This Lady Showed Up for A Free Photo Shoot And Has Become The Face of Everything


It sounds like the ideal outcome for a young aspiring model. You show up one day to a photo shoot and then the next you are the face of a range of advertisements for all kinds of things. The only problem is that South African author Shubnum Khan had never intended on becoming a model or have her image used for anything like that but, because she sat down for a “free portrait session” with a photographer, her face ended up becoming the image used for a Canadian immigration campaign.

In fact, Khan may have never known about the image had her friend not spotted it in the wild. When trying to figure out just how this happened, Khan’s friend reminded her of the time the two of them sat with a photographer offering free portrait sessions some six years prior.

Image via Shubnum Khan.

The photographer, who was unnamed in the Peta Pixel report, claimed to be working on something called the “1000 Faces Shoot” campaign according to Khan’s recollection. He asked participants to take three photos consisting of a sad face, a happy face, and a whacky face.

[My] young friends and I were excited…We signed a release form at the start (I thought it was to give him permission to use the photos for his portfolio). We didn’t read the small print. I know. It was stupid. It’s very quick – you sign a piece of paper, you go in, the photographer says smile for a picture,” Khan told the BBC.

But obviously, the photographer did not reveal that the pictures would be sold as stock photos. Appearing in ads for dentistry, hyperpigmentation cream, and even as the “leader” of backpacking tours in Cambodia.

What Khan found most disquieting were the various product testimonials and how many different companies she worked for around the world. After contacting the photographer and complaining Khan’s photos were removed but the photographer was quick to add that everything that was done was perfectly legal.

Summarizing her experience, Khan wrote on her Twitter account: “The thing is I’ve laughed over the years about this and it’s a great party story and I do find some of the images hilarious and I still laugh when people find me randomly advertising for teeth implants while browsing a paper in New York but now that I’m older and more assertive and aware of power plays and manipulation I can easily see how we were all used – a whole gallery of free photographs for this photographer to sell and we haven’t made a cent for all the things WE’VE advertised. …Also this could have gone badly – my photo could have come up in a wrong place. So, if anything use my story as a cautionary tale. Don’t sign up for free photoshoots, read what you sign and also don’t believe most of the things you read on the internet.”

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Kehl is our staff photography news writer and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here

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