Open Letter to Photographers about Child Exploitation

If the photography community were the professional company I work for, I would have written a resignation letter effective immediately

Dear Photographers,

I thought long and hard about writing this post.  While I really don’t want the people involved getting their narcissistic attention feed which is exactly what they want, I feel compelled to say something since my daughter was brought up in what I hope was a drunken Facebook rant – I hope… because if the person who wrote it wasn’t drunk, that’s a scary look into her true being… but then again, some say that alcohol brings out a person’s true colors so who knows…. all I know is the one time I really got drunk in my life, I laid down on the floor,  humiliated and humbled, and prayed that God would keep me alive because I thought I was dying.   ;)

Perspective – Seeing Clearly

It’s been no secret that my family has had this string of strange happenings of recent – not the good kind of strange.  I have to say it is interesting when you are going through REAL things in REAL life that among other awful words, include the words “genetic testing” and “postmortem brain retrieval“, it causes you to see things and people very clearly.  It’s like looking at something without any sort of fog or flowery fake BS –  you see straight to the soul.


In a way, it’s a curse to see clearly.  Ignorance is bliss.

I am an Old School Photographer

You can call me an old washed up or old school photographer if you want.  If old school does not give out free photo shoots and exploit children for much needed attention to sell to the masses of photographers, then please call me old school – that sounds good to me.  I’m proud to be old school.   My traditional idea of booking cold-call real clients and concerning myself with making them happy is what I stand by, morally and ethically.  I don’t make a living selling to newbies and laughing behind their backs at how “dumb” they are for purchasing my wares (those aren’t my words – but I have seen many photographers laughing at what people buy from them because they know what they teach can be acquired for free online everywhere).  That said, I only work with a hand full of clients anymore, and I will always be upfront and honest about that.  My main focus now is my day job – which I love.  There is something incredibly fulfilling about having a “real job” and working toward a new challenge.

Three Ways to Make a Living

What I see nowadays in the photography community makes me completely sick…. and embarrassed.  If the photography community were the professional company I work for, I would have written a resignation letter effective immediately.

There are three ways to make a living.

  • With your talent.
  • With your intelligence.
  • With dirty and “unethical” tactics.

Unfortunately, in the photography industry, talent does not get you anywhere anymore.  There are thousands of talented photographers out there, new and old alike, HUGELY talented.  Fact – It is extremely difficult to stand out from the incredibly talented masses.  Overload of social media photos has caused the public to become numb to differences between amazing work and work that is “meh.”

actuaryMy Own Bliss

I saw this phenomenon coming years ago despite being a success with three different commercial studios in a 10-year span of time.  I knew that photography was getting watered down and the higher end clientele disappearing…. That is why I considered maybe I wanted to make a living with my brain.  I went back to college two years ago.  I’m finishing up my last 5 classes for my accounting degree at the moment, and diving head first into Actuarial Sciences.  Do you see this coursework?  Calculus 1-3, computation probability, risk management, financial engineering….  This is my new future, and it excites me greatly (and I’m happy to help/share with other photographers, the journey, because you too can rise above this industry if you want to!).  Surprisingly, as a creative, I still have a side of me that loves a challenge like this.  Having spent 17 years of my life in two careers that became or are becoming obsolete, I assessed the risk (no pun intended), and Actuarial Science and Risk Management became my first choice.  Time to be serious and stop playing around in the trenches with the masses – time to do what the average person would never do – let’s face it, it’s work.

The third item above is what I see happening in the photography community these days.  While I predicted that the oversaturation would cause an increase in supply that overloaded demand driving prices down, (which is common sense to anyone who has studied business or economics but for some reason, workshop teachers won’t tell you this) I did not predict the desperation among photographers.

As above, talent no longer drives the public to see your work.  Thousands have incredible talent these days to manipulate imagery in a beautiful way.  How do photographers get noticed to demand the most money from clients – wait… no, from other photographers?  Yep, that’s where the bulk of the money is these daysselling to other photographers.

Spot the Desperation

Desperation looks like this.

  • Giving away free photo shoots to unsuspecting families and child models and using them to market workshops, e-books, etc.  Loss leader anyone?
  • Taking others’ hard work and repackaging it and selling it (books, workshops, etc.).
  • Using other people (as in affiliate programs) to sell your wares to other photographers.
  • Marketing by exploitation – the loudest and most controversial gets the attention.

Exploitation- the Latest Trend

Using children to stir up controversy.

I touched on this sort of exploitation in another blog post when a photographer gave out a free shoot to child models that was borderline as far as appropriateness.   I’m sure she sold out her workshop that was released within that timeframe – which is the only explanation I can figure as to why controversy was planned out.

New marketing tool of desperation- using children for ulterior motives.

That wasn’t enough my friends…. No… the limits are being pushed even further….  Most recently, a mom-photographer (who is known to have posted controversial photos of her children before – like of her young children holding guns) posted pictures of her preteen girl topless.  The look on her face was haunting in my opinion – not artistic – not in play and fun or freedom – the look in her eyes was such that resembled what an 18-year-old would feel undressing for the first time in front of a photographer that told her how beautiful she was and how these images will be beautiful – shy,  unsure…knowing that this may be wrong to do but the authority figure is telling her it is okay……  Now, did everyone see it that way?  No, but the appropriateness factor was, as anyone would expect, argued, and wow did it get ugly.   For those photographers who claim they are so busy, they have an awful lot of time to spend on Facebook stirring up controversy and then deleting the hundreds of negative comments as quickly as they pop up, then lashing out at anyone, with name calling and cursing, who felt it was not appropriate.   If that wasn’t enough, said-photographer then taunted her audience by pushing the limit even more and exposing her preteen topless and showing her breast, posting it on Facebook for 200,000+ people to see.  Right after the uproar, coincidentally, a new workshop/book/whatever was released to sell to photographers….. so the goal was reached, sell the wares….

It’s a total shame – photographers that have such beautiful work and who are incredibly talented are now resorting to these tactics, but my friends, it is desperation – this is what desperation looks like….. as the photography ship sinks.  Prepare yourself, there will be more.

I’m ashamed.  I’m embarrassed at what photography has become.  You will see times when I get super quiet and don’t post to my blog, Facebook fanpage, etc…. that is because I’m disgusted.  What on earth happened to this community?

erynn_otte_zombieLast night, while I slept (because some of us have lives outside of social media) said-photographer screamed bully and then proceeded to bully others and brought MY daughter into it.  I don’t understand.  But then again, I guess if someone is willing to post their own preteen topless and exposed, why not tear down another photographer’s daughter in the process.  To that I say, pixie the horse



Dear Photographer, my zombie daughter has more class, sophistication, kindness, and compassion than you could ever wish to have, and while none of us can promise a perfect life for our children, her mother will never scar her by distributing nude images of her to anyone, let alone 200,000+ complete strangers.


On that note, please, I’m begging the photography community to really consider the idea of respecting children – your children, other peoples’ children, etc.   There is an image of my daughter hugging a horse’s face that went viral.  She was 7 years old in the picture (and fully clothed I might add).  She is 16 now.  She is incredibly embarrassed of that image, and there are no takebacks.  I cannot take back an image that has gone viral.  That’s not a feeling you want to feel as a parent, that cannot take back what embarrasses your child.

While I think no matter what, the dangers of gross ill-intentioned people are out there, why serve your children up on a platter?  How do you teach your kid it’s okay to be in public, topless, for some pictures that I’m going to post for 200,000+ people to see, but don’t take a naked selfie and share it with a boy when you are a teen.

Very Important Fact

A note to anyone viewing the images discussed here.  No matter how shocked you are, do NOT download or share the images.  Here’s why – If any of these pushed-to-the-limits nude images of children are ever deemed pornographic by the authorities, you then can be charged with the distribution of such.  If in doubt, steer clear of being involved accidentally.

In conclusion… photographers, I hope that you understand my intention of this post.  Having been a part of this industry ever since I was pregnant with my son way back in 1994, sometimes I cannot believe what I am seeing, such a departure from what was once a beautiful artistic community.  Make your decisions wisely in the upcoming years as the future of photography unfolds…… but if you are one of these photographers  using controversial tactics in desperation to bleed what you can from what’s left of this industry – plan, fight, and scheme your dirty deeds all you want while you battle in the trenches of what once was…..  but let’s not bring kids/teens into this, shall we?


~  Jodie – mother of the infamous Zombie Girl