One “trending” topic I see over and over in online discussions about modeling is the idea that only some of us are “real.” People say things like:
“Real models are published.”
“Real models don’t pose nude.”
“Real models always get paid.”
“Real models don’t do this.”
“Real models always do this.”
“Real models don’t shoot this genre.”
And I see this for photographers too. People want to assign being “real” to those who shoot certain styles, who use certain equipment, who have certain training or goals, etc.
I think it’s all foolishness. Why in the world do people think it’s upon them to decide who is “real” and who isn’t? Modeling and photography are both creative. They are subjective (meaning each person sees each creation differently). There are certain techniques and technical aspects that may be generally accepted as “good” such as types of lighting and having images in focus, but in the end we all have personal tastes. And even if we can all agree that a photo is “good” that doesn’t make that model or that photographer more “real” than those who created an image that fewer people like.
Similarly, I can completely agree that some models are more skilled at posing than others. Some have a more versatile or sought after look. Some may behave more professionally or take things more seriously. But they are all real. Good or bad, skilled or not does not equal real or not real.
What I think it really boils down to is that some people feel threatened by others, some people need to be able to say they are better than others to supposedly increase their perceived value, and some people are just focused on the money (or rather, how they feel someone else is “taking” money from them). And by the way, I really dislike the idea that people think that other people take money from them. If you want to earn money, you have to offer something that people in your market want to pay for. You can be absolutely fantastic and if your market isn’t able to pay or isn’t interested in paying for whatever you offer, you have to understand that and either change what you offer or move yourself to another market. And if someone else is getting the work you want, then you find a way to compete by making yourself a better option, not by tearing the other person down. Moving on…
I’m not saying I don’t understand how some people feel discouraged or slighted. I’d be lying if I said I never felt jealous of another model or if I said hadn’t come across a model who made me question how they were so popular, but I can’t remember thinking “They’re not a real model.”
Being a model is something you do. You can do it well or you can do it poorly. Sometimes skill and experience are factors in a model’s success and sometimes it’s more about look or even just who you know. You’re still a model. You’re still modeling. You’re real. Focus less on being real, because you already are real, and focus more on improving, on enjoying what you do, and on your creativity.
I think models and photographers need to stop feeling so threatened by each other and stop trying to tear each other down to make themselves look good (and that actually doesn’t work so well). We also need to stop supporting people who do this, stop agreeing with them, stop pandering to them. I’m not saying you have to like or work with everyone or anyone. I’m just saying we should respect each other and be okay agreeing to disagree or just look the other way if we see a style that we don’t care for. Let’s not feed those who troll for comments on these things. If we must respond, let’s show them kindly that we don’t agree with their generalizations and negativity.
Just a bit of a final note: I’m not saying everyone who wants to be a successful model can be. Obviously that takes hard work, networking and, for models, it does mean you’ll need a look that works for your market and the genres you want to shoot. What I am saying is that anyone can model if they can find photographers (or artists) who are willing to work with them.
I do realize that my opinion is just that, my own opinion on this topic. I also realize that I may not have a popular opinion on this. Maybe once upon a time I had a different opinion (I honestly don’t remember that ever being the case, but I don’t remember everything), but this is how I feel now and I feel strongly about this. I know not all areas are like this or it’s not as big an issue in some areas, but in my area it runs rampant and it’s going to take a lot of us to put a stop to it.