Thursday, July 30, 2020

Scams Everywhere!!

I recently became aware of two new scams. Here's how they work.

Scam 1

I've encountered three different sitatuions over the past week where individuals have had photos stolen by someone in an attempt to sale the photos.

First, I will say that I realize there are many people who do sale photos of themselves. I don't judge. Personally, I have a job, income, and I don't need to sale photos. If I didn't have a job, I'd probably see things very differently. No one in their right mind would pay for a photo of me anway so I've never had to personally make that decision.  I've been asked my opinion in private, and I've offered it (basically, it's "put a lot of thought into it first.") but that's not what this is about. My position here is not to judge anyone but to say that the decision to sale photos should be made by the individual in the photos. Not by someone claiming to be the individual.

Here's how the scam works. An Instagram account pretending to be a local young lady whom I do not know personally but have mutual friends with started following me on Instagram. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the page. It was all exclusively swimsuit photos made at the lake, beach, etc. There was not one single photo that was not a swimsuit photo on this IG page. Nothing at all risque or that was not "G Rated" with the exception of one of the photos had words added stating that to see more "explicit" photos, read the bio section for the link. On the top bio section, it mentioned a local college, other standard stuff that was accurate including the individual's name. And then it linked to one of the websites where photos can be sold. It became quickly obvious that this account was using the correct name of the person in the photos, along with the correct school information. Real name, real school, town, etc, but not made by the person it was claiming to be. Most fake accounts use a fake name. It was a very authentic and convincing IG page. So, I located the "real" page of the person being impersonated. The same swimsuit photos were on that page too, but they were interspersed throughout many other photos probably going back years and years. None of these photos had words such as "explicit." This IG page had a considerably more wholesome vibe due to numerous factors. It was representative of a young lady who typically wears clothing appropriate for whatever environment she happens to be in while living a productive life that involves going to work, school and occasionally  to the lake or beach with family and friends. The swimsuit photos, by themselves, were not inappropriate but if that's all you see along with the words "explicit," it comes across as considerably less wholesome to some people.

So, this put me in the position of having to send a message to a young lady that I've never met explaining that I suspect a weird creepy guy is selling her photos while trying not to come across as a weird creepy guy myself. That's not as easy as it seems. Especially when you cultivate a weird creepy image intentionally to eliminate superficial people from your life.

That occured at the end of last week. Since then, I'm personally aware of two more occurences. The second was from a semi-local musician, with much talent and a promising career who uses social media thoughtfully and wisely and who leads a very active wholesome life and occasionally goes to the beach/lake also. This fake IG account used her real name, real career, etc.   And it contained a link claiming to lead to the same type photos. 

I can't mention the specifics of the third but it's safe to say that it has resulted in some very negative consequences that the impersonated person definitely doesn't deserve.

My normal rants about predators/scams in the modeling bidness always include the two big rules of always check references and always take along someone with you on photoshoots if you don't know the photographer really well. I stand by these two rules, but honestly, neither would have worked here. A creepy photographer probably wasn't the culprit. So, what is the answer here? I'm open to suggestions. I don't know. But I think part of the answer would be to remain vigilante. Be aware that this is happening, and watch out for your friends. If you get a friend request, follower, etc, pay attention and let the real person who is being impersonated know. Collectively, if we all put a tiny bit of effort into this, I think we can put a dent in this sort of thing. When identified, report the page to IG (or whoever). And get others to report it too.

Prior to detailing the second scam I will explain that many photographers, from time to time, will work for free to build portfolio, obtain images, test ideas, etc. I do that myself, but considerably less frequently now than a decade ago. And this is legit. That's not to say that caution should not be used, and references should not be checked!    Creeps, predators, and scammers do it to.  Check references.  Ask "does he actually get photos to you?"  Some photographers don't follow through.

Scam 2

The second scam is probably not that new, but a person who has been very reliable in the past when passing on such info made me aware of some modernizations and new twists. And it was explained to me in a way that offers a bit more insight.

It starts with a "Modeling Contest." People, usually young and maybe not as experienced in dealing with the world, are asked to enter a modeling contest. The prize that is promised usually involves a makeover, spa services, or something along those lines in addition to a portfolio shoot and a modeling contact. The contract will be just "agency representation" stating that if the agency gets you work, you owe them a cut. That's how legit agencies work, but this agency won't come through for you and the contract is just a worthless prop.

Anyway, people enter the contests in droves. The entrants are reviewed not so much for a look that is commercially marketable, but to identify those who will possibly fall for it. Multiple people are contacted and told that they won. Contact info is obtained and the winners, each of whom think they are the only one, are contacted. A shoot as well as some sort of pampering experience is scheduled several weeks out. The "winner" is ecstatic and tells all his/her friends. He/She is thrilled, and possibly even brags a bit. Numerous memes with positive affirmations are posted about the importance of believing in one's self when the haters put you down. He/She wants the world to know that a professional photographer / modeling agency thinks she has the potential to be the next big thing. When I was young, I would have fell for it and responded that way. It's natural. People have aspirations of being a famous star or model.

The spa session and shoot happens. The resulting photos, shown later in a follow up meeting are good. It is at this time that the victim learns that what was won was the "experience," and not photos. To get the photos, money must be paid.

What is not being disclosed up front is that the photos are extra. Usually a lot extra. 

Many of us would just walk away at this point. But this is an individual who was selected because it was felt he/she would be made very happy by winning, and who has bragged to family, friends, and the world. The choices are to walk away empty handed with nothing to show or buy the photos. Choice one potentially will make you look foolish and open the door to claims that maybe you really don't have what it takes after all to be the next big thing. Choice two means you spend money (usually a lot), get some pics, and maintain the illusion.

So, what is the solution here? Ask questions. Specifically, will there at any point be an attempt to sale me something such as acting classes, photos, etc? If the answer is no, ask "Can I get that in writing?" If not, walk away. Even if it is put into writing, do some research.

There are various Facebook modeling safety groups out there that are moderated by people much more knowledgeable than me. Anyone interested in joining, let me know. You can check references, ask questions about offers, etc.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Modeling Advice Post #1,945,684

Due to some recent communications I've had, I think this is worth re-posting. It was originally a Facebook post, but the same type of issues keep getting brought up fairly frequently, so I decided to make this a blog post so that it can be more easily read from my website. .  

I get weird messages sometimes.

This afternoon, I received one from a young lady that I'd estimate to be in her late teens or early 20's. She asked me to be her agent. I said no. If you need me to help catch and relocate a possum, I can do that. I don't even need a net or a possum trap. I can help you worm your goats, too. I can even do goat CPR. But I don't have any ability, connections, or skills that would qualify me to be an agent, and unlike some people, that will make me decline to be your agent.

She said "I've heard that you can help people get paid modeling work." I told her (truthfully) that I really can't. I can count,on the fingers of one hand, the number times that I've recruited models for paid projects during the past few months. I doesn't happen often. Don't come to me counting on paid work. Learn a vocation. Have something to fall back on that offers more financial security than depending on the odd calendar or workshop I can refer you too.

The young lady ended up telling me her story. She had "signed" with what she believed was a legitimate agency. Her dad didn't like the agent. She thought her dad was just being overprotective. She thought he was stupid. She didn't listen to him.

Over the next few months, she traveled around to different locations to what is best described as "group shoots" where multiple creepy old guys with cameras photographed her and other girls. There would be 5 guys with cameras photographing her, and others, all at the same time. She never knew who to look at. They didn't care.  No one gave direction. They made inappropriate comments and close up photos of her butt using a zoom lens. (Apparently, that happens a lot, I've been told this by others). She just stood there as multiple flashes fired. Modeling wasn't what she though that it was going to be.

She had been led to believe that she'd make some money. She spent her own money on wardrobe stuff, travel, and motel rooms. She partied after the shots with the creepy old guys. Partying is expensive. She did this because it was explained that socializing was part of the expectation of the agent/agency. She put miles and miles on her car. All of traveling, parting, and clothing purchases went on a credit card that she's now struggling to pay off. She never received a dime in payment or a even decent photo from any of the old dudes with cameras. . To make things even worse, the environment at these group shoots were bad. Very bad. "Somebody could go to jail" bad.

And, the creepy old guys with cameras had paid the agent to attend, make pictures of the models, etc. The models got nothing other than humiliation and credit card debit.

I was asked "can you help me?" My reply was "I can give you some advice. First, avoid guys like that." I explained the business model of a legitimate agency was the agent/agency takes a cut of money that a client pays to the represented model. For example, a clothing company needs some material on their new line of clothing. They hire a photographer, make up artist, stylist, secure a shooting location (or use a studio), provide some instructions on what they need, and they hire a model or two. They will go to a legitimate agency (not some old creepy guy), and through the agency, hire the models. The agency will take a cut (usually 10 per cent) of the money that the model is paid. The agency has a vested interest in getting work for the model becasue that's the source of their income.

One "scam" business model that non-legitimate agencies do quite successfully is recruit young people who have stars in their eyes, and make a bunch of promises. These are the guys that approach you in the mall and ask you to come back for a screen test, or something along those lines. The "agency" will charge all kinds of ridicilous fees (thousands) for photos, classes, etc. And the newly signed model will never see a dime of payment. This type of agency earns their income from the models that are recruited. They have no interest in booking paid work for their models since their income is derived from the models.

Apparently, a new scam is an "agent/agency" recruiting models to pose for workshops, group shoots, etc, by promising them good exposure that will lead to future paid work, fame, fortune, etc. The agent is getting paid by the workshop/group shoot participant. From what I'm hearing, the models aren't getting a dime.

I was asked how do you know if the agency is legit? It's easy. How does the agent/agency make money? Who pays them? If it's for clients hiring models, and paying a cut to the agency, that's legit. If the income comes from the models, it's a SCAM! If there are a bunch of creepy old guys simultaneously trying to photography one young lady, well, there's a good chance that's a scam too. It's definitely not going to be a positive experience or good for a modeling career. A legit agency is going to encourage you to protect your image, and avoid the creepy old dudes with cameras because, at best, what you are going to get is a bunch of close up mediocre images of yourself floating around all over the internet. And that is the opposite of protecting the marketability of your image.

This young lady asked me three times to be her agent. I declined. I explained it's not as simple as saying "Ok, I'm an agent now." I explained that I don't have the time, desire, or ability. Or connections. I help out a few friends, who are legitimate photographers, recruit models on occasion. And these models are treated well and they get paid. And they also get a few shots of themselves that are great. I can do that because I have a more or less good reputation and it's known by those who make it their business to know that each of these shoots are laid back, fun, but very professional. But I don't get the opportunity to do it very often. And the reason for that is I am not an agent.

I was told "But I really really need an agent." I replied "No, you don't. You need to slow down, be careful, and take the time to research some of the people you've been shooting with. Look at their previous work. Talk to some of the people who they have photographed." I threw in the normal stuff such as always check references, always take along someone with you, etc. And I covered the basics about not ever flaking, don't be wishy washy about showing up, try to avoid wasting the time of photographers, MUAs, etc, by not canceling at the last second, etc.

This is one of those situations that scare me. A young lady got lured in the field of "modeling," and immediately aligned herself with some very bad apples. She had a few bad experiences, she hasn't really learned yet, and she keeps coming back for more. Each time, she was subjected to some bad behavior by males who are a disgrace to this gender and she lost more and more money.

And to top it all off, she immediately tries to hire a weird old goat farmer as her next "agent" just because she heard he's "nice" he can get people paid work (he can't).

It pays to be careful. Don't jump in with both feet until you do a bit of research. And never hire a goat farmer to try to get you runway shows in Paris!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Assiting in Cartersville GA

Recently, I was asked by Heather Lynette of Ginger Snaps Photography to assist with a calender shoot at Champs Barber Shop.   I loaded up with three lights, my camera, and a few extra batteries and headed to Cartersville.

This turned out to be a very fun shoot.  In the past, I've attended a few large group shoots that turned out to be nothing but a huge train wreck.   I'm always apprehensive about such events.   It never fails that there will be an over abundance of creepy old guys with cameras, or high-drama intoxicated "models" accusing each other of stealing lipstick.  Or someone shows up drunk, stoned, or geeked up.  Or all of the above.   I try to avoid those shoots.   Those shoots tend to be an all around bad experience for everyone.

But at this shoot, I couldn't have asked for a more cooperative group to work with.  Heather was in charge, and it went great.   I was the only creepy old guy with a camera that was present.   The models were perfect.  Easy to work with, fun, and drama-free.  As always, Heather had great ideas on make up, posing, and how to schedule the shoot so there wasn't to much down time for the various participants.  We had a few individuals bring by some great old vintage vehicles.   A second shoot has been planed, I've been invited, and I'll definitely be there!

Charles Alex Tucker, the owner of Champs, has done a great job of creating a very unique business in the heart of downtown Cartersville.   A lot of history has been preserved here.   I spent most of my time running around, moving lights, etc, but I heard bits and pieces of stories that Charles was telling to various people.  For example, he recounted a meeting with an individual who told him the story of getting off of a bus in front of Champs when he returned home from WWII after participating in the Normandy Invasion.   A few miles away, on the other side of a 4 lane divided highway, there are a lot of large chain retail stores that care very little about the history of this community.   Something good and worthwhile is being preserved here at Champ's Barber shop, and Charles deserves support from the community.   You can't beat $8 for a haircut.  Go see him!!

I think I made most of the photos below other than the ones that I'm in.   Heather shot those.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Tribute to My Friend

I first met Holly Moore in the fall of 1984 when all of the kids from the various feeder schools arrived at Coosa High School as freshmen.    We became friends but lost contact with each other for a few years when we both graduated and went our separate ways.     Eventually, mutual friends and mutual projects brought us back in to contact, and it seems that the friendship from high school picked up right where it had left off years earlier.  By this time, Holly had established herself as a person who really supported all of the arts in Rome.  And all of the artists.  It didn't matter if it was paintings, poetry readings, photography, theater, music or anything else.  Pretty much any local artist that needed an outlet found it at Imagine Hair and Art Studio.    A big part of Holly's life was about creating.  I believe she loved enabling others to do it as much as she enjoyed creating herself

Holly and I had already  worked on projects together when she called me and told me that she had been selected to direct Rome Little Theater's production of Dracula.  She asked me to do photos of the cast.  Without even having to think about it, I said yes.  I owned lighting gear, several cameras, fog machines, and had a professional photography website but I didn't see myself as any sort of artist.  At that time, photography, to me, was all about the technical stuff such as f-stops, shutter speed, monolight watt-seconds, and many other highly objective details.  I didn't consider what I did as art.  If anyone refereed to me as an artist, I would explain that what happens in front of the camera (the actors/models along with the work of the make up / hair / wardrobe people) was the art.  I just press the button on a electronic gadget to hopefully document it all.

It was hot on the night that we did the photos of the entire Dracula cast.   Actors were getting ready everywhere.  There were some very impressive costumes, multiple makeup artists and other volunteers were assisting, and it dawned on me that we had a tremendous amount of photos to take and a very limited time to get it all accomplished.  I was a bit intimidated and I really didn't have a clue of what to do.   Holly had  very specific visions of what each character should being portraying in the photos.  I had no visions at all and I didn't want to screw up her ideas.    My only initial goal was to move things along as quickly as possible because it was hot, actors were standing around in heavy clothing and make up, and moving at a quick pace is essential to keep everyone happy.    

At one point, I remember seeing Michael Hillman, who played Renfield, standing in a straightjacket.   Behind me, there was an old alleyway that originally had been sealed with bricks, but now there was an opening big enough for me to squeeze through.  I told Holly "I want to try something, but it will take me a few minutes to set it up."  She said go for it.  For the next 10 minutes, I spent time that we didn't really have crawling through that opening and stumbling over 100 year old cans and other garbage as I carried light stands, gels, and cords.  The logical appropriate thing that Holly should have said to me would have been "Get out of there and quit wasting time before you get hurt."  The logical thing she should have said to a bystander is "What is that fool doing?"  But she didn't  At one point, I heard her make the statement to someone (I think Sarah Smith, who was present and provided a tremendous amount of help) "When he gets like this, you just have to get out of his way and let him go with it.  I don't know what he has in mind, but it will be worth it."   Finally, lights and fog machines were in place, I crawled back down the alley, Michel jumped up in the opening and instantly became Renfield, and I snapped a few quick photos. 

The Renfiled photos turned out to be among my most favorite images that I personally have shot, but something even more significant to my personal journey happened that night.   It definitely wasn't the first time that someone had given me free reign and let me run with an idea.  But hearing Holly tell someone  " just have to get out of his way and let him go with it.... it will be worth it" gradually changed my whole perspective.  It's very difficult to explain why, but an oversimplified explanation is that production of Dracula, like everything Holly did, was very important to her and she worked long hours to see her vision realized, yet she was willing to allow me to take the time that we didn't really have to spare and trust me enough to let me run with an idea.  Hearing " will be worth it," from her, provided me with some inner validation that I lacked at that time.  Later, it dawned on me that she realized that I had something  significant to contribute at a time when I really wasn't aware of that myself.  Like so much of what she successfully strived to facilitate, that photo was a unifying collaboration of many different people.   Much credit goes to Michael Hillman, who replaced Tom Waits in my mind as the actor that I will always associate as Renfield.  Someone else sewed a great straight jacket and some more folks did a great job of makeup.  The person who brought it all together, and provided the guidance as it unfolded was Holly.   In this particular instance, the lights were all on Michael, and Holly stood off to the side out of camera view, where she was completely content to be.   

Ultimately, it was that comment, made by Holly that night, that made me realize how I can fit in.   A couple years later, as a result primarily of that comment,  I'm more confident than what I previously was.  I take on projects that previously I would have passed on to someone else.  And so much of that goes back to that single comment, made by Holly, that I probably wasn't even intended to hear.

Holly helped me find my place as a somewhat pseudo-artist who now tremendously enjoys taking pictures.  I'm comfortable and satisfied in that space that she helped me find, and I intend to keep learning and growing.    And there are many more people out there who were helped to find their place by the work that she constantly took on. 

Prior to the Dracula production, and after it wrapped, Holly and I worked on many projects together.   Some of the photos in this blog are from various projects over the years.   Any if anyone momentarily thinks "These photos are really good," it should be realized that these photos would be considerably less good without the participation of Holly.  That is why these photos are here in this blog.   

One of the many reasons that I enjoyed working with Holly is that she completely lacked the ego that some in the art community have.  Her work never had the "look at me" attitude that is frequently encountered.   She was a teacher, makeup artist, director, and so much more.  In each of these roles, she excelled yet was never boastful or egotistical.  She could have been if she wanted to be because she definitely had the skills and abilities to back up an ego.  But she was always just as happy back stage, directing, teaching, or standing behind me while I snapped pictures of others.   

The last project that we started together was Rome Little Theater's Frankenstein.  Holly had been selected to direct and once again teamed up with Producer Carol Murchland (From RLT's Dracula).  Holly and Carol got the project off of the ground, auditioned and selected a great cast, and had everything moving along nicely.   And then the cancer that we all hoped was under control flared up and required Holly to step down in order to direct her energy into her treatment.  Michael Hillman stepped in to direct an outstanding play that finished it's run yesterday afternoon.   Later on the same evening, Holly left us too.

As life progresses, we all get more and more accustomed to death depriving us of those we love.   Friends, and relatives pass away and it's always difficult to deal with.  Sometimes, the words of others are said with good intentions, but bring little comfort.  I think my coping skills are adequate, and I usually process grief as well as anyone.  This time, it hit like a ton of bricks.   Twice in my life, following the death of someone I care about, I was left feeling bitter, angry and cheated.  The first occasion was when my oldest brother passed away unexpectedly at point in his life where he had achieved a lot of satisfaction.  He was close to retirement, he had saw all of his children grow up and stand on their own, and there were some grand children who had recently arrived that his entire world revolved around.  He was taken from all of us at a time when he was very much still needed by us all.     I have the same feeling today.  There are still many rewarding projects that I hoped to work on with Holly.   There is a big hole in the arts community.  Rome Little Theater still needs her.  Imagine Hair and Art Studio, her staff, and students still need her.   Phil, her sister, nephew, and parents along with a great many others still need her.  I miss my friend, but a horribly negative thing (Cancer) has deprived us of her physical presence. 

Last night, and today really sucks.

I do not want to feel this way, but to a certain extent, I've always felt that a person is entitled to feel how ever  he or she feels.  Today, I feel like laying on the couch, and doing nothing.   I definitely don't feel like picking up a camera.    Allowing these feelings to remain isn't an option.   That would be a tremendously wrong thing and contradictory to everything that Holly stood for.     Holly continued to work, and enable others, despite fatigue and some severe physical pain.  Today, there are a lot of others carrying on the mission despite some overwhelming emotional pain.  So my goal for today is that when I click "submit" on this blog, the anger and bitterness may not go away, but I'm going to get up and carry on.   I'm going to wash a few backdrops, cut some limbs on a trail to get ready for a lighting workshop, and start training for my first ever 5K.  Tomorrow, I'll pick up a camera again, and take some pictures.  Hopefully, the pictures will turn out good, and if so, a lot of credit will go to Holly.  I know that carrying on will make the bitterness start to fade away because it has no reason to remain.  I can put my focus on where it needs to be, and that's moving on from this state of angry self-pity by being thankful for the friendship, guidance, and inspiration that comes from knowing such a unique and rare person.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Yesterday, I was once again lucky enough to participate in one of those shoots where everything just seem to come together perfectly. Before I knew it, my wife was texting me that dinner was ready and I discovered that several hours had passed.

The client, Jamie, came up with the ideas for the shoot, and asked if I had anyone that I recommend for hair and makeup! I never miss an opportunity to work with Holly Moore, of Imagine Hair and Art Studio. Holly does amazing work, and she’s completely familiar with all of the peculiarities of shooting at my studio. She seems to like (or at least tolerate) Trixie (my Boston Terrier) and Charlie (my Boxer) when they greet her, and she knows to avoid Robert the Devil-Bird (our evil free range rooster). She is completely at home doing hair/makeup at my studio, so I suggested that everyone arrive here at 3PM instead of doing makeup and hair at Imagine and then risk exposing a 50’s style pinup hairdo to the predicted rain while traveling here.

Jamie and Holly arrived, and a short time later, we were shooting! Jamie is extremely photogenic and the hours passed quickly! Holly stuck around, and offered her insight as well as  posing suggestions, provided touch-ups, and some changes in hairstyle after each wardrobe change! Once again, and as always, Holly went well beyond what anyone is reasonably entitled to expect from a MU/H artist. And I could not have asked for a model that had a better personality or who was more photogenic. This shoot serves as just one more reminder thatvthe tremendous egos that are all too often encountered serve no productive purpose at all, and  it’s much easier to accomplish great work if you collaborate with good people.   No tremendous egos were present, we had fun, and I think everyone was extremeley pleased with the results.
At the end of the day, I found myself stuck with an unusually large number of images to sort through. Thus far, it’s been very difficult to narrow down the selections to a manageable amount to edit! And that’s a good problem to have!

Jamie can been seen starting August 24th in Rome Little Theatre's Production of Oliver Twist begining on August 24th, 2012.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010

In Georgia, snow is getting to be a rare occurrence! On Friday, we received almost two inches!