In a startling new documentary called Picture Me, model Sara Ziff and her former boyfriend co-director Ole Schell, expose the seedy recesses in the world of high fashion modeling; including those who turn a blind eye to it.
In an interview published on Guardian.co.uk; Ziff, who began her career in modeling at the age of 14, recounts an early experience with a photographer who purported to be having trouble “picturing” what she would look like for the story he was shooting. Perversely, he coaxes the 14 year old girl out of first her shirt, and then her pants, leaving Ziff only in her “Mickey Mouse knickers and a sports bra”. She continues the story by adding; “ ‘We might need to see you without your bra,’ he told me. It was like he was a shark circling me, walking around and around, looking me up and down without saying anything. I did what he told me to. I was just eager to be liked and get the job. I didn’t know any better."
Sara’s first intentions in starting her video diary was not to expose the industry that was paying her hundreds of thousands of dollars. Early scenes from hundreds of hours of footage over five years, depict the lighter side of the business; but steadily, those images changed. Ziff began passing out cameras to other model friends and encouraged them to tell their stories as well.
What emerged, were tales of the exploitation of young girls, sexual assault and a clear disregard for the well being of these objectified young women. “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."
To protect themselves and other models, Ziff and a small contingent of her modeling peers are working together to speak out. Some of the models are working toward forming a union; campaigning for “better working conditions, holiday and sickness pay, protection in case of injury”.
What I have included in this post is only the tip of the iceberg with this story. I highly recommend that you read the article from the guardian. There are many stories that I did not include in this review that I think you will find arresting; especially if you have either considered becoming a model or allowing your daughter to join the profession.
I’m anxious to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment.
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