Topic: General Legal
Time Investment: 6 Minutes
We’ve written about harassment before on TheLawTog, but because it is a common topic of concern, we wanted to talk some specifics.
We also want to talk about some recommendations on what to do if you are harassed while you are working as a photographer. These recommendations below do not change who is responsible for stopping harassing behavior. The harasser has that responsibility. You are a professional and you have a job to do, which can be a challenge when you are faced with inappropriate behavior.
Male and female photographers alike tell anecdotes of inappropriate and harassing behavior by clients, family members, other vendors, the bride or groom, members of a bridal party, or event guests.
It is disturbingly common.
Even having a second shooter or assistant present doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in the numbers of photographers reporting harassment. At the end of the day, you 100% should not have to put up with harassment. Period.
It can be a shock when you deal with unwanted comments or other kinds of harassment. We understand the confusion and anger you might have felt and how torn you may have been between shutting it down and providing the best experience possible for your clients. While it should never be the case, you may feel torn between your own sense of safety and a desire to follow through.
So what do you do?
Here are our recommendations for dealing with harassment as an event photographer.
Make sure your contract addresses the consequences of harassment by the contracting parties or any of their guests. We refer to it here as a harassment clause, but you might also refer to it as a safe working environment clause. You may consider talking with your attorney about the risks of carrying pepper spray or another form of active defense.
It doesn’t mean harassing behavior is right, but when you’re in the midst of a photography engagement, sometimes ignoring the person behaving inappropriately will send a message that the behavior is unwelcome.
Request verbally to stop.
Request that they stop verbally, even better if it is loud enough for the nearest person to hear. Recognizing you are a professional, I highly doubt that you would yell even if I told you to! Be direct and speak honestly without threats, insults, or obscenities.
Name the harassing behavior.
Refer specifically to any action that has occurred that has made you feel uncomfortable.
Some people find making a joke of it can help, but do what you feel comfortable with (because you shouldn’t have to be putting up with this at all). But know that you do not need to laugh about it – you can hold the harasser accountable and you don’t have to make any excuses for them. Tell someone about what happened. Privacy protects harassers, but visibility undermines them and provides you with a witness.
- Reinforce your statements with strong body language: eye contact, head up, shoulders back, a strong, serious stance.
Speak with bride and groom, or your designated contact person for the event.
See the harassment clause text. Because you have already asked the bride and groom for a day of contact person for matters like this, you will have a person you can go to and report the issue and ask for their assistance. Remind this person of the harassment clause and tell them you are just trying to work without the harassment getting in your way. Be clear and direct about what happened. Keeping the situation quiet can serve to protect the harasser, while naming and sharing what has happening with a witness can serve to support you.
As soon as you can, document in writing everything that happened and has gone on.
Write down what happened, where it took place, and include times and dates. These recollections may be very helpful if you had to cut short your contract performance because your harassment clause was breached.
If another vendor witnesses the incident – ask them to also make a written record of what they saw.
Exchange contact details and ask them to make a note of what you have told them. A supporting statement, even if only in their own notes, may be helpful to substantiate the need to act on your “harassment clause” and leave the event.
If it gets physical or you feel unsafe, do whatever you need to do to raise the attention of someone nearby.
Now is the time to stop working, to tell someone in venue management, and call the police. Being a working photographer is no reason to be subjected to harassment or assault.
Ask for Help.
Ask your designated contact person for assistance. If you are concerned, on site security may be willing to accompany you to your vehicle. It sucks that you would need to do this, but if it makes you feel better – do it.
As much as people might try to tell you “this is just what you need to get used to” as part and parcel of the photography industry, it doesn’t make harassment acceptable.