Recent Stuff - Febraury - Part 2

Rain - 031511

Quick recap of Part 1 - I worked with the wonderful Candace again.  A few weeks later I was stood up by a model and talked to another model about the experience.

A few days later I worked with another model who restored my faith in the model/photographer team.  Though she was great, the session left me feeling weird.   I went to a monthly photography event at the Center for Sex and Culture.  They host photo shoots with various themes.  The attendees pay a fee and get to work with models to photograph.  On the Sunday I went, there were four other participants.  We then spent the next two hours photographing the model.  It felt weird from the first moment. 

The model mainly works in fetish themes with an emphasis on BDSM.  I am not into that scene, but there is something about the starkness of the environment, the black leather against light skin that gives a strong graphic novel feel.  None of the session involved any heavy fetish stuff or go anywhere deep into a scene.  The closest it got was when she had a cat-o-nine-tails that she held and posed with.  The event organizer (one of the photographers) went over the  ground rules of not touching the model, being respectful, etc.  This wasn't the weird part.  It was the working conditions.

Call me a snob, but I have always worked alone with models (not including my 1:1 tutorials with Kim Weston) and I prefer to work alone.  Two of the five of us had experience working with nudes, the other three had little or none.  The problem came when figuring out how the session would work.

I suggested we take turns working with model, maybe in 10 minute blocks.  That got rejected and it quickly became a photo free-for-all.  It felt like a seedy paparazzi scene with a bunch guys standing in a semi-circle while the model tried to follow directions from us all.  A few of us knew enough to provide direction and talk with her.  The rest just snap, snap, snapped away.  We kept getting in each others' spot, blocking light, and getting into the photo frame.

At one point I got on a ladder and tried to photograph way high.  That worked for a bit, but I grew tired of it.  All the other camera holders remained at standing height snapping away.  I got on the floor and rested the camera a few inches off of it.  I was in no one's way and found some interesting low angles.  Within a second of getting up, one of the newbies took my spot.

I was the first one to mention my concept/idea to the model and show her some photos I took of her where we approached the idea.  They seemed to notice I knew a bit about this stuff and started copying my theme.

Out of the 120 minutes, I probably shot only a quarter of that time.  I stood back and watched the scene unfold the other 90 minutes.  During the break and at the end, I gave the model my card with my MM account and email. She gave me hers.  We chatted about some future ideas.    The session ended and I was happy to get out.

I felt awkward and dirty driving home.  After thinking on it, it made me think the event was a photographic circle jerk.  All the camera holders taking their thrill pics.  I felt dirty for being a part of it.

There is a photo exhibit up at the SFMoMA titled Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera since 1870.   One of the photos exhibited is a piece by Chris Verene from his Camera Club series.  This series is about:
"In the mid-nineteen nineties, Chris Verene sought out photography clubs that advertise to aspiring models offering them a career in the modeling industry. These clubs have been in the US since the 1940’s—often seen as groups of male photographers huddled around swimsuit models in studios and on beach locations.
The project sought to document the photographers who join a club as way of access to women who would be willing to pose in lingerie, swimwear and nude. Verene joined these clubs in a number of American cities and surreptitiously made pictures of the men and their equipment while they were distracted by the models. Verene also conspired with a female friend who applied to the clubs as an aspiring model as a way of investigating the system that drives the organization. The two found that the clubs were never a real route to becoming a fashion model, and such promises were often offered in lieu of payment.
Verene’s “Camera Club” project is unstaged, and is a real document of how the clubs truly feel. It stands as a caution to young models—suggesting to all such people that they be careful who they trust with taking off thier clothes for pictures, and that they not always believe all the stories that such clubs tell." - From Verene's website
This is what it felt like to me, an exploitation of the model for our cheap clicking arousal.  
I thought on it some more the next day and my view changed.  The idea of it being a photographic gang bang remained, but the vileness of it changed.  I remember the first time photographing a nude model.  I was nervous and trying to do everything Kim Weston showed me.  I was awkward talking to the model and kept getting distracted.  I got some good photos from the event, but I would say I was barely above being a GWC (Guy With a Camera).  Maybe I should give the other camera holders a a bit of a break for being green.

The model was open and enjoyed the shoot.  She was not bothered by it and shared that she had done these before.  I could tell she had experience because she would pose and then look to each camera giving that photographer time to snap a few shots before moving to the next.  She ensured every photographer got a few seconds of individual time before moving or changing poses.  So, even though she became very objectified, she was actively participating.  I am not saying it is right, but at least it felt less like victimization.

So, what did I learn?
  1. I work alone or with lighting assistants.  I am the only photographer.
  2. I like leading, teaching, or guiding, but that should be a predefined role and expectation.  I don't like having to do this when my goal is tobe  the photographer.
  3. And most importantly, I am no GWC.  That was my first and last time going to one of these monthly events.
Photo note - I do not want to disparage the Center or the model, Rain Degrey.  The center is a great, sex-positive place that educates, celebrates, and provides awareness about sex, sex workers, and the world erotic.  Rain was great to work with and I highly recommend her.  


  1. Rich (Fluffytek) has only ever been on a couple of group shoots. That was all he could stomach, for exactly the same reasons that you describe.

    The majority of other photographers at the group shoots were not professionals. They were most definitely GWC's and although the models were unfazed, as with your experience, he came away feeling slightly icky inside.

    He hasn't been able to stomach a group shoot since those two sessions. His view is that shooting each model individually is a much richer experience for both model and photographer, as they get to know each other, if only for a short time. You have to be able to "connect" with someone on a one-to-one basis to be able to capture their individuality in a photograph. Alas that doesn't usually happen in a group shoot.

  2. Karl, what you describe is a circle of vultures with cameras. The closest I've come to this horror was with Joe. Some of us organized an event with multiple models and photographers, but we meant it to be as you suggested to this group, taking turns in one-on-one work. Joe and I were working together quite nicely when another photographer came up behind him and took Joe's shot - with a flash, no less!

    I am glad to say Joe was not silent. The other photographer did not try another sneak shot.

    I've also heard similar stories to yours, and the most disgusting thing to me (besides what I view as exploitation of the poor model) is the copying of those who know what they're doing and thus stealing their shots.

    Art theft? You could argue that. Disrespect. No argument.

  3. Karl,

    So true, so TRUE!! I've experienced the very same situations at so-called workshops.

    There is no satisfaction or creativity for either the photographer or the model in those situations IMHO.


So,what are you thinking about?