Updated: Sep 2, 2020
So I have been part of a close-knit community of boudoir photographers on Facebook and Instagram where we share and bounce off ideas with each other on uplifting our beautiful subjects and building our boudoir photography business.
Just a few days ago, this community was devastated when a very experienced boudoir photographer stepped up and reported that she was violated sexually during one of her photoshoots with another fellow boudoir photographer. She trusted him because he is a mentor and educator for many boudoir photographers and so she has accepted to model for him. What shocked most of us boudoir photographers is that countless clients and models finally spoke up about their horrible ordeal with him. Thousands of women have trusted this well-known and highly respected boudoir photographer/mentor. He makes stunning photographs, but his disgusting decorum tells us so much more about him and his level of professionalism. If you wonder why victims do not come forward to expose such a repulsive incident, it is because they are TERRIFIED and scarred by the situation. Most of the time, society will claim that the victim is overdramatic.
Here are my thoughts on this:
How dare you, the entrusted photographer, dare to abuse your title by violating and disrespecting a person? Most clients are still healing from trauma or even dealing with self-doubt, and doing this photoshoot is suppose to EMPOWER them and LOVE themselves again.
I am appalled.
I am outraged.
I am helpless.
I am heartbroken.
When a person says no, it means NO. Do not push the person until they are so uncomfortable to please your goal. You are not doing this for art, but you do this for your selfish ego.
If you are someone who wants to get into modelling or wants photographs of yourself that are erotic or intimate, please meet this photographer in person to discuss your vision and understand the requirement for the photoshoot. If this photographer is respectful and professional, they will gladly meet you and start empowering you from the first meeting.
Here's a quick checklist before you engage the photographer (I am just looking out for you):
1) BRINGING A FRIEND
They are ok with you bringing a friend along for legitimate reasons. Otherwise, if they have a female assistant on set, it would work too. If they do not agree with this, then this is a major red flag. Just RUN. There have been cases where some photographers lied about having an assistant on set, but somehow the assistant `couldn't make it" on that day....please... JUST RUN.
2) LEVEL OF COMFORT
Please trust your gut. You are going to be in a vulnerable state. Once you start feeling uncomfortable at all during the photography session, just RUN.
3) STUDIO LOCATION
Where is their studio? If it is a home-based studio, will there be other people at their home? How private can it get? Base on a horror story from a model I met some time ago, she recollected a traumatising experience where she was half-naked in the living room, and the photographer's mom burst into his home during the photography session. What's even upsetting was his main door was left open, and neighbours were walking pass and were able to see her in her most vulnerable state. Rule number 1 of intimate photography to photographers: YOU ARE TO CREATE A SAFE SPACE FOR ALL.
Before the photoshoot, watch how they communicate with you. There are cases of models who were being groomed by photographers, and this is alarming because many are not aware that grooming can happen to adults too.
5) CHECK THE PORTFOLIO OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Check their social media handles. Look at the language they use with their artwork or even how they craft their blogs. If something doesn't align with your values, do not bother working with this photographer. There are photographers with exceptional blogs, but they degrade the looks and indulge in body-shaming some of their models or clients. This body-shaming indulgence is not a meat fest, and this is evident why women are so harsh on themselves.
No contract? Just RUN.
I am tired of how many photographers have ruined and made boudoir photography into a sexually exploitive art form. It is ridiculous. Plus it is destroying the opportunity for so many photographers who are passionate about intimate photography, the male photographers, especially. There are many amazing and respectful male boudoir photographers out there, but it is a group of abusive bad apples who put us, boudoir photographers, in a bad light.
I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to those who were affected or violated during their photography session. Please grieve if you have to. You have every permission to grieve. It must have been a traumatising experience and no words can make you feel any better. However, please reach out to me and share your story.
I am always here.