PICTURE ME: A MODEL’S DIARY
Can’t remember now why I didn’t write about this last year, when the film first came out. But better late than never.
Sara Ziff is a fulltime student at Columbia University, but she still finds time to model once in a while, as long as it doesn’t interrupt her studies. This schedule is nothing like what she had just a few years ago, when modeling was her profession, and when she witnessed and experienced firsthand the rampant exploitation of the industry. As she documents in her film Picture Me: A Model’s Diary, modeling is one of the last unregulated industries in the world, and thus is rife with abuse.
Ziff’s words express it better than I can, so a few excerpts from her interview last year in The Guardian:
What’s shocking, listening to Ziff, is how prevalent, and how far up the fashion food chain, sexual exploitation goes. “Vulnerable girls are being put into a potentially predatory environment,” says Ziff. “What’s in the agency’s interest is not always best for the girl, and if she’s in a compromising situation, she doesn’t necessarily have anyone to turn to.”
. . .
“It doesn’t happen in front of anyone. It happens in the dark recesses. Pretty much every girl I have talked to has a story like it, but no one talks about it. It’s all under the radar because people are embarrassed and because the people in the industry who are doing these things are much more powerful, and the model is totally disposable. She could be gone in two years.”
. . .
“It is an inherently unbalanced and hierarchical relationship when you pair a 15-year-old girl with a 45-year-old man who is trying to create a sexualised image. You are asking for trouble.”
. . .
She tells the story of a 16-year-old model who complained when a 45-year-old photographer made a pass at her. “Her agency said she should have slept with him.”
“Imagine being an eastern European model from Latvia who can barely speak English and is supporting a family back home. Imagine how compromised they are.”
Read the whole article if you’re interested in learning more. Picture Me isn’t available on DVD yet, but there are lots of clips on-line, including at that article, at Sara Ziff’s My Space page, and on YouTube, of course. I’ve added it to my Netflix queue.