A Model Bill of Rights for creating safe spaces
Mutual trust and respect. This is how images are co-created.
"I carry residual anger in my body form my time in my early 20s at the beginning of my photography career.
A part of this anger is directed at myself; for not listening to my instincts and entering work environments where I was not respected. I did not speak up because I feared a repercussive effect where I’d be labelled difficult to work with. That it might hinder opportunities down for me down the line.
I now know that this is untrue. However it was a learning curve to understand the implicit power dynamics between photographer, client, and subject. Between seasoned and emerging.
I shared this working text at an International Women's Day Panel during a conversation on how to create safe spaces on set. It was written after consulting two different psychotherapists on what it means to hold someone accountable."
Model Bill of Rights (working)
I have a right to know how many people will be on set beforehand.
I have the right to ask to see reference images before arriving on set.
I have the right to have someone I know drop me off and scope the space if I haven’t been there before.
I have the right to a private changing area.
I have the right to refuse putting on a wardrobe piece if I know I will be uncomfortable wearing it.
I have the right to be asked for my consent before being touched (ex adjusting hair and wardrobe).
I have the right to take breaks when I feel fatigued.
I have the right to state my personal boundaries and to have them respected.
I have the right to end the shoot if at any point I feel it is an unsafe environment.
For freelance, unsigned models that don’t have the protection of an agent to vet photographers:
Receiving basic messages such as ‘Let’s shoot’ or ‘Let’s collab’ don’t give the context for what the shoot is. Is the photographer communicating with you what their vision is?
When being approached for a shoot, ask for a moodboard to get a sense of concept, styling, posing to see if it aligns with what you want to do.
Before your shoot day, ask to meet for coffee in a public place. Use this time to get to know them and their personality. What is their working style? Do they value your input and ideas? Do you feel comfortable around them?
Ask for a call sheet prior which should list important details like the location, the schedule, and who will be on set.
Look up the location of the address beforehand to check if its in a studio space or a personal home.
If it is just you and the photographer alone, bring a friend to drop you off. Ask your friend for a second opinion to gage someone’s character.
Your photographer may come up with new ideas to try during the shoot, but they are merely suggestions. You can always politely decline. Gut instinct and intuition is a powerful tool!
Physical and emotional safety is the bare minimum ask. As is mutual trust and respect. This is how images are co-created.
PAM LAU is an independent photographer based in Toronto and Montreal. Co-founder of Ecru; a grassroots education initiative for photographers and filmmakers facing cultural, financial, and institutional barriers to entering creative industries.
Follow Pam on IG: @pamelaloud
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