Canada-based model suffers severe burns during fire photo shoot gone bad

Jun 21, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Canada-based model suffers severe burns during fire photo shoot gone bad

Jun 21, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Using fire in photography is not a new idea. But it’s one that requires the utmost respect. We’ve featured a number of photographers here on DIYP who work with fire the right way, including this one from Von Wong, who had a crew of around 50 people helping to maximise safety and be able to respond quickly in the event of an accident. Not everybody is as well planned, though.

22-year-old international student and freelance model Robyn-Lee Jansen is currently residing in a Vancouver hospital recovering from first and second-degree burns as the result of what she describes as “negligence and recklessness on the unnamed photographer’s behalf”. And, if Jansen’s account is true, I’m inclined to agree.

Jansen describes what happened on a GoFundMe campaign (warning, it contains some pretty graphic images) to assist with her financial issues surrounding this situation. Seeking legal help, covering lost wages and dealing with extra medical expenses that she isn’t covered for.

On June 13th, Jansen attended a freelance modelling job, where the photographer wanted to work with fire, “behind me from a distance”, Jansen writes. She says that he had been vouched for by other models and assured the model that it was safe.

He said that he had never had a problem with fire shoots in the past

The shoot began as many do and she says things were fine until it was time to light up the fire. She says that he seems rushed, that he had been interrupted several times by phone calls from his family and that the shoot was running late, and, well, I’ll let Jansen tell it…

He proceeded to work with fire behind me, and then yelled, “stand still, this part gets tricky!”. Before I could even ask what he wanted to try, or any sort of explanation, he squirted a bottle of liquid paraffin oil while standing closer to me. The next thing I knew, I was up in flames.

It was one of the most traumatic and terrifying moments of my life. I managed to drop duck and roll into a puddle and get the flames out. As a result, I have been left with second degree burns over 25% of my legs and first degree burns on my anterior legs, hip, back, and right arm. To make matters worse, I was in shock and the photographer insisted he would drive me to the ER. In a panic, he made me wait until he was finished packing up all of his camera equipment before he would take me.

At the moment, Jansen is unable to work as she can’t even walk, let alone model. She’s had to cancel all of her paid work for the next 2-3 months, and will likely be left with some pretty severe scars that might hinder her future modelling career. While she’s not working, she still has bills to pay. Many have suggested that she sue the photographer. I agree, and Jansen wants to, but that doesn’t come cheap, especially as an international student. Hence the creation of the GoFundMe.

Jansen’s other goal with the GoFundMe campaign is to raise awareness and warn other models about shoot safety. If the photographer is unable to explain the process to you when shooting something risky, or simply doesn’t take the time to, then that’s a big red flag. Don’t just take other peoples word that the person knows what they’re doing. Have them prove it to you.

And if they can’t? Well, don’t do the shoot. That simple.

I don’t mess with fire in my own photo shoots, but I do shoot in quite a few dangerous locations where there are real risks of injury. There is a lot of prep work and planning that goes into those shoots, and all in attendance (models, make up artists, assistants, everybody) are made fully aware of all the dangers well in advance.

But, for those of you considering using fire in your shoots… Either don’t. Or make damn sure you know what you’re doing!

All of us here at DIYP wish Robyn a speedy recovery.

Update: To clarify, the photographer was not Von Wong. He was mentioned in the post as an example of how fire can be used the RIGHT way on a photo shoot. The photographer in this incident has not been publicly named.

[via Daily Hive / Header image: Robyn-Lee Jensen/GoFundMe]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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24 responses to “Canada-based model suffers severe burns during fire photo shoot gone bad”

  1. Gwynevere Kipling Avatar
    Gwynevere Kipling

    Wow, the laughing response is pretty damn tasteless. I don’t place any blame on her at all; she sounds like she did due diligence in checking out his references and contacted other models, who gave the impression that he was safe for that type of shoot. Her description of him appearing rushed and distracted – as well as not being 200% clear about what was going on – leads me to place the blame on him for the accident.

    1. Del Robertson Somerville Avatar
      Del Robertson Somerville

      Gwynevere Kipling of course, we are only hearing one side of the story. Maybe she got paid extra due to the dangers of the shoot… who really knows for sure. Still a really bad thing to happen. Just pointing out there are always two sides to a story ☝️

    2. Cara Bartelme Avatar
      Cara Bartelme

      The amount a model is paid for a shoot has no relevance to safety negligence

    3. Henri Du Plessis Avatar
      Henri Du Plessis

      Most of these models are mere children really. The responsibility should be divided between her agent (if she has one) and the photographer and his/her crew. A model is meant to know how to be a photography subject, not a stunt technician.

    4. Del Robertson Somerville Avatar
      Del Robertson Somerville

      Cara Bartelme it’s amazing what people will do for fame and money these days.

    5. Alexander L. Harris Avatar
      Alexander L. Harris

      Del Robertson Somerville almost as amazing as how shitty some people can be.

  2. Dunja Djudjic Avatar
    Dunja Djudjic

    Poor girl :(

  3. Jason Sobel Avatar
    Jason Sobel

    Young lady needs to be smarter.
    Photographer must have been an idiot.
    Hope she will be okay.
    Now she hopefully learned to think for herself.

    1. suruha Avatar
      suruha

      What could she have done different? She asked about the photographer among other models. What am I missing? How could she have known this idiot was a pyro-accident-looking-for-a-place-to-happen?

  4. Mastertoot Avatar
    Mastertoot

    Correct me if i’m wrong but when people do fire shoots it’s with specific equipment, not just a squeezy bottle of parafin? What a bell end this guy is. Poor women.

  5. Dr weird Avatar
    Dr weird

    the safety of the model must always be the number one priority.

    the rare times I work with fire I take assistants who practice but also a model who also practices.

    I ask them for their allergies, any form of phobia or limitation they may have and everything I can do to them during a shooting I tried it on myself before.

  6. Eva Duve Creel Avatar
    Eva Duve Creel

    “it was NOT Von Wong” that’s a relief.

  7. Collin McLaren Avatar
    Collin McLaren

    “stand still, this part gets tricky!”
    ‘he squirted a bottle of liquid paraffin oil’
    Yeah, this guy had no right working with fire. Who wants to bet he didn’t even have a fire extinguisher at the ready? Not to mention making the woman wait for him to pack up his gear before he took her to ER. This guy is totally getting sued

  8. Carter Tune Avatar
    Carter Tune

    I’m saddened to see this poor young lady was burned. This is what happens when doing a stunt without professional knowledge and experience. When I’ve photographed models and fire, they we’re professional stunt women and the fire was handled by a effects technician. Yes, thats extra cost, but its the way to do it.

  9. Tiffany Felan Avatar
    Tiffany Felan

    My son had a burn on his arm that was 2nd to 3rd degree and they thought he needed a skin graft. We went to a plastic surgeon but he didn’t need one. He does have a huge scar on his arm. This lady has a long recovery ahead of her I feel so bad for her. She can still model but would have to do it clothed no swim wear. I bet this guy didn’t have an extinguisher and to make her wait. If I were a lawyer I’d help her on a sliding fee. I hate that he’s just getting away with being careless

  10. Phillip McCordall Avatar
    Phillip McCordall

    This is why all photographers need insurance.

    1. Freelance cameraman China/HK Avatar
      Freelance cameraman China/HK

      and a brain

  11. Hajo Schuhmann Avatar
    Hajo Schuhmann

    Is it allowed to call this guy an a…hole?
    Know what you´re doing and be prepared for any kind of mistake, then you can get shots like this easily!
    (Real fire, only Photoshop was the number plate)

    1. Trevor Olner Avatar
      Trevor Olner

      Hajo Schuhmann first answer Yes and worse

  12. Trevor Olner Avatar
    Trevor Olner

    Poor woman. She’s going to feel really ill as I know from experience. Burnt my hand with a chip pan fire . I’ve never known pain like it . It when the medics take the soothing burn dressing off that the pain kicks in. It’s excruciating. I hope that the hospital she’s at have good pain management meds as she’s going to need them .

    1. suruha Avatar
      suruha

      Silvadine! It’s expensive, but, it takes the sting out of a burn. Most ER’s prescribe it.

  13. Robert Bray Avatar
    Robert Bray

    Jennifer Jacklin if any of your friends want to use fire when taking photos, like drugs… Just say NO!

  14. Cathy Essex-Specht Avatar
    Cathy Essex-Specht

    What kind of stunt was he trying to create? Crazy!

  15. Jason Dunning Avatar
    Jason Dunning

    There are Darwin’s award recipients in all walks of life. The world of photography is not immune to this.