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The Escort

The Escort – Building Trust, Assuring Safety, and Developing Empathy in Your Model Photography Shoot

Can I bring an escort to my model photography shoot? The answer to this question varies by gender—among people who see gender as binary. I delayed putting my perspective in writing for years. Ideas require practice and proof over time with real people. Nothing has changed my point-of-view on bringing a chaperone to a professional shoot. However, we have to talk about these bad actors and bad behaviors. There are three elements of model photography that must be present in each photo shoot: trust, safety, and empathy. Let’s find the answer to this oft ask question with these three elements in mind.

Do You Prefer Things or People

In my corporate life, I was hiring manager for role candidates. When hiring people managers, I always approached the interview seeking to understand whether the candidate prefer things or people. Too often, companies promote individuals into people manager roles because they are technically good at their jobs. People manager roles are not always the best fit for top technical producers. You simply can’t treat direct reports like checker pieces that all move the same way. People are complex, surprising, messy, and amazing creations. If you’re not emotionally and professionally ready to adjust to get the optimum performance from each employee, it’s better to keep doing your technical role. So what does this have to do with bringing an escort to a model photo shoot?
If you serve people, don’t objectify them. People aren’t transactions. We hunger for relationship. The photographer that objectifies his or her subject should stick to photographing things. Put simply, don’t treat people as a things to be manipulated.

Bad Actors Are In Every Profession

The #metoo and #timeout movements brought stories from every quarter of people being harmed by bad actors. There are two things that stood out to me in all of the stories:

  1. The bad actor had something the person harmed thought they needed.
  2. He or she was in a trusted position.

Bad actors are in every profession:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Technicians
  • Child Protection Service caseworkers,
  • Priests/ministers
  • Educators
  • Principals
  • Law enforcements officers
  • Coaches
  • Scout leaders
  • Executives
  • Corporate leaders
  • Military officers
  • Elected officials
  • Filmmakers
  • and Photographers

Regardless of the prestige of a profession, people behave poorly when they believe they have enough influence to get away with their bad behavior. This erodes trusts between professional adults in any work or social context when there’s no accountability.

Building Trust Is A Continuous Work

Do you operate and conduct yourself with integrity?
Are you a person that does what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, and deliver exactly what you said you’re going to do?
As a business owner, I continually map my customer experience journey for each person that I conduct business. Each moment of truth is an opportunity to build and reinforce trust between my client and my company and me. I designed my website to build trust. In fact, I selected each image to illicit trustworthiness. Finally, I consciously choose the language and tone of voice to create a trustworthy brand. Yet, trust building doesn’t stop there.
The way I communicate on messenger, email, and in online forums all reflect on the brand and trust building. My appearance also plays a vital role. At the end of the day, these are just table stakes in building trust.
The ultimate certificate of trust is the recommendation or referral from the last person you served. Believe it or not, the last person you served is often the zero moment of truth. If you were a bad actor with them, people never hesitate to share a bad experience. However, getting them to write a review may take some prodding. We’re going to come back to this point later.

Trust Building is a Two-Way Street

Creativity is a process. Every photographer has a process. Whether they know their own process or not, it exists in method or intuition. If you love a creative’s work, you must respect the creative’s process. When you decide to bring an escort to a model shoot, you are communicating that you don’t trust the photographer nor the creative process. I’m sure it’s not meant to be offensive, but it is.
A judgment has been made about the process without input from the creator. That judgment suggests that the creator is not trustworthy. You are communicating that you are making everyone pay for other people’s past offenses. Don’t make people feel guilty for something they did not do nor have prior knowledge.
Implicitly, you’re asking the photographer to trust you and your companion. However, the photographer doesn’t know you or your companion. This is the dilemma. The model doesn’t trust the photographer or the creative process. However, the model wants the photographer to trust the model and the escort. Can you see the problem?

What is the MADEGRANDBYCAM Model Shoot Escort Policy

There is only one occasion that I require that you bring an escort: a minor or an 18 year old high school student. In this instance, the escort must be a parent or legal guardian that has the power to sign the subject’s model release. This is non-negotiable. In fact, only the parent or legal guardian can reserve the portrait experience. Moreover, they must be present for the entire photo shoot.
The only other time a second person can attend a portrait experience is when they are actually getting portraits made at the same time. Moreover, I encourage couples to use their Plus One option when booking. It’s complimentary for our Signature Portraits.
For my adult model photography shoot, the only person that can attend the shoot is the name on the Call Sheet.  No boyfriends, girlfriends, relatives, content creators, or other escorts are allowed at the model shoot.

Safety Is the Major Concern

If you’re concern about shooting in a photographer’s home, get over it. In 2020, half of the United States of America started working from home. Many business owners can no longer afford a retail storefront. They must work from home or go out of business. The location is not your issue. Safety is your principal concern.

Environmental Safety

Studios have latent hazards. From overhead lighting to cables on the ground, you have to watch your step to be safe. When you bring more people than needed to produce a shoot, you increase the potential for a latent hazard to become a real accident. An accidental trip and fall can break a wall or furniture. We reduce hazards by keeping the production cast and crew to an absolute minimum.

Equipment Safety

Let’s continue with the theme of accidental trips and falls. This time, let’s focus on studio equipment and photographic gear. In my studio, I use sandbags for counterweights to secure stands. I always use gaffers tape to secure seamless backgrounds to the floor. Unnecessary gear is removed from the sets. However, Murphy’s Law is potent. The environment and the equipment is safer with only essential members on set.

Personal Safety

Finally, my priority is always the safety of my subject. I don’t want a domino chain of events that can cause damage to the environment, equipment, or my subject. While, no one can guarantee Murphy’s Law won’t prevail. We can limit the potential fallout by keeping the studio clear of people not needed to make a portrait.
More people only make the creative experience safer when they actively play a well-planned role in the production of the photography. Due the COVID-19 Crisis of 2020, there is no room for non-essential participants in any still or motion photography shoot. Television newsrooms and film studios to professional sports have removed all non-essential participants from their productions. This is our new norm for all creative work.

Due the COVID-19 Crisis of 2020, there is no room for non-essential participants in any still or motion photography shoot.

Security is the Second Concern

I expect people to vet their photographers like any other professional they choose to procure services. That vetting works both ways. However, it’s impossible to vet an unknown quantity. That unknown quantity is a security risk. Moreover, accepting that risk doesn’t produce better portraits.
Bonnie and Clyde were both ruthless. As a business owner, that’s an unnecessary risk.
I have had shoots where the female model showed up with another male that we never discussed. It’s a genuine distraction to the creative process.

  • Firstly, this is the unknown quantity. I am always preoccupied with their intentions.
  • Secondly, my personal safety and security is jeopardize because there is now an unknown variable in my creative process.
  • Thirdly, it is impossible to focus on the model and a third-party at the same time. A third-person could be robbing you while you’re making portraits.

It is vital for me to build rapport with my subject. In my experience, both parties make better portraits when they actually are getting along. This chemistry shows up in the photography when there are no distractions for the photographer and the subject.
Lastly, if you ever feel uncomfortable with a photographer, don’t book the shoot. There are telltale signs of bad actors and great professionals. You must do your diligence to learn those signs and make wise decisions before you commit.

Leave Better Breadcrumbs

Ten years ago, I would have a modified position on bringing an escort to a model photography shoot. The world was different ten years ago. However, we’re in the third decade of the 21st Century. We have modern means to ensure safety and security for all parties. Here are some tips:

  • Tell your loved ones where you’re going and what you’re doing. This seems obvious and simple. However, it would be a false assumption to think everyone has someone that cares where they are.
  • Share your location with someone you trust. If you feel uncomfortable, let someone know exactly where you are.
  • Check-In on their Facebook Page so that you leave a digital breadcrumb of where you are and when. Some studios provide perks for simply checking in on their Facebook Page.
  • Send a text to a loved one when you arrive on location. In fact, you should check in again to let people know that you’re ok while you’re on set. Send another message when you depart.
  • Post a story before your shoot. Post a story after your shoot and tag your photographer’s profile.

These are just some ideas for you to practice before, during, and after every shoot. You can do the same thing at your doctor’s office, church, court, work, or any other place you are supposed to be safe.

How Can You Spot a Creepy Guy With Camera?

No one wants to work with the Creepy Guy With a Camera! Professional photographers hate this person.
The cost of entry into photography is relatively low. However, the time and talent it takes to be a professional is truly extensive and expensive. If the person you are modeling isn’t investing the time, talent, and resources to make great portraits, don’t waste your time.
The real conundrum is spotting the GWC that appears to be a professional photographer! There are more out there than you know.
I worked with a model who told me she was invited by a photographer she admired to shoot with him. She loved his work. The photographer was popular. However, she said from the moment the shoot started, she felt uncomfortable by his innuendos, gestures, and language towards her. She felt trapped because she thought she was working with a professional. She needed a better way of separating faux photographers from pro photographers.

How to Find a Professional Photographer?

Is this a Business or Hobby

Don’t just google it! There are so many ways to discover if a professional photographer is running a legitimate business. Firstly, what is the legal formation of the company? Corporations and limited liability companies must be registered and approved by the Secretary of State. If they are a sole-proprietorship, do they have a doing business as (dba) certificate with the county of their business? The point is very few business owners will risk the business reputation and ability to do business by assaulting another person. The stakes are too high. Plus, the Internet never forgets. It’s simply not worth losing your livelihood for verbal, physical, sexual, and emotional assault.

Is He A Member of His Professional Community

Have they joined any professional associations like the Professional Photographer’s of America (PPA)? PPA has a Find-a-Photographer directory and digital gallery so that you can see the work. Additionally, the American Photographic Artist has the Hire an APA Pro database so that you can find a professional photographer for your area. These are two of the largest associations, but not the only professional photography associations. Search local photography association chapters and chambers of commerce to find professionals in your area.

Does She Have Testimonials

Do they have client reviews, recommendations, or ratings on Google, Facebook, or Yelp? Read the zero moment testimonies so that you can get a feel for who you are going to be working while creating images.

Is His Online Reputation Consistent

Don’t just look at their Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, or Facebook profiles. Look at the conversations that they have with other people. Consider the language, choice of words, and tone of voice in their comments. Google is great for discovery. If they are on Twitter, just read the tweets.

Does Her Website Convey Seriousness, Safety, Trustworthiness, and Empathy

Be sure to review the photographer’s website. This is the single digital property they have full control. Does it look like they have invested in their digital presence? Is it a standout website or a cookie cutter template. Here’s a simple test. Is the website current and up-to-date? Do you get a sense of working with  the photographer beforehand?

Don’t Forget You’re A Business Too

The bottom line is don’t be lazy. In third decade of the 21st Century, you should rarely step into an unknown situation where you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or threaten. There should never be a bad actor. Follow the tips mention to avoid them. Moreover, make sure you’re doing the same things for your own career. Where’s your website?
Bonus tip: when you work with a great photographer, take the time to write a recommendation or review. Help the great actors standout from the bad actors so that we can collectively starve the bad ones out!

Final Thoughts on Why You Shouldn’t Bring an Escort to Your Model Shoot

Be a professional. State your intentions. Communicate clearly and effectively about what you’re comfortable and not comfortable doing. Don’t let people assume. Ask questions until you’re clear, comfortable, and confident with your situation. Don’t ignore your instincts. That gut feeling you have is going to save your life.
Don’t assume that because a person makes great portraits that they are a good human. Likewise, don’t assume because some is a great person that they are also a great photographer. Find balance in all things.
On the topic of assumptions, all photographers behaving badly aren’t men. All genders have assholes–literally and figuratively. Don’t let your guard down because you think same-sex genders means automatic empathy, trust, and safety. Do your due diligence with every photographer so that you build worthwhile creative relationships that you can continue to enjoy over time.

Straight Talk About Your Next Steps

Lastly, I know what’s it’s like to survive a traumatic experience. No one has a right to tell you when it’s ok to get over it. You have to work it out in your own time. I encourage you to seek out the help that works for you. At the same time, you can’t treat every new person like the creep that caused your trauma. That’s a bad act. You can’t expect the world to tip-toe around your triggers. If you’re not ready to do this work at a professional level, you have four options:

  1. Give up your dream. Leave the modeling profession.
  2. Limit yourself. Work with people that have time to work through your needs.
  3. Move forward. Do your homework, so that nothing can trigger a bad episode.
  4. Hire the photographer. You can bring whoever you want when you’re buying.

For the overwhelming majority of professional models, this is common sense. Plus, professional models have their own networks that they compare notes on photographers across the country and around the world. Oh, you didn’t know? Well, they know. So be a professional.
For the creepy ass guy with a camera, please exit this field or stick to barren landscapes.
Let me know your thoughts on whether or not you need an escort in the comments. This is a topic ripe with conversation.

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