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Sexual harassment and photography...
There's been a great deal written about how the media portrays women in photographs. There has been a great deal said about how they are objectified and oversexualized. There are a large number of people who object to the editing done to the photographs for various reasons. There are a great many voices who loudly cry out that this is contributing to the moral destruction of our society or the degradation of our body image as women.
There has been a great deal less said about the sexual harassment of photographers and their subjects and I've heard no public outcry when it does happen. Well, it happened to me and one of my clients and the degradation I felt, and I believe she felt, had nothing to do with the photos I was taking.
Let me start by saying that I am sad I even have to write this post. This is not a topic I ever wanted to have to address from a photography standpoint but sadly, I do.
I was out shooting headshots with a client about a month ago. She was a stunningly beautiful young relator who needed photographs for her business cards. We were standing on a public street and she was wearing business attire which fully and appropriately covered her.
A group of men walked by as we were working and began catcalling and making remarks such as, "Smile for me baby!"
We smiled at each other, ignored the remarks, and continued working as the men moved on. However it made both of us uncomfortable.
I want to say right here and right now that if this situation happened today I would handle it differently. I have been personally sexually harassed multiple times on a public street. I was there shooting photographs and was both sexually harassed because I'm a woman and because I was a woman holding a camera.
None of the incidents I personally experienced were what I would classify as a severe case of sexual harassment. They were mild. They were annoying. They were a tad bit upsetting. And the truth is none of them should have happened but I shrugged them off and continued shooting because they weren't severe. It wasn't until someone harassed my client that I realized exactly how not okay incidents like these are and how wrong it is to simply shrug them off.
If the incident happened today I would have said something to the men. Something as simple as, "You can see we're working here. Please, move on." and then I would have taken my client to another location immediately even if the men were continuing to walk away.
Anyone can be sexually harassed walking down a public street. It happens all the time. The thing that is most upsetting to me is that it seems to happen far more when I have a camera in my hands. It upsets me that the tool I love so much seems to open the door for people to say something inappropriate no only to me but to my clients.
Will I be taking future clients back to that location? No, no I will not be. Male or female I will never return there for the purpose of photos. Am I choosing my locations more carefully? You’d better believe it. Will I stay silent if it ever happens again? No, as both a woman and a photographer, no I will not.
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