The Politics of Fashion Photography Part 13 The Model Agency and How they Can Affect Your Success


Chantal Stafford Abbott in On Aura Tout Vu © Benjamin Kanarek

Chantal Stafford Abbott in On Aura Tout Vu © Benjamin Kanarek

So, you think you have arrived.  You have been asked to shoot for one of the few Biggies.  You have the support of the magazine infrastructure and you are ready to cast that Top Model for your shoot that will catapult you to the top of the heap. Well, get ready for a surprise.  It is a lot more complicated than you think.  When I called this series “The Politics of Fashion  Photography”, there is no other time where this subject becomes flagrantly evident than under the circumstances I will attempt to discuss here. There is no better way to illustrate this than to create a scenario that several of you out there may relate to.

This fictitious story will also depend on which country you are in and the status of that Biggy as it is perceived by the Model Agency in question you are negotiating with to get THAT TOP MODEL. Now, even if it isn’t you casting for the job and it is the magazine casting director, the same will apply. The delicacy of the diplomacy executed by the model agency may be somewhat different , but the final result may be similar. The names of the persons and magazines are fictitious and based on several photographers, casting directors and stylists experiences. Ok here goes…

John (Photographer): “Hi this is John Stevens, may I speak to Sacha?”

Sascha (Booker): “Hello this is Sacha, what can I do for you John”

John: I am casting for Vega magazine.  It is a Special Fashion story featuring designer Suzy Sanchez’s Fall-Winter 2011 Collections.

Sascha: Is it an Advertorial?

John: No, not at all, it is an editorial and we really want a Top Model for this story.

Sascha: Which Vega Magazine is it?

John: It is for Vega Korea December issue.

Sascha: Who is the fashion stylist, hair stylist and make-up artist for this job?

John: Rita Random is the Fashion Stylist, but we haven’t yet cast for the hair and make-up yet, that will depend on the model we get.

Sascha: What is the theme of the editorial?

John: It is all about Non-Color Neutral Fashion

Sascha: What is the budget?

John: The standard editorial rate. What they always pay…

Sascha: Are you willing to Fly them in if necessary?

John: If they are a Top, perhaps.

Sascha: Ah Huh…Um, can you send me a story board or mood board?

John: I will once we are sure of the model.

Sascha: Would be great if I could see it.  That way I can see if so or so may be interested.

John: We are interested in Suzanna, Philippa, Tatyanna, Meredith and Beth D.

Sascha: There is no way those girls could do Vega Korea

John: Why is that?

Sascha: Because they are all working for Meow Magazine and they just did the Brilliant Clothing Collections.

John: But I saw Suzanna, Beth D.and Tatyanna in Vega Australia and UK.

Sascha: Well not for Vega Korea.

John: What are you telling me here?  You don’t like Vega Korea?

Sascha: No, I didn’t say that, it depends on the team and we deal with each case separately.

John: Ok, deal with this case for me.

Sascha: You don’t have to be so aggressive!

John: I’m not being aggressive, I am just trying to get the best girl possible for this story.

Sascha; Is there a guaranteed cover?

John: I cannot make that guarantee.

Sascha: Well, I’m sorry but the girls you mentioned, won’t do Vega Korea. I will send you a package.

John: Dan at your agency already sent me a package and although the girls are quite pretty, they don’t have the notoriety the magazine is looking for and that is why I am contacting you, as you represent the girls we would like to work with.

Sascha: Are you telling me, you don’t like our girls?

John: Of course not, your girls are incredible, otherwise they wouldn’t be with your agency.

Sascha: If the girls that Dan sent you don’t work for you, I am afraid there is nothing else we can do for you.

John: The Editor in Chief of the magazine wasn’t pleased with the package you sent us.

Sascha: Sorry, it’s the best we can do for now.  I have to run to a meeting, have to go…

John: Okay, thanks Sascha…

Now, this is based on real life experiences and one of many that you may have have to come up against when you think you have arrived.  The Politics of Fashion is a multi-layered onion and I don’t mean figuratively. More of the same shortly… PART 14

About Benjamin Kanarek
Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…
  • Macintosh

    Fashion Photographers are the link pin to the fashion industry. Because you can’t sell luxury anything without quality photography.

    Then one day someone once told me… “Photography, as an occupation, has now declined to the bottom of the food chain”. The fashion industry treats Photographers with such contempt now-a-days it’s disgusting! And I suppose there is not much that can be done about it? I mean, it’s like there is an industry cartel that’s hell-bent on denouncing the business of photography. With an exception for outright advertisement assignments.

  • Everything makes sense and as uninviting as it sounds there must be a change of roles happening at some point. The table must turn around and a day comes when it is me who will be having a nose high up in the clouds and telling agencies, how busy I am and how unlikely I can accommodate THEIR super-model.
    There must be such a point, non? I would like to know what it takes for the agencies to start seeing me as an equal partner.

    Unless……this is part of the game and that’s how it works. There is nothing anyone can do about it.

    (Just in case, please don’t give my name to any of the agencies so they don’t find out, that I even hypothetically imagined being above them in the past…. ha ha! )

  • Heinz Schmidt

    OMG! What a pain, and I though I was having a hard time getting amateur models to pitch for a shoot.

    Working with top models and their bookers does not sound like fun. I have had some experience working with celebrities and yes, they are… how shall we say… complicated.

    Thanks for sharing this, although it’s a bit scary to think that this kind of nonsense goes on at the top level.


  • thank you 🙂@:

  • amen to that!!! brilliant!!! devastatingly disastrous when we are at the receiving end…absolutely frustrating

    + whenever I have gone in for the so called package…the shoots have been truly atrocious – there is a very vague resemblance to the comp card sent (probably shot 10 years back!!!) + what shows up for the shoot – something that even photoshop can’t salvage.

    “Oh no, they are not available for a go see but we’ll fly them in the day before the shoot…you see she’s absolutely brilliant. no worries. But you’re sure she will be on the cover too, yes??” tch tch.

    the editor is unhappy, so is the art director, makeup is already cursing under his breath + stylist is chain smoking. time for the photographer to take a bow + stand up before the shooting squad.

    • Wonderfully witty, astute and accurate portrayal of reality that is a wonderful addendum to my article. Thank You. Best Wishes, Ben 🙂

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