Friday, March 22, 2013

It's not what you imagine...

Leila Swan - 032213 - SideB

A few years ago I was showing a series of erotic photos to a group for a critique.  In this series, the model were in different levels of dress and the photos grew more erotic one after the other.  After the critique, one photographer friend asked me, "Did you fuck your model?"  I was taken aback.  I stammered out a "No. of course not."

I often get these questions and wonder about the reasons behind them.  It is pretty obvious why people outside of this type of work think them up.  The reasons behind these questions may come from the following reasoning.

First - the obvious The photos show very intimate, sensual, sexual moments, both graphic and implied.  By viewing these images, the viewer may feel a connection or relation to those in the photo.  They may even feel a part of the moment captured.  This then can lead to an incorrectly perceived familiarity with the photographer and model and formation of assumptions of what happened during the session.

Second - a bit more abstract but still a motive The viewer acknowledges that the photographer was in the room (including self-portraits) and had more than a voyeur role in the moment.  The photographer was capturing the heat.  The viewer may assume that during the shoot an erotic connection formed (or previously existed) and at some point the session turned into a steamy tryst.

Third - and a very offending one Since the model is obviously sexual, sharing sexually explicit behaviors, and OBVIOUSLY was all turned on, they must be easy and wanted the photographer to take more than photos.

I've worked with dozens of nude models, some of them multiple times.  I have never had sex with any of them.  I pay all models that pose nude for me.  I almost always hire established professional models.   I keep it respectful and professional before, during and after the shoot.  That doesn't mean that we don't talk about intimate things.  We do that to develop the theme, mood, motivations and art of the shoot.  I never touch a model though, unless I directly ask permission first and only then to help direct the shoot.  I ask the models for their ideas and thoughts and it becomes a very mental/artistic shared moment, and it can be intimate and inspiring, but I know there are boundaries that prevent leading to a physical moment.  

During the shoot, I am usually not so aroused by the moment that I can't focus (pun intended) on taking photos.  I am thinking of exposure settings, lighting, color, composition, and capturing the heat and magic of the moment before me.  The last thing I want to do is ruin the magic of the moment and capturing it in my camera by trying to insert my lusty actions into it.

The most offending assumption is that the models want to have sex with you since they work in explicit content.  I've photographed fine-art nude models, erotic models, adult nude models, erotic performers/dancers, and some that modeled and also performed escort work as well.  During the shoots, I've been thanked for my professionalism, respect, warmth, and boundaries and have heard horror stories of photography sessions that went awry with creepy photographers.  Some are just Guys with cameras (GWC) that had no experience and are using the moment for voyeuristic opportunities.  In these stories, the models feel like posing monkeys or have no direction other than "Look sexy.  Show me your pussy, etc."  

The second type of creepy photographer is the one that inappropriately wants more from the model.  One fetish model shared she worked with a new-to-her photographer that wanted and demanded to choke her out.  Another kept touching her during the shoot, feeling her up.  She told him to stop after the first touch.  She warned him after the second touch that she would leave.  She left after the third.  

Another model shared a scary story of a photographer that held these beliefs of "how a photoshoot should go".  The photographer praised her work and cited how similar his work and artistic styles matched her work and his desire to work with her.  He suggested meeting before hand to discuss and develop a collaborative session where they would create amazing photos.  At first, they were going to meet at a coffee shop.  He then asked if they could meet at his studio due to time constraints.  She agreed.  He then started texting her to come over a night earlier, and that he would have dinner for her.  When she started to say no, he said he would have a car pick her up and that he was hers all night.  He kept stating how her work and his art were so similar, they already have a connection and should be intimate.   

Both of these types of "photographers" hurt the business.  They make great models that are willing to share very intimate moments to make art and erotica hesitant to work again with anyone else.  

In essence, here is the reality.  Making this type of art is hard work for the models, photographers, and all others involved.  It is often dusty, dirty, and tiring.  The end results may show pure lust, but the production of it would astound most by the amount of unsexy things it took to create it.  It isn't all orgies, orgasms, and free sex for all involved.

It is a narrow precipice we work on.  We want to create work the suspends reality and lets the viewers feel and live a sensual moment.  We want to provide them that escape.  That part of art they can live in.  Sadly though, we have to deal with those that don't understand that art is what is exhibited and isn't necessarily the reality of those creating it.  Even if it is the reality of the artist and the model, it doesn't mean their real life includes you in a direct, person-to-person way.  The art viewer is invited to live in the art piece, not to assume they have a right to directly live in the artist's or model's life.  


  1. "In this series, the model were in different levels of dress and the photos grew more erotic one after the other."

    It's because they can't separate their photography art mindset from their personal sexual experience mindset. In their mind the reason a woman would get naked and project sexual feelings for the camera is the same as when their wife or girlfriend does it for them: because she is excited and wants sex.

    What's probably the truth is that even when you denied it and explained it; some still thought you did. It's hard for those people to understand a guy that has a beautiful, naked, open, aroused woman in the same room with him and he just packs up his camera and goes home. When they stand in front of you and look you in the eye they nod in agreement, but when they look at the photo, they project themselves into the situation - man I'd have fucked her if I was there.

    A photographer friend would get that question and would say no. But when pressed by the non-believer originally went through the long explanation similar to yours. But after repeatedly wasting his time he said it wasn't his job to educate the dumb asses of the world. So he would just say - sure and I left her like a wrung out rag on the floor - and he'd get back something like - that's what I thought - I knew it. He admitted it was a slight disservice to the model. But this was pre-internet days; they didn't know who she was or would ever see her in person and it took but a couple of minutes instead of the educating half an hour.

    D.L. Wood

  2. As a woman my experiences with critiques are quite different. Questions have been posed, for conversation, about the direction of my photos. Do I realize they are sexually suggestive? (um, yep~) Do I understand that I live in a heavily religious area? (again, yep~) No one asks me if I slept with my model. I don’t get the creepy photographer, nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

    Men have added burdens beyond the views of an uneducated public. They must be beyond reproach; even an accidental brush of the hand is taken differently. They are compared to and judged with the GWC, and the frightening men that assume that our models are easy marks. They have to get beyond that with each new model they work with.

    I appreciate SB’s sharing his model’s experiences with other photographers.
    I believe, despite the time and trouble it takes, it’s necessary to honestly answer people who ask, “Did you fuck your model” and not denigrate the model and the work involved with a quick lie. To allow the idea to continue that these models are easy puts them at risk. I appreciate that not everyone will believe us, and not everyone will care to be educated. It’s those people who need to be reminded, even if with a gentle nudge, that they are mistaken.

  3. V that's an interesting point about the female photographer not being asked the question; but I suppose those questions they do ask are just as stupid. For a woman photographer I would think men would be too polite (embarrassed) to ask and women wouldn’t think of it.

    This brings a thought about the model. I’ve been to gallery shows where the model is present and never thought about asking her if she fucked the photographer. Do models get the nudge–wink question? Again I can’t see many men asking; so would a woman ask?

    Also, I think the educational way is the best policy. It was probably a poor attempt to use my friend as a kind of metaphor. One for those people that no matter how much you tell them, how much you try and convince them, how many good points you make, how much they nod their head and agree with those points; they go……yea but. And you’re right back where you started; flogging that dead horse. So you tell them what they want to hear and they go away.

    I don’t know why but feel since I dragged my friend into this I should defend him a little even though he doesn’t need it. I’m sure with the increased recognition of many models now that the internet has made searching easier he probably would not use the line or at least not as often. He always said it in a sarcastic, condescending way: as he put it – I gave the shithead some words he could understand. He was a college educated PhD, ex-marine of the Viet Nam era, three tours, and as Jimmy Dean said about Big John – he was six foot six and weighed two forty five. He wore tats way before they were cool, didn’t suffer fools lightly; loved women and they loved him. His specialty or weakness was long legged blondes, this was the era of the California Girl; he called them – tall drinks of water. The funny thing about this conversation is, well I’ll let you read it in his own words that he would say to me when we sat two drunks at the bar – you know buddy no matter how hard I try I can’t figure out what a fucking contradiction my life is. I love women so much, I’ve taken thousands of pictures of them naked and I’m as queer as a three dollar bill. Yea they were called queer then not gay. When the little bugs, as he called them, finally killed him in the late nineties he stood six foot six and weighed one oh five.

    D.L. Wood

  4. I agree, D.L., that most people have no idea how insulting this question is to both model and photographer and are simply inserting themselves into the situation they perceive in the images and thinking "hell yes, I'd have jumped on that!" And most certainly I have joined your friend in the ranks of the sarcastic and answered "Of course ... my photographers are all cavemen incapable of viewing a naked woman without having sex with her ... and I sleep with every cameraman I meet!" Though I must say that I usually follow this with editorial comment such as "How many times were you dropped on your head as an infant?" or "You're a 40 year old virgin, aren't you?"

    V, I absolutely agree there is a need to champion our models and fight the perception that her willingness to pose nude or in intimate moments in no way indicates a physical sexual availaility on her part. I use the female pronoun because nobody ever seems to be concerned with the sexual behavior of my male models, who are of course equally professional and equally irresistible ... sad commentary on how far we need to go in breaking down double standards!

    Having worked on both sides of the camera, I can tell you that if any of my photographers were to violate their professionalism on set and hook up with a model, they would be chewed out, dressed down, kicked out, blacklisted, and ostracized from my studio, my team, and my circle of influence. Notice I say on set - if people hit it off and decide to move their relationship into the personal realm at a later time, great. Many great artists end up married to their muses and I think it's awesome ... but no model should ever feel pressure or discomfort on set. The photographer should have his hands too full of lighting and lenses to molest a model!

    I do often get the "You really did fuck, didn't you?!" question about erotic shoots with other models. I take it as a complement that viewers find the images so believable ... if it looks real, then we did our jobs well and it becomes real in the viewer's mind! Just like in the porn industry, what you see in the finished product doesn't give you much idea of how many people are behind the scenes on an erotic shoot ... nor how many times you are re-set and repositioned, quite often in uncomfortable (ie temperature, location) surroundings and postures. As I believe I've mentioned before, I find unresolved chemistry and unsatisfied desire make for exceptional photos ... awesome models are much harder to find that random boy-toys, so I think it would be foolish to ruin that sizzle on set for a romp. We shoot models, we shoot lovers, we prefer that the two categories be indistinguishable to our audience! ;-)


Thank you for sharing a comment!!! Your involvement saves us from the sounds of our own voices echoing in an empty room!. Your comments will not show up immediately and may take up to a day to appear. Thanks and keep them coming.