I went out to the outdoor deck at the convention center to have a cigarette. Cos-players were meeting “professional” photographers in this area. I saw a young woman dressed as Supergirl. The photographer made Larry Flint seem a gentleman. I got involved. Photography should be fun and not a #metoo story.
2 years I have covered a convention on the East Coast as press. The con is called Otakon. It is an Anime convention. Otakon is focused on celebrating Japanese art and culture mostly in the form of anime and manga. It needs to be stated for the record that Otakon staff take sexism, racism and homophobia seriously. They took the matter seriously when I brought it to their attention.
Cos-players reflect their favorite characters in all genres there. You will not only see Anime characters celebrated, but you will see everything else from Marvel and DC superheroes and video game characters to Bob Ross.
I have learned over the years to respect the cosplay community. They are enthusiastic, accepting, and they create beauty and positivism.
After eating a sandwich by the food court, I decided to step out to a large balcony at the Baltimore Convention Center (the event is now in DC) to enjoy some fresh air, sunlight, and a cigarette. This balcony was where professional photographers did paid shoots for cos-players.
I looked about at the gear and the engagement. Some photographers were polished and others had budget gear and seemed new at the craft. I was having fun watching photographers and subjects play.
Then I saw something out of the corner of my eye that caught my attention. There was a young woman dressed up as Supergirl. If she was an adult, she was likely not old enough to drink yet. You could tell her costume was handmade and crafted with care and passion. She was not what caught my attention, the photographer was a problem.
Supergirl was there to celebrate her favorite character, not be sexualized. He had her positioned against a concrete column and told her to put herself in positions that you could tell she was not comfortable with.
I watched for a few moments. Her eyes were full of fear, not joy. I also saw a well known professional cosplay model watching. By her expression she felt the same I did. Then I heard the photographer tell her to arch her back more to perk “them” up and there was a look of shame on the girl’s face as she started to comply. The professional model's face lit up with rage, we made eye contact. I nodded at her and got involved.
I took a final deep drag from my cigarette, walked up to him and told him that was enough. The shoot is over. He looked at me incredulously and told me to go away. I told him he was not being professional in his engagement with a subject and he really needs to pack up his gear and leave. I saw the young Supergirl relax her posture and relief come across her face.
He got confrontational back at me, inches from my face. He asked what I would know about photography. I held up my press badge and said any first year art student would know the difference between a respectful photographer with a model and a predator getting his rocks off shooting t&a. He tried to push me with one hand. I moved his arm aside and swept my leg under one of his light stands forcing him to grab for it before his speedlight hit the ground.
He started to pack up his stuff and I went to the young lady. I asked her if she was all right. She said yes, but her eyes were welling up with tears. I told her that working with photographers is like dating. No means no and as the model you get to choose what you are comfortable with.
Some of her friends came over to her and asked her what was going on. She looked at me one more time as she wiped a tear from her cheek and, with a brief smile at me, went back inside with her friends.
The photography world has been saturated not with color and vibrancy, but with non professional professionals. I have seen them at photo meetups full of gear and disrespect for volunteer models as they gaslight their subjects into doing their bidding.
I do not care if you hire a model, a person hires you, or if you are taking to the streets to engage in street photography; we have a responsibility to our subjects. This industry needs to be better with not only models, but female and trans photographers.
As a third generation photographer and a former child model, I have seen the best, and I have seen the worst. Our subjects are a gift. We should celebrate who they are and what they love. They should be encouraged and respected. But predatory sophomoric behavior could not only take that away from them, but could create a lifetime of trauma.
The lead photo is something I created in 2015. It is called "Among the Trees". It did well in 3 gallery exhibitions over the years. The model, Nicole, was one of my favorite models to work with before she moved to Colorado last year. This shoot was her first semi nude shoot. We spoke a lot before the shoot about expectations, concerns and comfort. We both had fun collaborating and bringing to life a snapshot I took on film of an ex girlfriend. She was an architect showing me one of her creations. Her wonder of being among the trees captured me. This is not a rant against photographic genres, this is about sexism.
Finally, if you are an aspiring model or simply wish to update your portfolio in a space you will be respected and have fun, let's connect. Due to the fact that I love artists, musicians and models, I have a special sliding scale pricing model for you.