That one time a gross photographer kissed me

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Backstage Alice & Olivia F/W 2011

Test shoots are essential for models to keep their portfolios up to date. Half of my photos are from jobs and the other half are from non-paying shoots. I hate test shoots. There’s a 50/50 chance I’ll actually receive the photos. Sometimes I receive great quality photos which I can use for my portfolio. Other times I never even see photos or hear from the photographer after endless emails asking for the pictures. I hate those photographers, they can go fuck themselves for wasting my time. I needed a new beauty shot (close up face photo) so my agency set up a shoot with a guy named Vital.  It was scheduled for a Saturday.

I walk to 37th street and reach my destination. I buzz the number 8 because that’s what my email said to do. Nothing. I buzz again. Nothing. I try to open the door, it’s locked. Fuck. I look in my email for any contact info but all I have is the photographers name. I google “Vital photographer NY” and find his website instantly, I locate his contact info and call that motherfucker. Voicemail. Are you fucking kidding me? I leave a nice message and wait. 15 minutes passes. I call him again and leave a message.  I wait 10 more minutes and decide I’m bailing. I start walking back to my car when I see Vital and his makeup artist walking up to the door. He doesn’t acknowledge me.

“Excuse me, are you Vital?”
“Yes, who are you?”
“Melissa, the model you’re shooting today.”
“Oh, I thought that was at 3?”
“Nope, 1 o’clock, exactly as it says here in the email you sent to my agency yesterday.”
“Oh, you’re right, I’m supposed to be shooting another girl right now, could you come back later?”
“No, I can’t, sorry.”
“Okay, well, maybe I can squeeze you in.”

MAYBE you can SQUEEZE me in? This is your mistake, not mine, Vital. After a few more minutes of talking he says he can shoot me but I’ll have to wait until he’s finished with another model. Okay, whatever, I’m there, I might as well wait. We walk up to his studio on the 5th floor (the elevator is broken and its 90 degrees). His “studio” is a tiny room with some light boxes and prints hanging on the wall of other models he’s shot. Half of them are naked. Awesome. Feeling really good about that. I walk back to another room where the makeup artist is set up. Vital goes back into the other room and continues shooting the other model. After 30 minutes of waiting I walk to where Vital is. I see the other model and recognize her. She’s the new 17 year old also with my agency, so I wave to her. She smiles uncomfortably. I see that she is wearing jeans and a strapless bra. It’s a beauty shoot which means it’s going to be a super close-up shot of my face, including the 3 zits on my chin, and the wrinkle forming underneath my right eye that I can’t stop obsessing over. Thank god for Photoshop.

He finishes shooting the model and tells me to have a seat. I sit on a tiny stool behind 50,000 watts of light burning into my face. I take off my shirt so I’m now just wearing a strapless bra and some cutoff shorts. He adjusts the light and stares at me awkwardly.

“You look like someone, a model.”
“I look like me?”
“Paulina Porizkova.”
“In my dreams, but okay.”
“Will you be my Paulina?”
“Um, what?”
“You are gorgeous, look at those eyes, you will be my personal Paulina.”

He continues to shoot, but after each photo he pauses and creepily smiles at me.

“Your eyes, they are incredible, I’ve never seen anything like them.”
“I want to get a side shot, cold you take off your top?”
“No I’d rather not.”
“Oh I won’t show anything.”
“I don’t feel comfortable doing that, sorry.”
“But you are a model, you have to do that.”
“No, I don’t. I came here for beauty shots of my face, not my body.”
“It’ll just be your shoulder and a very slight side shot of your breast.”
“I’m sorry but no.”
“Okay, your loss.”

Eat shit, Vital.

(It may seem like I’m being a little too harsh on Vital, but he deserves it, trust me)

He comes over to where I’m shooting and puts his hand on my shoulder to turn my body slightly. My body jolts like a surprised cat.

“Geeze, relax, you are so uptight, what is wrong?”
“Nothing, I’m fine.” I say with the fakest smile

He takes more photos, pausing after each one to stare at me awkwardly. We finally finish an hour later and I put my shirt back on.

“Oh but I wanted to do another look, more dramatic makeup.”
“Oh, umm, I really have to go.”
“I think we could make some really beautiful images with more makeup.”
“The ones you took will be okay, I don’t need anything crazy for my book, thanks though.”

I continue to pack up my shit and make my way to the door. Vladmir comes in for the hug. Oh HELL no. I’m not a hugger. I barely hug boyfriends. My parents didn’t hug me until I was 20. I’m not a casual hug type of person. The word hug gives me a panic attack. You know who I hug? My cat. I do NOT hug strangers, especially ones that look like Gorbachev wearing Ed Hardy.  I pretend like I didn’t notice his advance and walk towards the door.

“Not even a hug? I am sad.”
“Ehh, I got that germ phobia thing.”
“Right, did you walk here?”
“No, I drove my BOYFRIEND’S car, and parked my BOYFRIEND’S car a few blocks away.”
“Ahh, well I will walk you to your car.”

It’s daylight, it’s safe. I don’t need to have any other conversation with this guy other than a fake thank you for a great photoshoot.

“I will walk you, I insist.”

He’s just following me at this point.

We walk down the 5 flights of stairs and out onto 37th street. I’m standing at least two foot away from him and slightly in front of him.

“You know, your beauty is very unique, I’ve never shot someone like you.”
“Oh really? That’s nice.” I say as I’m texting my boyfriend about how creepy this asshole is.
“I would love to take you for coffee sometime.”
“I have a boyfriend, sorry.” LIKE I SAID 50 TIMES ALREADY YOU MORON
“That is ok, it will just be friendly.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t.”

He is not getting the hint. Actually, I take that back. He IS getting the hint but is one of those assholes who won’t take no for an answer. He tries to grab my hand. I give him the “are you fucking kidding me?” look and walk faster up 8th avenue. He continues to follow.

“I have a very nice house in Bensonhurst, have you been there?”

I (we) continue to walk a few blocks, I see the parking garage where my car is.

“Okay, there’s my car, gotta go, thanks!”
“Wait wait wait, Melissa, I cannot let you go like this. When can I see you next?”
“I don’t know man, sorry.”

I walk to the valet counter and hand him my ticket. It’s $60. Fuck me.

Vital says “At least let me pay for parking.”
“Nah I’m good.”

He waits at valet with me. He won’t leave. My car arrives and Vital hugs me, I let him do it because I didn’t want him to get angry or cause a scene. I remove his arms from around me and he kisses me. I want to throw up.

“I told you I have a boyfriend.” As if that was the sole reason he shouldn’t be kissing me.
“I’m sorry, let me make it up to you, I will buy you coffee next week, I will text you I have your number saved.”

Ugh, I forgot that I called him before the shoot. Now this creep has my number.

“I will call you soon, Paulina.”

The worst part of this story is I get the photos a week later and they’re AMAZING, so of course I use them for my portfolio. Now every time I open my book to show clients I’m reminded of that fucking creep, Vital.

19 thoughts on “That one time a gross photographer kissed me”

  1. Yeah I completely get the hug thing, I don’t even shake hands if I can unawkwardly avoid it. It’s not specifically a germ thing, I just rarely care for human contact. 1 of many reasons I like Fall -don’t much care for Summer, I’m a lot more comfortable (especially in more crowded places) when I can where a zipper hoodie 24/7 and not drop from heat stroke…

  2. Whaaaat. That is crazy. That sounds like a scary situation. Do they teach models at your agency to make their own shivs or anything for protection? Because maybe that should be a new policy…

    Also, cats are great huggers, I approve. Except mine because she’s feral. But other people’s cats, yes.

  3. you just know vlad is a total boss.

    next time he should just tell her he wants to bang and no more photos taken if she doesnt lol

  4. I love that you have so many equally-creepy guys replying to this with equally-creepy comments. Amazing. Never thought I’d feel bad for a model, but fuck, I feel for you, girl.

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