I am asked many different questions about my work. But lately a couple of questions seem to come up more than others. As an aside I think the number 1 question by non industry types is how can I be around such beauty and control myself. Now that I think about it... maybe that question IS illustrative of the larger issue at hand.
Yes, I am well aware of the previous "careers" many of my models have had. Thank you for your concern. I've been doing this for years. I don't work with any model... of any age... I have not explored their background. I will not call names here or point to specifics but I am aware that some of the models I have worked with have had "questionable" careers prior to my working with them.
Some of the models worked in an industry that often can be seen as exploitation. Especially for those models that started at a very young age. I don't agree with Child Modeling for the internet. I wish it did not exist. I believe some of it is illegal. And the rest of it is just in bad taste and can be exploitative. Teen "Glamour" Modeling for the internet I don't care much for either. Teen Glamour isn't exploiting these models but some of it is in bad taste and IS exploiting the work of pioneer photographers like Jock Sturges, Ellen Von Unworth and David Hamilton, to name only a few.
These legitimate pioneers risk(ed) the quality of their lives, families and their careers. They dared show us, or rather remind us, what we all know inside. There is beauty in nudity. Nudity of any age. What is more, that the sexuality of young women is not the work of Satan but rather of God. It can be admired. It can be opined. It can be aesthetically pleasing. And... it can be recorded and shared.
The Teen Glamour nipple-slip business is art by its most basic definition. Just like the low level human instinct it is created to quell it is a simplistic lower art form. But art it is. And that is where its commonality with the great pioneers ends.
Ignorance is the only reason to fear nudity at any age. What is more dangerous to children? Any hour you pick of MTV or David Hamilton's "Laura"? What is actually obscene the work of Sally Mann or Toddlers in Tiaras? Who contributes more to our cultural cannon Perez Hilton and TMZ stalking the low hem and plunging neck lines of young celebrities or Ellen Von Unworth's early nudes of an "under age" Adriana Lima?
It is my goal to contribute to a body of work that is judged on its artistic merit not the age of the model or the amount of cleavage, pubic area and buttocks exposed. To this end... once again I says YES I know the history of some of my models. When I worked with the first model who was once a "Teen Internet Model" I was impressed by this young woman's professionalism and energy. She was prompt with all her email responses. She was on time to the shoot. She was prepared and she contributed more than a pose and a smile!
I wondered if this was a fluke. At this point I had been working about 7 years as a wanna be photographer. I had experienced the "model boom" that the interwebz gave us in the late '90s. Garage Glamour, OMP, South East Model Index and countless other attempts to hook up models with photographers. Or... wannabes like me with wannabe models. This young model taught me that age did not have a causal relationship to model tardiness, no-shows and poor modeling craft.
A few years later I contacted two other web models to work with me. I did my normal research and found that photographers who worked with them highly recommended these two sisters. Again, the two sisters were more professional and better at their craft than models older than they. It was certain. The web models have better experience and understanding of a professional commercial relationship than most other models.
That's it. That's my secret. I work with professional models. Professional by the only standards that matter. They have talent at their craft and they understand a commercial professional relationship. Sure, the exception makes the rule. I have had models of all kinds behave unprofessionally. But my experience suggests and my last shoot in the Ukraine proves that former/current webmodels are a legitimate and fruitful source of talent.
As well, if I can create with them a level of work that stands in stark contrast to their earlier work. Something that isn't exploiting or obvious. Something that is a contribution to a historical cannon of work rather than a fleeting homage to man's baser instincts... then I think I have given the model something much more valuable than payment for a job well done. I contributed to the model's professional legitimacy. In some small way distancing her from a "career" that was questionable at best.
I don't think of myself as some kind of White Knight or Hero. Saving these models from a life of exploitation. The truth is we don't know the dynamics at work in these models lives and too many assumptions are harmful. Further, these models give me much more than I give them. I'm the lucky one. I'm the one who has a permanent catalog of adventures and stories, traveling all over the world in search of beauty.
My working with these models is in no way an affirmation of their previous work. Rather it's a small step to get out from under it. But all that is secondary to creating something beautiful and enjoyable.
Now you know. There is nothing sinister here. I'm not hiding anything. This is an endeavor to create something beautiful. Maybe pay my credit cards off and buy an extra lens or two. It's no more complicated than that. Since my craft isn't prose let me answer you this way... How can I control myself when I am around so much beauty? The same way every other professional photographer does. By being professional!