x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Picture Me - a Model's Diary

Although providing few new revelations, this account of a young model in the cutthroat world of fashion serves sufficiently as a cautionary tale.


Combining home-video footage and documentary style interviews, Picture Me attempts to lift the lid on the cruel and lurid side of fashion modelling by following the career of one US model, Sara Ziff. Filmed over a number of years by Ziff, her filmmaker boyfriend, Ole Schell, and several of her fellow models, it asks whether girls as young as 12 should be allowed to enter a world in which physical appearance is everything. Unlike many such tales, Ziff's rise to prominence is startlingly fast. It seems that within weeks of arriving in New York at 18, she is being handed $100,000 cheques to appear on billboards, TV advertisements and catwalks around the world. But the personal cost that models like Ziff endure is the focus of the action. Due to their short shelf life (over the hill at 24) few models are able to pursue further education and many have no qualifications at all. Pressure to stay thin is intense and many risk losing work if they refuse the advances of photographers and other industry members. Although there are some frank and moving moments as Ziff and her fellow models tell of feeling increasingly exploited in the industry, Picture Me contains few major revelations. Indeed, the film loses some of its punch simply because the girls could choose to leave modelling at any time, but most cling on tightly despite their mistreatment. Although anorexia is touched on, it feels as though the film fails to explore the issue sufficiently. Despite this, the film does includes some beautifully intimate footage and the instantly likeable Ziff goes a long way towards dispelling the myth that all models are dumb. It also has many joyous moments and the inclusion of animated segments shows that Schell knows how to tell a story in an imaginative and captivating way.