It’s no secret that Calgary isn’t the fashion capital of the world. God only knows why. Wearing lululemon leggings, a North Face ski jacket, and Ugg boots for the winter; then cowboys boots, with bootie shorts that don’t even cover the bootie, and the smallest bandana one owns in lieu of torso coverings during the one month of summer is the epitome of chic. Life has its mysteries I suppose. Conundrums aside, Calgary does have a very small modelling community and even fewer booking clients. In a time where more often than not companies will seek out celebrities to be the face of their campaigns instead of booking a freelance or agency model, it’s harder now more than ever for models to find sustainable paying jobs in most places, let alone Calgary. The reason that Calgary is so special in this regard is because not only do clients want to book and not pay models for work, they also want to book and not pay photographers, videographers, wardrobe stylists, and hair and makeup artists.
My roommate is thrilled, and so is the grocery store cashier, gas attendant, and pharmacy clerk, when I tell them, “Don’t worry about the bills, I just did a shoot where I got paid in publicity and exposure, so real money is irrelevant.” The only thing that would be amiable to this arrangement is my liver. For some incomprehensible reason too many Calgarians think it’s justified to book an industry professional for work under the pretence of “exposure” for pay. This then begs the question – what even is, this so called exposure? For me, exposure is donating my time to a charity fashion show or gala, photo-grapher workshop, or a magazine publication shoot. Such events are often graced by veteran industry professionals or booking clients seeking new talent to connect with. Running out of business cards in a night is exposure. Being able to add walking for a new designer to my resume is exposure. Exposure is not spending umpteen hours doing my own hair and makeup, styling my own wardrobe, then shooting for another several hours for those photos to remain in a portfolio or a photographer’s website (which clients looking for models hardly ever look at). What a crock of shit.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge advocate of collaborating with other like-minded professionals to build our portfolios. Due to successful Time For Print shoots I have not had to pay for a single photo in my possession. Continuously diversifying one’s look and playing around with new creative styles is how one gets ahead in a very competitive business. However, if my portfolio already has a fashion portion, why would I agree to work for free for more of the same photos and the promise that it will lead to paying work? I wouldn’t, because I’m not a nitwit. I don’t feel #blessed that every photographer in a 50km radius wants to snap some pics. I check references, see which photo is the worst (because the next one could be of me), and decide if I never want to be paid by this photographer in the future. If you’ve worked for free before, why would you get paid later? You don’t, which is why people in the industry tend to collaborate with the same people instead of people who could be potentially paying work. Rationality such as this however does not stop some individuals from becoming salty.
Two professional cameras ($2000-4000), lenses ($1000), flashes ($600), stands/memory cards/triggers/camera bag ($500-$1500), a Mac/PC ($1300), backup hard drives ($100), editing software ($100 annually). Including some other variables it costs roughly $10,000 plus personal time and effort to start a photography business. For an HMUA, costs start at around $5000 to allow for the purchase of specialty makeup in every colour of the rainbow to suit clients of any ethnicity. Furthermore, a wide range of hot tools and a copious supply of hair spray is needed to manage any hair type. Add on the additional cost of replacing products when they’re all used up or broken it becomes pretty apparent that starting up a professional business is first and foremost a continuous monetary investment. Models must continuously keep fit (gym membership $30-$100 a month), keep up with the latest fashions ($250-$500 a season), carry a complete kit of makeup and hair tools ($200-$300), and carry a fully stocked model bag (portfolio $time, nude and black heels $75-$100, nude and black bra/underwear $75-$150, white and black t-shirts $20, white and black tank tops $20, jeans $20, white tennis shoes $20, black bikini $20). Models must also make a monetary investment of around $1000 to start in the business. Additionally, serious models will invest in learning a skill that will make them stand out from the competition or more qualified for a particular job (horse riding, ballet, yoga). Those serious enough to make these investments do so under the premise of gaining a monetary return, not to dick around and hope someone eventually discovers them.
Not too long ago I was browsing an Alberta Models forum to see if anything interesting would pop up. Lo and behold, there was post by a woman requesting a videographer to tape a wedding. The payment, a TFP with her at a later date. So not only will the unfortunate bugger who agrees to this not get paid for two separate jobs, but end up with what will probably be an inexperienced model that thinks holding the same smile in front of a camera is an art form. Most importantly no money for the time on set, hours of editing, and time taken to produce the final product. Just this weekend I posted an ad for paying work through ongoing projects this summer. Compared to the two or three replies Mrs. Arrogant received, I have received around thirty and more every day. When you promise suitable compensation for the use of a skill you don’t have, which is why you’re looking to hire a professional that does have said skill, you will get in return a high quality of work representative of the prestige of the industry. If you’re not willing to pay those you hire properly, but with the promise you’ll tell your friends and maybe they’ll like to work with you, try looking towards your local bar – or Craigslist.
- Laura Diment