I am going to do the cliché of defining toxicity.
- the quality, state, or relative degree of being poisonous
- an extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful quality
That second definition of toxicity is something that we as photographers have come to see every day in our profession. There is a lot of toxicity in any profession, and photography is no different. But, I want to take a moment to talk, as a male photographer (don’t get upset with this, hear me out first) in a world of a lot of toxic behavior that stems from… male photographers.
A little about myself, beyond what my “About” section says, I’m a gamer (again, don’t get upset with this), which these days carries a pretty disgusting stigma that makes me ashamed to be a gamer and enjoy video games, though it’s been a hobby and past time for me, for over 30 years now. I’m a streamer on Twitch (https://twitch.tv/ghengis317 shameless plug), which also, has somewhat of a stigma about it on both sides of the fence, with guys being gross and even woman doing some questionable things on twitch. Not everyone, mind you, (shout out to https://twitch.tv/atombombbody who is a good online friend and partial inspiration for this blog). Some of us just want to play games with friends and chat with internet friends while we do that, without being zany or insane or gross. You know, some of us just want to be human beings.
I’m part of these worlds that have increasingly toxic groupings.
This came to a head from a recent photoshoot I had at Dragon Con in Atlanta. The shoot went fantastic, the cosplay models were great and friendly. Everyone had a ton of fun, everyone was comfortable. It was during the middle of the shoot that I had a chat with one of the models and she said something that struck me odd.
“I have to say, you’re really professional, we feel comfortable, we are all having fun, and you aren’t creepy like most photographers I’ve had to deal with”
This statement sat with me for a while, for a few days actually as Dragon Con wrapped up a few days ago. I ended up chatting with another model/cosplayer/gamer/streamer about this and even told her, “I feel bad for every female cosplayer on a deeper level before… because these models had some super gross people to deal with on shoots before”.
That’s when the sentiment was continued when I was told by my friend about shoots she would go to, where the photographer would be taking advantage of the models that were younger, 18 – 20 year olds, and convincing them to do nude photos to “help their portfolios”.
It seems to be the same story I hear from a lot of different models.
It was heart breaking.
I didn’t understand why a lot of people would be apprehensive about doing photoshoots with me over the years, and only friends would be the ones who agree to them.
It’s because the stigma of a photographer that deals with models, cosplayers, whatever you might be doing, is that the photographer is going to be a shady gross dude.
And I don’t blame them.
I’ve been doing some form of art nearly all my life. While I know nudity is nothing to be ashamed of, the tactics in which some of these “artists” use is really disgusting. I remember being in college and doing live model studies of friends and strangers, and some were completely comfortable in being nude. Here is the thing, I would never ask someone to be nude in a photoshoot or drawing study, I always leave this up to the model, if he or she is comfortable being nude, then we can proceed on your comfort level.
Why do I bring this up?
Because this should be something that is discussed up front, between your models and photographers, before your shoots. This shouldn’t be a, “Surprise! Get naked”, situation. I never want to have a model feel uncomfortable with me or with a situation that I will be putting them in when it comes to setting up a shot.
My advice to models looking into shoots with a photographer, which is sometimes hard to follow, is to ask some of the models that have shot with them before. If you really like their style and they are well known, it can’t hurt to ask how they are to shoot with.
I feel so horrible that I am part of these groups of people who are toxic to a degree of making me not want to associate with them.
In the end, I just want to create art with people, and I hope to make people feel comfortable and have fun in the whole process.
What Happens When You Are A Decent Human Being and People Enjoy Shooting With You?
If you want to see what happens when you have fun with the person you are shooting with, are comfortable with them, and most importantly, aren’t a huge creepy photographer dude.
Here you go, these are the shots I had done from Dragon Con this year with