It’s not uncommon for colleagues and even those standing on the sidelines to question the true meaning behind a romantic relationship of two people that have complimentary roles in life. Like a doctor and a nurse, a loan officer and a real estate agent, a lawyer and a paralegal, a flight attendant and a pilot, or an actor and an actress, it’s no different in photography when a photographer gets involved with a model—people question it. Date the make-up artist and no one cares!
There are rare exceptions where people do care about photographers that date models like when supermodel Petra Nemcova’s boyfriend, photographer Simon Atlee, died when the couple was on vacation in Thailand almost 12 years ago. Recorded as one of the worse tsunamis in modern history, this natural disaster took the lives of more than 200,000 people in 14 countries, Nemocova barely survived as she clung to a palm tree for eight hours.
Professionalism Is Questioned
The first thing usually questioned is professionalism. I know that for a fact as I’ve dated plenty of models in my time as a professional photographer—that’s whom I’m constantly exposed to in my profession—and I’m not exempt, my past relationships were, and still are questioned.
My philosophy is simple, if a photographer truly loves and cares for the model they are dating and does everything to make the relationship work, there is nothing unprofessional about the relationship—the relationship isn’t about their professions, it’s about their hearts. The catch 22 here is that you have to date first, like any budding relationship, to see if it will work—rarely is it love at first sight anymore than two other people dating—it works the same way! A great relationship takes time to build.
The sad part, the photographer is always questioned in this type of relationship, rarely is the model’s professionalism questioned, especially if the photographer is a male. Bottom line, if both parties involved have honest intentions and are not opportunists on each other, there is nothing unprofessional on either side of the relationship. It’s not uncommon in any co-working environment where two people naturally fall in love for one another—it happens everywhere, from waitresses with bartenders to singers with musicians.
Then you have the relationships known today, in all relationships not just between photographers and models, as the FWB, or friends with benefits. It happens, we are humans and the need for sex is something called instinct; we are born with it. If it’s this type of relationship this doesn’t necessarily make it unprofessional as long as it doesn’t interfere with one another’s work assignments. It happens in every profession, from police officers with other peace officers, to even models with other models, it’s human nature.
The Relationship Will Suffer From Perception
Unfortunately though, more bad movies are made about model and photographer relationships gone wrong than pilots and flight attendants, or doctors and nurses. A great example is the movie, Star 80, where the photographer boyfriend eventually kills his model girlfriend—the true story of Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratton.
Still another movie released in 1961 that won an Oscar and a Golden Globe, plus 11 other nominations or awards is La Dolce Vita, a movie that showcases stories of a philandering paparazzo photographer. While there were many movies in between involving photographers, in 1974 The Photographer, was released about a famous photographer that uses his models to satisfy his bloodlust through bizarre murders. And who cannot forget Pretty Baby featuring Brooke Shields, the story of the lonely photographer obsessed with the “precocious 12-year old prostitute in New Orleans Storyville district?”
Sadly, between these movies, The Eyes of Laura Mars, and many others, plus the media, it’s created a perception that photographers are no different than professional athletes and rock stars—and while there are some bad apples, they exist in all professions; some professions are just more public than others because of what we do and often because we’re cast, or a model is, in the limelight for the public to judge.
Relationships between two people, of any profession, are going to have their issues, good and bad, it’s not called a relationship because it’s perfect. People love, people argue, people smile, people frown, people laugh, people cry, it’s this thing called life and being human. No one is perfect, if we were, life becomes boring; would you date a boring person?
The Pros and Cons
Do I regret those past relationships, some maybe, and in fairness to my last relationship with a model, she was a licensed make-up artist and hairstylist that I convinced to model, and she did. She was my muse and that’s the biggest pro in dating a model as a photographer, you are loving, living, and photographing your inspiration—a muse is more than a model, a muse motivates you more than any other model ever will.
Muses are special, they are rare, but not all muse and photographer relationships lead to romantic relationships nor should that be a requirement for a muse to exist. Usually when a photographer and a muse discover their photographic relationship it’s because they feel a natural connection through their joint passions in creating great photography.
The con when it comes to dating a model, muse or not, many want her, and it’s not easy watching other photographers photograph her especially in sexy styled shoots no more than it’s easy for her to watch her photographer lover photograph other sexy models. It’s not easy and often this is why there are so many failed relationships in these two professions and this adds even more to the bad perceptions of photographers dating models.
The irony with these relationships it makes everyone better in the end because to fully appreciate and understand love, you must first experience heartbreak, usually more than once. You’ll get hurt, you’ll feel the pain, but you’ll learn to move on because unlike physical pain, there are no magic pills to mask the sting. I often wonder if this happens to the pilots, flight attendants, doctors, nurses, lawyers, paralegals, actors, actresses and others that date in such complimentary professions too.
My own words
No relationship is easy. I had a lot of doubt in the beginning as well if this could actually work, as I see myself as a very professional working photographer. Once I let go of those thoughts and feelings I decided I would give it a try. After all, it is not the model I liked, but the person she is. I have shot a lot of what many would consider, very attractive models, but don't think I ever connected farther than a good friend. It just wasn't the attractiveness; there has to be something else.
For that special person, you want them to succeed, so you do all you can to further their chosen and also protect them. As she is becoming more and more into herself, she is better then ever before and that does not go un-noticed. Her DM's will get filled with "requests" for casting. Not all will be "nice" and some will be downright rude. You just have to have a thick skin and know that what you have been teaching has been heard. After all, I also do some very "sultry" shoots, so it is hard on her too and we would be hypocrites if we allowed it to get the better of us. Just know that many will want, but as long as she wants you, things will be okay. After all, we have a life together outside of the model/photographer relationship.