Can Photographers and Models be territorial?
We all have our favorite models and photographers we like to frequently work with for simple creative exploration and editorials for publishing. As the years have gone by and as skills and techniques becomes more refined, I find my list quite short. In fact, I think it is safe to say that it is very short.
I’ve long since grown beyond the days of port building unless it is decided that we want to explore a different market and a take a different direction to broaden our appeal to another target audience. In those instances, I will certainly reach out to different people to see if they want to be apart of that process. Otherwise, it’s business as usual - paid assignments, commercial work, test shoot; rinse and repeat. There is nothing more rewarding than doing what you love to do every day and we certainly love it. There is no doubt of that. But how do you feel about your favorite model or photographer stepping out on you to work with someone else for creative work? As a model have you caught yourself thinking, “wait a minute, that’s MY photographer. What is she doing with him?” Or does the photographer occasionally think, “hold on. I thought she was with me. Did I do something wrong?”
I’m of the mindset that no single person can do everything perfect all of the time. Or that everyone isn't as easily available all of the time. A photo friend down the street can give you enough images for your Facebook feed to get you thru for a while. But when it is time for grown-up photography she’ll call me right? LOL! I know models that do not shoot lingerie so what am I to do? I call a model that I shoot lingerie with when I need to shoot a lingerie series. I know models that do not shoot fashion and prefer to shoot swimwear. What do I do? I call someone I know that does fashion if I need to. It’s just important to me to have a diverse enough contact list for the things I want to explore creatively. However, I still keep a very short list of high-quality contacts. I’d rather shoot less with high-quality talent than more and get mediocre inconsistent talent.
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to artistic collaborations. I certainly can’t do makeup and hair styling. But there are a few photographers that can do that as well as take a decent picture. Therefore, your favorite model may sometimes venture out for some creative collaboration on her own without you because it’s just a better arrangement. To the photographers, you can’t be everything to everyone. Besides, if a photographer is dead set on a certain style of images all the time, the model may need to mix it up a bit. Additionally, she certainly doesn’t need permission from the photographer.
The same can be said the other way around. I’ve heard from a few models that have seemingly felt betrayed when I seek out their model friend or someone else they know in the industry. Hey, How was I supposed to know that they were rivals? I’ve received an email or two in my time worded “I would have done that look for you. Why did you have to contact HER or HIM?” It is as if some people can get a little jealous over collaborative choices. It isn’t dating but it can often feel a lot like you’ve been cheated on when your favorite photographer starts photographing the rival model you really can’t stand to even be in the same runway show with; you know the one that you secretly wish heel would break when she walks out. LOL! Okay not that bad but you’re getting my point I think.
What do I do then? I do what I’e always done. I focus on quality. I focus on taking better pictures and spoiling the people you like to work with the most. I actually encourage them to seek out an assignment or two so you don’t ever feel taken for granted it happens. Don’t laugh. It happens. They’ll come back and appreciate you THAT much more. Your favorite collaborations will always come back to you when they want the best or they’ve had their feel of trials and tribulations and now want consistent mind-blowing results. They don’t want to feel taken for granted either, which is one more reason to diverse your collaborations when you’re starting out.
I’m in the “been there and done that” phase so I don’t venture out far from my fav creative partners. I still step away for the occasional test shoot but when I really really want my best model or models I know exactly who to call. It’s an understanding that took years to nurture and develop so we know what we are creatively to each other and where we stand. We know that we each want to be first on every consideration or idea. Now we are. I can’t even fathom trying out an idea without considering this model or models first. They get first choice on everything.
I wouldn’t say I am territorial in such regard but there has been a couple of times over the many years when I’ve been a little miffed about where someone’s head was. Of course, art is very subjective but if you’re a photographer then you have had those times when your favorite model takes an image with someone else and you say WTF?! That’s terrible. Why didn’t she call me if she wanted to try that? I would have done that so much better and why didn’t she even ask me if I wanted to do it? Now we both look bad because I’ll be that photographer who worked with THAT model that shot with the new photographer… and it was horrific.” LOL! Then I check myself and remember that my focus should be on my own level or proficiency. I encourage everyone I meet to shoot as often as they can with only the best photographers you can find; not just anyone. But remember that creative exploration is one thing but a dumb ass decision is another.
“Quality over Quantity.” That is my motto that I want everyone I collab with to employ. I don’t really care who any collaboration or paid assignment I have ever had works with after me so as long as they keep that philosophy in mind. Shooting with someone far better than I am doesn’t tick me off. In fact, I love seeing people succeed and doing bigger and better things. It justifies the faith they had in me. You wouldn’t want anyone to do worse after you would you? That’s crazy. That would mean they make consistently bad decisions so what are you? A fluke? An accident other than a deliberate intelligent decision? But shooting with someone far worse… well that can get under my skin a little even now. LOL!
I am acutely attuned to who is encouraging each other on social media and websites. I read post and notice when and what models are actively commenting on other models and what photographers are promoting and commenting about other photographers work that they admire. Or are they only commenting on their own pictures that get posted? The people that share, comment, like and post on other work not involving themselves are people I want to work with because it displays confidence and people good enough at their crafts as to not be threatened by petty territorial pissings (to borrow a Nirvana song title) :)
All we can do is encourage each other and try to build each other up creatively rather than the other way around. To me, a person that actively encourages other people is not only being positive but they are showing that they are confident enough with themselves to understand their worth. So when a favorite model of mine shoots with multiple other photographers, eventually when she sees me or contacts me it will be something like, “I can’t wait to shoot with you again. You have no idea how I’ve missed your eye. Here are my ideas if you have some time to talk about our next adventure.” Isn’t that validation enough? Focus on your craft. No one wants to see anyone fail but if you focus on making yourself better and encourage others positively things have a way of working out without having to be so dogmatically territorial. Yet, when you're out and about with one of your favorite collabs, there is a certain level of comfort one gains from being referred to as MY friend and MY photographer. Or when I introduce my friend by her name followed by she is the best model that has ever been in front of my camera. It shows a certain creative kinship that illustrates to everyone around that I know this guy or this model. He is the best and we've been thru the creative thick of it and I trust no one else more than him or that I prefer her over everyone I've ever worked with before.