Awhile back I was asked on a meet-up, what my policy was on full-figured models. I’m sure I did the dumb Ben Carson slow-blink a couple of times as if I forgot how to speak or what planet I was on. I felt better about it later because I soon realized that no one is as dumb as Ben Carson except for maybe his parents for spawning that vile imbecile. But it did take me a moment to understand the question as I’d never been asked that before. So what is our policy on full-figured models?
The policy is that we don’t have a policy on full-figured models. I replied to the model, “I wasn’t aware that we needed one.” She went on to explain that the Helios portfolio and specifically the published models tend to lean strongly toward very lean, very fit, very athletic physique-types. Well I can assure everyone that that is not by design. It is more than likely by chance. You see, we just find whoever is qualified for a look or style of photography we’re shooting at that time. I never pay any mind to who the scout is sending me but more on that model’s ability to do the look; her commitment, her enthusiasm, her personality and her talent. We’ve never cared what her dress size is unless we anticipate getting clothing for her or having something made. I seldom even ask height unless it’s necessary for how I’m composing the image later. We generally get everything we need to get from her model portfolio specifications (everyone calling themselves a model should have one) and/or our face to face interview/casting.
On the other hand, if this is a full-fledged Helios magazine submission event and it’s a all-hands-on-deck affair, we’re gonna want to know everything; every detail. But that’s not in any attempt to type-cast or shut someone out. It’s more of an attempt to insure that what we do get and what we decide to shoot is well suited for the model’s body type.
What we will not do is to make some special accommodations to overcome how a model feel’s about his or her own body. That’s personal. Those are his or her own insecurities that must be faced. Our changing what I want to do to make you feel better about yourself isn't our responsibility. That’s another personal responsibility. If you’re simply unqualified for what we have planned and those qualifications are never based on your body but more on your ability and your creative malleability then that’s just tough luck. Now if a client commissions us to shoot a model for a size 2 gown then we will go find a size 2 model. But that also applies to any other size model. We have no strong disposition toward anyone. Now if you’re a freckled-faced Ewok and you’re trying to get me to shoot beauty shots for free so you can submit images to Neutrogena to get a modeling gig then we’re gonna have a problem. Someone may find that beautiful but it’s not likely to get you far. Some things can’t be changed. You simply need to go to someone that caters to the Ewokian (is that a word?) sense of beauty.
Even as I write this my stomach churns as it sounds more like an attempt by me to defend what we shoot and how we shoot. That is not the goal here. The goal is simply to say if you’re qualified, if you’re paying, if you’re available, if you’re talented and/or suitable to what is being sought then we’re game. There is no policy on body-type being for or against anyone (my stomach turns yet again). Yet, what we have noticed is that those so-called “lean, athletic and stereotypically runway body-types gravitate to us.” That’s not exactly our fault and I make no apologies for that. The truth is, never in the entire history of Helios did we ever get many full-figured model shoot requests paid nor unpaid. Could that simply be because they themselves feel inhibited, shy or maybe fearful of judgement? I don’t know. That’s not for me to say. I can’t know how someone feels about themselves. I’d always hoped for a more diverse port when I first started out but I have what I have and we’re very pleased with it.
At first I was offended by the question from that model. I soon got over it because after looking back through all of my work I can see how someone might think that. Oh, “Helios only wants hot, lean girls.” Uhhh, who doesn’t? That is, if you think lean, athletic girls are hot I guess. Personally, I think anyone that is qualified to meet the criteria of the look is hot - whatever that may be. That’s just us. I do believe this particular model was projecting her experiences from other people onto Helios. I get that. She may have been turned away a few times for less than legit reasons and I can empathize with that.
This isn’t the only question of it’s type to rear its head over the years. We’ve gotten the emails saying, “you don’t shoot enough African models.” A week later we’ll get, “you don’t shoot enough Caucasian models.” Or, “where are the Asian models?” “Why don’t you shoot more red-heads?” They never stop to think that maybe Asian models never came to a casting or a meet-up. Maybe African models aren’t interested or maybe Caucasian models aren't that plentiful. We don’t know. Maybe because we were shooting swimwear at the time and redheads don’t generally do a lot of swimwear due to skin sensitivity maybe? Ever think of that? Just guessing here. Or maybe there were no French models that wanted to shoot glamour at that time. We can’t chase every theory and we will never try to. This is a matter of you can’t please everyone all the time.