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September 17, 2010 10:05 AM   Subscribe

The shady, predatory side of the modeling industry is the one former model Sara Ziff wanted to portray in her new film “Picture Me: A Model’s Diary”, which chronicles five years in the lives of a group of models, following them backstage and beneath the makeup." An interview with Ziff regarding her then-upcoming film appeared on MeFi in June, 2009. The documentary opens today in NYC. Official Site. Trailer. At New York Magazine's Website: Webisode 1 / Webisode 2.

Initial reviews have panned the film: New York Post / New York Times / Slant
posted by zarq (38 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
A Q&A with Ziff and filmmaker Ole Schell will take place tonight and tomorrow evening in Manhattan at the Angelika.
posted by zarq at 10:08 AM on September 17, 2010


Modeling, by definition, is just the art of aesthetic appeal. If it didn't have a "shady" side, it wouldn't have any sort of external validity.

I'm still going to check out the links.

For educational reasons, of course.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:21 AM on September 17, 2010


Modeling, by definition, is just the art of aesthetic appeal. If it didn't have a "shady" side, it wouldn't have any sort of external validity.

I don't know what this means.
posted by shmegegge at 10:24 AM on September 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


Wait ... There's a non-shady, non-predatory side of the modeling industry? THAT'S the story.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:41 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the Gawker link, a model explains how she was 'drugged' at a party: It was a small bar, really crowded and the line was like ten miles long. So some guy just handed me a bottle of champagne. I drank some and he disappeared. Soon after I felt really sick and had to run for the door.

This sounds like the dumbass side of modeling to me.
posted by grounded at 10:48 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Modeling, by definition, is just the art of aesthetic appeal. If it didn't have a "shady" side, it wouldn't have any sort of external validity.

This isn't an abstract logic exercise. It's all well and good to say, 'well, good couldn't exist without evil, har har har,' but in the real world, these are real women, many of whom are underage, who are apparently being taken advantage of by the people they are working for and associating with.

The creation of art doesn't require suffering for it to be appreciated by the masses. In that same vein, a model's appearance in an advertisement doesn't require that she be drugged against her will and date-raped in order to give her work some sort of arbitrary external validity.
posted by zarq at 10:52 AM on September 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


"I was working for Air France Magazine, and my agency calls me and says, "One of our girls had an allergic reaction midway through a shoot and had to go." They told me she'd gotten hair in her eyes while they were cutting her bangs. They said "Get down there!" It was really weird when I got there.... Then the photographer was shooting and he's using a UV flash, and it burned the first six layers of the whites of my eyes. Six cell layers. It even burned the assistant's arm.

After the shoot is finished, I'm rushed to the hospital and the other model was already there being treated for burns. For three hours I worked on that shoot while the girl who went before me was being treated in the hospital. They knew what had happened to her and they still had me work."


So is that's building some external validity? Or should she should be happy her "dumbass" got free tanning?
posted by anti social order at 11:00 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


From the NYTimes: Timed to coincide with the end of New York Fashion Week, “Picture Me” is worthless as social commentary and clueless as a film.

Ouch.

Say what you like about “America’s Next Top Model,” any single episode of Tyra Banks’s campy confection offers more insight into objectification and disposability than this film in its entirety.

Yessss! And that is why I love it. Who's watching this season?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:03 AM on September 17, 2010


This sounds like the dumbass side of modeling to me.

If nobody has ever handed you a drink at a party, you go to very lame parties.

I really don't get what's dumbass about drinking a drink you've been handed at a party. Should she be bringing a royal taster wherever she goes? People should have a reasonable expectation that nobody's going to drug them.
posted by padraigin at 11:06 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


People should have a reasonable expectation that nobody's going to drug them.

People, yes. Models, no.
posted by wcfields at 12:00 PM on September 17, 2010


People, yes. Models, no.

And I'd just gotten the bad taste of rereading the old thread out of my mouth. Models apparently aren't people now? WTF?
posted by kmz at 12:31 PM on September 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


Yeah, seriously...im a big asshole in real life too. Im conscious of it. That's why i always get my own drinks unless a bartender is involved. And I'm a dude.

It really sucks...but the world would be a less crime ridden place if all women got their own drinks too.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:34 PM on September 17, 2010


It really sucks...but the world would be a less crime ridden place if all women got their own drinks too.

That is an incredibly distorted worldview you've got there.
posted by padraigin at 12:44 PM on September 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


Wait a second, UV Flash?

All CCDs I know of have an IR/UV cutoff in front of them (I know, I had one removed from a D70). Why would anyone use a flash that had a strong spike in UV? And how would it ever have been used more than once?

Not saying I don't believe something like this happened, but UV?
posted by effugas at 12:56 PM on September 17, 2010


In fact, why would anyone manufacture such a flash?
posted by effugas at 12:56 PM on September 17, 2010


In fact, why would anyone manufacture such a flash?

I doubt this is what the story is referring to, but there's an interesting new technique whereby you take a low-light visible-light image and combine it with a near-infrared or UV image taken with an invisible IR or UV flash. The result is a high-quality image without the annoyance of a visible light flash. It was presented at SIGGRAPH 2009.
posted by jedicus at 1:09 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Things that will always be disgustingly predictable: if women in the culture industry are abused, men and women on metafilter will make callous, obnoxious remarks about how it's all justified because they're in the culture industry.

On the UV flash, I'm guessing it created some kind of strange visual effect that the photographer thought was amazing.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 1:10 PM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


This isn't an abstract logic exercise. It's all well and good to say, 'well, good couldn't exist without evil, har har har,' but in the real world, these are real women, many of whom are underage, who are apparently being taken advantage of by the people they are working for and associating with.

The creation of art doesn't require suffering for it to be appreciated by the masses. In that same vein, a model's appearance in an advertisement doesn't require that she be drugged against her will and date-raped in order to give her work some sort of arbitrary external validity.


a) You assumed I had even visited any of the links. It should be obvious if you look at the last part, I hadn't.
b) Everyone read my post the exact opposite of the way I intended. I didn't offer it as a defense of the modeling industry, it was meant a condemnation of society.

So, when I'm speaking about "aesthetic appeal" I'm pointing out that society as a whole dictates, to a degree, what they consider the ideal of beauty. So, if we're taking the extreme example from the above links (the drug rape), then shit yeah it is a reflection of society.

In America and much of the West, it's the ability to smile and look pretty when you've feel like you've been raped by your employer and then drugged to keep you working. Seem familiar??? Granted, this is the illusion vs. reality deal, so on the other side of the magazine ad, these women actually are raped and drugged, while we are figuratively for the first part of the equation (well, most of us guys, anyhow).

Also, just keep one thing in mind before you make this a sweeping condemnation of the modeling industry as a whole. My neighbor works as a model. Business suits, casual wear catalogs, small national spots, etc. Is modeling the only place people are getting drugged and raped? No. Are all models workign in the enviornment described above? Quite the opposite. It'd be like reading Hammer of the Gods and assuming Yonder Mountain Song Band or Elvis Costello are doing horrible horrible things in hotel rooms.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 1:20 PM on September 17, 2010


I don't know what this means.

Please read my last post and tell me if it makes any sense, now. I guess I don't really know what vocal inflection people imagine when they read what I write.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 1:23 PM on September 17, 2010


The abuse of models is the inevitable result of capitalism. The models are regarded as capital, that is to say, tools for producing a product, and therefore are treated as tools, rather than as human beings. They are no different from any other worker, except for their high profile, and the potential of extremely high reward that is dangled in front of them in order to persuade them to submit to being abused.

Certainly there are exceptions, but for the most part, the the central credo of capitalism, that everything is capital, dominates the situation.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:37 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


it burned the first six layers of the whites of my eyes. Six cell layers...three hours

She stood there for 3 hours with her eye balls burning? How can that qualify as anything but dumbass?
posted by biffa at 2:01 PM on September 17, 2010


It really sucks...but the world would be a less crime ridden place if all women got their own drinks too.

Now I'm imagining the mad schemes of diamond heisters and computer hackers foiled by the simple act of getting your own drinks.

I think there is a screenplay in this, maybe a trilogy.
posted by poe at 2:01 PM on September 17, 2010


She stood there for 3 hours with her eye balls burning? How can that qualify as anything but dumbass?

I find this insensitive. Anybody else?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:37 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anybody else?

Yeah. Me too. Did she even *know* what was causing the pain? Maybe she wanted to "tough out" the shoot. Maybe she needed the money. Maybe she though it would go away soon.

"Someone did something to her eyes and hurt them, and she still tried to do her job! What a dumbass!"

I'm not going to judge her. Maybe it wasn't smart. Maybe she was a trooper. Maybe both.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 3:15 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's every possibility that she wouldn't have connected the UV flash with how her eyes felt until much later. Also, what the fuck with using a UV flash on a person? Reminds me of a certain scene from Blade.

It's a shame that this particular movie supposedly isn't very good; I'd love to see a thoughtful documentary about the modeling industry and its insanity.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:37 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I doubt this is what the story is referring to, but there's an interesting new technique whereby you take a low-light visible-light image and combine it with a near-infrared or UV image taken with an invisible IR or UV flash. The result is a high-quality image without the annoyance of a visible light flash. It was presented at SIGGRAPH 2009.


I'm familiar with the work -- I was working on this myself; had an IR flash and everything. (The modified body was stolen from my luggage on a trip to Taiwan. Never check expensive stuff, guys.)

I took a look...yes, there are definitely flashes and lamps with radiation in UV (300nm-400nm). But I can't imagine they compare to the amount of UV you'd pick up under that ball of fire in the sky...people just don't understand how bright that thing is.

I'm not doubting she had to go to the hospital. But I wonder if this wasn't actually a reaction to makeup, instead of UV.
posted by effugas at 3:41 PM on September 17, 2010


I've seen the inside of at least one modeling agency and it is truly another dimension. If you think pageants are bizarrely whorish and dehumanizing for children, then you really don't want to know. Humans are product. They are the equivalent of furniture, or mascots. Being treated this way has an intense Skinner Box effect on many models and when you're still going through puberty, you act out in ways that are terrifying and acquiesce to things you never expected; at 14 or 16, your judgment skills are still developing in regards to adults and work.

Example: I knew a driver who picked up the girls from the airport, took them to shoots, dropped them at the model apartment. He came in one day and removed his shirt. His shoulder was purple with deep teeth marks from a 14-year-old girl screaming for him to buy her cigarettes and him refusing. I have seen how the girls are really chosen - they stand in a corner, the "agent" eyeballs them, and the REAL agent sits down the hall at an angle looking at the girl's reflection so they can't see each other and either nods or shakes her head.

Models are meat falling into grinders, and the few who did okay - specifically, I mean Nick and Bonnie Stahl and Alexis Bledel, all of whom I've met and knew when they were young teens - moved on quickly to acting or other work. I salute those who have the tenacity to succeed, quit the business, springboard into other careers or simply emerge unscathed, really.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:08 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


She stood there for 3 hours with her eye balls burning? How can that qualify as anything but dumbass?

I just want to point out that this is basically the libertarian "Why-don't-you-just-work/live-somewhere-else" argument that gets trotted out whenever some workers get poisoned by deadly chemicals or somebody builds a coal-fired power-plant next to a daycare or something.

Jobs and homes are not portable. You would think the current recession would make this obvious to most people but apparently it isn't. My cousin is a compliance engineer who has been at the top of his field for 25 years and recently got laid off when his department went to China. His specialty isn't in demand anymore, because people in other countries are willing to do it for a tenth of his salary. His only options now are entry-level positions in other fields. We're talking $100,000+ per year previously to now slightly above minimum wage.

And he's an engineer. Imagine if your only real skill is looking pretty. People are not dumbasses because they are willing to do dangerous or degrading work to make ends meat. They're just people. If it's anyone's fault, it's ours for letting it happen.
posted by Avenger at 4:51 PM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


"a) You assumed I had even visited any of the links. It should be obvious if you look at the last part, I hadn't.
b) Everyone read my post the exact opposite of the way I intended. I didn't offer it as a defense of the modeling industry, it was meant a condemnation of society."


thats like the textbook definition of a post that adds nothing but noise to the discussion. I get mefi has issues with posts like this, but damn.
posted by anti social order at 5:10 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Google Jean Luc Brunel
posted by IndigoJones at 5:36 PM on September 17, 2010


I just googled Jean Luc Brunel
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:53 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: it was meant a condemnation of society.
posted by dhartung at 6:57 PM on September 17, 2010


Nice to see Misoginy alive and well on MeFi.
posted by signal at 7:39 PM on September 17, 2010


Things that will always be disgustingly predictable:

Unhelpful comments like this one I'm typing right now.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:22 PM on September 17, 2010


She stood there for 3 hours with her eye balls burning? How can that qualify as anything but dumbass?

You know, instead of trotting out the "LOL models are dumb!" reaction, a more appropriate reaction might be "Wow, this industry is fucked."

Because it is. Some of the reasons the model stands there getting her arm burned are as follows:

Jobs are hard to come by and a job with a well-regarded photographer can literally make your career. It is very hard to walk on an opportunity you've been working towards and waiting for for years. Pain is often part of the job, and you really don't want to get a reputation for being a "difficult" model. If she walks, she is likely to get dropped by her agency for being unprofessional, but she will definately never work with that photographer again. Worse than that, modeling is insular and gossipy, and it's possible nobody will work with her again.

Oh, and there's that whole "getting paid" thing - if you don't complete the job you don't get paid. Do you think Model #1 collected a check? If she's lucky her agency picked up her hospital bill. More likely, they fired her.

So that's why you stand there for three hours - because that's the industry you work in, and that's how it works.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:17 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's ridiculous that any derisive commentary towards any female is regarded as misogyny whether she deserves it or not. phl-leeze get-over-yourselves. This all makes for a very intolerant atmosphere and not what feminism was meant to be at all. In referring to a young woman who made a bad choice by accepting a of Champaign bottle from a stranger and drinking it- the expression "dumbass" does not have any connotations of discrimination, stereotyping, objectification, oppression, or patriarchy. You would make such associations if he were calling a guy a dumbass. Again get-thefuck-over yourselves.


Anyway It is a very harsh business and I'm glad she found her calling in a field outside of that unforgiving world. When I first came to Manhattan 10 years ago, plenty of folks told me about my "look" and that I should pursue this or that. lemme tell ya, the victimization happens to women and men alike. These people either wasted your time or wanted your money. I refused to pay a dime of my money because my thing was "if I was really meant to model then they should pay everything because I can't look any different". They either want me or they don't. 1 stylist who had a beautiful wife and daughter kept tugging at my pants at closing time in his shop in the fashion district and a certain "fashion guru" who was a professor at FIT, tried to get me inebriated to loosen up for his shoot. He had me put on baby oil, strip to my boxer briefs and by the close of “the shoot” tried to take off my underwear. They were actually good/friendly people but at 18 they scared me away from the whole thing.

It seemed a virtual underworld filled with wannabees, lusty and predatory people, recreational cokehead, would-be-professionals. A far cry from the slick shoots and a-glitz-tocratic world I imagined it would take me to. I told the guy to e-mail me the pictures and never came back. All in all I got a free trip to Vegas out of it and likely, in the physical splendor of my youth, some of the best pictures to be taken of me in my life.
posted by Student of Man at 3:03 AM on September 19, 2010


She stood there for 3 hours with her eye balls burning? How can that qualify as anything but dumbass?

just to be clear about this to everyone:

even stupid people have the right not to be injured by harmful working conditions.
posted by shmegegge at 10:47 AM on September 19, 2010


This all makes for a very intolerant atmosphere and not what feminism was meant to be at all.

I am glad that we have an expert on the aims of all historical feminists here. Tell me, what was feminism meant to be?

I think that calling people dumbasses is not particularly tolerant but no one here who has been drugged at a party or in a bar is here anyway! So why worry about being tolerant of them, or giving them the benefit of the doubt?

Oh wait, lots of women have experienced that, including women who "got their own drinks" from a bartender at a bar. Dumbasses! Going out in public and trying to socialize at a bar!
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:41 AM on September 19, 2010


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