Why I’ve Stopped Photographing Models

I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time but my life has never given me the opportunity to do so until now. This is my story of how I became one of the most popular model photographer among the Asian community to how I’ve completely removed myself from my past indulgent and destructive lifestyle.

Growing up I was never popular for my social skills or fashion sense, in fact I was the most awkward kid. I wore ugly clothes carried over from Taiwan or over sized Costco selections, and had little knowledge of good hygiene. I was always the wallflower at parties with extremely low self esteem that would drive me to the corner and wish someone would say hi to me. On the flip side, I was gifted with an artistic talent, most likely passed down by my grandfather. Everyone at school knew I was the best artist, and I embraced that title with open arms.

From elementary school through college, everyone appreciated me for my talent, and wanted what I could offer them, from drawing to websites and eventually photography in college. As I got more into taking photos of people, the attention that I got from photographing attractive women either from the models themselves or from all of my audiences that praised me became a social drug/addiction. Talk about kids who are obsessed with “likes,” I was just as guilty of obsessing over “eprops” back in 2003.

Taking portraits of pretty women isn’t a bad thing to be great at, however as my insecurities continued behind the camera, I wanted to prove more of myself and show everyone else that I was better than them. This intensity to be the best came from a bad source, a place of wanting to be envied. It was easy to hide behind a great picture and let everyone send me praise. After a while, a pretty portrait became boring and I needed more intensity that got me more attention and notoriety. Making photos more sexy was the easiest way, after all, sexy sells right?

I started taking sexy photos not much later than I had started modeling photography, and the more I looked at women the more I became desensitized to it, which meant wanting more erotic and perverse poses and content. I started doing everything for my own pleasure, not truly respecting the women I photographed, nor did I care about any relationships they were in or if their family might run into the photos. I selfishly wanted to post everything for the world to see what I was capable of. I posted many photos out of spite to the world which I felt displaced in. I was fueled by a lot of anger and resentment. Maybe these feelings weren’t so far from those who commit gun violence today.

This addiction I had was easily fueled thanks to the Internet and social media, which I consumed for over 12 years without any consequences to my actions. I was free as a bird, no significant other to please or feelings to worry about. When others look at my life on social media, it really did look like the ultimate bachelor’s lifestyle. Women, travel, and cars. That was exactly what I wanted other people to see. In reality, it was lonely and I was always wondering who was the next hottest girl that could fulfill my desire to be liked or envied. They were transactions, splurging on the women so they can model for me. Money for sex, basically. It was a never ending cycle that did more harm than good in terms of my relationship with women. I would argue that a lot of women desire sexy photos of themselves for the exact same reason, self reassurance and needing to be fulfilled somehow, unfortunately it just isn’t the healthiest way to gain it.

Later in my years through a few roadblocks in my life I realized I needed to stop this addiction of surviving on social media attention and women wanting me for my photography skills. I had always promised myself that one day I would only photograph my wife when I got married. I was still a hopeless romantic at heart, however I never felt like I had a chance or reason to stop, so I kept doing what I was good at. The tug in my soul wasn’t strong enough to break me free. There was nobody to fight for. Addictions are impossible to tackle alone.

I am thankful for all of my true friends who weren’t drawn to me because of the women I photographed, rather because they enjoyed my time and personality and never needed to have conversations about who the next model I would be shooting or where I would be flying to. They lived in the moment with me. One day I met a beautiful girl who I could truly feel wanting to spend time with a nerd like me, listen to my life stories and wanted to always make me feel better. A long journey started with her and the Universe made it inevitable for us to be together through all the ups and downs. Throughout our friendship and through our recent marriage, most of the issues that were fought over were about my past. Being single for my entire life didn’t help when dealing with the first girlfriend that I also fell in love with. While the intimate photography wasn’t easy to give up, it took some significant arguments for me to realize how much these photos can hurt someone and the relationships they’re in. I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place, not the other way around.

The actual photos weren’t the only hurtful reminders of my past life. The stories behind the photos were just as significant. All the gifts, dinners, flights that I offered to women would make any one person feel insignificant, small and unimportant. There lies the deeper issues than just some sexy photos, and I never felt them until I lived through someone else’s shoes. I never want her to feel second place ever again.

Once I began to realize how a decade of my actions were destructive to me and my relationship, I started taking steps to move forward and start a new and healthy lifestyle. It was only possible with the encouragement of my significant other who loved me enough to tell me I can be strong. I had to learn that her feelings were more important than that of the women I’ve photographed and the rest of the world. I removed my Instagram account of 15,000 followers. I removed all previous model blog posts. I deleted my Facebook modeling page, and I deleted my archive of all women I’ve photographed intimately. I can just hear thousands of male hearts melting. I did all of this with no regrets because I am filled so deep with the true love and affection from the only woman that I will ever want it from, my wife Olya.

I write this to all of my readers proudly and encouragingly. Please learn to respect everyone around you, be kind and have courage. Now I can truly move forward and make the world a better place.

A final note to the women in my past: May your current and future relationships be genuine, healthy, and honest. While I will no longer contact you or provide professional services to you, I will still give you my respect and I urge you to do the same for me, my wife, and my relationship.

26 Comments Why I’ve Stopped Photographing Models

  1. pablo February 26, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    I respect yoy even more aftet reading that tony. and ive been following your work since the eprops days 😉

  2. Olya February 26, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    I know what a crazy journey this has been and I can honestly say that it’s only made me realize how strong you are. I would choose no other to stand beside me in this life. You teach me so much everyday – I would marry you a hundred times over. So lucky

  3. Tony February 27, 2016 at 11:12 am

    Tony, thank you for baring your soul, your demons, your past and what it now means to you, and the incredible future that lies ahead for you. I have always loved your wedding (and car) photography, and I am very glad that you will continue to showcase your talents (with your wife now as a team), focusing on what’s most important.

  4. sf February 29, 2016 at 6:13 am

    This must have taken a lot of courage to write. Respect.

    I look forward to lots more photos of you new life! Your skills as a photog are just as valid, whether it’s cars or travel or what you did in your previous career. Your work will be out there, I’m sure!

  5. Rich February 29, 2016 at 10:18 am

    A long time ago I went with you somewhere to pick up something for your car – I think it was the only time we ever had a one on one. That day, I thought to myself that you were indeed a romantic, as you say – not a “hopeless” one but rather, endlessly hopeful. With that in mind, I really cannot quite express how amazing it is to see what is happening now.

  6. Grace February 29, 2016 at 10:29 am

    So proud of you and the way you put your family first. I know it was not an easy decision for you to make, but in this new season (especially with your beautiful and supportive wife by your side), your talents and photography will only go up from here!

  7. Josh Olivero February 29, 2016 at 10:54 am

    This was amazing. Truly, truly amazing!

  8. M February 29, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Knowing this was the soul behind your work was just another factor that kept me following you through all these years. Best wishes Tony, and congratulations! I hope to read more of your insights in the future, no matter what they are on. Will always be a fan.

  9. koo February 29, 2016 at 11:05 am

    love you bro. so incredibly proud of you!

  10. Linda February 29, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. Your talent is recognized in whatever you do. I’m glad that you are able to walk out from the shadow of darkness. God works in miraculous ways.

  11. Peter ahn February 29, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Telephone, thank you for bearing your soul! So very proud of you Tony. Amazing!

  12. Karissa February 29, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Proud of you, Tony.

  13. Evan You February 29, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    I aways saw a BIG heart in those magical eyes. Thanks for sharing and you are indeed a lucky man. =) Love you and wife.

    Evan

  14. Joanne February 29, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    I’m honored to know you and am humbled by your post. Bravo Tony

  15. Ranela February 29, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Tony, I am so proud to know you. Your wife is truly blessed to have you. I am so happy you finally found the person for you. – Ranela and Family

  16. Brian Williams February 29, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Very nice! I feel the same way man. Your decision is very honorable and true to your heart. (And wise !)

  17. Angela March 1, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Thank you Tony for your courage. I am looking forward to your NEXT. Your truth will enhance your work. Your creativity is free now. I will be in touch :). Love you both.

  18. Christy Vinson March 1, 2016 at 2:02 am

    You’re amazing!

  19. Kevin March 1, 2016 at 4:08 am

    In Christ…new creation…old gone…new is here. So proud of you my friend. Thanks for living the transformation out loud.

  20. Nhan March 2, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Respectable and admirable that you shared the ugly truth behind it all.

  21. I See March 3, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    TL;DR, wife won’t let him.

  22. James Frogan March 4, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Brave man to admit what everyone else chooses to ignore. Respect

  23. Al March 27, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Hi Tony,

    I cannot imagine how much courage it took for you to write and post this. Already had so much respect for your work, and this further goes to cement my respect for you.

    I always love coming to your website. It was always a joy to see your work, not just the subjects, but also the locations. I am still one of those who admire and also envy your talent.

    I actually was 2 grades younger than you at MTHS, and can recall always finding you around the photography room. While your work spoke for itself, you were never boastful or “loud” about your talents.

    God bless you and your wife, and best of luck on the next journey of your lives.

  24. Mike Stewart March 29, 2016 at 2:21 am

    As an outsider looking in, it seems like maybe you are being a bit hard on yourself Tony? I saw nothing in your model work that was overly erotic or perverse… quite the contrary. Yes, you captured sexy photographs, but they were all tasteful imo. That is what really separated your work from so many others in my view. That, and your exceptional talent.

    Congratulations on finding love and your recent marriage to Olya. Best of luck to you and yours Tony. Your photography – the cars, the weddings, the model collaborations, the adventures of El Bob, all of it – has inspired me over the years. Onward and upward 🙂

  25. Mary Lau July 15, 2016 at 12:44 am

    Hi Tony,
    Very touching and comes from deep within you heart and soul. I’m very happy that you’ve found true love. Life is all about the journey… I wish you all the best…

  26. Brian September 2, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    canon20d, I will admit, I lost respect for your work after you dove into nudes. but before that you were an inspiration to all of us who were embracing the digital SLR revolution.

    now I see conscience in your photography, even if it doesn’t garner the same eprops or likes or followers. now I have utmost respect for you. just like before.

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