When does a model own her own image?
September 16, 2020 8:05 AM   Subscribe

"I exchanged the safety of those hundreds of Emilys for one image — an image that had been taken from my platform and produced as another man’s valuable and important art." Model Emily Ratajkowski writes for New York magazine: Buying Myself Back (cw: assault, revenge porn)
posted by everybody had matching towels (23 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Man, I was sure this was going to be about that shitlord Te**y Ri**ardson but then of course there are plenty of disgusting "photographers" out there making a name and a million bucks by getting models drunk and taking advantage of them both in the moment and then years and decades later.

Hot tip to models: never EVER go to a lingerie or nude shoot without a chaperone, and NEVER eat or drink anything you are given on set. Bring your own snacks and bottled water. If the photographer "can't work" with your own chaperone present, they're going to play power games with you. This is unprofessional, unacceptable, and all too god damn common. Signed, a photographer.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:20 AM on September 16, 2020 [65 favorites]

Holy shit. Jonathan Leder is a real POS. Richard Prince is no prince himself. WTF
posted by riverlife at 9:15 AM on September 16, 2020 [8 favorites]

Since there seem to be no other consequences, one has to hope that Leder gets a karmic payback at some point.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:22 AM on September 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Jonathan Leder's webstore imperial-publishing.com is hosted by Shopify who do have an abuse form where you can report this kind of thing.
posted by Lanark at 9:46 AM on September 16, 2020 [7 favorites]

The whole world of "fashion" photography needs to be burned to the ground. All of it. I feel terrible for her and it makes me sick that that I may have in some way contributed to ever making anyone feel uncomfortable in front of my lens. I've grappled with the idea of male gaze and it's impact on my photography and even though I've always conducted myself professionally on every editorial shoot I've ever been a part of, I made a conscious decision many years ago to stop doing anything that might be considered fashion.

Edit: Just checked and the photographer's instagram is gone.
posted by photoslob at 10:06 AM on September 16, 2020 [5 favorites]

That was an infuriating read. If I ever meet that guy (very unlikely) I will be hard pressed not to punch him in the face. And Mr. "Let me steal this image off the internet and charge $100K" too.
posted by corvikate at 10:32 AM on September 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

Still reading it but had to stop for a moment at this bit:

(When the fact-checker I worked with on this story reached out to Jonathan about what happened that night after the shoot, he said my allegations were “too tawdry and childish to respond to.” He added: “You do know who we are talking about right? This is the girl that was naked in Treats! magazine, and bounced around naked in the Robin Thicke video at that time. You really want someone to believe she was a victim?”)

because ewww fuck this guy why is he still working? what a pathetic asshole. Sorry I have nothing more polite and elaborate to add, but fuck I do wish there were a lot more female photographers so female models wouldn’t run into assholes like this
posted by bitteschoen at 11:30 AM on September 16, 2020 [30 favorites]

Apparently he's taken his instagram private, although you know he'll be back in six months.
posted by suelac at 11:35 AM on September 16, 2020

Jonathan who? Fuck him. Something similar happened to me once. I hope he gets his comeuppance.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 11:40 AM on September 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

FFS, that's horrible. It's an exploitative business and sadly this is probably far from the worst things that happen at—and as a result of—these shoots.

Chaperone, agent or friend in attendance needs to be mandatory. I don't know how that could ever be actually enforced though, as two adults agreeing to a photo session is an impossible thing to regulate.

Show business is just plain creepy. I find myself drifting away from any and all interest in it the older I get... aside from occasional, specific films and shows I'm really interested in.
posted by SoberHighland at 11:42 AM on September 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Just as an addendum, one of the reasons I love Noomi Rapace is because she accosted Te**y Ri**ardson at some awards ceremony ... think she threatened to clock him?? ... at least I have this memory that she did, but I can't find the right search terms to link to it. Anyway it's a good dream.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:38 PM on September 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

I found Ratajkowski's article a very insightful and introspective examination of very complex, intimate and personal situations. I get the distinct feeling that she is going to keep fighting this battle, and will win it. She may not own these photos, but she most definitely owns them.
posted by chavenet at 12:43 PM on September 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Yes, this was a very thoughtful, introspective, and well written piece.

Hot tip to models: never EVER go to a lingerie or nude shoot without a chaperone, and NEVER eat or drink anything you are given on set.

Well, yes, except you are 18, and every message you've ever seen about your self-worth is twisted and you might even think you should know better, but you've internalized these well enough to get into the business and achieve some success. And all these people running this industry are older, wealthier, more powerful, and there is strong internal pressure to accept their authority. Hell, she had an agent who endorsed this whole thing.

And she alludes to the fact that this wasn't an isolated incident, rather just the creepiest one where the financial exploitation was especially egregious. While bringing a chaperone seems like great advice, hearing her story, it is not at all hard for me to consider the kind of awful dynamics that are considered normal and acceptable to a young woman in the middle of this.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:02 PM on September 16, 2020 [20 favorites]

^ I don't think anyone here is disputing that this dynamic is prevalent

Where do you start to try and change the dynamic? It starts somewhere. Perhaps a protip comment in MeFi is at the very shallowest end of the pool, preaching to the converted, but as an uncle with two nieces who are getting into dance lessons and performance this issue is becoming more and more pressing. We have to keep stating and acting/being the way we want things to be in the world, don't we?
posted by elkevelvet at 1:13 PM on September 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Everyone who has a copy of this book should reflect on the fact they paid money to own and look at photographs of a woman being sexually assaulted.
posted by EllaEm at 1:33 PM on September 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

When I was in my early 20s I had A Thing with a decade-older photographer who repeatedly asked to take pictures of me, and sometimes, as I slouch into middle age, I wish I had agreed. That way I'd have a way to look back on a time when I was younger and less topographically complex. Mostly, though, I'm glad that he will never own a piece of me and that I was able to make that call without putting my livelihood on the line.

As an older millennial, I feel like I run into a sort of generational divide sometimes between people who grew up at a time where there was a focus on being sex positive/ggg, versus people who grew up with an emphasis on enthusiastic consent. In the former case, the emphasis is on moving past repression and prudish taboos around sexuality (i.e., sex is bad and evil), with the idea often being that we're all adults here so everything is game and everyone should be into it (i.e., sex is, in fact, good). In the latter case, the focus shifts toward qualifying the conditions under which sex can, in fact, be good: "sex isn't inherently bad, and it can be good if it's consensual and everyone is capable of consenting, and there aren't creepy dynamics that allow one person to manipulate others. Oh and being asexual is totally okay, too."

And I am so glad that shift happened because while, on paper, the idea of a grown-ass mid-career photographer trying to hook up with an early 20s model is legal and above board, the actuality has been awful, exploitative, and disempowering for too many people for too long. Which is not to mention the awfulness of the shitty, older, mid-career photographer owning and profiting off of someone's likeness in perpetuity even as they publicly slag them off.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:39 PM on September 16, 2020 [18 favorites]

This was such an excellent, heartbreaking essay, and I hope it's the first search result for Jonathan Leder's name ahead of his BS "art" forever more.

Richard Prince is the worst, while we are at it.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 1:49 PM on September 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

Dance, especially ballet, is incredibly fraught because of the massive power differentials, the desire for larger and larger audiences, the absolutely stringent demands of the physical form & the explicit judgement of it and, to be frank, the rankly disgusting history of the art form. Please always be available for any youngster who is interested in pursuing it, make sure you always have their back and are always reinforcing positive messages rather than the negative ones that may be used to manipulate them.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:10 PM on September 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Slightly tangential, but I found this pretty surprising from the article: The piece was a reproduction of a photo from my first appearance in Sports Illustrated. I was paid $150 for the shoot and a couple grand later, when the magazine came out, for the “usage” of my image.

That seems like a RIDICULOUSLY low rate, especially coming from such a popular brand. Hell, I make more than on local commercials, and I'm an ugly dude.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:24 PM on September 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

That seems like a RIDICULOUSLY low rate, especially coming from such a popular brand. '

I noticed that also. Just from her name recognition, I had imagined her to be far wealthier than she sounds in the piece, where she is considering selling artwork to be able to fund a lawyer.

I suppose that is just more proof that everyone is earning money off of her, without it being controlled by or benefiting her.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:40 PM on September 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Just from her name recognition, I had imagined her to be far wealthier than she sounds in the piece, where she is considering selling artwork to be able to fund a lawyer.

I'd have assumed that too, since she also owns a clothing line, and her family is a bit more well-off than this article makes it appear, but that doesn't actually mean she has access to that money herself, or that it's not tied up in assets or whatever. (Her mother is a university prof, and in addition to being a high school art teacher, her dad is a painter and the family has had enough wealth to own homes simultaneously in three countries since before she got famous.)

Leder is definitely a scumbag, but I *had* heard of him before all this--though this is worse than what I had heard prior. He was sort of like Chase Lisbon, but creepier and less well-known. Though Imperial wasn't formed just to publish the polaroids book; he and model/artist Amy Hood had been running it for several years prior and had published a number of things (Hood, as far as I know, hasn't been associated w/ him since before the polaroids book).

I don't know anyone involved in this, but I do know some people who used to be involved on the periphery of that weird half-fashion/half-porn "art" magazine space that Leder belongs to. Some are on the up and up, but unfortunately a lot aren't (hence the *used to be* involved), and one definitely hears things.
posted by Fish Sauce at 4:37 PM on September 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Ratajkowski happens to be knowledgeable about art and this is a really great essay that should be taught in art schools.

Leder did not make those photographs himself - it was a collaboration with Ratajkowski, however creepy and unfortunate. We always think of the photographer as the only 'artist' and 'owner' of the photographs they take. There should never be a situation where the photographer continues to be the sole person to profit, seemingly for the rest of his life, from images the subject does not want published.

We should start to think of images of people as being collaborations between the person in front of and the person behind the camera, no matter the power differential between the two.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:34 AM on September 17, 2020 [17 favorites]

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:38 PM on September 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

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