My Interview with model, Jenifer Sutter

During my short time on MeWe, I have joined a few photography groups, and have started sharing some of my work. MeWe really is a great social network, especially for those of us who are photography oriented, and it has allowed me to meet some really great people  – photographers and models – during my short time there! 

A couple of the photography groups that I am a member of, “IFD MeWe”, and “IFD Non-Nude Model Photography” were created by a young lady, and model, Jenifer Sutter.

The lovely Jenifer Sutter

Recently, I was looking over Jenifer’s MeWe profile and news feed, and it was obvious that she traveled, and had been to many locations around the world – she was interesting, and she seemed like a really nice, down to earth person.

That prompted me to initiate a private chat with her where I asked her if she would like to participate in one of my “online, get to know the model better, interviews.”  Much to my delight, she replied back almost instantly, saying that it sounded like fun, and confirming what I had originally thought about her, and that is – she really is a nice person – open, and friendly, and not standoffish in the slightest.

Below, you’ll find our interview question and answer session.

NOTE: Some of the questions might seem a bit redundant, that’s because the questions were all asked beforehand.

Question #1: How old were you when you decided that you wanted to be a model?

I did a few shoots as a teenager for a local department store, but I didn’t start modeling regularly until I was 26.  A late bloomer, I know!

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #2: Is there anyone that has inspired you in your modeling career? If so, who, and in what way?

Many photographers inspire me with their passion for their art.  I am in awe of the vision some of them have, especially when setting up a shot and it’s not immediately obvious to me what they are going for.  Then when I see the finished image and it’s so different than it seemed from my perspective, I realize that they see the world in a unique way, and that inspires my trust in them.  It makes me want to put in as much effort as they are.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #3: What was your very first modeling gig, TF* or paid?

The first shoot that I actually consider to have been real modeling was when I was 26, and it started as a shoot for myself.  Up until then I had always been lean, no matter what I ate or what my activity level was.  In my mid 20s my metabolism changed, and the weight started to creep up on me.  I realized what was happening pretty early, and came up with a health plan and got really fit again.  I decided that I would probably never look any better than I did at that point, so I found a photographer and booked a shoot.  I wanted really good photos for posterity, so we shot everything from clothed to implied to nude, and when we were done and everything was edited, the photographer contacted me and said that not only would he not charge me for the shoot, but he would like to pay me, and get a release so that he could use the images on his website, and possibly sell them.  I was so flattered that I said yes without thinking very much about it.  Then jobs started rolling in and the whole thing took off.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #4: What do you like the most about being a model? And the least?

The travel is the best part of it for me.  It’s why I modeled in the first place.  A close second are the people I worked with.  I have met so many wonderful, fantastic people, some of whom are my best friends today.  I never thought that modeling was a goal in itself, and I didn’t do it for the photos or the money or any kind of notoriety.  I didn’t tell a lot of friends or relatives about it, and I took steps to hide it from coworkers at my day job.  If the travel had not been part of it, I would never have done it.

There wasn’t anything that I really disliked about it though either.  I have always been an early riser, so getting up before dawn doesn’t bother me.  I guess there is one thing that I really didn’t like:  Cold ocean water in the morning!  If shivering were an Olympic sport, I would have the record for the most gold medals in history.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #5: Do you have a favorite genre to shoot? And conversely, do you have a least favorite genre to shoot?

For me it has always been the people I work with and the location of the shoot that make the project a “favorite.”  I can be bored out of my mind on a beach, or have a blast while shooting something as boring as stock or fashion.  It’s the photographer and everyone else at the shoot that make it fun for me, rather than the genre.  All else being equal, being outdoors was usually more interesting, but I had really meaningful experiences in all sorts of situations, locations, and genres.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #6: Are you a freelance model, or agency model?

Freelance.  I never worked with an agency, and every project came in by word-of-mouth.  Networking is key, and your reputation means everything.  I have nothing against agencies, but I just happened to fall in with the right group of connected people so it wasn’t necessary.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #7: Do you do a lot of traveling with your modeling career? What’s the farthest from home you’ve been for a modeling gig?

I actually only took modeling jobs that involved travel.  Travel is my focus, so modeling at home doesn’t make sense for me.  One of the first projects I did was an around-the-world shoot that took place on six continents, four oceans, and in 14 countries, and lasted more than two full months.  Circling the globe is about as far as you can go!  I have modeled in Russia; Fiji; Malaysia; Maldives; most European countries, especially in the Mediterranean; Seychelles and other locations in Africa; several countries in South America and Central America, and more Pacific, Mediterranean, and Caribbean islands than I can remember.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #8: What advice would you give to a new, aspiring model, that’s just starting out and wants to do modeling for a career?

First, don’t think that being a model makes you special.  It doesn’t.  Even if you are fantastic at it, and are truly an artist, being a successful model is no more impressive than being a successful painter, sculptor, business person, or barista.  It’s not who you are, it’s just what you do.  It doesn’t take much to get a good reputation in the industry—show up on time, be easy to work with, always give your best, and once you agree to do a shoot, even if it’s TFP, that shoot becomes an obligation.  Conversely, it doesn’t take much to get a bad reputation.  Flake on a couple of photographers, show up late, don’t put forward your best work, or act like you’re something special and you will quickly develop a bad reputation and no one will want to work with you.

Second, don’t use your real name.  In this world of social media it may seem crazy to not use your real name; how will you possibly impress all the girls you went to high school with if you use a modeling name???  But the reality is that they aren’t actually impressed, and when you get a job in the corporate world or in some other career someday, the people you work with WILL Google your name, and when all your modeling shows up, you won’t be taken seriously.  Everything you or anyone else puts online is there forever.  It’s just a five second search away from any screen in the world.  Women have it hard enough in the business world without giving people a reason to not take you seriously, or even worse, giving them a reason to think you have gotten where you are on your looks or the attention of men.  I worked as a pharma rep at the time of that first shoot, and I couldn’t have some doctor I was trying to educate about the benefits of using my drug to treat acute maxillary sinusitis due to haemophilus influenzae, moraxella catarrhalis, or streptococcus pneumoniae blank out while I was talking because he’s pretty sure he saw me topless on the internet last night.  I mean, semi-synthetic macrolide antibiotics pretty much sell themselves, but I still need the guy to pay attention!

It was actually my boss, when I was trying to get the time off to do the around-the-world trip, who came up with the solution.  I was up front with him, and I told him that some of the pictures might end up on websites and I might not have quite all of my parts covered.  There was a mental pause while he processed that.  Then he just said “it’s all about plausible deniability.  If someone sees a picture like that, you have to get them to think it looks like you, but isn’t actually you.  People want to be skeptical.  You just have to give them a small thing to allow that skepticism to take hold.  Will your name be on these pictures?”  Of course not!  I told him.  “No, that’s not what you want.  You want your name to be on them.  It just has to be someone else’s name.  And not just a different name than yours.  It should be foreign and there should be other details, like you live in Prague and you want to be a school teacher or nurse and help people when you grow up.  This is a completely different person who just happens to look like you!  People will want to believe it.  What’s your heritage?  Where is your family from?”  My mom is Czech and my dad is German, I said.  “Perfect.  You can pass as Czech and a lot of entertainers are coming out of Eastern Europe now that the Iron Curtain has come down.”  So I created a modeling bio with an Eastern European name, created profiles with that name on all the modeling sites, and set it up so that no one would be able to find my modeling by googling my real name.  You don’t have to go that far, especially now that the model photography business has changed to be more social media centric, but at least don’t use your real name!  You have no idea what you will be doing ten years from now.  Don’t jeopardize any potential career you might have in the future by using your real name for modeling.  There is literally ZERO reason to use your real name, it doesn’t benefit you at all, unless you are trying to impress people you probably don’t even know anymore.  It will also dramatically cut down on the creepers who show up where you work or go to school, too!

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #9: When you decided to become a model did you receive any “resistance” from family and/or friends? And if so, from your own experience, do you think guys or girls are more inclined to be judgmental?

No, none.  My mother escaped over a fence from Communist Czechoslovakia while being chased by dogs and men with guns, and has enough experience with real life that nudity isn’t even on the scale of things to be concerned about.  It’s way below zombie attacks and asteroids hitting the earth.  She framed some of my nude shots and hung them on her wall.  I also have found that it’s not gender that determines whether people are judgmental but background.  Young, old, male, female, whatever…it’s people who have grown up a certain way who care who you are.  Just steer around them and go ahead with your life.  Keep in mind too that judgmental attitudes are affected be who YOU are, too.  If you give people a reason to not like you, like thinking that being a model makes you special, they will find it easy to be judgmental.  Others being judgmental can be more a reflection of you than of them.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #10: Have you ever had a bad experience during a session, something that made you uncomfortable, or unsettled your nerves – if so, elaborate if you can / or are comfortable in doing so?

Nothing I would consider “bad.”  I did one shoot that I vaguely regret, but I learned a lot from it and my fears about the photos becoming associated with my real name didn’t become realized.  In the end that shoot even had a positive influence on me.  Stay away from alcohol when shooting, kids!  You will make better decisions.  🙂

I endured a few suggestive comments from photographers and other industry people too, but nothing every woman hasn’t gotten in daily life and in any other job, so I didn’t see them as related specifically to modeling.  I have been very lucky to work with very professional people and companies.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #11: Somewhat related to the previous question, being that you sometimes pose nude or semi-nude, has this ever lead to photographers asking you to do anything that you didn’t want to do? Again if so, elaborate if you can / or are comfortable in doing so?

Nothing personal, like asking for sex, or anything creepy like asking me to shoot simulated sex scenes with the photographer, or asking if it’s ok if he shoots while nude himself.  I know a lot of models that have dealt with those kinds of things, but never experienced it myself.  Photographers or directors usually tell me up front what their expectations are, and it’s very clearly defined ahead of time.  I think since I sort of accidentally skipped the TFP and “starting out” phase of modeling that I just never worked with people like that.  I know they are out there though.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #12: What are your thoughts about models bringing escorts to a session? Do you bring an escort with you to a session?

I don’t think it should be a controversial thing.  I have never brought anyone, but whether someone wants to or not should be a non-issue.  If the photographer doesn’t want that, you’d have to wonder why.  Then again I have heard stories about boyfriends getting upset or trying to control the shoot, so in that sense I can see the reluctance on the photographer’s part, too.  If you have that kind of boyfriend, maybe you should bring a female friend instead.  I would think most photographers would be fine with that. If they aren’t then you should question whether you should be shooting with them.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #13: Personally, I would love to think that someday we as a society, could get away from this silly notion that nudity is something to be ashamed of. What are your thoughts about this, do you find yourself frequently explaining your art form to others, or just sometimes, or do you just let people think whatever they want and go about your business?

As I mentioned above, I went to great lengths to hide my modeling from coworkers, but it wasn’t because I was ashamed or embarrassed.  I just recognized that it could affect my career, so I acted accordingly.  It sucks, but it’s reality, and I’m not a crusader who tries to change other people’s reality.  My close friends and family all know about my modeling, so I have never had to explain it or justify it at all.  No one has ever challenged me on it.  But since I did hide it from coworkers and casual acquaintances, I’m sure I might have had those conversations otherwise.  If I did, I don’t think I would try to passionately defend my modeling.  I think I would just let it go and allow that person to think whatever he or she wanted to think.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #14: If you could go back and do anything differently with your modeling career, would you, and what would it be?

I think I would have done more art modeling, and less glam and pinup, but then I wouldn’t have had as many travel opportunities.  It’s easy to look back and wish you did things differently, but I think I am pretty satisfied that I made the right decisions for myself at the time.

– Jenifer Sutter

Question #15: What made you decide to give up modeling as a career?

Well I never did it as a career, more as a way to support my travel passion.  I got a day job that sends me all over the world, so I didn’t need to model anymore to get my travel fix.  I also wanted to quit while I was ahead.  I know that women can model successfully at any age, and I love seeing their images, but I didn’t want to feel like I was trying to hold onto something too long.  I didn’t feel the need to evolve in a different direction as a model.  I modeled in more than 30 countries, shot just about every genre, met amazing people, and learned so much about myself and evolved as a person.  I got what I needed out of it, and it was just time to move on.

– Jenifer Sutter

I would like to extend a heart felt “Thank You” to Jenifer for participating with this interview, and for the time she spent, and the thoroughness and candor she expressed with her answers.  She shows wisdom beyond her years!