The press coverage of the accusations made against Bill Cosby and several other “sex in the news” stories, have resulted in our receiving some inquiries about certain people in the industry who just don’t get the attention they deserve – sexual predators. Regardless of gender, the sexual predators we refer to engage in activities ranging from harassment, intimidation, assault and worse. The unauthorized creation and/or distribution of sexually compromising photos is frequently a component of such disgusting behavior.
There is a potential liability of agents who send models (or actors) on auditions, go-sees, or casting calls, to an individual – whether photographer or client – who is known to the agent as being a sexual predator.
There are also a lot of models that try or do get work on social media and model websites. Such sites generally don’t provide any of the protections that a model agency or agent frequently does provide. But then, some disreputable agencies and agents are just wolves playing a role in the predator’s process, so to speak. Rather than protect their in house charges, they can be just as lethal as those outside predators by being negligently or intentionally complicit. Fortunately there are many reputable agencies that do take their legal responsibilities as “agent” seriously. These better agencies have the experience and knowledge to separate the legitimate photographers from the bottom feeders.
Predators in this industry rely heavily on the desperation exhibited by some models to “get seen” by any means necessary. Models should never throw either logic or caution to the wind. Unfortunately some female models often discount their negative gut feelings a/k/a “woman’s intuition” or the term we prefer, the “ick factor” about someone because of their desire to obtain a modeling assignment. And guys, since this is not just a single gender issue, should utilize their gut feeling. If something feels wrong then there probably is something wrong. A model agent intent on personally measuring your inseam and lingering while doing so, may be grooming you not for future assignments but rather for assignations.
Here are some very real life, horrible scenarios:
1. Young, wannabe but never will be model, signs on with sleazy model agent who supplies low end wannabe photographers and is compensated in some manner for the “service”. Few if any “real” photo sessions take place;
2. Legitimate young model with some credits is sent by otherwise respectable model agency to well known photographer/actor/casting agent on a “fake” go see. The predator is typically someone who is responsible for a significant amount of annual billing at the model agency. Typically, the predator has specifically selected the model he/she wants the agency to send;
3. Model goes on a shoot, which has been falsely represented to be a legitimate shoot or test, for let’s say Elle, Vogue or some other high profile and utterly reputable publication. Photographer makes additional false representations to the model orally regarding the job. The photographer also uses a model release, which is intentionally vague or does not conform with the model’s (or model agent’s) understanding of the job. Sometimes the predator understandably dupes the model while on other occasions model agencies have knowingly sent models to photographers who are known to be “sleazy” or worse.
4. Same as above, but Model gets booked on Models Be Us website (made up name) and does not have an agent or an agency to protect them. Offensive images created without consent. Model ends up signing a release for images that they are told is just for the photographer’s “personal” use, but ends up in a real ad or worse, a sleazy website.
5. Model goes to audition and at some point it is made clear that sexual services will be required in order to do the photo shoot and ultimately for the model to be paid;
6. Model agent suggests or demands sexual favors from a wanna be model as a condition to represent the model.
Please note, that many model agencies and agents are very responsible and protective of their models. The #5 scenario above, which still happens in 2015, was also something Jack heard about in the industry in the late ‘70s. As the story went, several big time account execs at a big time ad agency had a shoot in the Caribbean during a cold NY winter. At the casting, they were clear about what they expected from who ever they booked for this weeklong shoot on a tropical island. The powerful and well-known model agency owner, had those slobs fired from the ad agency and on the street by lunchtime.
And our scenarios are not about the even worse stories about rape and murder, like the story of the sicko songwriter of “You Light Up My Life”, accused rapist Joseph Brooks, who had young women “audition” for him and then he attacked them. Brooks ended up committing suicide. You can read about him here.
Historically few of these cases ever see the light of day. Models fearful of having their career terminated before they’ve begun, keep silent. If the model “reports” the predator to their agency (if sleazy) , the agency will rarely if ever back up the model’s assertions, as the client/photographer is more valuable to the agency’s bottom line, than the “new kid in town”. The model agency will never of course, ever represent this model again and that fact is usually sufficient to keep the model silent. Other times even established models are very reluctant to make assertions against notable celebrities or photographers for fear that they “will never work again”.
When offensive sexual images wind up where they shouldn’t be, the model will often have a very tough time proving that the agency was either complicit or negligent. On occasions agencies have threatened models “on behalf” of photographer who of course is a substantial customer of model agency. In the event a model can establish that the model agency knew the predator’s history and nevertheless sent the model to the predator, a criminal and/or civil lawsuit could be brought against the agency.
Ed was consulted by “J” who had been raped years earlier by a notable celebrity. After the assault J told a booker what happened. The very well known agency specifically informed J not to go to the cops or the agency would make sure J never worked again. The threat was a very credible one and J was silenced until news that another model from the same agency had been raped by that well-known photographer a few years later. It gets worse. J later discovered that another model had been assaulted before J was, and that the agency knew “everything”. The agency no longer exists and these events having played a significant part in its death. Thankfully today models are more likely to share information with other models and prosecutors are more willing to take on these type cases. And agencies are aware of the potential catastrophic results to their reputation and bottom line.
We have seen only a handful of false claims of sexual harassment made against photographers or clients by models. The easiest way for an innocent creative to protect against false claims is simply to have a third person/witness around as much as possible before, during and after the shoot. If the images are remotely offensive, sexual in nature, nude or semi-nude use model releases which clearly set forth the nature of the photos such that the signature of the model leaves no doubt as to consent. And the popular “crew” shots, of assistants, hair and makeup, clients, etc., that everyone loves to take, is also not a bad idea to have filed away. And having people on set is not only about adult models. As a photographer of children, Jack always had a full staff of people, including his wife, on set for all his shoots.
For models there is simply no substitute for checking out the photographer, agency, and agents on your own. Do your own independent Google search of the photographer, his/her work, client list, and so on. Ask other models and photographers about the reputation of the photographer. With the Internet, Google, social media, model sites, there are all the tools needed to communicate and protect yourself. If anything doesn’t seem right about the transaction, reputation, studio, location or the photographer that makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut and bale out. While “inappropriate behavior” should not be tolerated, it can sometimes constitutes criminal behavior. And remember – communicate, investigate, forewarned is forearmed.