Thursday, December 04, 2008

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

Once upon a time, the early 1970s, I studied fashion photography at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. Perhaps needless to say, I thought I was going to be a fashion photographer and I spent the better part of my apprenticeship assisting fashion and lifestyle shooters. Had I not become interested in other aspects of photography I may well have been a fashion photographer but..... I did shoot a few fashion jobs, the last one in 1983 (see image at right) for International Gold Corporation, and while I wouldn't mind doing shoots with fashion models rather than real people occasionally (and I suppose I could), I don't market myself as a fashion photographer.

In fact, if I was given an assignment to shoot fashion I'd probably do very well, but I'm not expecting that to happen out of the blue and so an e-mail I received this morning from a potential client made me unexpectedly laugh so hard that the coffee I was drinking... well, never mind about the coffee... but I was quite amused and more than a little suspicious. Call me a cynical New Yorker, or even a cynical Chicagoan if you must, but there was something that wasn't quite right about this.

The e-mail said: "My name is David Hunt.I have a paid Fashion job (contract),One of my clients wants to update her Catalog with her new year release Fitness Fashion outfits.I'm a model agent by profession with about 5 years experience.The event will take place on the 20th of December.Find all details for the job below..

The shooting will hold at a rented photographers studio in your location and different states,so you dont have to worry about travelling and accomodation logistics.However it will be provided by my client if neccessary.The name and address of the studio will be fowarded to you before the date of the shooting,.You can come along with any body of your choice on the day of the shooting,your friend,body-guard anybody you wish to come with just for you to feel more comfortable.

The total pay for the jobs is $2,500 for the total clothing for models ,but as a photographer you will be paid $1500 and you will get an advance payment as security fee from our client as your confirmation security deposit."

Leaving aside the fact of Mr. Hunt's poor spelling, grammar and typing it was the offer of an advance that set off my city-boy-ain't-falling-for-that alarm. While I routinely get advances on assignments, nobody has ever offered one. This is a scam!

If you receive an e-mail like this one, and there are many going around, you'll know it's a scam by the following earmarks:

* Your correspondent likes your work but never says where s/he saw it;
* The job is outside your normal area of operations;
* Location (sometimes the date) is not specified;
* Spelling, punctuation, typing is faulty;
* Inquiry is typically from abroad;
* An offer to pay you in advance.

What's wrong with an advance? The writer makes a reasonable sounding offer and you accept. When a money order arrives it's drawn for $2500, an amount that exceeds your fees by $1000, and when you inquire your correspondent tells you that his assistant has made an error but, that's okay, "would you kindly send the excess to our stylist (caterer, rental studio, model agency, etc) and save us all the hassle of returning and replacing your payment?"

You agree and deposit the instrument, your bank credits your account and you pay the stylist or whoever. A week or two later your bank informs you that even though it initially credited your account, that deposit didn't actually clear, the money order was a forgery and guess what? The shoot's canceled, the check you wrote was cashed and you're now out the other $1000!!

Phony weddings, phony tours by church groups, phony speaking engagements... all requiring the participation of a photographer... you. And, hey, do you need a body guard? An assistant would suffice. Let's be careful out there.


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