I was sexually harassed as the wedding photographer!
In a lot of the information I share with photographers – I assure them that I have literally been through it all, good and bad. I’m so fortunate that throughout my 10-year career there have been great moments like working with celebrity clients, photographing an exclusive wedding at the top of the Philadelphia Art Museum (yo Rocky!), and meeting the most amazing people who have become some of my best friends. And of course with any job with all the positives, there are always a few negatives.
Warning: There is crude language in this blog post to demonstrate the brevity of the situation. Not suitable for all audiences.
What had happened was….
There was a wedding I will never forget – a wedding in southern New Jersey that began with a comedy of errors. Upon arriving, the couple had a very loud family home, large, screaming and full of voices with thick New Jersey accents ordering people around. This particular bride violated one of my major rules for stress-free wedding planning, which is that her ceremony site was an hour away from her reception. After photographing the bride getting ready for a short period of time, the dreaded phone call comes that the bus had gone to the church, not the reception, so it needed to go back to the reception, then back to the church, making her ceremony run at least an hour late.
Everyone was stressed, frustrated, and of course, began drinking. By the time the ceremony began, the bride’s brother was quite drunk, and during the ride from the ceremony to the reception, he went from drunk to inebriated. We arrive at the beach near where the reception was located, and the bride’s brother, a New Jersey police officer, decided that he would begin to exert his authority on me.
As I begin lining up the groomsmen he leaned in and slurred, almost incoherently,
“touch my cock.”
“excuse me?” I said incredulously.
“touuuuuuch my cock.” His wife sort of slumped looking down next to him, not saying very much. I backed up to organize the line of groomsmen and bridesmaids and he said it louder.
“touch my cock! I know you want to.”
The bride whipped her head towards him and sneered “fu*k YOU Jimmy. If you didn’t want to be in my wedding, you should have just said NO. You always do this; you are such an a**hole.”
Her new husband pulled her back in enough time for me to say in a shaky voice
“Ok everyone, smile!” snap, snap. The sound of the shutter was the only sound I could make.
I was embarrassed, humiliated, and wanted to leave. I took a few quick photos and sent the groomsmen on their way.
So what did I do?
Upon arrival at the reception site, I took the bride’s other brother aside.
“Listen, your brother can’t treat me like this. This is my workplace, and he’s harassing me, and it’s ruining your sister’s wedding. You have to say something.”
Moments later the reception was filled with three hundred of the family’s closest friends and families. As each couple in the bridal party was announced, the bride’s offending brother came within inches of my face and shoved his middle finger towards my camera. A gasp fell over the room. Apparently his brother indeed did, say something.
For the rest of the evening, it was his one finger salute to me – while I was taking photos of the toast, while I was trying to photograph people dancing. Every time I turned around, his scowl and finger was inches from my face. When it came time to leave, he was laying on the dance floor inebriated, oblivious to the world around him. I took as many photos as I could, finished the job with dignity, and took off within minutes of my contracted time ending. Usually I give time warnings and make sure that the bride has an opportunity to continue coverage if she wants it, but in this situation I couldn’t get out of there soon enough.
What can be done to avoid this in the future?
After the wedding, I took this as a lesson learned and added text to my wedding contract that outlined the process I would take.
Photog’s Plan of Action
- 1st: warning to family member of bride or groom
- 2nd: offending person required to leave
- 3rd: photog ends coverage immediately.
Of course, since I put it in my contract, I haven’t had to use it. But knowing it’s there makes me feel protected and gives me the opportunity to defend myself in the event this ever happens again.
Law Tog Tips:
- Have a Game Plan: Have a game plan ready to roll before you end up in this situation.
- Contract Provision: It isn’t necessity to have clauses in your contract that ward off potentially criminal behavior – the law covers you there. Of course, it never hurts to have a clause that outlines your course of action should you ever face this.
- Venue Relationship: Get to know the venue coordinator and/or owners in case of a situation – always have an advanced phone call or face-to-face meeting to establish a relationship.
- Speak Up: Never hesitate to voice your concerns to an authority (client, venue coordinator, etc.) if this situation arises.
- Stand Your Ground: You do NOT have to take it – your duty to fulfil contract may be discharged if you are being placed under sexual harassment or any other types of harassment/criminal activity.
- Call The Police: If there is no authority figure to fix the situation, and you’ve taken steps to warn the client – call the police.
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