Personal-Everyday Chaos

just to clarify- not shooting “ugly” people | indiana county, pa photographer | personal

By August 25, 2011 92 Comments

Hey all! So I’m a little shocked that I’m even writing this blog post and that it has gotten this big. Although I don’t feel its necessary to justify my action or my stance, I thought because I am not ashamed of what I did, I’d explain a few things that perhaps some of you may be missing. Incase you are wondering, this is in reference to how “I Won’t Photograph Ugly People” and the other blog post “ummmmm….Thank You!“.

I’m just going to jump into it……I realize there will probably be some grammatical/spelling errors so refer to my disclaimer on my home page. 🙂

How did I come across the page? I think this is a very valid question.  I’ve read some of the comments about me being a facebook stalker and how it’s kind of creepy that I was checking out my clients facebook pages….and I’m sorry if you feel that way, when in reality THIS is how I “stumbled” across the page. A former colleague of mine (whom I’m friends with on facebook and whom I trust) posted the following on their page. As a parent of a small child of my own, of course I am going to click on it!


THIS is how I found a PUBLIC page that was saying very mean, hateful, cruel comments and in-turn found 4 of my clients saying mean things. My intent is not to check out my clients personal pages nor do I have intentions of ‘screening’ them on facebook in the future, but as I said in my initial article…THIS was right in front of my face. How could I forget about it and then try to spend time with an individual trying to take pretty pictures when they did such ugly things and it went against everything I am trying to teach my daughter. That would make me a hypocrite wouldn’t it?

Which brings me to a completely other topic. The word UGLY. Some of you are saying that I myself am being a bully by calling them UGLY. I’m not sure if you were able to read the article in it’s entirety, but what I was referring to were their actions. People aren’t born mean, it’s something they are taught to do or that they do by CHOICE. They were making a choice to be mean and I was making a choice NOT to be part of it or to be part of my business. For those of you who say I should keep my personal beliefs out of my business because it makes me unprofessional. Then I will be unprofessional until the day my business fizzles. I sleep good at night.

I did this for publicity. Well heck, IF that is the case, then I guess I hit the jackpot! Not that this means much to you that already have your mind set, but this was not a publicity stunt. If you could take even a few minutes to look thru some of my personal posts on my blog, you will see that I was writing about my business decisions and my personal beliefs, my personal life, etc. just like I always have. I’m thinking that in this instance, just a few more people could relate! My original intent was not to go on an anti-bullying rally, but hey if that is the message that gets out there…is it THAT wrong. At least it got you talking about the subject, it opened up dialog for some people to talk with their children about it….is it really such a bad thing.

Do I regret my decision. NO. Not in the least bit.  We as photographers, are taught to build our brands so that we can attract the types of clients we WANT to shoot. Well, if individuals decide NOT to hire me based on my decision, well, they probably aren’t the type of client I wanted to attract anyway.

As with the parents that responded. I saw some articles that said that they apologized to me. That is untrue. Why would they apologize to me? They said thank you for bringing it to their attention and that they would deal with it at home. I think sometimes, people want to jump onto “they learn it from the parents” bandwagon, and I’m sure in some cases this is true, but in all honestly sometimes the parents may be unaware and if a million bystanders never SAY anything, how are the parents supposed to address the issue. You can call me a “tattle” but if it were MY child making those mean comments, I certainly would want someone to bring it to my attention so that I can address it. I’m not a counselor so my job was not to “talk to them during the shoot to find out WHY”, that is their parents role and I simply placed it in their hands all while not wanting my business to be part of it.

Why am I not releasing the names of the girls? Seriously…is this even a question? Call me a liar, call this a media stunt, call it whatever you want but I’m sorry you will not get the names. We live in such small towns here in Southwestern PA, don’t you think by releasing those names I would in-turn be releasing the media and internet onto them completely defeating the purpose. I mean, if I’m getting mean and hateful things said about me for STANDING UP for something I believe in, can you even imagine what would happen to these 4 girls? As much as I don’t LIKE what they did, I do have compassion and empathy and I would never do that to ANYONE.

I’m told I was being prejudice by my decision. The question was stated as if I was against anyone of different cultures, races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, etc, etc. I’m sorry but this is WAY out of context. If you are either of those and you are MEAN, I don’t want you to be associated with my business. I’m shocked that this turned into a prejudice issue. I think it just boils down to respect. I respect that there are individuals that have an opposing view, I expected that-it’s what makes the world go round. I also respected those individuals who stated WHY they didn’t agree with me and used their real names and commented in a mature way without calling names. Then on the other hand, there were those that didn’t agree with my decision but went about it under a fake name using profanity-well, I’m not sure anything has to be said about that!

Another criticism of mine has been that I deprived the four girls of having photos in their yearbook. I know now that this is different in different parts of the country/world, but I am not the contracted school photographer and I am in no way denying these girls their right to have a picture in the yearbook. I am not the yearbook gatekeeper. I am simply hired as a independent photographer to shoot lifestyle pictures of seniors to hand out for family and friends. I also would like to point out the fact that I’m not the only photographer in the area. In fact, there are some around here that are 100x better than me, so it’s not as if they don’t have access to having someone else take their picture.

PS: I saw several articles that said I’m a Philadelphia Photographer…..correction: I’m a Southwestern PA Photographer. Go Steelers!! 🙂


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  • Again, I APPLAUD YOU Jen!! You’re right, you don’t owe anyone an explanation for YOUR CHOICE to not do these girls’ photos after THEY MADE the CHOICE to say UGLY things. But again stand for what you feel is right, therefore have no reason to be ashamed for doing what’s right. At least you can sleep well at night knowing you did what’s RIGHT for ALL involved, and NOT just for yourself or the money. Karma works both ways: the GOOD you have done will be rewarded, just as bad comes back to those who’s moral compass is off 🙂

  • Jenn says:

    I myself wasn’t bullied much growing up, but my son is targeted often and extremely vicious ways. I found you by way of a photographer for whom I have a great deal of respect.

    You shouldn’t have to justify your actions. But for the record, I don’t have a problem at all with the stance you took. It doesn’t make you a bully, it doesn’t make you mean, it doesn’t make you a bad business owner. What it does is make you a parent and individual who lives what they believe.

    (I often feel media itself is the worst bully.)

    Professionally, as you’ve said, it’s your business, your choice and you are the only one that has to assume responsibility for any fall out. Which I hardly be believe this is going to have much negative impact. But the fact is, you’ve made no excuses or whines about it.

    Will it change these girls? Likely not. But it does give those who wouldn’t normally speak out courage.

    Chick-Fil-A isn’t open on Sunday for family religious reasons, a teashop down the street closes during the Christmas holidays. It’s owned by a Jewish family. Many business choices are made based on personal convictions, why should yours be any different?

    I suspect the backlash it has more to do with envy for standing up for a belief than anything.

    And for the record, like you, I’d hardly call myself the best photographer out there. There are plenty our there better, but I truly like your work. I’ll stick around even after this blows over, and it will.

  • Beth says:

    I’d like to comment on those folks concerned about stalking your clients on Facebook. It is a fact now that companies looking to hire you will go look out on MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn etc to see what type of behavior you put out on the internet. If there is questionable behavior, then don’t expect a call or expect to be asked about the pic of you doing a keg stand during your crazy college years. It is common practice for people to CHOOSE who they do business with based on their global responsibilities for instance PepsiCo or Coke or Starbucks etc. People choose companies that are socially responsible. So logically, people who offer services where they brand themselves will/are choosing their customers in order to further their brand/name/company. It’s now a very personal choice instead of just a target income demographic, business may now choose even more specifically..such as exhibited behaviors on Facebook. Perhaps folks will start to realize that bad behavior is bad behavior and that EVERYONE sees it. That bad behavior is just as damaging to themselves as the bullying is to their victims.

  • Virginia Kleaver says:

    Love this! So glad you clarified how you stumbled upon the bullying page. There are always going to be people who disagree with what you do, and immature folks who disagree with ANYTHING. Good for you for standing up for your beliefs and not letting yourself be bullied, either!

  • Faith says:

    Continuing to be proud of you and your strong back to stand up for what you believe in.
    It is unfortunate that you felt you have to “justify” your actions to anyone.
    People fear the unknown and apparently, good morals and strong convictions are unknown to these people who question your decision.
    Kudos again. Good luck in your future endeavors!

  • Tanya says:

    As a parent I completely support your decisions. All of them, I respect you for refusing to photograph the girls and for not releasing their names. If more people would stand up like you maybe kids would think twice about bullying. Please keep up the great work and Go Steelers!!

  • What GREAT comments by all! {{{{{{ Good, good, good…..Good vibrations }}}}}} =))

  • Cindy says:

    It is a shame you had to justify yourself at all. Those who have criticized you, likely don’t live here in SW PA. They’ll never come to you for a session, they will never meet you. They feel free in being nasty or disagreeing because they don’t live it here. Recently a young girl in our area killed herself because of bullying. It is those that sit idle and quiet while witnessing these acts that allow horrible things to transpire. Not calling the girls out by name was the right call, but not publically standing up for what you believe it would have been wrong. Brava! Again! Brava!

  • Leslie Boyd says:

    First, I commend you for taking a stance. As a photographer it makes sense to be able to pick and choose your clients, especially seniors. People have to realize these girls would have been handing out pictures to friends and family advertising for your business. When celebrities ‘go bad’ for lack of a better phrase (ex. Tiger Woods) they loose endorsements for their reflection on the said company and for fear of losing business or boycotting. Why should it have to be different for any other business? Secondly, for those who think bullying isn’t a big deal and it’s just another phase in your teenage years you need to google bullying. A LOT of other states are taking legal actions against people like these four girls who set out to harass others via facebook or another public forum. It’s all over. And don’t think for one second if something awful happened (GOD forbid) the families will most likely set out for justice.

    I’ve always said don’t do anything in your life that you don’t want to come back and haunt you. Hopefully these ladies don’t choose a public lifestyle because this will come back to haunt them for sure and as and adult in the ‘real’ world it won’t be so funny and they won’t be so proud. Well that is unless they didn’t learn their lesson then they may be proud. I always think of the movie Hope Floats and Polka Dot when people don’t think bullying follows the bullied throughout life.

    Good Luck – I think you’ve done well if one little ole opinion matters. 🙂


  • Terri Snow says:

    Listen Jen, you are a great business owner, you are a wonderful person, and you are entitled to your opinion just as everyone else is this world is. I believe what you did was a great business decision for you. In your line of work, you can chose your clients. I am so proud to see someone stand up for what they believe no matter the situation or scenario. Go jen! You don’t need to justify yourself. I say let em hate!

  • Jen! I’m a fellow [b] schooler, and I’ve followed this from the start, and I think you have handled this better than I would have! In truth, it kind of DOES make you want to turn into a facebook stalker, especially with High School Seniors to screen your clients. Good thing I don’t shoot a ton of seniors! 😉 I also think it’s sad you have to defend yourself and your right to run your business how you see fit. And if you did do this for publicity, did people think you wanted to deal with having to justify yourself too?! LOL! Anyway, long story short – YOU ROCK! I’m proud to say I know you from the [b] school!

  • CJ says:

    As a mom, and someone who was picked on in school (we didn’t use the word “bully” in the 70’s and 80’s), I think you are handling this whole situation with grace and maturity. You explain yourself and your actions very well and quite clearly; it’s a shame that those who disagree with you do not seem to pay close enough attention to what you’re actually saying and instead, prefer to use bits and pieces of it, then go off on a tangent. If someone told me that my daughter was participating in cyber-bullying, I’d lose my mind – over HER ACTIONS, not the person who told me. We all need to help each other in this world to be good and do good. Keep a stiff upper lip – you’re doing great!

  • Aletta says:

    I truly like what you said and what you did. You weren’t stalking (I would have clicked on the same thing); you weren’t depriving anyone of a senior picture (having had a senior in high school, I know the options out there); you weren’t being prejudicial (truly?? Someone thought that being mean should be on par with race, religion and ethnicity?). I agree that you aren’t the girls’ therapist, or their parent. As a parent, I would hope that if my child had done something reprehensible that someone would bring it to my attention and let me parent my child, just as you did. I’m sorry you’re getting this kind of backlash and only hope that all the positive commentary outweighs the bad.

  • I am glad to see you not succumb to the bullying you are receiving. Keep it up I am proud to be a fellow photographer. Keep doing what you do regardless of what is being said. I think you have been nothing but professional and a lot of people agree with what you have said and done.

  • Craig G says:

    No further explanation required. Ignore the trolls. Have a nice day.

  • Eric says:

    I just want to say well done, madame! I heard about your whole ordeal on the news and I was so moved by what you did. If only there were more people like you who would stand by there convictions and not allow such needless violence (and yes, what those girls did was violent) to be tolerated. As a person who has been bullied before, and even done some bullying myself, I completely understand the ramifications that can be caused by such insensitivity to others. We are ALL human beings and should be treated as such. So once again thank you, thank you, a million times thank you. You are truly OUTSTADING Mrs. McKen! 🙂

  • Rivkah says:

    I’m a little shocked you’ve had to defend yourself. Your position was clear from the first article I read, and I support it wholeheartedly.

    In a way, this blog made me sad, because it illustrates that: sometimes people are going to twist things because they want to appear “right” at all costs. People who are attacking you or twisting your words or position are very very sad people.

    don’t give them any more energy or thought. the majority of people out there- be they parents, people who were bullied as kids themselves, people with compassionate hearts who would have done the same in your shoes—the majority is going to “get it” right away and totally support you.

    Don’t worry. you didn’t come across as a stalker or prejudiced or any of these ridiculous things.

    People will twist things if they are in the wrong..and they’ll try to throw mud…but just hold your head up and be you (which is what is so great, and what we are all applauding in the first place, is your courage to be YOU and live your truth!) and the mud won’t stick… if anyone is saying hurtful things to you and about you, it’s because they haven’t yet learned that “being RIGHT” wont’ make them “Look good.” that twisting things to be RIGHT won’t heal the hurt in their hearts.
    that climbing down, being humble enough to learn something, taking the courage to say “I was wrong” and go through the pain of feeling ashamed of themselves for a moment is the choice that would make them “look good” in the long run, and is the choice that would help their spirits grow.

    you can only lead by example and if they don’t want to learn, if they want to attack instead, that is very VERY sad for them.

    as for not releasing the names of the girls—I applaud you. that’s a very compassionate and RIGHT choice. those girls maybe will learn from what you’ve done, but if you had released their names, they would be put in the position of defending themselves from attack, which would then lead them to be uglier people.

    (and yes, the ugly people thing was very clear. geez…people astound me sometimes… if they don’t get it, at some point you really just have to shrug and move on, I guess)

  • Charisse says:

    I’ll try to keep this short. It’s too bad you feel like you need to explain yourself. It’s really pretty simple to see why you did what you did. There will always be people who will twist or see the negative in anything. My Grandma used to say “don’t be ugly to your sister” and even as a child I knew what she meant. Ugly on the inside. Pretty simple!

  • Rivkah says:

    ps I wish we could “like” these comments. some people said some pretty great stuff.

  • thank you again for doing the right thing… you took a stand and did what was right! whenever we do or make the “right” choice people will stand against you, it is the world we live in. Stand firm and go forward!

  • Scottie Lowe says:

    I only wish I could hire you for your services. Job well done.

  • Kristin B says:

    It’s a sad fact that you have to justify and defend your actions. As I said before on another related post, I am a mom of 4, my son has been bullied at school and the bus stop and the school refuses to acknowledge the actions as bullying. As a mom and part time photographer I admire the action you took even if it was a hit to your business and income. I would want to know if my children were bullying someone because I raise them not to bully or be a bystander to it because that still makes you an accomplice so to speak. I think you put it well in your original article and your rebuttal to all the naysayers is just as good. As for those who say you deprived these girls from yearbook photos apparently never had senior photos taken or they lived in the middle of nowhere where there was only one photographer. When I had mine done I had 5 photographers to choose from. Now, in our area, rural and relatively small area, there are many photographers but only one that the highschool works with for senior photos for the yearbook so if you were that contracted photographer then they would have something to complain about. Keep up the good work and continue to sleep well at night. :o)

  • LOL I dislike how you felt you had to justify any of that 🙁 Rock on…

  • […] up the story. Not all of the reaction has been favorable, though. Today McKendrick felt compelled to post a follow-up defending herself against criticism for calling the teenagers “ugly,” and denying […]

  • Sam Tutton says:

    Its sad that you felt you had to justify yourself. Its your business and your choice who you photograph, I totally get that. I do not believe that you did this for publicity (even though you have had heaps) and I think that people who are making a fuss about this still and criticising you are just hoping to get some of that “publicity” for themselves.

  • Julie Tucker-Wolek says:

    Sorry you had to justify you decision …..I support you 100%! :):):)

  • Elizabeth Payne says:


    You have done a fantastic job, here, and in each post as well as your initial decision to take action. Thank you.

    You have put yourself under the microscope and that sometimes is the territory that comes along with standing up for what you believe in and doing the right thing – it is tough, but you are doing well.

    You have succeeded to defend and justify your points and purpose (and you have done both very well). You are open-minded, reasonable, kind and fair. Thank you again for doing what needed to be done.

    The truly problematic issue here is bullying. It’s completely uncalled for – mending that situation of unkindness and disrespect is the task that needs to have all energy directed towards creating a solution. People who put effort towards attacking you are not helping the problem.

    I personally do not care who calls attention to any problem in general, and in this case, the bullying. A stalker, a 90 year old, someone who is not even a parent. The point is – bullying is unacceptable and it should not and does not need to exist.

    Call me an extremist, an idealist, I do not care. This world is full of pain and evil and I will be damned if any kid will go around carelessly inflicting further dishonor and disrespect. It is inexcusable.

    Hold your head high and keep up the good work. I support you %100!!

  • Elizabeth Payne says:

    As well, to those folks who think it is wrong that you “deprived” any one a photo; consider these girls lucky and consider Jen the kids’ savior, someone who stood up for them – they were lucky it was Jen, who handled the situation respectfully and fairly. If anyone were to find out who they are, these girls might have really had many more serious problems to deal with. Some people say violence solves problems and I disagree, but violence still happens and I am betting that these young ladies could have had it much worse if their identity was revealed. And all that I have said here could sound like a threat, but it is not. I feel very sorry for these girls to think that they are under the impression that they will actually feel better about themselves by tearing apart another person. Hate is one of the greatest tragedies, especially hate of oneself. They must be deeply sad souls.

  • Melissa says:

    I definitely don’t agree with bullying, but have to wonder where are you going to draw the line? How about men who beat their wives, students who cheat on tests, lie to their parents, have unprotected sex…are you going to make every client fill out an information sheet. Bullying -10 points, lying -2, cheating on a test -5…how do you decide what is ‘ugly’ and what isn’t? Nice thought, but only God can judge. And I doubt those girls really care what any ‘adult’ has to say about them being a bully. People ARE born mean…do you have to teach a kid to hit another kid who takes their toy, or to lie…to be NICE is a learned behavior.

  • Mary Yee says:

    What the devil? This is your business and and your clients. With the cruelty put right in front of you, you did what you thought and felt was right. And I agree. Remember the signs that businesses would put in there windows? No shoes, no shirt, no service. Well you are just adding no bullying. If it is out there for people to see then consequences should come. “It takes a village to raise a child” and you have done your part and now the parents can do their part.

  • Emily Smith says:

    Jen, you are amazing and a true inspiration. You shouldn’t have to defend your actions, as everyone knows in their heart of hearts that what you did was right and just. There’s no denying that no matter how you spin it. Keep moving forward and being your amazing self!!:)

  • Meg says:

    From a former bullied child….THANK YOU!

  • Kyra says:

    I think you did the right thing, and I imagine that you thought over it a while before you did. Making a decision that impacts your business like this, for your own moral standings, can be tricky. But you didn’t act out of maliciousness, just your own values. You haven’t called them out publicly, or gone on the attack with them, so I don’t see any fault or blame or anything else negative that you should be taking. And while you didn’t have to explain yourself, I think it will help for those that seem to need the explanation. Well done.

  • Zoe says:

    BRAVO, Jen. It’s not easy to make a decision if it might be unsettling or disagreeable to others. Even more so if it might also affect your business (and therefore your dream job). But you did it and didn’t look back. Well done!

  • Love it Jen. Keep doing things the way you want to do it.

  • […] *** 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:… […]

  • Kelli says:

    My husband is a professional photographer as well and it’s tough to take a stance sometimes! But you are doing the exactly right thing and need to IGNORE all the negative comments. For every one person that disagrees with you, there have to be at least 1000 that are on your side. Remember, bullies can be loud and outspoken and you are being bullied by people telling you that you were wrong.

  • Dawn says:

    That is the great thing about running your own business. You get to chose who you work with. I think you did the right thing. In my business as a professional dog trainer I too turn away business. For instance if a client comes to me with their new mixed breed puppy that they bought online or at a pet store type place I take them on and help them to raise and train that pup. I also educate them on why they should NEVER, EVER make the mistake of buying another puppy that way. I show them videos and photos of puppy mills. Now after all that if in a year or so they go out and do it again and contact me for assistance I will NOT work with them. And yes I tell them that in advance so they do know my stand. Educating people about puppy mills is my duty and I yes I am passionate about it. There is right and there is wrong. I attract, associate with, assist and surround myself with kind hearted people. Hope to meet you in person sometime Jen!

  • Rhonda Burkhalter says:

    Thank you for taking a stand. I agree that most parents have no clue what their child does on the internet/phone/school anymore. My daughter was bullied last year at school. It takes an emotional toll on not just the child being bullied, but the family as well. I monitor my children’s Facebook friends. If I see anything that I wouldn’t allow my children to say, I delete that “friend” from their account. Part of your own character is built upon by who you associate with. Thank you again for respecting yourself, your business, and your family. In general people are too afraid to offend or rock the boat so they stay idle. I have seen this quote but I do not know who the credit is owed- “A clear conscious makes for a soft pillow.” By your actions, you may have done any one of those 4 girls a favor. They may have been feeling pressure to behave a certain way and did not know what else to do but follow the crowd. You may have opened a door for them. Blessings come in many forms.

  • Melissa says:

    I came across this late via a link from another photographer. I cannot believe the flak you are getting for standing up for your business.
    You can’t always know what clients are ‘good’ and what ones aren’t but the example with these girls was staring her right in the face! I personally wouldn’t have done their sessions either. You’ve got a lot of supporters Jen, not that it seems you needed them to feel justified, but nasty comments can knock even the most secure.

  • steve says:

    Bravo Jen. More people should start shunning bullies, not coddling them.

  • […] few minutes to read it. It’s not what you think- I wrote another blog to clarify a few things here!  On a side note: bonus points for anyone who makes it to the end of this […]

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