This person behaved horribly and without consent. I greatly doubt what he did was legal. I hope you stop judging yourself harshly, Cam, for pretending things were fine. It’s absolutely okay to do whatever you need to do to get out of a bad situation like this, and this is not an uncommon response. Very often we can’t tell if aggressively defending ourselves will escalate things and put us in even greater danger, and I imagine this person was larger than you. Even if he weren’t larger, you were in the vulnerable position of being undressed and in his space. I’m really glad you managed to get out of there okay, and I don’t think you should at all hold it against yourself that you said and did what you felt you needed to in order to leave quickly and safely.
I am sharing this to increase the chances of the next models this creep approaches finding it and knowing to avoid him.
am very hesitant about posting this. but i can’t stop thinking about it. so here it goes:
this afternoon i had a shoot with a photographer named Artur Kowallick. i was excited to work with him, as his work is really lovely. he told me he wanted real emotion, a real person to photograph - not a model. i hear this often and that’s fine - i love modeling when it’s not all “posey” and fake.
before the shoot we chatted over coffee - he said he would be touching me to pose me and such. i’ve learned over the past week that is fairly normal in Europe - moving an arm or a hand or some hair, or even turning the models face so the image can be correct/what the photographer wants. in America this is absolutely NOT okay, but i’ve just gone with it here as for the most part i’ve been comfortable with the photographers, and they never touch me sexually or cross other boundaries - they just move a limb or adjust some hairs.
he had me sign a release before we started shooting. red flag there. it was in german, but he assured me it was standard. it was short, so i assume it was, but i shouldn’t have signed it at the beginning, as this is not common practice.
the shoot begins.. and i quickly realize this touching is far more than arm or hair placement. i am grabbed, prodded, yanked. forget the red flags, everything became a blur. i try to go with it, as this is the photographers practice with all models he shoots - to get a certain emotion from them - which now in retrospect i can tell from many of the images he has produced. but i didn’t know how far it went/would go. perhaps this treatment was ok with other models.. perhaps they left feeling as confused as i did.. outside of the touching he was nice.. but what does that matter in the end when i feel this way after?
i tried to be ok. but the prodding and grabbing became too much. he put his hands all over my face, fingers in my mouth.. he even licked my spit off his hands. i was in shock, dazed, and didn’t know what to do. it got to the point where i began crying and couldn’t stop myself. he photographed this. i told him i couldn’t do it and that he couldn’t touch me anymore. i told him i was a victim of physical abuse, and that i was a rape/molestation survivor. i told him if he touched me more, i would cry no matter what and the shoot would end, because this is how i respond to these actions. once the touching stopped i got myself to stop crying/hyperventilating, and i tried to pretend like everything was ok.. but then some touching started again, despite me saying it wasn’t ok. i tried to keep it together and end the shoot quickly, leaving him (falsely) cheerfully so that i could get out as fast as i could, before breaking down into an anxiety attack/tears. i feel odd writing this even because i left him thinking i felt fine about the shoot… how backwards is that?
now i sit here confused and struggling. why didn’t i just run away when the crying started and when i felt so bad? why did i let this happen? perhaps because truly, this is his practice when working with models. it is how he works. i guess i felt obligated to go on. i only wish i had known prior, that he had mentioned it in our email conversations, or that he had been clearer in our discussion before shooting.
i guess my point with this all is - if this is your method, or your method is anything that strays from the “norm” - you must discuss this frankly and VERY clearly with the model before the they are sitting in front of you ready to shoot. if i had known this is how the shoot would go, that this is how he worked, i would never have shot with this person, as nice as his art is/he was. my PTSD has been triggered and i now can’t stop crying, and am scared to leave my hotel room.
please do not write or attack this photographer with threats, that is not the point of this write-up - i do not intend to make things worse or escalate this. i just mean to educate people and to share this experience, as i am still a bit jarred.
live and learn.