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i won’t photograph ugly people | indiana county, pa photographer | personal

By August 17, 2011 518 Comments

I wrote a blog a month or two ago that talked about all the things I learned about being a “self employed” business owner. I was only roughly a few weeks into it when I posted the blog but I wrote about the Random Realities of Being Self Employed.  It was more tongue in cheek really, I mean I talked about such things like how your boss is awesome (which is true..haha), about how you can sleep in, how you talk to yourself and answer your self because you have no co-workers to chat with. For those of you who don’t know, I recently quit my full time day job to pursue my dream of being a full time photographer. As exciting as it sounds that I’m following my dream and ultimately getting paid to do what I love, it also comes with a lot of accountability and responsibilities.I mean, I *AM* my own boss and if my business fails it’s *MY* fault, I can’t share the blame with a co-worker or a supervisor….it’s my fault.

With that said, I recently made a decision that I know could ultimately create backlash for what I’ve decided….and honestly, I don’t care!  The really cool thing-(even among all the scary things of owning a business) is that you can make decisions without having to go through the hierarchy of people. On a whim yesterday after seeing something that was so appalling, I decided I was going to email some of my clients to tell them “I’m sorry but I won’t take your photos”.

Let me explain. Last night I posted on Facebook the following: “If I’m wrong, please speak up. I came across a page on Facebook that was created (by someone under a fictitious name) thats purpose is to bully,  ridicule and say mean and hurtful things about their class mates. While visiting the page, I found several teenage girls that have scheduled sessions with me for their senior pictures. I am emailing them tomorrow to cancel their shoots. I do not want them to represent my business and I am beside myself at how MEAN and CRUEL they were on that page.” As I was drafting the email that I was going to send out to the clients my phone was blowing up with comments.



Now I realize it’s going to be hard to know that every person that ever contacts me isn’t a bully, I understand that…but in this specific instance it was right in front of my face. I saw it with my own wasn’t hear say, it was right there..with their smiling face right beside such an ugly statement. I couldn’t forget about it, I mean how I could spend 2 hours with someone during our session trying to take beautiful photos of them knowing they could do such UGLY things. Realistically, I know by canceling their shoots it’s not going to make them “nicer people” but I refuse to let people like that represent my business.

This morning I sent out 4 emails to those clients while CC’ing in their parents explaining WHY I was canceling their shoots. I also included screen shots of the comments they made. They couldn’t deny it, I had the picture of what they said. I informed them that I’d be sending their deposits back and that they’d have to find another photographer. So far, I have received two emails back from their parents that claimed (I’m paraphrasing) they were shocked that this had happened. They apologized that their child acted in such a way and that they would deal with the matter. So far I haven’t received any backlash but I’m ready for it. I’m a small business owner and I have the luxury of making that decision. If you are ugly on the inside, I’m sorry but I won’t take your photos to make you look pretty on the outside!

I’m not going to give a big speech that says how wrong or uncool it is…because let’s face it, you are seniors you should know better. I’m not trying to save the world of bullies or trying to start a movement. I simply don’t want to photograph ugly people!

To all of you who commented or “liked” the status… It’s heart warming to know that you support my decision.

Thank YOU!

*** updated 8/25/11: For those of you reading this for the first time, here is a follow up blog post that may answer any questions you may have:

*** updated 8/16/12: One year later, what I learned about going viral:



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  • […] Jennifer McKendrick, from Indiana County, Pa., wrote on her own Facebook page earlier this week that she came across another Facebook page with nasty comments from four high school girls whose names matched her scheduled clients. […]

  • Bradley Bass says:

    Right on Joe. Seems like most of the people posting are remembering their own experiences with bullies and are glad they are getting some payback rather than the actual moral clarity of her actions. Your points are spot on.

  • Hi! I wanted to say you go, girl. Bullying is never right, and all I can say is you handled this in an extremely awesome way. I hope those girls did learn a little something, though. (You said in your blog you didn’t think it would change them, but I hope that they’ll think twice before bullying again.)

  • Quite right – I can’t see how you can spend hours with someone gaining their trust and working with them to do a good portrait and creating good photos with that knowledge…the trust is gone right there, and I’m sure you could do the shoot, but that knowledge about them would probably leak through somewhere into your work, or destroy your experience of it – either way that’s not conducive to doing the best job for them – so it’s right to request they go to another photographer. And good on you for standing against bullying!

  • Jim S says:

    @ Joe: You made two points, both of which can be refuted. Your first is mostly about the legality of breaking a contract. While this might interest a lawyer, it has little to do with morality. If the photographer broke a contract, she would be civily liable, but my guess is that no one commenting here cares about this. I know I don’t. Your second point is on the consistency of her “policy”. She clearly stated in her writing that she is aware she can’t spot every “ugly” person who walks in her door. Nor is it her job to do that. But when (as she wrote) the ugliness is presented right in front of her, she has the ability to act on it. Case closed.

  • Joe says:

    @Jim S – You refute my first point by “guessing” that “no one here cares about this”- is a terrible statement to make. So we can ignore people when they raise questions/concerns because we can? That is a dangerous precedent in any setting! Communication allows for understanding and analysis; shunning people because you don’t like what they have to say has caused grief for many in the history of mankind…

    But I digress.

    Your second point re-establishes that Jen has the right to do what she did, which I do not refute. She HAS THE RIGHT to do what she did, by her own policies, which you restated. But my concerns are that we, as human beings, need to consider where to draw the line and how consistent we need to be in terms of going about our lives.

    Yes, she is going to take action when the ugliness shows up in front of her, she can do that.

    But, the question is, are you saying that something only exists when you see it and doesn’t when you do not? Think carefully here.

  • Kimberly says:

    I wish I lived in PA so I could bring my family to you for our family portraits! What an amazing woman you are to stand up to snotty teens. I think this WILL make an impact on those girls and be something that they’ll remember!

  • Daniel says:

    thank you

    we need more people like you in this world

  • Daniel says:

    Thank You

    we need more wonderful people like you in this world.

  • Kristen says:

    As a high school teacher, I commend you. I wish more people were like you and had the strength to stand up and not tolerate bullying.

  • Sharon says:

    Good for you!! Sometimes it takes a slightly older person to stand up to the bullies. We had to do it a couple of years ago to protect several girls. And now that bully (and her mother) leaves that group alone. Unfortunately, she has moved on to harass others. You wouldn’t happen to know the school photographers around the LaGrange, IL area would you. So many ugly people at my daughter’s PRIVATE high school.

  • Swara says:

    I think your SO brave for doing this! The world need more people like you! Your defiantly an awesome inspiration!

  • […] to explain why she canceled the shoot. McKendrick elaborated on her decision in a blog post titled, “I Won’t Photograph Ugly People”: …how could I spend 2 hours with someone during our session trying to take beautiful photos of […]

  • Debbie P says:

    Good for you for doing what you felt was right. We as a society need to stop ignoring and rewarding bad behavior. To address someone above that stated that anyone that agrees with what you did was obviously bullied and mistreated when they were younger is wrong. I wasn’t bullied and was popular throughout school and I have seen many ugly things said and done to people. It’s wrong and cannot be ignored any longer. Our children are killing themselves because of things people do and say about them.

  • Brittany says:

    So many people think that what they say and do online has no consequences. These girls learned the hard way that what they did was wrong and had some bad consequences. Bullies need to be exposed. I was a teen not too long ago and I was terribly picked on. I can only imagine how embarrassing it would have been to have a well known business owner show their parents what they were really doing when they were supposed to be learning.

    As a fellow professional photographer, I commend your efforts. I am not sure what I would have done in your situation but you are brave.

  • Melissa D says:

    The world needs more people like you, Jen. You give me hope for humanity!

  • April says:

    As a survivor of really cruel bullying, I commend you! It was long enough ago that the comments were in writing and it was called a “slam book” but those comments went viral (verbal) before long. If an adult had possessed the courage and morality to stand up for me, my childhood would have been very different.

    Way to go!! I totally agree with what you are doing. On the contract issue – well, aren’t those worried about it missing the larger point here? If it were my daughter behaving this way, a contract with a photog would be the last thing on my mind.

    Girls need to know this kind of thing is NOT OK. The consequences of their actions are further reaching than they think. There is enough cruelty between humans these days. Time to shift.

  • Cheryl says:

    Thank you. I no longer live in western PA, but I was proud to see someone from my neck of the woods take a stand against mean-spirited people. I only wish you had been around 30 years ago when I needed you.

  • Joseph says:

    Well spoken, madam. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • Brandon says:

    I think that you are a hero. As a new teacher, you really act as an inspiriation that I will take forward as I go into education. @Sylvia , man, sometimes we can judge, I got with “judge by the content of their character bit” of my favorite orator..
    You can’t judge everything, and people need to be free, but there needs to be ballance, and yes, we can judge people, especially when their freedoms interfere with others ability to enact their own.

  • Brandon says:

    @Joe I agree you can’t see the curelty, b ut taking action on what you can might instil in people that in this case, might instil in a few people who are not quite as cruel that this is not the right way.. If it hinders another bully, or cruel act.. it is worth it..
    We are remembered for what we do for others, and the myopitic attitudes many people have are self destructive and lead not to happiness most of the time..
    She cannot catch them all, but she can make her stand make them feel maybe a little awful while they are being shot knowing her stance..

  • Kate says:

    Your business, you returned the deposits – I have no issue with it and no one else should either. I applaud it.

    In fact as a working mother with 3 small kids at home I recently made a change in my in home care giver / nanny for the past 3 years because she has been engaged in bullying and mean-ness with another of our part time sitters that just came to my attention. When the mean nanny protested and said the other girl stole her job that she did not of this at work etc – I told her that as the mother of my children I would make child care decisions that were best for my kids and I believe being empathetic and modeling kind, empathetic behaviors to be a job requirement and based on her behavior outside of work with another employee of mine (and sometimes she brought the behaviors into my own home even if they were not directed at my kids my kids were a witness to it) that she was out of a job effective immediately.

    I was never bullied or a mean girl but knew plenty of girls who were either bullied by others or mean girls themselves and i have to say damn that felt good!

  • I think it’s so great you are taking a stand against bullying! Go you!

    Our Growing Garden

  • Anne Kitzman says:

    Good for you, I applaud you! I’m also a photographer with a small business and I would have done the same thing. I totally understand what you mean by not wanting photos of those girls to represent your business. Beauty shines from within and it shows in a photograph … and in this case what is “within” those particular girls is not beauty. I can’t imagine spending a few hours trying to shoot “glamor” photos of those girls, knowing how they really are.

  • […] Check out her blog for the full story. […]

  • Hannah says:

    What you did is such a great example. Too often people stand idly by while bad behavior is taking place and by doing so are really condoning it in a way. By taking a stand and letting those people know that their behavior is unacceptable you took action and made them accountable for their actions. More people need to take courageous action like you.

  • Jami says:

    You did the right thing. Thank you for your courage, and for sharing your story. I hope it encourages others to do the same.

  • Teri says:

    Praise in public; scold in private.
    What you did was right for you and your business.
    Writing about it publically is where you fall into a similar pattern as the offenders.

    You don’t need to be praised publicly for a private decision, or it alters the intention of what you’re doing.

    You should also change your contracts. “Joe” was right; it taken to court you could be held to take the pictures. If a contract was signed, and consideration (money) was exchanged — you are legally bound unless disolving the contract was mutal or the other party violated a stipulation.

    Just an extra helping on your food for thought 🙂

  • Lis says:

    I know you’re getting a zillion emails about this, but I *HAVE* to comment to you.. to thank you. I’m also a photographer and I have turned down jobs because the person was ugly on the inside. It’s nice to see I’m not alone. It’s nice to see you shared this publicly. And it’s nice to see you are honestly taking the moral ground by not sharing the same mud back. Thank you.

  • Niamh says:

    I was viciously bullied online in high school, and despite having screenshots, printouts, and names, none of the adults I told were willing to help me. Thank you for standing up to these girls, Jen. Someone needs to do it. ♥

  • I commend you for making a bold move and thinking with your heart (not your wallet). I am so frustrated by the media stories of children/teens being bullied in school and online. The fact that you took a stand really is heart warming. I hope more people are willing to take a stand, I know I am!

    As a mother and a former kid who was teased in school, “Thank you!” You are setting a wonderful example to business owners and showing that even small steps make a HUGE difference.

  • Wende says:

    Thank you. I want my 5 year old daughter to grow up with someone like YOU as her hero.

    You made a hard decision and you took a stand for what’s right. I salute you.

  • wanda says:

    Oh yea! You go girl! I like a person that stands up to any bully! God will bless you. Wait and see.

  • Susan in NY says:

    the world needs more Jen McKen’s. You are a true hero!

  • […] 居住在宾夕法尼亚的职业摄影师Jennifer McKendrick近日在自己的博客上发表了一则以“我不拍丑陋的人”为标题的声明,声称她取消了为一些女高中生拍照的预约,原因是她认为这些人非常“丑陋”。 […]

  • Maddy Moore says:

    This kind of bums me out. I understand that it’s your company and branding and I HATE all forms of bullying just ask much as you do. The fact of the matter is, people make mistakes and the cyber world. Calling them “cruel” and “ugly” is pretty harsh. They are teenagers, did you do anything as a teenager that you wish with all your heart you could take back? You sound like you are saying your will only work with “perfect” people. Maybe those girls aren’t bullies, maybe there is more to the story. You also have no idea what these girl’s lives are like or what their relationships with their parents are like. “CC”ing their parents seems more like tattling than anything else. You could have just talked with the girls directly, and I don’t understand why you needed to post this in public. This looks like more of a publicity stunt than anything else. You jumped on the “anti-bullying” band wagon and got a lot of views, but you may have also been really hurtful in the process.

  • Brooke says:

    I clicked on this from a photographers feed/group I am a member of and I had a totally different idea of what the content was going to be from the headline.
    I really LOVED this post. And I want to thank you for coming out and talking about it publicly!
    I completely agree with you and I think if more people were more proactive as you have been, I hope it would be a much different world!
    Thank you for posting that!

  • […] stumbled upon a great post by a photographer, Jen McKen who lives in Pennsylvania.  She’s taken quite a stand against bullies and is to be applauded for her actions on her […]

  • […] The Slippery Slope of Choosing Your Subjects by Vincent Ferrari Posted on August 24, 2011 Last night I posted on facebook the following: “If I’m wrong, please speak up. I came across a page on facebook that was created (by someone under a ficticious name) thats purpose is to bully,  ridicule and say mean and hurtful things about their class mates. While visiting the page, I found several teenage girls that have scheduled sessions with me for their senior pictures. I am emailing them tomorrow to cancel their shoots. I do not want them to represent my business and I am beside myself at how MEAN and CRUEL they were on that page. via […]

  • Cat says:

    This is my opinion, but I think the bigger thing to do would have been to address the girls who were bullying and their parents and left it at that. This just screams “Look at me! I did a good deed. And btw, this is great for exposure!” A wise man once said, “Blessed are the humble…” 😉 Just my two pennies.

  • David Sturdy says:

    Thank you for being able to stand for something Jen. I stumbled across this from one of my friends, and I have to appreciate the fact that their are people that act on what they believe.

  • I’m glad to see that integrity and speaking out against something wrong are not completely dead! I’m a photographer who’s just getting started in the Cleveland area, and I decided early on that I wasn’t going to photograph anyone or anything I don’t feel comfortable photographing–it’s even in my contract! I knew it could potentially cost me clients, but let’s face it, we’re artists, and we work for ourselves–so we can make decisions like that to make sure we can sleep at night and protect/build our good name–and a good name is worth more than all the money in the world! I wouldn’t fret over all of the other photographers following you now (some of whom may be way awesome), because ultimately they like you for something far more important than the quality of your work–they like you for your INTEGRITY. People criticizing you for speaking out against bullying and inner ugliness, and who believe your opinions have no place in your business, really do not understand that plenty of other business people have opinions and PAY GRAND SUMS to get people to share their opinions with ads, perks, and lobbyists–and all to make a bigger dollar; these people who disagree with you better hope their barber doesn’t think they’re ugly, or they could say the wrong thing and find themselves getting stabbed with scissors! It’s important to stay true to yourself, especially in this business, and my hat goes off to you for doing so!

  • John says:

    Very impressive! There’s a book, [The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, by Sutton] – this life/business experience should append many of the examples the book has to offer; It really helps underscore the need for ‘goodness’ to prevail – no matter the consequence. thx for sharing!

  • Emily says:

    @ Joe

    As they say, “Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

    Just because she is incapable of consistency because she can’t have perfect knowledge of her clients, doesn’t mean there is a problem with her taking action when she does have knowledge. I believe that’s what Jim and Jen both said.

  • THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for posting this!! I was a very shy person while growing up, and was bullied all through school. I had very low self-esteem and just didn’t quite know how to stand up for myself. It took me many, many years to finally start feeling good about myself.

    I wish someone like you had been around when I was in school, to help out people like me!

  • Dawn says:

    I think you are extraordinary. I also have to shake my head that anyone would comment otherwise. I am also venturing into small business in a field where everybody’s got questionable ethics. I want to sleep well at night. And if that means dropping a client or two who doesn’t represent what I myself strive to be, so be it. I’m VERY proud of you.

  • […] she blogged about it and wrote, “If you are ugly on the inside, I’m sorry but I won’t take your […]

  • […] screen shots of the offensive posts, emailed the students and their parents, and wrote about it on her blog. I went to her Facebook page and, when people said there have been “hundreds” of supporting […]

  • Neg says:

    The problem is you’re taking one instance of a person’s online life and then judging their entire character by it. We may all do/say things things that we are not necessarily proud of, but there’s always a reason and one misstep does not a bad person make. Maybe these girls are having problems at home and taking it out on their classmates. Should someone should talk to them about it? Heck yes; parents, counselors, you name it. Does the problem have anything to do with you as a photographer? No. Reporting it was the right thing to do, but refusing their business is the definition of unprofessional. If you can’t separate your personal feelings from your work, you’re not going to do yourself or your future clients any favors.

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