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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How To Work With Models

As photographers, we should pause and occasionally remind ourselves that the life of a model isn't all manicures and massages. They're among the hardest-working people in our business.

“There's no place like home, unless that home is a model's apartment,” says Rebecca. “Models' apartments are small and crowded.” Usually, there are four girls to an apartment—two sleeping in the bedroom on two twin beds, one on a foam mattress pad in the living room and the other on a futon that converts to a couch for daytime use. The quality of the apartments differs greatly from place to place, but most of the time the furniture is akin to what you'd find discarded on the street.

According to Rebecca, “Paris has the biggest shitholes out of all the cities—cockroaches, generally dirty rooms and almost no privacy. In Germany, the apartments are cleaned by a service every week and the agencies take some care in pairing up models with similar personalities. Australia is just great all around.” As in Germany, the Australian agencies attempt to pair compatible personalities.

Adds Rebecca, “In Milan, the models' apartments are a step up from Paris and offer a coded entryway. The code is known only by the agency, the models and several dozen club promoters who double as drivers for the model agencies during the day.”

In conditions like these, it's not easy to look “cover-perfect” every day of your life, and yet they still manage to pull it off more times than they miss. After all, that's the job.

If You Model, You Must Party!

In Italy, the club promoters descend upon the models' apartments almost every night. They gain access to the building with their security code and then go door to door, trying to cajole the girls into going to whatever club they happen to be representing. In Paris, there's a strong expectation to make the scene with the people from your agency. Of course, as you're out having a good time, the agents start looking at you funny if you're still having a good time past a certain hour. In Australia, well, it's the land of no worries, and that's exactly what it's like when you're modeling there—very casual, very easy.

Clubs offer incentives to the models in the form of free lunches and dinners. If a model shows up at the club with a Zed card, she's set. It's all about getting the pretty girls into the venue. As a model, you can practically live for free if you play your Zed cards right.

You Look Nice, Real Nice!

As you'd expect, there are a few unique occupational hazards to being a model, namely weirdos, wackos and the obsessed. In Rebecca's career, she has had a guy lurking underneath her window at her apartment. When she left the apartment, he followed her around all day, which she says “is no small task. I'd be chasing subway cars and hustling around getting to auditions.” He pursued her for a week.

Cautions Rebecca, “You need to be very savvy, self-aware and careful—people start learning where you live and suddenly you have your very own pet stalker.” She has been fondled and spoken dirty to in 10 different languages. As a model, you learn quickly how to survive these hazards, but even the street savvy have a bad day. Rebecca was mugged in Milan on her last trip.

On the set, things should be more civilized, but it's not always the case. Some photographers blatantly ask the models to go for a drink with them. This seems innocent until the model turns them down. Then the conversation goes to “Don't you want to work for me again?”

Rebecca always responds pointedly: “I say something like, ‘What! I have to go to drinks with you to work with you again? What happens if I sleep with you? I'll get the damn cover?' ”

With the intentions out in the open, it becomes a bit of a chess match. Having called a lecherous photographer on his crap, he gets nervous that Rebecca will tell her agency. She gets nervous that he will try and spread crappy rumors about her and hinder her ability to work. After a few tense moments, everyone walks away. She'll never work for that photographer again, but her reputation is intact and she stood up for herself. Besides, there are always other markets.


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