|Christopher Lee Donovan, NH, 2011|
...and how darkly to draw it. And over time the line tends to wiggle, blur, split, and migrate altogether. Making it, of course, no longer a line, until a new line--a very different one, usually--is established.
The other day I got an email.
On the one hand, it was extremely courteous, and it was very up-front and honest--no details of what was being asked were hidden. In my mind, being candid and up-front is paramount, and it's never wrong to ASK for something as long as you do so transparently and can take "no" for an answer.
On the other hand, the proposition of the email was something that I found absolutely impossible to call "art" rather than a personally-motivated sex-trade transaction. Which is absolutely fine--but belongs in a different playground than the one that I play in, and is not something I could ever sanction as artistic.
Basically, the "photographer" wanted to pay me to send him cell phone pictures of myself shaving my pubic hair. The message was a page or two long, detailing how this was part of some grand art project of his, compiled entirely of cell phone self-portraits of various girls flashing their boobs and masturbating.
Initially I was offended at the stupidity of the request--not because of what he was asking, but because he kept saying it was part of an "art project", going into in-depth explanations, as if making the assumption that I would blindly regard it as a noble cause if only he managed to justify it well enough...all of which seemed an insult to my intelligence, given that I normally would never think of doing such a thing for money.
Then I realized it really had nothing to do with me. He probably wasn't trying to "trick" me into doing something I wouldn't normally do. Perhaps he really DID think of it as an art project, and that was what he told himself. Perhaps it was a genuine social experiment he was hoping to carry out. Perhaps it was his justification to HIMSELF more so than to me.
So I sent a response, trying to be as kind, honest, and constructive as humanly possible without being a pushover. I told him that I appreciated his candor and courtesy, but that I couldn't understand his project [nor his role IN his project as either an artist or a photographer], and that I found his request to be somewhat offensive as I didn't consider it something that fell within the parameters of "art modeling" or within my personal limits, and that I suspected a lot of full-time MM models may feel similarly. All that being said, perhaps he'd have better luck on other websites with more like-minded members: fetlife in particular as a place to find more open-minded, even exhibitionistic, participants, but also some paysites [as he was essentially soliciting "cam-girl" type services"] and possibly certain dating/networking sites.
Patience is not my strong suit, and my "bullshit, bullshit, bullshit," alarms were blaring at this guy, but I tried to be genuine and gentle, I really did.
Anyway, suffice it to say that he wasn't happy with my message [in one part of his message he bashed a photo of mine saying that it was liable to cause people to judge me, so I went ahead and stuck it at the top of this entry for your judging pleasure].
But the thing that really set me off was that he explained that his project had artistic merit...on the grounds that he's a professional photographer and does other photographic work.
First of all--I have no way of even knowing if that's true. I've come across fake portfolios before. It's the Internet. He's got no references, no evidence of anyone who's worked with him, because he doesn't shoot models--he shoots commercial/travel stuff. [Supposedly.]
But more importantly...okay. When someone asks me to send him crappy up-close cell phone photos of my vagina, I see "male seeks female for straight-from-the-source amateur porn." I don't care if he's usually a lawyer or a doctor or a movie star or a bum...or a photographer. When he offers me a few scraps of cash in exchange for the rights to ogle my pussy at low-resolution, then in the context of our interactions, he's just an Internet pervert. Identifying as a photographer doesn't win you some sort of all-access key to every girl who identifies herself as a model.
That shit doesn't take a camera, let alone any skill or creativity--it just takes a PayPal account.
You don't get to break the no-touching rules when you're watching the dancers at a strip club just because you've got a day job as a personal trainer or a massage therapist.
So I told him in no uncertain terms what was on my mind. A part of me wishes that I hadn't been quite so cross the second time around [I can be pretty fucking harsh when someone pushes past my tolerance level], but so it goes.
I do NOT think that man was any sort of predator at all--he was quite honest about what he was seeking. What I DO think he was is self-deluding, which is why I think my message back to him [suggesting that his project might not be interpreted as art by the general ModelMayhem population and that he might be more successful on sites like Fetlife] offended him so much.
There is an epidemic of photographers who lie to themselves--I have heard NO ONE complain as much about the dreaded "GWCs" as GWCs who are in denial that they themselves are GWCs, who see themselves as belonging to some other category, and who likely complain so much because a subconscious part of them knows that, really, their motives are no different.
Honestly? I appreciate the honest GWCs. The ones who know what they're after--and they're still courteous and respectful, but they don't put on all these bullshit airs. The ones who will come out and say, "Yeah, I'm looking to shoot glamour nudes; I'm looking for very sensual poses and expressions," instead of making some scrambling attempts to disguise their sex-appeal-motivated work as "fine art" [whatever that even means], which is how you end up with unhappy models who wind up feeling like they've been tricked into shooting something smuttier than their comfort level likes. There are plenty of models who LOVE shooting glamour--your work will come out better if you just work with them from the get-go, instead of trying to sweet-talk some asexual tight-bun traditional-art girl.
As far as I go, I don't know where the line is drawn. I've certainly done some glamour work, and some erotic work. I've also refused some glamour work, and refused a LOT of erotic work. I've certainly worked for beginner photographers, or with photographers who were not beginners but whose work didn't resonate with me, and I've certainly factored payment into my decision of whether or not to work for someone [though money is never a reason all by itself--not if the photographer is an asshole or potentially unsafe, and not if the work is completely out of my comfort zone]. I've worked with some photographers whom I would regard as GWCs, and I've also refused some photographers purely because I felt they were GWCs. There are so many factors that go into it--of course, much of it has to do with who the photographer is as a person [if he is a cool guy, courteous, and fun, then I am a lot less picky about what sort of work he's shooting than if he's rude or crass or flaky], but in truth a lot of it has to do with where I am, personally, at the time. And that's a variable that no one else can control.
But anyway, moral of the story: just be frank--with yourself, and with the models you contact. Every model has different motivations for modeling, and different limits. Let the dissenting models say no--even if they judge you, it doesn't matter in the long run. Plenty of other models will eagerly say yes and enjoy working with you, and everyone will be happier.
PS: To end on a positive note...there have been a few times in the past where I looked at a photographers portfolio and instantly thought, "Yup, GWC," and, for whatever reasons, agreed to work with him anyway...and wound up getting absolutely PHENOMENAL images and having a GREAT time. That's the thing that keeps me from being too judgmental of a photographer based on his work--my decisions are far more affected by the messages he sends me, how he comes across, how much bullshit he spews, how direct and sincere he is [or she, of course--but I'm usually not concerned with "Girl With Camera" types so it's irrelevant for this entry].