Jan 142011
 

To paraphrase The Fantastic Four’s The Thing: “It’s clobbering ranting time” again; This is a majorly lengthy but hopefully worthwhile read that conveys an important message; I’d love to hear your opinions at the end please.

Sunday morning I was up early so decided to watch BBC’s The Big Questions. I completely enjoy an early morning religion and ethics debate as much as anyone and like Nicky Campbell’s no nonsense presenting style. What I didn’t expect was that along with a BBC Three programme presented by Nelufar Hedayat; ‘Music, Money and Hip-Hop Honeys’ and a BBC Panorama exposé on the sexualisation of children I’d end up ranting on my blog because all three programmes shared a similar but different theme and all three contained people that pissed me off beyond all belief.

I’ll start with Music, Money and Hip-Hop Honeys if I may as I watched it first.

As already stated it was presented by Nel Hedayat, a 20 something Afghan Muslim female with dual British identity living in North London. Possibly a feminist Nel was looking into the world of Hip-Hop Honeys; those big boobed, booty shaking young women that virtually every music video staring or produced by someone of an ethnic minority has to feature. You know the ones; those girls wrapped around a toned and baby-oiled Drum ‘n’ Bass DJ, Hip-Hop rapper or R&B artist.

Thoughtful, entertaining and mildly vacuous as most ‘serious’ documentaries tend to be on BBC Three, it sought to lift the lid on the scams, possible dangers and mostly impossible dreams that Hip-Hop Honeys face to star in big name (American) music video productions: Not being paid to star in your first ‘x’ amount of videos (to get experience of the scene and build a reputation), the directors, producers (and stars) that use video production as a way to pick up and sexually abuse women, the too far lengths some girls will go to to make it in an industry filled with other want-to-be ‘Honeys’; the mountains of fashionable clothes and shoes to buy, expensive trips to the US hoping to make it big there and the breast (and bum) implants the girls feel they need to achieve the ‘right’ look.

The rewards for ‘making it big’ are worth it. American honey Amber-Rose makes £12000 for a two day video shoot and £5750 just for turning up to an event!

Does this sound too familiar to any photographic models out there?

I liked Nel Hedayat! I really did, I’d like to spend a couple of hours with her in Starbucks shooting the shit over a latte or three. Although she didn’t completely sensationalise she did present a show that showed more negatives in the industry than positives. I’d like to know what she’d make of the modelling industry.

Nel showed a sleazebag producer/director that looked like one of the cell shaded skaters from Jet Set Radio. A scumbag who regularly offered girls paid gigs only to not pay them on the day (or ever).

Had I been there, on the day, with Nel, I think I’d have likely smacked him in the face (twice); not for being one of those trendy (possibly Japanese but probably Chinese wanting to be Japanese because it’s cooler) Orientals that wear cyberpunk Oakley’s (I think they were the MP3 ones) day and night, have Dragonball Z hair, wear cool T-shirts with Kanji logos and look like they’ve stepped right out of the latest issue of one of those directory sized manga comics but for being a scamming douchebag that thought that cheating girls out of money was both hilarious and righteous.

Nel showed an artist (using the term lightly) from the UK group K.I.G who openly admitted to sleeping with the ‘ho’s’ (his term for Hip-Hop Honeys; Urban Dictionary definition of Ho: Prostitute, Whore, Hooker, Tramp, Slut).

Nel interviewed two feminists: One that thought the video girls degraded all women, thought that the music videos featuring Honeys were similar to pornography in so much as a nurses uniform became the same kind of nurses uniform you’d see in a porn movie and that ultimately these videos made the divide between boys and girls one of the dominant male that had a skewed image of a female that was only needed for sex.

Feminist number two ran out the old cliché that often, the female image in the media made all females feel inferior with their bodies as they tried to emulate what they see. These would be the same women that think because they see in the media it must prove it’s the perfect body image.

Feminist number two also commented on the double standards promoted by the Hip-Hop/R&B video industry that a man could be clothed, rich, butt-ugly and fat but sexy while a woman had to be toned, free of cellulite, tan skinned, mostly undressed and beautiful to be sexy.

Nel interviewed the girl that had gone to a shoot only to be oiled (baby-oiled) up pre-shoot by the cameraman and then sexually assaulted.

As tragic, (at least for me), Nel interviewed members of the public outside a London club on Leicester Square and found a young black guy that stated; “You see these girls on TV and think all girls are the same, mmm, y’know what, I think I’ll have a go at that one then. Ah, so when you go out you think every girl’s a slag innit, ESPECIALLY when girls do dress like slags.”

Remember the above paragraph, we’re coming back to it!

In true documentary style Nel made no comment and the programme moved onto the guys that make the videos. Ultimately, I think Nel saw the allure that fame and money can bring and though she might not have before the documentary was made ended up on a video shoot herself.

Sunday mornings The Big Questions started with the question ‘Has political correctness left girls at risk?’ What that actually meant was that a Times report claimed that some UK police forces were so scared of being accused of racism they weren’t arresting Asian (Indian-Asian) gang members suspected of grooming very young girls for sex.

This was after 28-year-old Mohammed Liaqat and Abid Saddique, 27, were jailed at Nottingham crown court for raping and sexually abusing several girls, often after giving them alcohol or drugs.

In response to the Times report, former home secretary Jack Straw said “We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way. The young men were “fizzing and popping with testosterone” but girls from the Pakistani community were “off limits”, leading them to seek other outlets for their desires. They see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care … who they think are easy meat.

As is usual for The Big Questions Nicky Campbell had a balanced panel comprising members of the Asian community, religious leaders and representatives of organisations set up to stop sexual abuse in all it’s flavours. Interestingly there was also, heavily disguised, a young woman that had previously fallen foul of one of these gangs.

Named as Emma, the disguised young woman said that she was twelve when she was first targeted. She said that she wasn’t targeted on a street corner, she wasn’t vulnerable. She said that the men responsible for grooming target girls at shopping centres, ice rinks, cinemas and arcades. Places where children go on Saturdays and why shouldn’t parents be allowed to let their children of twelve and thirteen go to the cinema with their friends?

She was first approached by boys that were aged about fourteen or fifteen, so not much older than her. They befriended her and she used to hang out with them in arcades at the shopping malls most Saturdays. They seemed okay, nice boys, nothing wrong with them. They then introduced her to older men, aged around eighteen or nineteen. Men who had cars. She didn’t see anything wrong with this as they were friends of friends. They didn’t just come up and approach her so they weren’t strangers.

They, the older boys seemed nice as well. As time went on and they started to groom her, the older ones, she started to see them in the town centre most days. She then got introduced to older men in their late twenties, “it’s a process” she said, “you just get passed up.”

She was further groomed for a while, it’s brainwashing, they basically controlled her through her mobile phone; “they threatened to firebomb my home with my parents inside if I told anyone what they’d done, shoot me with a pistol, rape my mother and kill my older brother if I told anyone.” They started to sexually assault her and sell her even though she didn’t know she was being sold, that’s what they were doing. “You can’t get away from these men” she said, “You can’t say I don’t think I want to come out to play today.” As time goes on the men responsible for the grooming pretend to form relationships with the girls to further entrap them. “They would give presents, vodka and cigarettes. But you soon end up paying them back by having to do what you have to do with man after man, in empty flats, in parks and down alleyways.”

“In my child’s mind I believed my abuser had feelings for me.” She said “It’s mental abuse, it’s physical abuse, it’s sexual abuse and it’s emotional abuse.”

When the police became involved it seemed that they saw Emma and other children involved as young promiscuous girls who had fallen out of relationships with these older men and then cried rape. “In this case there would be a lot of twelve and thirteen year old girls accusing thirty odd year old men of rape. That is not normal, thirteen year old girls don’t have relationships with men in their thirties and forties.”

It was stated that from thirteen towns and cities in the North and the Midlands, of fifty-six men jailed for this particular brand of sex offence in the past fourteen years, three were of Caucasian descent and the remaining fifty-three were Asian.

An argument was given for these sex crimes as a clash of cultures. Asian women in these mainly Muslim communities are seen as off limits and more modest. Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth organisation has gone on record and stated that; “There are some Muslims who think that as long as these sex gangs aren’t targeting their own sisters and daughters the issue doesn’t affect them… These people think that white girls have fewer morals, are seen as trash and are less valuable, than our girls.”

Lee Jasper from the National Assembly Against Racism accused Jack Straw of dog-whistle politics and this was only an issue at this moment in time due to an upcoming by-election in Blackburn where he (Jack Straw) was standing for election.

During the programme, Mehdi Hasan from the New Statesman said that “not only were white girls targeted but also young Bangladeshi girls.” Culturally Bangladeshi’s are seen as a lower class than the Pakistani’s involved. Hasan went on to state, “this whole debate is skewed towards race, the gangs, religion. Surely this should be about vulnerable children, why are there thirteen year old girls on street corners? Where are their parents? Where are social services? Where are the local authorities?”

Remember the above paragraph, we’re coming back to it!

Fighting for the final word at the end of the debate, Lee Jasper (he from the National Assembly Against Racism), urged the audience to remember back to the fifties when the West Indian community first came to Britain en masse, the black men were all labelled as pimps and sexual predators. “That was proved to be false” said Lee “and the issue is wrong on this occasion. The kind of racism we’ve seen stoked on the back of this is totally unacceptable.”

Way to go Lee, gloss over the real tragedy and make this about white man racism!

Finally, I’d like to quickly mull over Panorama’s programme on the sexualisation of children:

After watching a pop music DVD with her daughter and finding some of the content overtly sexual newsreader and journalist Sophie Raworth decided to look into the sexualisation of children and produced the ‘Too Much Too Young’ documentary for BBC One’s Panorama.

The BBC website said: Provocative clothing, raunchy dancing on prime-time TV, access to pornography – Panorama examines the growing concern about the sexualisation of children in the UK. Sophie Raworth, a mother of three, goes behind the headlines to discover what images young people are being exposed to, and asks what impact the sexualised world is having on our children. Is too much, too young, putting them at risk?

Already concerned, our coalition government has begun a review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of children which will explore, among other things, whether rules should prevent companies marketing the likes of ‘Porn Star’ T-shirts and padded bras for little girls.

The Prime Minister David Cameron has gone on record stating, “You can’t cut children off from the commercial world but we should be able to help parents more in terms of trying to make sure that our children get a childhood and that they are not subject to unnecessary and inappropriate commercialisation and sexualisation too young.

Some businesses are dumping a waste that is toxic on our children. Products and marketing that can warp their minds and their bodies and harm their future. That can take away their innocence, which I know most parents would agree is so precious and worth defending. Children are being pushed into grown-up territory well before their time.

Girls are encouraged to dress like women, wear lingerie and worry about what they look like.”

On Mumsnet, the online parenting forum that has become a political force in its own right in Britain, the sexualisation of children is a hot topic – especially when it comes to some of the clothing.

Justine Roberts, the website’s co-founder, said that “many mothers were worried because they felt their daughters were being encouraged to be sexual in a way they were not mentally able to understand.”

“When you present a child with a pair of high-heeled shoes, it immediately puts her into a posture which makes her look more sexy. I mean her bum will stick out, her non-existent chest will stick out and she will start to sort of teeter around.”

So looking deeper into the possible idea that the media is responsible for making our children grow up too soon what did Sophie find?

Sophie found the consumerist campaigner Ed Mayo, he that campaigned about the stationary in a leading High St retailer emblazoned with the Playboy logo and successfully got it removed from their shelves. Sophie sent him off shopping and he returned with a T-shirt for kids with the slogan ‘Future Footballers Wife’ printed on the front and a padded bra for girls aged around 9.

Ed’s argument for the T-shirt was that it gave the wrong message and that being a WAG was no great ambition. About the bra, Ed questioned do we need them? “Starting an arms race among young girls for how big your boobs are is no way to start off life.”

Sophie went shopping on her own and found it incredibly difficult to find anything that sexualised children that wasn’t ambiguously either ‘in fashion’ or a ‘matter of taste’; Hotpants for nine year olds? Strappy leopard print dresses? Leopard print leggings? Spangly tu-tu party skirts?

Sophie interviewed Rachel Russell from the Glasgow Caledonian University who was involved in producing a report for the Scottish Government last year on the sexualisation of children. Rachel was especially looking for garments that drew attention to specific parts of the body associated with adult sexuality; breasts and buttocks. Searching thirty high street retailers and online the producers of the report actually found only a ‘limited number’ of products that concerned them. Rachel stated that you “really had to have your detective hat on to find them.”

With regards to items like padded bras Rachel said that children don’t see them as sexualised they see them as an item of comfort and that the padding also added an extra layer of ‘covering up’ or ‘hiding’ as you can’t see what’s underneath. “It’s the adults that see the bra as sexualised with the intention of adding size to the breasts and accentuating them.”

Rachel concluded with “It’s a perfect example of a moral panic.”

Ultimately the Scottish report concluded that it found that it is predominantly parents, not children, who worry about sexualisation and it is the sexualisation not of their own, but other people’s children that concerns them.

As a measure of how the sexual imagery in pop videos and published media along with teens and tweens dressing in a more adult and sexual manner affected them, Sophie contacted the Brook Advisory Centre, the leading UK advice service for children. What she was told was that although Britain has one of the worst records for teenage pregnancy in Europe the actual figures are “now the lowest they have ever been for twenty years.”

The way children now interact with one another was also examined; the internet, social networking sites, social gaming and mobile phones. Finding friends through social networking was seen as competitive (isn’t that the same for some adults?) and examples were given of teen boys posing topless for their display pictures and of one thirteen year old girl posing in her bikini.

A point was made that although the joining age for Facebook was thirteen a lot of children aged nine and above (with a marked increase for eleven year olds at secondary school) were joining by entering the wrong birth date. This is probably due to peer pressure.

Obviously, the internet and social networking opens up the grim possibility of grooming with many children throwing out the normal rules of safety by swapping messages and photos with complete strangers. Quite rightly, a child wouldn’t do this in the street but what makes it different over the internet?

With over half of British teens having their own computer and broadband access, pornography was discussed. A statistic was given that over a quarter of nine to sixteen year olds had surfed porn sites over the past year. A concerned parent said that it wasn’t something he’d have expected his son to be doing aged fourteen and was surprised that younger children had done so. The son, to his credit, when asked what his peers got from visiting porn sites said “when people see porn on the internet they think “I want to do this with a girl” and they get the view that “that’s what I’m going to be like, that’s what the girl’s going to be like” and that’s what they’re going to be doing”

Remember that last paragraph…

Back at the Brook Advisory Centre, regarding pornography, the spokesman said that they’d received calls asking ‘should I be shaving all my body hair off?’ and ‘should I be making the other person scream with pleasure? How do I make the other person scream?’ Brook went onto say that you have to give young people credit though; ‘they do know that pornography isn’t real’ and that it is the responsibility of parents to be able to talk candidly about sex and pornography if they’re willing to give their children unmonitored web access.

Here, our government wants to step in and make ISP’s change their policies towards pornography and instead of offering uncensored access to the web, provide a censored but opt-in service if you do want to view porn.

Sophie looked into the growing trend of sexting; using text messages to send explicit messages and pictures to one another. In British law it is illegal for anyone to own, produce or distribute explicit images of anyone under the age of eighteen(1).

Sophie concluded that although she started off worried by the sexy images she saw on her daughters DVD she realised that although she could stop the DVD at home she couldn’t stop the outside world. She said that most children were more ‘adult’ about the choices they made when choosing clothing, friends online and what sites to visit than perhaps she’d give them credit for and left the final words to Chloe, a thirteen year old dancer. When asked should she (Sophie) be worried about the images her children were seeing and the clothing they wanted to wear? Should she be worried that her daughter was growing up too fast?

Chloe – “Well if she’s making the right choices, like y’know her skirt’s not see through, her top’s not see through, her skirt’s not about half way up her backside. You shouldn’t lock her up inside. If she makes the right choices in life, you shouldn’t be worried, because you teach them how to behave don’t you, yer mums and dads.”

Wise words indeed!

So what is the common denominator? What links these three programmes and why should you or I care?

Primarily, if you look back to the paragraphs I asked you to remember the common denominator is respect, or rather the lack of. I’ve spoken in a previous post on this blog about how a model provides a service and how one should separate the model in the media and the woman that the model is when not working. Just because her picture is public domain doesn’t mean the woman is any more than you’d expect a taxi driver to automatically offer you a lift in his private car.

Men should be able to separate the hip-hop honey on screen from the dancer in her private life. Just because she dresses and dances in a sexual manner doesn’t mean that she has loose morals and should be approached either on set or in real life with anything other than the same respect that you’d show your sister. You would show your sister respect right? No matter how your sister was dressed you want her shown respect by others right?

Whether a girl is a model, a hip-hop honey or a fashionable teen or pre-teen she has the right to dress how she chooses and has a right to respect. Whatever she wears to a club for example or to go out on the town with her mates, be it see through, be it revealing or be it totally minimalistic it is her choice and doesn’t automatically mean that she’s a slag or that she’s sexually promiscuous.

What it does mean, is that she’s chosen to dress in a way that she feels comfortable. Whether she’s driven by what she see’s in fashionable magazines or on the catwalk, whether she’s driven by popular media or peer pressure it is her right to dress in any way she chooses to.

Ask any woman and the majority would state that they feel at their best when dressed in a way they either feel sexy or beautiful. They might be at their most comfortable in sloppy tracksuits and slippers while bumming around the house, they might feel more competitive and professional at work wearing a suit or smartly dressed but to go out ALL women generally make an effort to look as good as possible within their social circle.

Whether a girl is nine, nineteen or ninety. To go out or to be seen one wants to dress like ones peers. Whether the girl goes clubbing to the trendiest dub-step clubs and dresses as she sees the dancers dress in various music videos or whether the woman dresses to go to the local lawn bowls club she will dress as comfortably and accordingly as she is able.

Men, for fucks sake, should respect that and respect that she’s probably dressing for herself and not for you. She’s not ‘asking for it’. She’s not automatically a ‘ho’ wanting you to grind your prick up her backside. She’s probably dressing like her friends do and fitting in.

Respect seems to be a thing of the past and perhaps, along with other social etiquette should be taught at school.

Sex education shouldn’t be only involved with the mechanics of reproduction and how to avoid STD’s it should deal with far wider issues like social interaction between boys and girls and how to show one another respect. It should teach boys that girls are people before they are objects of sexual desire and should teach girls to respect themselves and their bodies rather than giving in to peer pressure and throwing their virginity at the first decent six-pack that buys them a couple of bottles of alcopop. Books like (but not plugging) Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus should be part of the school curriculum just as much as Romeo and Juliet and To Kill a Mockingbird are.

Instead of being a small part of the biology or science curriculum, make sex education and social interaction a mandatory part of education itself. Don’t just tell children that teen pregnancy is wrong, provide social proof and statistics. Go out onto council estates and show children in a classroom the living proof of ruined lives. Show children the babies that are victims of neglect and show children the severely depressed mothers that have thrown away their lives for a shag in the toilets of a local club. Show girls the victims of physical abuse by men and show boys the abusers rotting in prison cells.

It’s a fact that children are growing up faster now than thirty years ago. If not physically then definitely mentally. With the internet and cable television children today have the opportunity to learn far more about the world and growing up than ever before.

When I was a child the only way I could learn was through school or through books I was given. Until I was old enough to buy my own books I could only tell you information from the books I owned and the subjects I was taught. Aged nine, aged eleven, I could tell you nothing about fashion in London or Japan. I couldn’t tell you about gender equality (but I had been taught respect and manners), I couldn’t tell you about the production of alcohol or the ingredients of Absinthe.

I could however tell you all about sharks, I could even tell you their Latin names. However dated it seems now I could tell you all about dinosaurs… At least I could tell you about what we knew about dinosaurs then. Who knew, (or even imagined), when I was a child, that we’d later discover that dinosaurs were actually brightly coloured, covered in feathers, lived in social groups and evolved into birds?

Now, with a click of a button a child can answer most any question posed to it through Google or Wikipedia. Fashion isn’t a trendy thing Londoners do on Carnaby Street it’s a thing that children can do in any village in any county in the country. Fashion is global. Fashion is on the internet. A teen isn’t limited to Mods and Rockers anymore, a teen isn’t limited to the fashion of it’s peers. If it chooses a teen can become a follower of the Gothic Lolita style in Japan because it’s all there on the web. The designers, the look and indeed the clothing through online retailing.

Of course children are going to grow up faster and appear more adult in many cases. We should be letting these children learn and grow up as they and their peers dictate. What we should be doing as parents and peers is respecting these choices but guiding and teaching along the way.

In areas where there are major cultural differences as discussed in the Asian grooming section of this essay respect should be taught there also. The right to respect another culture and to live within that culture with respect. What right does a Muslim man have to assume that just because a Western girl doesn’t read the Qur’an or wear the hijab she is any less chaste or moralistic than his sisters or cousins?

We are a Christian country and a Muslim living here should respect that in the way that we respect Muslims enough to let them worship in their own ways here. Chastity is not only a Muslim dictate it is a universal dictate for some, it transcends religion, it is part of most religions. A Muslim man living in a Christian country has to respect that.

Regardless of area/race or religion involved, a nine or thirteen year old girl should be able to walk the streets safely. In fact she has a right to be safe. Regardless of religion or race she deserves respect.

I would go as far to say that if cultural differences present too much of a problem then cultural differences shouldn’t exist. One strike and out… If your religion allows you to disrespect the morals and the law of your host country then you should lose your right to stay there. Regardless of status, regardless of family in the UK, regardless of the dangers in your country of origin. If you are found guilty of a major crime even though it might be because of your home countries moral, religious or cultural differences then you forfeit the right to live here.

Of course, the government will never implement so severe a punishment. As shown in this essay the government panders to moral outrage and political correctness. Heaven forbid that the government take a strong stance and address problems at their roots. The school curriculums will not change, the policies on political asylum, immigration and deportation will not change and the laws will not change to remove the ambiguity between consent, implied consent and the word no.

What the government will do is request report after report seemingly to do something to stem the moral outrage cried by people too weak to control and teach their own children what is right and wrong. The ‘nanny’ state will remove the stimulus because it is easier to outlaw sexuality than it is to change the way society is crumbling with respect to um, respect, education and social awareness.

It is easier to ban pornography than it is to realise that it has it’s place in society and to teach that society a way that it can use it responsibly and intelligently.

It is easier to ban sexuality in the media than it is to teach parents the responsibility of moderation and self censorship.

It is easier to police and govern retail and manufacturing than it is to teach the culture about respecting peoples right to wear what they choose without recrimination or judgement.

It is sadly easier for the government to stop the sexualisation of children than it is to remove the problem of cultural and religious difference that the government itself created.

It is a sad sad world we live in!

I’d like to address one final point. I for one admit to seeing beauty in children. I see beauty everywhere and refuse to blinker my views to only that which is socially acceptable. I find babies interesting. I find the gangly, long limbed pre-teens running in the park with innocence on their faces beautiful. I find adolescents on the verge of adulthood beautiful. I find teenagers beautiful. I am a photographer. I see with my eyes rather than with scared, politically correct, and often wrong judgements. I don’t see with my penis or with a sexual appetite. I don’t in any sense find children sexually attractive. I just see beauty. I see a photograph.

Researching and writing this essay has taken much time over three days. I have read many forums dealing with sexuality, religion, culture and parenting. I have read articles written in America and the UK. I have read countless threads by concerned parents and have not seen this mentioned anywhere which kind of confuses me immensely.

Teen and Pre-Teen Pageants/Dancing competitions?

This is just about the worst case scenario I can image for the argument to govern child sexuality and the case for worrying about children growing up too fast. On all the forums, in all the articles, in all the governmental and legal blathering I’ve read why has no-one mentioned this? Why?

Teens but more often pre-teens caked in make-up; foundation, blusher, lipstick, false eye-lashes, false nails and dyed hair? Pre-teens dressed in high heels, bikinis, little black dresses and ball gowns. Pre-teens paraded on a stage like real life dolls where anyone with the entrance fee, paedophiles and sexual predators alike, can sit and watch. Pre-teens often coerced by their parents into living a life their parents didn’t have or having parents living their lives through their children.

What the fuck? Ban these pageants… Or, if the world must have beauty competitions for children and I’ve already said that yes, children can be beautiful, legislate the competitions. Govern the audience, make the organisers accountable, ban the fakery and let these competitions be about the child’s natural beauty and skills.

You know what… I might just start looking into this legislation myself!

(1) The law is a little muddy here with the words ‘indecent’ and ‘explicit’ being open to interpretation by the judge and jury using a set of guidelines as defined by law. Therefore, nude photography of a minor (anyone aged under eighteen) can be legal as long as the image is not considered indecent or sexually explicit. To confuse matters further; be careful, sexually explicit images of a fully clothed model under the age of eighteen can also be considered indecent and/or sexually explicit and may therefore be illegal too.

In the case of ‘sexting’, it is perfectly legal between a married couple aged sixteen or seventeen as long as the pictures are for private use only. Images of anyone over the age of eighteen could fall foul of the obscene publications act depending on their explicitness and content.

For example; a consenting couple using their mobile phones to photograph a private session of BDSM involving actual damage to the buttocks and breasts could be prosecuted for possession of images deemed illegal under the current obscene publications act and both parties could be added to the sex offenders list.

To clarify; the law regarding photography of anyone under the age of eighteen in any way remotely considered glamorous is a minefield and best avoided completely.

May 052010
 

If we’re going to get along we have to understand one another! To work well together and to become friends we need to set some ground rules:

#1. I appreciate honesty and straight talking. To get the best out of me be honest and don’t beat around the bush. Don’t flutter your eyelashes, give me your most endearing smile and whisper babe’s and sweetheart’s at me. It’s an old model mind trick and your mind powers will not work on me girls. If you want something, just ask me please.

#2. If you have to cancel our shoot, call me and cancel our shoot. Please don’t flake on me. Calling me and telling me you don’t feel like it or are covered in spots is preferable to grandmother dying again. Honesty girls… Honesty!

In return I promise I’ll treat you with respect and regardless of hair colour as an intelligent human being. I’m well aware of the clichés surrounding blondes and models… from my experience they are totally unfounded.

You don’t want to be labelled as a dumb blonde, a fiery redhead or a can’t-walk-and-chew-gum-at-the-same-time model. Likewise, I’m not the guy in the club flattered by your sweet talk and mesmerised by your jiggly boobies. (Not all of the time anyway).

Capisce? Cool! Here’s to good times…

Apr 182010
 

Perhaps because I’m chasing a dream, the creation of art through photography is one of the most important things in my life. To me, it’s more than a job, more than a hobby. It’s more than a way to keep my website fresh and more than a means to update my Facebook page. It defines me as a person. Like Jenson Button is a Racing Driver, like Robbie Williams is a Singer/Songwriter I want to be Andy Craddock (Neolestat) a Photographer. I think the capitalisation is important.

Anyone that drives a car can be a driver, anyone that picks up a mike at a Karaoke bar or joins a local choir can be a singer, anyone that picks up a camera come the weekend and takes a few snaps can call themselves a photographer. But. It takes passion and determination to become a Driver, a Singer or a Photographer, it takes passion and determination to be defined by your trade.

It takes passion and determination, it also takes a lot of hard work, a smattering of luck and skill.

Passion and determination I have. Hard work I have and will continue to put in. Skill is subjective and down to you to, the viewer of my work, to decide whether I have or have not got it. Luck hasn’t been so forthcoming.

There is one other thing a photographer that specialises in people, like I do, needs; Like a Driver needs a car and a support team of mechanics and analysts, like a Singer/Songwriter needs a studio full of sound technicians to mix his sounds and a team of PR people to promote his music, a Photographer needs models.

An excerpt of one review I received said: [Andy Craddock] “does it with a variety of beautiful, but not necessarily professional models”. I like that! I like that because not once have I worked with a model I didn’t want to work with and not once did anyone but me choose the models I’ve worked with. It implies (to me at least) that I choose well.

I used to find models on internet modelling sites, Net Model, Model Mayhem and One Model Place. One Model Place was my favourite, it felt more professional and the models seemed to flake on me less. I let my subscription slide about three years ago and started scouting on the street and on Facebook. Scouting takes more effort, is more hit and miss but one can find hidden gems that the modelling sites miss. I like the challenge of scouting.

To me, Facebook is a functional tool. On one hand it allows me to keep in contact with family and friends and on the other hand I can spend my spare hours at home, wandering it’s streets prospecting for those nuggets of gold hidden away in it’s depths.

The downside of randomly scouting for talent is wondering whether I’ve found a genuine 24K nugget or fools gold.

In my world I find the relationship between the photographer and the model a bit of a balancing act. Even on a professional level models are prone to flaking (not turning up) due to a variety of excuses; dead grandmothers, illnesses, a previous night on the lash and often with no excuse or contact. I’ve heard them all, I even had one model whose grandmother managed to die twice!

There is no commitment between the model and myself other than trust in the beginning. I give her a time, date and place and hope she turns up. Many times I’ve sat there at the allotted time, date and place only to watch the clock tick past the given hour until I’ve given up and gone home with a no show.

I’ve contacted the model later only to find that in the rush to get her monkey to the vets for a suspected outbreak of Ebola Syndrome she forgot to call me. We’ve re-booked a shoot and again she was a no show; a light aircraft crashed in her street or some such.

I have no idea what the real reasons for flaking are. Fear, anxiety, period pain, an outbreak of spots or sheer laziness but I often wonder whether the model looses as much sleep over the no shows as I do? Where a run of no shows damages my faith in people and deadens my soul a little.

If I approach a potential model either in the street or on Facebook it’s because I truly believe she has something I want to work with. I’m not a collector of friends and buddies on Facebook to make me look more popular than I am, I’d rather have twenty people I know I can rely on and talk to than eight hundred that never respond to my posts and updates.

If I’ve scouted you on Facebook or in the street it means one thing; I want to work with you. It means I find you attractive and hope my audience will too. It means I want to work with you, that I think you have the looks to make it as a model and if I can help you on your way I will. It doesn’t mean I want to stalk you or date you, it doesn’t mean I’m looking for another notch on my bedpost and if I were, if I found you ‘that’ attractive I hope I’m professional enough to keep that to myself.

What I do want to do is build a working relationship with you based on trust and friendship that allows me to get the best out of you that suits my needs and gives you the best possible images to either earn you a little extra cash or help bulk out your portfolio.

I’d like the majority of models I work with to become a muse of sorts, an inspiration to me and hopefully I to them. I can be there on both a personal and professional level if need be for the right girls. It is like any other professional working relationship. On the shop floor we talk shop, in the canteen we gossip. The relationship between photographer and model is without doubt a working relationship that needs work to maintain.

To that end, especially for my Facebook friends; consider carefully please. If I’ve sent you a friendship request I’ve probably sent it with a note saying that I’d like you to model for me. If you intend to model for me and have accepted my offer of friendship then hello and welcome.

If you accepted my friendship but don’t intend to model for me please… remove me from your friend list. We’re probably never going to talk, we’re probably never going to be ‘friends’, we’re just going to litter one another’s status updates with inconsequential junk and inboxes with spam.

If you do accept my friendship and do intend to model for me please also accept the invitation to my South West Modelling group and interact with it, join in the discussions, post modelling news on the wall, post pics you want the group (and myself) to see and start discussions of your own. Ask me questions, ask the other girls questions, become a modelling community and lets see our successes grow.

If you talk the talk be prepared to walk the walk… If you don’t or can’t, please don’t kid either yourself or I and please delete yourself from my virtual community so that neither of us waste our time.

Apr 172010
 

So part one of the master plan is complete… I have a new Facebook group set up exclusively for models and want-to-be models in the South West I want to work with.

Following the ‘Church’ controversy it was easy and nigh on impossible not to get a huge following on my Facebook account. It peaked at around 4900 ‘friends’ of the maximum 5000 friends a personal page is allowed to have. While it’s a great feeling having that many requests, so many in-fact that I had to start ignoring requests to keep space open for those people that mattered, there’s a downside to it too: One misses out on most of the relevant posts from real friends and family only to be swamped by a home page full of horoscopes, iHearts and other such irritating and time consuming interwebs kibble.

The vast majority of these friends I was never going to interact with, never going to meet, they weren’t going to give a toss for my humour and seeing as it was my personal page weren’t really going to be at all interested in a status that read ‘sunny day – must hit the beach’.

It was time for a cull! A time for a brutal and much needed sweep of the scythe and a much needed poke around with the proverbial broom.

I hit up the edit friends page and took to deleting with a vengeance; 4900 strangers whittled down to less than 600 strangers and a 100 personal friends and people I admire in a day. Gone are all the US and UK porn stars barring a few I know personally. Gone are all the want to be porn photographers. Gone are all the pretend Lothario’s and understudy Casanova’s fervently trawling my friend list in the hope of meeting the porn starlet of their dreams. Gone are all the time wasting internet models that never bothered to reply to my offers of work and gone are all of the friends of friends of friends.

If I kept you I love you, like you, admire you or want to work with you. If I kept you, you are now ordered into neat lists of family, personal friends, photographers, models and South West models.

I now have an interesting group of approximately 500 ‘friends’ in the South West models group; more than enough I think to kick-start a healthy new website into existence.

I often work on the assumption that as a healthy and regular, Mr Average type male, if ‘I’ fancy a model then the majority of other males will too. After all, in the world of glamour that’s the main criteria no? I’m not looking for the model that will suit the latest fashions I’m looking for the model that will look the most appealing taking those fashions off.

I’m not looking for the mega-boobed, big haired and California tanned, impossible to connect with other than with a bottle of baby oil and box of tissues US style porn-star, I’m looking for the girl next door.

I’m looking for the girl that makes you look twice in Starbucks. I’m looking for the girl that catches your eye on the dance floor and the girl that earns you that crushed thigh when you double-take while driving with your girlfriend and she’s been resting her hand on your leg.

I’m going to be looking for that elusive mix of Angel and Devil. Of shyness and understated flirtation. I want to photograph models that are just the right side of adulthood before the weight of the world’s responsibilities crush the fun out of them.

In my world a cheeky smile and a flirtatious grin are worth far more than a size zero figure.

I want to show you a world where a peek of a lacy bra and a flash of panty are in equal measure, every bit as sexy as a naked porn star if not more so. I want you to understand that these girls are real and not just objects of desire. That they have lives and boyfriends, family and friends. I don’t want you to see the models I work with as machines working in an industry providing titillation for the masses. I want you to understand that they have feelings, I want you to understand that they are real people and one day you might meet one of them in a bar.

I want you to love and respect the models I work with and if you ever do meet one, treat her with the respect she deserves as a person. She’s not your plaything, she’s not someone to be pawed over and leered at, she’s a girl with friends and family that has real feelings and desires of her own.

Thank her for sharing her beauty with you and leave it at that. She will think far more of you in the long run if you treat her as a woman rather than an object of desire. She might grace my website in all her glory but that won’t mean she is public domain. Only her image will be. Her body, her soul and her friendships remain hers to give to whom she chooses.

I hope we understand one another.

Apr 142010
 

I’m done with flakiness and excuses, this is my last chance at making a living out of something I love and probably my last chance to keep my head above water in Cornwall. I have two business models to play with… One; I personally know a girl up-country that was making between two and three thousand pound a month in her website’s heyday. Her pics are still doing the rounds on UseNet and I know I can easily match the photography on her site.

Could I match her income? I have no idea but surely it’s worth a bash.

Two; A business model that’s usually used for internet ‘models’ in Russia and the US. Two of my peers use it to great advantage and I don’t know anyone in the South West using it at the moment.

Both business models require commitment from the real life models that want to get involved. At least five shoots to begin with and if a particular girl takes off then probably five shoots over a two month period onwards.

I won’t consider any model under 16 years old and between 16 to 17 they will need their parents consent and participation. I won’t shoot a model under 18 without a parent or guardian in attendance.

This is a business opportunity. I accept that models have difficulties and have to cancel on occasion but if a model cancels on her first and second booking then I’m done with her. Two strikes and out I’m afraid.

I’m not looking for the next super model, I’m looking for the girl-next-door kind of beauty. I’m not looking for seven foot tall, willowy models with five foot legs. I’m looking for real girls. The high street honeys, the girl in the pub worth a second glance, the kind of girl that is as much fun as a mate as she is a girlfriend. I’m not looking for time served models I’m looking for confidence. I’m not necessarily looking for models that can hold an awkward pose for fifteen minutes I’m looking for girls that can smile at the camera and tease.

For girls aged between 16 and 17 that feel they could glamour model at 18 this is an ideal learning curve. Everything will be done legally and above board. There will be model release forms and image release forms where necessary. All monies earned will be on a straight 50/50 split basis.

For girls aged 18 and over there will possibly be nudity or at least topless modelling involved dependant on your comfort level. If a girl wants a test shoot first on a TFCD basis to find her own comfort level then I’m happy to oblige. Tease is where it’s really at though… Playfulness and the ability to flirt with the camera are essential. Bottom line, as far as I’m aware; the more you flirt the more you’ll earn. If you can’t  or don’t think you can flirt with the camera I’ll teach you as long as you’re willing to give it a go.

If you’ve really got what it takes then I’ll look to getting you published and look to getting you further paid modelling work. I’ll promote you according to the amount of time and effort you’re willing to give me. Both business models are based on partnership. The more time you put in, the more I’ll push you and the higher your capacity to earn.

Interested? Leave me a comment on here or Facebook and I’ll get right back to you.