Okay, he really was lying to me.

A few posts back, I wrote about Matt. He was the photographer for whom I drove hours out of my way, who told me, upon my arrival, that he has been a victim of identity theft and someone had cleared his bank account out. The trip there had been stressful and I couldn't imagine this a made up malicious story, so of course I stayed and shot with him.

Matt had contacted me years ago, and occasionally between then and when I was planning winter trip, to ask me if I was planning on being in Pennsylvania any time soon. Usually I wasn't, or if I was, I was sticking to Western Pa--He is in Eastern Pa. I did a search in my email inbox for old correspondence photographers in Pennsylvania when I was planning my most recent tour, during which I was making a stop in Philly, and found him again. [I'm pretty bad at keeping track of these things, unfortunately.] When I emailed him, he responded quickly, telling me that he was excited to finally get to work with me, and that he had wanted to work with me for a long time. He asked me my rates, I gave him a loose quote, and he said, "I'll gladly pay you that and probably more."

There were some scheduling disruptions: I had to give myself some time to spend with my family in Pittsburgh, so I was anxious to drive west. He was just transferring jobs, as well as moving into a new house, so his time was limited. I initially only wanted to do a few hours long shoot, but he convinced me to stay overnight so that we could shoot when I got to his house in the evening and also in the morning.

When I arrived, I was feeling a little down because the route I took to get to Easton from Philly took several hours longer than I'd expected, and I'd gotten lost finding his house. This seemed like small potatoes compared to his bad news, which was that he'd just found out that his bank account information had been discovered by someone else, who had used his money online to buy various RPG items, until all of the money was drained. He told me that he would give me a little gas money and that he would send me the rest in the mail, after he got everything straightened out. He told me that it was going to take 3-5 business days.

So we shot anyway. Things went well. I had a lot of fun, actually. He was the type of photographer who seemed to be more interested in meeting people and getting their story than shooting, so we did a lot of that, too. But we also got some good shots, and I was excited to get them some day. Prior to shooting, I wrote to a few models he'd worked with to ask for references, information about their experience with him. The only person who got back to me was someone who said that she had a good time and found him to be respectful, but that he never gave her any of the photos. I hoped that this would not happen with our shoot, but as a traveling model living in a gas-guzzling van, my priority is always cash, not images.

I had never had an experience in which a photographer just refused to pay me, after saying that he would.

Matt gave me $40, which barely covered gas, the next morning. I felt like we had become close through conversation and were now friends. If anyone would have suggested that he was being dishonest about paying me and about his bank account situation at the time, I would have laughed and defended him. He offered to borrow some money from family to pay me, but I told him that it wasn't necessary and that I'd just wait. He did not have a model release for me to sign, but this was not a red flag for me like it may be for some.. A lot of photographers I work with don't have model releases because they are hobbyists and don't feel concerned about their work being used one way or the other.

When I got back to the bay area a month or so later, in March, there was nothing from Matt in my PO box. I waited a little longer. I looked at his Model Mayhem account and saw that he had logged on recently, so I sent him an email. Initially, in situations like this, I get worried about the person.. What if he was in the hospital or missing or something and that's why I hadn't heard from him? But he'd been on MM. I sent him an email asking him if he'd sent it and thinks it may have gotten lost, or if he'd had further account trouble, or if he knew what was up. This was not an angry or accusing email. He did not write back. But it was obvious that he was still present on the internet. Over a month after I sent this, having not heard from him, I sent the angry, accusing email. I reminded him that I have written evidence from him, discussing payment, and I demanded money or a response.

I have not gotten either.




he is a commercial fashion photographer by profession and he is bored. not only is he bored, he is upset with how all of the models look the same--work to look the same--and if they don't look the same enough, how they will be edited to look the same. he is upset about perpetuating this terrible idea of beauty. he tells me about wimmin he has worked with who were literally geniuses but had to keep it secret and separate from their modeling lives. they carry an air of ditziness because, they tell him, no one would be able to see the intersection between beauty and brains. the people paying would not know how to react. in this day and age, it seems unreal to me, but here he is, a NYC commercial photographer, telling me his experience.

he's only interested in shooting nudes, personally. he'd tried to shoot nudes years ago, he tells me, and he was awful at it. he hadn't had a very conservative upbringing, but he'd break down at the shoots, unable to focus. making a photo, to him, means making the thing being photographed an object. i think this is a simple definition and i agree with it. i have struggled with loving photography, and enjoying modeling, and allowing myself to be objectified for this. i have kept it to this alone and i feel good about it still. but he'd put down his camera. he tells me that some model friends of his helped him through this, and now, years later, he is photographing nude ladies again, and he is so good at it.

"i refuse to shoot a model in a way that could be seen as submissive," he tells me. so we make strong, powerful images. but he won't look towards me as i undress.

he says that he thought that i, as a radical feminist, would not work with him. "because you're a man?" i ask. he doesn't know he is a feminist ally, so i tell him. he tells me that he expected me to be less pleasant. or something. and he gives me, as is his routine i gather, a nice thank you card in a nice blue envelope with his card and my payment as i am leaving.


shooting with matt!

when i arrived at matt's house, after driving for two hours longer than google said i would have to drive, and then after that getting lost trying to find his street, he told me that he actually couldn't pay me like we'd discussed because someone stole his identity and bought $2300 of world of warcraft goods, but he would give me some gas money.

but he let me bathe in his sink so that makes up for everything i guess.


on tour again with higher standards.

before i left oakland, i was approved for disability. i also took a semester of school. one of my classes was "wimmin in art history," and the class focused on the media and body image coincided with my getting on disability. i thought that now, since i do not need to rely on my modeling income to live, i could raise the bar a little. i decided to take a stand against being edited to perfection. i decided that i could no longer overlook the fakeness of those amazing images i would get back in which my skin was flawless, my stomach flat, my scars blended in with the rest of my skin. sadly i loved them all. they were an image of myself like no one looks. on the days i was in tune with the reality of my actual beauty, i would see fake plasticized images of others and i would imagine this being what they actually looked like. i would start to be down on myself. i would also imagine others looking at images of me, an oddly figured alternative model, still with an ageless beauty trying to conform to societal faux-norms, and being down on themselves.

so i changed my profile on the modeling website to say that i was not interested in perpetuating this unattainable ideal and contributing to stabs at the self-esteem of girls and wimmin who use the internet. in this subculture it is severely frowned upon for a model to be assertive in this way, to be contentious, opinionated, "difficult." i am supposed to be trying to sell myself and no one wants to buy a product with so many terms and so many boundaries. a move like i made is seen as career suicide. and i like modeling, so it was a little of a bummer. but i figured i could just work with my friends. the amount of work i had been offered had decreased over the last few years, anyway, since i had been aging at an unfortunate steady pace of one birthday a year, been getting more bad tattoos, and not been as active when it came to networking [ie. spending ten hours a day on the internet making mindless conversation (though sometimes fun!) with photographers and other models.] so i figured this was really it. say goodbye to ever working for a stranger who wanted to pay me to model for them ever again.

but i had planned a part-visit, part-tour [the music kind] trip, and i decided to post up some travel notices as a model. what the hell, it couldn't do any harm. and this weird thing happened. i got a fair amount of messages to set up work, for pay, when i was in different areas. not more than ever, but a fair amount. this is clearly what happens when no one reads profiles, i thought. but most of the messages mentioned things like "i like your attitude," and words which connected to the things i'd written or sympathized with them.

my first shoot this trip was just outside of atlanta with vic. we talked about zines, hometowns, punk scenes, body image issues, and how he has two young daughters and hopes things change soon. he used several cameras, including a panoramic pinhole one! i'm worried that i got my hopes up about the kind of people i'm going to be working with from now on.