whom may react badly if things do not go their way, and that this could happen at any stage if you disagree over anything. That being said, one cannot presume one will be OK just because one has known someone for a year or so and worked with them on numerous occasions.
The internet makes it very easy to ‘hide’ for someone hell bent on seeing you or making your life hell. Internet stalking and cyber bullying are serious issues, and the problem with this is that anybody new contacting you could be the someone from your past you chose to stop communicating, working or seeing for whatever reason, thus you must be constantly on your guard.
Some people out there will go to great lengths to ‘mess’ with other peoples lives. New models are particularly at risk as they will not know who is well regarded and safe in the industry, and whom is not. A name and a portfolio of images or a website are the same as another name and portfolio of images to someone new and unfamiliar such as a novice model. One may be communicating with someone who is not who they say they are, nor may have taken the photographs you see in their portfolios as it is very easy to steal identities of others online. Stolen work of photographers is just a right click of a mouse button and email addresses can also be set up in any name. Therefore I do recommend searching IP addresses, looking at emails address and such like. Personally over the years I have had numerous people try contacting me with fake names, fake profiles, specifically built websites, fake Facebook pages, Model Mayhem profiles and stolen identities, to attempt to communicate with me, shoot with me or whatever. I think this will happen to every model at some stage in her career, whether highly successful within the industry or not, thus this illustrates how important it is to never stop checking on whom you are working with and always try to protect yourself before, as well as during shoots.
Safety Ideas to Take to Shoots
When you have booked a shoot with anyone online the basic information to gather and leave at home, as well as the things to take with you for your own safety include the following:
- Leave information of your whereabouts with someone at home/whom you trust and can check in with. This should include the person’s name and cell number, as well as the shoot address, of whom you will be working with.
- Leave the times you are expected back with someone at home/someone whom you can trust. It is a good idea to notify someone when you arrive at a shoot and when you leave and get home safely.
- If you are flying out of state or country leave the flight number, times and dates, as well as any hotel information with someone at home and let them know when you will be arriving and leaving and when to expect to hear from you by.
- Take your fully charged cell phone.
- Take your cell phone and in-car chargers.
- The color, make, model and car license plate of whom you will be working with if you are going to shoot on location.
- Mace/pepper spray – and know how to use it.
- Cash/working debit/credit card in case you need to grab a taxi at any stage or get out of a situation.
- Take your own water with you, or only accept drinks which are clearly still sealed or from a faucet.
- Do not drink alcohol at shoots.
- Carry pain killers with you in case of headaches or menstrual cramps. It is better to not take prescription or over the counter drugs from people you do not know, no matter how honest, knowledgeable or nice they may appear.
- Look at a map before the shoot so you are somewhat familiar with the area and know a little about where to go if you have to leave a shoot.
Sad is modern day society that unfortunately one does not know whom is behind a computer screen. You may get contacted by a photographer claiming to be a success, with paid work and promises of well paying jobs or published work, when in actual fact his profile is fake and he has stolen all the photographs in his portfolio. Do not let the allure of fame or fortune compromise your safety. It is really not worth it. Please use the above information and common sense in conjunction with trusting your own instincts. Be safe over anything else and good luck.