• Brittney daCosta

MODELING IN ISTANBUL: BEHIND THE SCENES A (STANDARD) DAY OF WORK

Last week, I worked two very opposite jobs, two days in a row: one fairly standard and one far better than average. This post will take you behind the scenes of a pretty standard job working as a model here. Istanbul and Mumbai and maybe some places in China, are the only markets I know of to have such commonplace inefficient working conditions. In most markets, there are long days for sure, but none quite like they are here. The day went something like this:


Another model and I arrive at our agency ready to go to work promptly at 6:45 am. We make our way to the ferry which leaves at 7:30 and drops us off in a small town at 9 am. During the ferry ride, I munch on an apple and some nuts to kill time and read some of my book (Dr. Campbell’s, “Whole.” What a great read)! When our ferry docks, no one is there to pick us up so we entertain ourselves i.e. twiddle our thumbs until our ride arrives an hour later. It takes another 30 min ride to get to the city, Bursa, where we’re working and thankfully I go right into hair and make-up. This time I’m shooting underwear and my head is going to be cropped from the photos so my hair gets sleeked tightly into a high ponytail and then I get a full face of make-up “just in case”. My friend is shooting clothes, so she spends more time getting primped than me. 


Initially, it looked like we really had nothing to shoot.

I get started shooting panty after panty, bra after bra. Soon my friend joins me and rotates in, modeling dress after dress, blouse after blouse. We change very quickly because we know the faster we go through it, the faster we leave. (Silly us, we should have known better.) As fast as we shoot, twice as many pieces take their place. It doesn’t take long for the clothes to start piling up. Our agency told us prior to arriving that we should be finished by 5pm so we keep telling ourselves, the sooner we finish, the sooner we go home. We continue to shoot.


Eventually, we break for lunch and I order a vegetarian arugula salad with balsamic. This is what I get:

I’ve barely eaten at this point and have been up since 6 am so I’m not particularly happy. Sleeping and eating are my favorite things and little sleep and being fed rabbit food makes me grumpy so I demand (I mean politely request) more food. Luckily, they’re cool about it and say they’ll order again for me later in the afternoon.


After lunch is over, we both get our makeup touched up and start shooting again, bra after bra, bodysuit after bodysuit, sweater after sweater, pant after pant. The clothes keep coming and then they keep coming and coming and coming some more. I don’t know at what point we realized that they planned to have us shoot every piece of clothing we could see in the warehouse. Literally.


The photographer let us know that we should be finishing up by six or seven and if we don’t, we may have to stay the night and finish tomorrow. We’re already so exhausted at this point, we know there’s no way we can do it again the next day so if it was possible for us to go any faster, we do. Somehow we end up finishing up by 6 pm and are on the 7 pm ferry back to Istanbul and are in our apartments by 9:30 pm. It’s a wrap!

I’ve only actually taken the ferry to a job a couple of times but it’s pretty normal to have a one hour plus commute to and from a booking due to traffic. In Istanbul we get paid to work eight hours from the time we start shooting so if we don’t finish hair and makeup and start shooting till four hours after we arrive, the clock doesn’t start until then.


Overall, this was a really standard day. Waiting around to get picked up, waiting to get started, getting dropped off an hour before the call time, getting completely wrong food, wearing 100 – 200 (sometimes more!) pieces of clothing, being gone for a full 12+ hours, being bored silly and then worked like a horse, wearing shoes that are too big or too small, modeling winter clothes in the heat of summer or vice versa, not being fed any snacks or drinks or being fed a horde of junk food…


Yesterday, I shot 104 pieces of fall/winter clothing in a studio with no air conditioning. Today I shot in another studio and stood my ground when the client wanted me to wear shoes they knew were far too small. (We found a compromise that worked for both of us). A few days before that, I was working in yet another studio and after we finished all the pieces, they had me reshoot everything because they didn’t like the lighting.


This is just how it is working here in Turkey!

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