Pretty much from birth, my son Theo has attracted a great deal of attention to the point of being stopped in the street by breathless strangers telling me how beautiful he is. I then had scores of people suggesting that I get him into modelling as he’d be snapped up by agencies from Paris to Milan and I could retire on the fortune and book a world cruise. Well, despite my reservations about sending my boy out to work, I ended up in a Manchester photo studio at the request of a model agency who were absolutely enthralled by the picture I sent them. As I sat down I was immediately offered wine and the studio owner, knowing how to make a man feel good, asked me if my shirt was a Paul Smith, obviously trying to establish my spending power. I smelled a fragrant rat, and this rat wanted all my money. After Theo’s shoot I was ushered into a darkened room and shown the pictures on a very impressive Mac monitor. “A lot of parents spend upwards of £2000 on our pictures,” said the fellow, “But I’m a photographer and can shoot Theo myself. The agency said that this was a shoot for them to promote Theo,” said I. The fellow ignored this and proceeded to show me even more pictures and offering me “special deals” and hinting that purchases might lead to Theo getting accepted.
It was now time for my vexed face and I forcefully told him that I was not buying any pictures as the agency had told me that the shoot was arranged to get professional pictures of Theo that they would use to find him assignments. “Okay,” he said sadly, “the pictures will be sent to the agency.” With that, we left and sauntered around Manchester before heading home.
Well knock me down with a feather, the agency never got in touch and I never booked my world cruise. Times are hard for us photographers and we have to be creative to turn a dollar but this was a little naughty. This was essentially an expensive photo studio with an unclear link to a baby model agency which meant that it had an endless supply of parents who it could pressure into buying very expensive pictures. Just imagine how many parents bow to the pressure and hand over the money thinking that it improves the chances of their little one getting accepted. There is something particularly nasty about exploiting parents who would love to see their little cherubs on a Mothercare wall, not necessarily for the money but because they are as proud as punch of their babies.
Still, it was good to go to Manchester, get some free wine and breathe the same air as The Smiths did, but Hard Sell Harry was no fun at all. Theo is now with a bona fide agency and it is going swimmingly apart from my desire to tell the photographers where exactly to position the lights.