A Floyd County mother brought her two teenage daughters into my studio one day and said she wanted "model portfolios" produced for each.
The oldest — 16 — wore way too much makeup along with short shorts and a bare-midriff blouse, revealing a navel ring and a tattoo. The youngest — 13 — wore a t-shirt that read: "Jailbait and worth the risk."
I told the mother — as politely as my rising anger could permit — that I didn’t do that sort of thing.
"Your daughters are under 18," I added.
"That’s OK," she anwered. "You have my permission."
I tried to explain that no one’s permission would be adequate to allow me to take such photos.
"Well," she replied, obviously upset. "Can you recommend someone who does?"
"No," I said. "I can’t and I won’t." I explained to her that the kind of glamor photography that she wanted to get her daughters into was is a shady business. Just ask Radford’s Bob Shell — convicted of involuntary manslaughter and other charges for his role in the death of a 19-year-old "glamor model" in his studio.
She left and I sat for a long time, trying to calm down. My God, I thought. I went to high school with this woman’s mother.
More than a dozen area mothers have brought their underage daughters into my studios since 2004, wanting me to produce "model" portfolios for their children. They want to place these photos, featuring 12-to-17 year old girls, on "teen model" web sites that feature underage children modeling minuscule swimsuits, lingerie or other scanty attire. One wanted nude photos of her 17-year-old, saying the girl "could be in Playboy some day."
This kind of thing happened more frequently when I lived in the St. Louis and Washington metropolitan areas but I never expected to run into it in Floyd. When I mentioned this latest incident to a friend who has a daughter in high school, she said: "I know who you’re talking about."
Like many photographers, I’ve done my share of nude photography. My subjects have been adults who are free to make thier own decisions and most were professional models. One 25-year-old in Floyd County wanted a "glamor portfolio" to give to her fiance as a wedding gift.
But I cannot understand parents who want to exploit their children in such a way. It makes me want to vomit…and then take a shower.
(Photo above for illustrative purposes only. The model for the photo was 22 when the photo was taken.)