After 25 years in the industry, we have truly seen it all and more. We have seen trends come and go and have seen the dynamics of industry evolve and change over time. With the rising role of social media combined with the changing attitudes of society, we are now seeing a worrying trend in the world of child modelling.
We are seeing more and more kids being subject to stylised, highly edited photographs, emulating images you might see on a comp card for an adult model or in a high-fashion editorial magazine. These portfolio images are perhaps taken with the best intention, but it is concerning to see these types of images are becoming more popular, and there seems to be no consideration for age-appropriation. It is also becoming clear that this trend has come about under the proviso that this is what the industry is after. As agents who solely represent children and families, we feel an obligation to speak out against this trend, if only to encourage parents to think twice about the types photographs they want representing their children.
At our agency, we meet with each potential talent personally prior to offering a position on our books. We use this time to talk with each family about their expectations and give them some information about how we work and how the industry works. At all times throughout this process and throughout a child’s representation, we encourage parents to allow their child to be as natural as possible, we don’t require young girls wearing make-up, high-heels or styled outfits. It is typically not what clients are looking for. What we are looking for, is a child with personality and enthusiasm. We want kids who are excited to be in the industry and who love meeting new people and having fun! What we are not looking for is children of a particular size, height, weight or other physical feature.
This may seem odd, that a modelling & talent agency is not looking for ‘looks’, but these guidelines are not just our own, they are a direct response to what our clients consistently ask for. In today’s advertising industry, more and more brands are embracing real, relatable people. This includes children.
This is why we are disappointed by the rise of photographers shooting stylised portfolio photos for children. When you look at these images, you may be surprised (as we are) to learn that many of these children are under the age of 12. It is not just the use of make-up, mature clothing or styled hair. It is also embracing a certain type of posing, which you would typically see in fashion magazines and other editorial pieces that feature adult models. It seems kids are not allowed to smile anymore!
Every day we work with clients that ask us over and over again for real kids. They want kids who love to have fun, have a passion for life like only a child has, and possess that beautiful innocent perspective on the world. While they may want a particular hair colour or other characteristics for a certain campaign, they are not asking us to simply send our cutest kids! They want kids that represent their market, which is the everyday child or family.
So where to from here? Let kids be kids! The clients in our industry embrace that and so should we as agents, photographers and parents. There is no need to portray our children as anything other. Let us not lose touch with what this industry is all about for kids, having fun, building confidence and making wonderful memories!