The last few days have been very busy. I’ve been shooting on location all over Holland and Belgium. While I was running around with my camera, the media storm regarding Harvey Weinstein raged across the world. I have had little opportunity to post anything on social media, but of course I have seen the #MeToo and #IHave hashtags all over. I’d like to share a few responses.
You better believe I have been doing a lot of soul-searching and remembering
You may wonder why I want to respond also. The media storm seems to be dying down, so why wade into the water now? There are a couple of reasons.
First of all, I photograph women every day. Most of the time there’s nothing sexual or sensual about a shoot, but every now and then there is. Sometimes these women wear few clothes; sometimes they are naked all together. In other words, my line of work frequently places women in a vulnerable position with me. I want to say I am aware of this.
I also want to say I have been absolutely shocked by the amount of women who have now found the courage to share their story of abuse under the #metoo hashtag and by the pain they convey. Shocked — and heartbroken. I have heard and read stories from women in my direct vicinity, and these stories are horrific. I want to say: to the extent that I can as a man, I hear and feel the pain.
I am also aware that I recently wrote a blog post about the role Hugh Hefner played in the sexual revolution. By all accounts Hugh Hefner, like Harvey Weinstein, was a sexual predator. My piece drew quite a few responses, many quite critical of my positive affirmation of Hugh Hefner for his contribution to the sexual revolution. I stand by what I wrote, but don’t want to be quiet on this important issue now: in no way do I want to make excuses for bad behavior.
We judge ourselves by our intentions, but others by their actions.
You better believe I have been doing a lot of soul-searching and remembering. I have been wondering if there is a woman in my past who felt less than safe with me? Is there a women who has negative memories of our working together, because she felt inappropriately touched, taken advantage of, treated as object, manipulated or overpowered?
I can’t think of anyone. But I am quite aware that’s part of the problem: we judge ourselves by our intentions, and others by their actions.
So, here’s what I want to do. I am going to post this invitation on my blog: if you at some point feel I did not treat you right, I invite you to email me and tell me about it. I want to hear your perspective, and promise not to be defensive. I will apologize.
Such an apology may not be worth much. I understand that. It won’t change what happened. But here’s what it will do: it will help me understand what I did wrong, and where I can relate to women better. It will help to understand even more how my set can be a safe place for women. And for such an insight I will thank you.
I want to learn
I am going to use the #Ihave hashtag. I will not hide behind my own sense of innocence. I am not going to assume that all women have always felt safe around me. Instead, I am going to assume that, at one or more points, I crossed the line. I will own my stuff and learn how to do things better.
Because to this I am absolutely committed: that all women are safe in my presence, in my studio, in front of my camera, or on my set.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.