Monday, June 8, 2009
The dark side of modeling
To the casual observer fashion and sex go hand-in-hand. The industry is built upon sexualized images to sell their product. And increasingly, the women selling fashion are getting younger and younger. Most of the time they aren't women at all but very young girls, as young as 13 years old.
The problem is that the sexual imagery in fashion photography has a lurid background behind the camera.
Sara Ziff, a model, has made a documentary called Picture Me about young models who will do anything to get to the top of the industry, and the price they pay for it.
This includes everything from respected photographers feeling up a model, to a 14-year-old model being asked to "twist" a photographer's penis, to 20-hour work days without any rest or food.
Here are some quotes from The Guardian's piece on the doc:
What alarms Ziff is that there's an expectation that models are comfortable using their sexuality. Often they can feel under pressure to conform, not least because they're being paid a great deal of money. On occasion, Ziff says, she has earned as much as $150,000 a day. "I've done shoots naked, totally naked. They sell it to you as: 'Here's this great artist and he wants to take your portrait.' I had to switch off the voice in my head that said: 'Do you really want to do this?' When you're being paid a lot of money and you want to appear cool you really don't want to show any resistance to going with it.
"But at the end of the day I used to wonder: what's the difference between doing a shoot in your underwear for Calvin Klein and being a stripper? Obviously you are compromising yourself. How far am I willing to go? How much am I willing to show for a big fat cheque?"
"We had to go in one by one. The photographer said he wanted to see me without my shirt on. Then he told me that it was still hard to imagine me for the story so could I take my trousers off. I was standing there in a pair of Mickey Mouse knickers and a sports bra. I didn't even have breasts yet. 'We might need to see you without your bra,' he told me. It was like he was a shark circling me, walking around and around, looking me up and down without saying anything. I did what he told me to. I was just eager to be liked and get the job. I didn't know any better."
"The images came out and they were practically pornographic. What the photographer saw was not what I felt. It had nothing to do with that 14-year-old and what she was feeling and everything to do with what the person behind the camera projected onto her."
The documentary also brings up the idea of creating a union for models, something which I've briefly talked about before. Modeling is a real job so why shouldn't they have a union with the chance to have days off, fair wages and most importantly, protection from abuse.
I'm glad to see that a working model is speaking out about the issue; there are so many faceless models out there too scared to talk about it.
Click here to watch the trailer.