Written by Cole Bekah
I want to start this off by saying that I love the photography community I am a part of. It’s full of some of the most supportive and wonderful people I have met, but lately, I’ve noticed some recurring trends in the way some photographers approach who they work with that really bothers me.
The first trend I noticed as I became more involved in the community was the lack of plus size models on my feed. When I asked around, it seemed there just wasn’t a client base large enough to make an impact via social media, so I must have been missing these rare plus size models, right? However, after just over a year of putting myself out there and making an effort to meet with as many people in the cosplay and local modeling community as I could, I now know that isn’t true. There are so many talented and stunning plus size models out there, but somehow they are being missed? I wanted to understand why that was.
As I continued to meet people and network,I kept hearing photographers express that they don’t like working with plus size models, be it for cosplay, fashion, editorial, etc., due to the fact that it is “harder to make them look good.” My first reaction is to call B.S. because I’ve never struggled with making my plus size models look good, but I also grew up being plus size so I have first hand knowledge in regards to what works and doesn’t for bodies like mine. My second reaction is to tell these photographers that if they are having a hard time working with plus size models, maybe they need to practice until it isn’t so difficult for them.
I just want to see the plus size community be fairly represented without the gross fetishism that is currently the standard. Don’t get me wrong, I 100% respect the hustle. There is nothing wrong with doing lewds and the likes, but if the only way you can consume plus size content is by making it exclusively sexual, maybe you don’t really respect the plus size community.
POC models also seem to get passed up constantly for some ungodly reason. It comes back to photographers not knowing how to shoot these models. They worry about working with unfamiliar complexions and skin tones, without taking the time to even try! Now, I have first hand experience with the learning curve that comes with shooting people outside your area of expertise. You never want to disappoint your clients or yourself, and when trying something for the first time, there is always that risk. That shouldn’t stop you from trying to learn how to work with different complexions and/or body types!
I’m not saying every photographer feels this way, and I’m not even saying a majority does, but enough of them do that it’s an issue. We live in a world rich with diverse talent and I am so tired of seeing these models get ignored or treated poorly as clients just because they are not “easy” to shoot. That is such a cop out. When roughly 67% of American women are a size 14-16 (plus size), saying it’s “too hard” is unacceptable. Normally when you don’t know how to do something that is part of your job, you are expected to learn how to do it. For some reason, however, when it comes to working with plus size and POC models, a lot of photographers just give up without even trying?
Obviously, there isn’t a magical quick fix for these issues. I know telling people to just “learn how to do it yourself” is somewhat of an oversimplification of a much larger issue, but opening the door and discussing the problem is a solid first step. This is my challenge to those who have shied away from working with these models: apply yourself, choose projects that challenge you and force you to grow. Stop missing out on collaborating with these crazy talented humans out of laziness and/or fear. I also challenge these models to put themselves out there. Be seen. If someone won’t work with you, step up that selfie game! Build yourself a brand that speaks for itself and the business will follow.