Working with what you’ve got – Finding collaborators

Note: I was recently sent an anonymous “ask” via tumblr, inquiring as to why, in the opinion of the person posing the question, there is a lack of diversity in my portfolio.

I face two primary limitations on my photography, so far as whom I photograph: self-selection bias and resources.

The first constraint, which I’ll address in this post, is straightforward: I can’t coerce people into posing for me.

Most of my collaborators approach me, not the other way around; my selection criteria is simple: if you strike me as sane and serious, I’ll work with you. (I do use modeling network websites, as well, but for every 30-40 messages I send, I only get 5-10 responses, resulting in 1-2 shoots.)

If everyone who’s expressed interest in working with me had actually followed-through on that interest, I’d have a much wider range of ethnicities, body types and more men. The people who tend to be comfortable enough to follow-through and meet with me, prior to a shoot (I almost always insist on a go-see with inexperienced models, to get a sense of them and address their concerns and expectations), let-alone commit and show-up at a shoot are, at least in the past year, female, younger, thinner and caucasian, which is true of the larger pool of “art models,” in general. (It’s been a point of frequent discussion in my Conversation project and will be explored in an upcoming post.)

In 2013, I was contacted by more than a dozen men expressing what I consider serious interest in me photographing them. Two were definitely seeking to shoot something more explicit than I typically do, four of them stopped responding as soon as I mentioned the word “nude,” and two of them were fashion models who got cagey, expressing fear that it would affect their careers and the rest couldn’t be bothered to set-up a meeting. As a result, I only photographed one male model — AJ Michaels — and only during one of the four shoots he was present for.

Similar tales can be told about a number of women of color, older women and women with body types that are atypical of my portfolio. (I had three such shoots fall-through, on a single weekend in New York, this past summer.)

And then there’s the 10-12 shoots that I’d confirmed, some with professional models (a number of them women of color and a couple of ‘plus size’ models), wherein I was “flaked” upon or they canceled with little, or no notice — it happens to everyone, but I can’t photograph someone when they don’t show up.

In short: if you want me to photograph you and (as a preview of the next installment) I’ve got the time, I will photograph you.