After listening to the most recent episode of the always fabulous My Favorite Murder Podcast, I wanted to lay out my thoughts on precautions and guidelines to consider when you're looking to model for sensual/erotic/BDSM/nude work, particularly if it's a TFP (trade for pics) shoot.
While there are plenty of artists out there who do this sort of thing for the art, there are also a shit ton of skeevy folk (mostly, but not exclusively men) who are shooting for their own personal spank-bank, the power trip, or worse.
Participating in this type of shoot can be empower and fulfilling, but it can also leave one feeling awful, or be downright dangerous. So with that in mind, here are some guidelines to consider:
1. Ask if you can bring one or more friends/partner(s) along for your comfort and safety - The kind of person you'd want to shoot with will totally understand and be cool with you having support folk. We know that this has the potential to be both emotionally and physically scary, want you to be comfortable, and know that having someone around to watch your back can make for a better shoot.
2. Ask for references - I pride myself on my models having a positive experience and I have a hefty list of people who've shot with me and will vouch for me not being a duchebag or murderer.
3. Ask to see their work - do their models look comfortable, is the photographer any good, is it a style of nude or erotic work that you would want to be a part of?
4. Ask for details about the shoot - not only what will be expected of you, but how long it should last, the exact address where you'll be, etc
5. Ask why they want to shoot with you and what they plan to do with the photos - when I do trade-for-pics (as opposed to being hired or me hiring a model) shoots, it's because I hope to get something new or interesting to put on my NSFW photography website, submit to an erotic arts show, and/or use on social media. This is usually with the goal of booking more paying erotic shoots, though also sometimes for personal projects. For instance, I like doing beautiful photos of play modalities not generally considered beautiful. That's a personal project of mine.
6. As the ladies on MFM would say: FUCK POLITENESS - in addition to the above criteria, if you're uncomfortable for any reason, get the fuck out of there! For instance (and this is all shit I've actually seen or had people who modeled for me experience with other photographers):
- if a photographer says bullshit along the lines of "well since you're naked, I should be naked too, so it's fair" - Fuck Politeness and Get The Fuck Out (FPGTFO) (this is ridiculously common)
- if a photographer attempts to violate a boundary you've established or push you to do more than you're comfortable with - FPGTFO
- if a photographer attempts to guilt you in any way e.g. "I've gone to all this effort, the least you can do is X" - FPGTFO
- if a photographer is more focused on themselves than their camera - FPGTFO - I've shot people I'm super attracted to and even in sexual relationships with, but when I'm behind the camera, I'm WORKING not talking about how turned on I am etc.
7. Think seriously before you do this sort of shoot. You can't un-take a photograph, and most model contracts leave the photographer retaining the copyright to images taken. Without a modeling contract the photographer retains rights by default for non-commercial use, which means the pictures can be used in art shows for instance without your input or consent. And keep in mind that the internet never forgets.
If you want to do a nude or erotic shoot that you don't want other people to see, hire a photographer and get it in writing as part of your contract that you retain sole control of the images in exchange for paying for the shoot.
So have fun, be safe, and never stay in a situation that doesn't feel right.
I had the privilege of accompanying my close friend Ruth on a trip to NYC, where after literally decades of wanting it done, she had her tongue split as her 50th birthday present to herself.
Cypress approached me about documenting their cleansing in the sea, done as part of moving on from a difficult life event. All the photos here were taken in Biddeford Maine, in mid-November 2017