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 project 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!

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.


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!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday's Shoot - Heather Williams & 55 Chevy Bel Air

This past Saturday, a very good friend (Tommy C.) was kindenough to allow the use of his 55 Chevy Bel Air for a shoot with Heather Williams. Tommy W., from Just Benz in Rome GA allowed us to use his shop, and it turned out to the be the ideal location. The weather outside was horrible (cold and rainy), but inside the shop, we were sufficiently warm and well protected by two huge (but nice) Rottweilers.