Predatory Photogs in the Fashion Industry Are Kind of a Thing

And it needs to change ASAP

Katherine Singh
(Photo: Getty Images)

Looks like the KarJenners may need to find a new personal paparazzo. Celeb photographer Marcus Hyde is in some seriously (and totally earned) hot water after being called out for predatory behaviour, both online and IRL.

The latest fashion world controversy comes after Sunnaya Nash, a model and student in Los Angeles, messaged Hyde after he took to Instagram, posting an Instagram story asking for models to shoot with at no charge. “Who wants to shoot” he wrote, over an image of a woman a shower, wearing a skimpy, see-through bathing suit. After initially sending photos of herself to Hyde, Nash tells BuzzFeed that Hyde, known for some of the KarJenners’ most infamous photos (including Kim in *those* braids),  requested that she send nudes. After telling Hyde that she would pose nude for him, but wouldn’t send naked photos via DMs, Hyde then told her that the photoshoot would cost $2,000.

“Gotta see if your worth it,” he wrote. When she wouldn’t give in, he said, “Find someone else. I’ll keep shooting celebs,” and later told the model to: “Suck a fat big dick.” *Super* classy.

Instagram account Diet Prada later shared Nash’s and Hyde’s exchange, and it quickly went viral. After Diet Prada first put Hyde on blast, Nash received numerous messages from other women alleging predatory behaviour from the photographer, including sexual assault. The allegations are honestly horrifying.

View this post on Instagram

Gross @marcushyde . @kimkardashian @arianagrande , come get your boy and teach him some decency. Last night, Los Angeles model and interior design student @sunnnaya replied to the celebrity photographer’s Instagram story seeking models for a shoot. What transpired in their DM was nothing short of the typical predatory douchebaggery you’d expect via shady Instagram “castings” by slimy dudes. With her followers backing her up and sharing her post, Hyde had a simple reply: “suck a fat big dick”. That’s sure to get you points with the ladies, Marcus. • #marcushyde #kimkardashian #kendalljenner #khloekardashian #arianagrande #photographer #celebrity #casting #model #shady #gross #kuwtk #wiwt #ootd #film #digital #camera #celeb #behindthescenes #dietprada

A post shared by Diet Prada ™ (@diet_prada) on

Following those accusations, similar stories emerged about Victoria’s Secret photographer Timur Emek after model Haley Bowman shared a scary encounter she says she had with him after he repeatedly forced her to touch his crotch during a photoshoot. Like with Hyde, numerous more stories of creepy and sexually aggressive behaviour followed suit.

View this post on Instagram

@Timur Emek, you may as well delete your account now lol. The New York-based Turkish photographer who has shot for @victoriassecret , is the latest to join the ranks of sleazy, clout-abusing celeb/supermodel male photographers who feel entitled to women's bodies. Along with the forced crotch-grabbing account from @byhaleybowman , Emek also offered "help" in the industry to @lizamarieju in exchange for "some fun". His response when asked to clarify? "I am a man… think about it :-)". 🤢🤢🤢. The photographer also went as far as lying to Turkish model @deniiztekiin in June 2017, telling her that her agency at the time had already approved a topless shoot, which of course didn't actually happen as he had already been on their agency blacklist of photographers. It's a relief to know that there are agencies out there that refuse to be complicit and hopefully more will step it up, but for every model with an agency, there are dozens of girls who are navigating independent modeling work on their own. The stories on the rest of the slides are unfortunately all too familiar. #TimesUp for these shitty men. • #model #instagrammodel #timuremek #photographer #model #supermodel #celebrity #predator #creep #victoriassecret #runway #vsfashionshow #modelingagency #alessandraambrosio #candaceswanepoel #vsangel #romeestrijd #clout #lame #womensrights #power #liar #dietprada

A post shared by Diet Prada ™ (@diet_prada) on

In response to the numerous troublesome stories (and direct call-outs from Diet Prada), both Ariana Grande and Kim Kardashian West—who have previously worked with Hyde—commented on the allegations in their Instagram stories. On July 22, Grande took to Insta to express her disgust, directly addressing “models/artists in LA/anywhere.”

“Please do not shoot with photographers who make you uncomfortable or make you feel like you need to take your clothing off if you don’t want to,” she wrote. “If you want to, sick, but if you don’t please don’t. If they tell you you have to pay more money if you’re clothed that’s f–ked and I’m sorry that has happened to you. I promise there are so many respectful, nice, talented photographers out there,” the singer wrote. Grande then urged her followers to look out for each other, asking them to tag photographers they’ve worked with and like.

A day later, Kardashian West also jumped on the ‘gram to issue a similar statement, saying that she was shocked at Hyde’s behaviour—although neither star named Hyde directly. “My own experiences have always been professional, and I am deeply shocked, saddened and disappointed to learn that other women have had very different experiences,” Kardashian West wrote. “I stand in full support of every woman’s right to not be harassed, asked or pressured to do anything they are not comfortable with. We cannot allow this type of behaviour to go unnoticed and I applaud those who speak out.”

And while we’re thrilled that Grande and Kardashian West are speaking up, we’re also a little hesitant to celebrate—because these callouts aren’t the first; and, if the industry doesn’t do something about it, they probably won’t be the last.

This isn’t an isolated incident

“I definitely wasn’t surprised,” says Shivani Persad, a Toronto and New York-based model and co-host of More Than Model podcast, of the allegations against Hyde and Emek. “Which is not fun to say, but it’s the truth.” Persad, who has been in the industry for 10 years, says she’s experienced photographers not respecting her boundaries and has heard similar stories from friends.

Because you guys, it turns out that predatory photogs are kind of a thing. In December 2017, prolific (and always controversial) photographer Terry Richardson was accused of sexual assault by two models, who both allege that Richardson exposed his penis and forced it into their faces and mouths during their photoshoots. Richardson denied both women’s stories. Up until that point, accusations of sexual misconduct and offering high-profile photoshoots for sex plagued the photographer, with little repercussions on his career.

And only a year earlier, famed photographer and Vogue darling Mario Testino was also accused of making unwanted sexual advances towards over a dozen male models.

And it goes beyond just on-set behaviour. Sexual harassment at large has been an issue in the modelling industry since pretty much the beginning, so much so that it’s almost entrenched in the industry. From little-to-no-privacy in backstage changing areas to a culture that posits: “It’s part of being a model,” as an excuse for bad behaviour, models have had to put up with a lot—often at the price of their own comfort and safety.

“I think it’s because [there’s an idea] that models are kind of disposable,” Persad says of the culture. “So it’s very easy, especially when you’re in fashion, to be like, ‘OK, so she’s cool for this season,’ but next season, they’ll say ‘Oh, we already used her.’ So when you’re that disposable, why would you even deserve respect?”

It’s great that people are speaking out, but we’re skeptical

Which is why, despite the outcry, we’re a little worried. That’s because when it comes to *actually* punishing offenders—the fashion industry has a history of forgiving, or at least forgetting.

“Cancel culture” is an interesting beast. The act of “cancelling” someone for wrongdoing can be swift and severe—but it’s also not super permanent. In a CBC story from December 2018, Jesse Kinos-Goodin says, “While being cancelled has become the red scarlet letter of the social media age, it’s written in washable marker, for things can be cancelled just as quickly as they can be renewed.” And the examples are all around us: Aziz Ansari can have a problematic sexual encounter with a woman, Nikki Minaj can work with a convicted sex offender and Chris Brown can beat up his GF. All were cancelled, but inevitably all have clawed their way back; if not into our hearts, at least into our wallets.

In the fashion industry, this is commonplace as well. In November 2018, couture fashion house Dolce and Gabbana had a temporary downfall after releasing some seriously racist advertisements  in the lead-up to a runway show in Shanghai, China. The ads, which were pulled, show an Asian woman struggling to eat Italian food with chopsticks, while a narrator asked if the food was “too huge.”

The show was cancelled amid the controversy and the release of racist messages from D&G founder Stefano Gabbana. At the time, analysts predicted the brand would take a $500 million hit. But, despite a brief outcry and boycott, D&G remains firmly worn on the bodies of celebs.

And it remains the same for predatory photographers.

Despite some brands like Condé Nast International pledging to boycott Richardson, the photographer still receives celebrity support. In an April interview with Teen Vogue, designer Tom Ford stood up for the photographer and his friend, telling the magazine that he loves Richardson. “I have to say that I never in my entire life saw any of that with Terry,” Ford said of the allegations. “One of my assistants went out with Terry for two years and he was the kindest, gentlest person in the relationship.” Which, tbh means *sh-t all.* As we know from the downfall of many of our childhood icons—one person’s experience is not indicative of everyone’s experience.

And Richardson continues to be followed on social media by celebrities like Miley Cyrus and fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and British Vogue.

The latest round of accusations—and the industry’s seeming shock and awe—serves as a reminder at how quickly we can (sometimes willingly) forget patterns of misbehaviour; and that some industries allow it. So who’s to say that this outrage isn’t just another flash in the pan?

So what needs to happen?

For real change to happen, Persad says there has to be accountability on the part of the agencies; who should vet photographers—and listen to their clients. “It’s really up to agents to make sure that the girls are safe,” she says. “Make sure that these guys aren’t creepy, make sure that if a girl tells you, ‘Hey, he was really weird with me,’ that you  don’t send another girl there or say ‘oh, that’s just how he is.'”

As a member of Model Alliance, Persad also points to the RESPECT program, a 2018 initiative headed by founder Sara Ziff, that allows models to file complaints through a confidential process—protecting them from retaliation and guaranteeing an investigation by an outside party—as a great tool, one that more agencies and brands should put their support behind, and models should brush up on and join. “It’s really the only union like structure that we have,” Persad says.

 

It’s not just up to the models

And, it’s important for designers and brands to also keep an eye out for, and keep their minds on, the safety of the people who make their clothes look so bomb.

Canadian designer Hayley Elsaesser says that the safety and comfort of her models is always top-of-mind. “We have had some sheer pieces in the past and I always ask the agencies or models themselves if they’re comfortable with partial nudity before styling them in those specific pieces,” Elsaesser says. “Since we work with a lot of non-agency, or open-casted models we have to be especially careful with that sort of thing. Even swimwear might be too revealing for some people if they are inexperienced, which is totally understandable.”

Elsaesser—the mind behind her namesake brand—says she always ensures that there are proper changing areas on set, and makes sure to tell models they can dress in the bathroom if proper facilities aren’t available. “I take this very seriously,” Elsaesser says.

And, she agrees, so should other designers.

“At the end of the day, it is about awareness and communication,” she says. “Even if we [as a brand] think something is totally fine and acceptable, that doesn’t preclude a model from feeling uncomfortable,” she says. “So we try to always be aware and check in with our models. If someone looks uncomfortable they probably are, so a high level of awareness is important.”

And, Persad says, it’s important for all models—but young, new models especially—to know their worth. “I don’t want to sound like Drake but: know yourself, know your worth,” Persad says. “You are worth something and don’t let anybody ever treat you like you’re not and don’t ever let anybody treat you like you’re disposable.”

 Related:

The Response to Mikhael Kale’s Show Suggests the Toronto Fashion Scene Has No Desire to Change
What Will It Take to Make Fashion Week Relevant Again? Industry Insiders Weigh In
Phew, Kim K’s New Shapewear Brand Won’t Be Called “Kimono” After All

Filed under:

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

FLARE - Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to FLARE Need to Know for smart, sassy, no-filter takes on everything you're interested in—including style, culture & current events, plus special offers—sent straight to your inbox each day. Sign up here.