What if photographers vetted models like the president proposes vetting immigrants?
Is this really necessary
The United States already has one of the most stringent and difficult vetting processes for people who are wanting to immigrate to our country. In some cases, depending on where one is from, it can take over three years for the vetting process to be completed. When the president signed orders yesterday that completely halts the flow of immigration he also ordered “extreme” vetting for those who still have a chance of getting in.
We disagree with the president and his policies on immigration. We not only find them unnecessary, we find them, in many cases, inhumane and possibly cruel. The new policies turn away refugees desperately in need of an escape from unfathomably cruel and hostile treatment in their own country. While there are millions of refugees worldwide, only a handful ask to come to the US. Even under existing law, a significant number are still turned away.
As Americans, we already have blood on our hands dating back to World War II. We repeatedly turned away and refused requests for asylum from jews who were under persecution from the Nazi regime. We even turned away Anne Frank’s family and well all know how horribly that turned out.
While we understand the need to keep our country safe and protect terrorists from gaining access and doing harm, we are largely certain that goal can be achieved while still addressing the humane need to provide a safe haven for refugees and other immigrants. Already, very few actual terrorists make it through our challenging system. It is far more likely that someone who is already here becomes radicalized after witnessing and/or experiencing the process through which we subject would-be immigrants. The president’s new policies are almost certainly going to result in a significant loss of life as refugees, once again, are turned away. Once again, their blood is on our hands.
So absurd it’s funny
To highlight the absurdity of extreme vetting, we wondered what it might be like if photographers subjected their models to the same level of intense questioning given to would-be immigrants. Certainly, there would be a lot fewer pictures being taken, and quite possibly the problem of people canceling for stupid reasons or just not showing up at all might be eliminated. We gave the matter considerable thought (we even slept on it) and imagine that the initial intake interview might look something like the following conversation. P is the photographer. M is the would-be model. Just for fun, let’s assume the photographer in this scenario is large, bald, sporting an unkempt goatee, and smelling of salami.
The model is ushered into a bare, dimly lit room that contains nothing more than a single gray metal table and two matching chairs. On the side of the table facing the door sits the photographer holding a manilla folder containing the girl’s model application. On one side of the table sits a half-full cup of coffee that has already left a couple of brown rings on the table. On the other side sits an unopened bottle of water.
Glancing up from the folder, the photographer begins:
P: Have a seat, Miss … ?
M: Hornswaggle. Periwinkle Hornswaggle.
P: (Scoffing) That’s quite a mouthful of a name you have there, Miss Hornswaggle. You don’t actually expect to make it as a model with a horrible name like that, do you?
M: Well, I don’t know, I hadn’t given it much tho…
P: You’ll have to change it, but we can talk about that later. You have a lot of other steps to complete before you’ll get to that little detail. A lot of steps. You may not make it. In fact, I have to say, the majority of young women I see in here don’t make it. They give up. They go home. They end up having babies and doing drugs. Are you sure you’re up to being a model?
M: I … I guess so …
P: You GUESS so? You mean you aren’t sure?
M: I mean, yes. Yes, sir. I’m definitely up to being a model. I’ve dreamed of this my entire …
P: Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before. Everyone has a dream. Only about one percent of those dreams ever come true, though. This is going to be a very challenging process. I hope you came prepared.
M: Well, I think so. I mean, yes, I’ve brought everything that is required, as well as some additional documentation and letters of reference that I hope will help.
P: That’s good. You’ll need all the positive references you can get. We don’t just let anyone model for us, you know. We can’t run any risks. We only accept those who are really committed to our work and to making our photographs great. The greatest, actually. The best in the whole world. Period.
M: I’m ready to do everything I possibly can. You know, I even …
P: Now, the first matter, Miss Hornswaggle, is are you sure that you are human?
P: Yes, Human. We need to be quite sure that we aren’t allowing any aliens in front of our camera. Bad things happen when aliens get in front of cameras. A light flashes and their little slitted eyes don’t know how to respond and we get pictures that look just absolutely horrid, not to mention the whole tentacle problem.
M: Tentacle problem?
P: Tentacle problem. Aliens have them, you know. Tentacles. Long. Slimy. Reaching for things. Just ruins the equipment. Absolutely ruins it.
M: Well, yes, I’m human.
P: Can you prove that assertion, Miss Hornswaggle?
M: Prove? I’m not sure I understand what you mean. You’re looking at me. Can’t you tell that I’m human?
p: Visual appearance isn’t enough. Those aliens are tricky, you know. Always disguising themselves. I had one a few years ago that disguised herself as a floor lamp. She was bright as hell, too., Very bright. The brightest. Then we took her to the studio and she showed her true form. Scary. Very scary. And sad.
M: What kind of proof would you like?
p: We’ll need to do blood test unless you have a certificate from your doctor confirming that you are human.
M: Uhm, well, I brought my medical records as you requested (she hands him an inch-thick file).
P: (leafing through the papers in the file) Okay, we’ll have to confirm all of these, of course, but they seem to be sufficient for now. Are you hiding anything?
M: Hiding anything?
P: Hiding anything. You know, like drugs, alcohol, weapons, bobby pins, alternate hair colors, wigs, alternate gender replacement pieces, toe rings, anything that might ruin a photograph.
M: How do bobby pins ruin a …
P: That’s not a detail we need to get into, young lady. Now, are you hiding anything or not?
M: No, I’m not hiding anything at all.
P: Are you sure?
P: (leaning forward) Are you VERY sure? I can have someone do a body cavity search, you know.
M: Yes! I’m positive! I’m not hiding anything!
P: Fine then. If we find out later that you’re lying you’ll be tossed out of here on your butt. Do you understand?
M: (looking frightened) Y-y-y-yes, sir.
P: How many parents do you have?
M: Uhm, two?
P: You seem a little unsure about that.
M: No, I’m certain I only have two, my mom and my dad.
P: And they’re both still living?
P: How’s their health? How old are they? Neither of them are about to die, are they?
M: (confused) Uh, no, they’re both fine and healthy. I mean, my dad still smokes some when he thinks mom’s not looking, but …
P: So, he has cancer.
M: No! At least, not that anyone knows.
P: He’s keeping his cancer a secret?
M: He doesn’t have cancer!
P: What about contagious disease? Does your dad have any contagious diseases?
M: No, neither of my parents are contagious.
P: Do you live with them?
M: Who? My parents?
P: No, a herd of elephants. Of course, your parents.
M: No, I have an apartment with my boyfriend.
P: Oh, you have an undeclared boyfriend? What manner of worthless bum is he?
M: He’s not undeclared. I put his information on the form they gave me outside. And he’s not a bum. He works construction with his dad.
P: Okay, so you’re mooching off his old man.
M: No! We both work and we pay our own bills. We’re not mooching off anyone.
P: (Scoffs) Right. Does this boyfriend of yours have his own car?
M: Yes, we each have our own car.
P: What piece of junk do you drive?
M: A three-year-old Ford Escort.
P: Three years old, huh? That’s just about the time things start breaking on a car. Do you make enough to cover the repairs?
M: (uncertain) I-I suppose. I keep my oil changed and my tires rotated. You know, all the routine maintenance.
P: Yes, but what happens if you go out and your battery is dead? Would you be stuck?
M: I have jumper cables.
P: Do you know how to use them without blowing something up?
P: (snorts) Sure. That’d be a first. What about a cell phone. Do you have a cell phone that actually works?
M: Yes (pulls phone from purse). Right here.
P: Is your service all paid up and active?
M: Yes, always.
P: Do you always keep it fully charged?
M: I do my best. I carry a mobile charger with me just in case.
P: You don’t have any annoying ringtones on that thing, do you?
M: I guess that depends on what you mean by annoying. I have some that are music, but …
P: They’ll have to go. I can’t tolerate anything but the normal ringtones. And I’d better not catch you sending text messages, either. I hate those things. They’re nothing but distractions. If you’re going to be a model you’ll have to be totally focused on the photoshoot at all times. No distractions of any kind. How many grandparents did you say you have?
M: You hadn’t asked, but I have three left.
P: (stands up and leans over the table) Don’t you be giving me any sass, young lady! I’ll toss you out of here so fast your hair will braid itself. Do you understand?
M: (backing away) Y-y-yes, sir. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any disrespect.
P: You need to watch that mouth of yours. (huffs, then sits down and picks up the folder again) Now, how many grandparents do you have living?
M: Three. My grandpa on my mother’s side died before I was born.
P: Are they in good health? None of them are about to die, are they?
M: Well, my one grandma, my mom’s mom, is in a nursing home. She’s 96, so …
P: She could croak at any minute. Got it. What about the other two?
M: Yeah, uhm … (feeling emotional) They live in Florida. We don’t see them often. I guess they’re doing okay.
P: Florida? How lame. That’s just sad. Very sad. I suppose you’ll be going down there when one of them kicks the bucket.
M: (choking back tears) Well, yeah. Wouldn’t you?
P: Of course not! Why would I go to your grandparent’s funeral? I don’t even know them. They probably smell of lotion and ointment, anyway. I can’t stand people who smell of lotion and ointment. By the way, who normally cuts your hair?
M: (caught off guard by the sudden change of topic) Uhm, Allison at Topix Salon. Why does that matter?
P: Are you giving me sass again, young lady?
M: (shuddering) I’m sorry, no. I apologize.
P: What about tattoos? Do you have any tattoos?
M: Just one. I have my brother’s initials on my wrist. He was killed in a car accident last year. (She extends her arm to show him the tattoo)
P: Initials, huh? Are you sure that’s not part of some gang sign or terrorist code?
M: What? No! DNH. Donahue Notwithstanding Hornswaggle.
P: God, your family has stupid names. Okay, I’m ready for you to take your clothes off.
M: Excuse me? I didn’t think that was part of …
P: Look, I’ve got to know exactly what we’re dealing with, here. I don’t know what kind of mess you might be hiding under the clothes. We’ve had people try to sneak all kinds of propaganda into their shots. They think I don’t notice, but there’s nothing that gets past me. Stretch marks, c-section scars, boob jobs, hidden tattoos, nipple piercings—there’s none of it getting past me.
M: I’m not sure I’m comfortable …
P: I really don’t give two shits about whether you’re comfortable. Just strip and let’s get it over with. You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before. Just get to it.
M: I didn’t think you were allowed to …
P: I’m allowed to do whatever the fuck I want, young lady, and if you really want to be a model you’d better take those clothes off right now. I’m not letting you get any further in this interview until I see you naked.
M: (standing up and gathering her things) I’m sorry, that’s just too much. I … I don’t think I want to be a model anymore. (she begins to move toward the door)
P: Hold it right there, you little brat. I didn’t give you permission to leave. You walk out that door and there’s absolutely no chance of you ever being a model. I’ll blackball your ass. Doesn’t matter if you come back ten years from now and talk to a different photographer. They won’t let you through. You leaving now just proves what a horrible person you are. I’ve had my suspicions about you from the moment you walked in here. You don’t have what it takes to be a model! You can’t handle being a model! No other photographer is going to take you, either. I’m the greatest photographer in this town. No one else is as great as I am. I am the greatest and I don’t let just anyone model for me. You leave now and you’re pathetic. Just absolutely pathetic. Sad, even. Very sad.
M: (leaving) Yeah, I think being a fashion editor is easier than this bullshit. (door shuts behind her)
P: (Pulls out phone and starts tweeting) “Just turned away another pathetic wanna-be model. Didn’t have what it takes. Sad. She should have attended my workshop. #ExtremeVetting #MakePhotographyGreatAgain”
Now, if extreme vetting seems stupid in that situation, imagine just how much more ridiculous it would be stretched out over years of investigation. This is not making America great again. This is a disaster.