Photographer and Model Harassed at Photo Shoot by Aggressive Hecklers

Police are seen speaking with three individuals in front of a police car.

Everything seemed to be going well for Vanessa Joy and her model, Victoria Menkin. They were in the middle of a photo shoot on the beach, but things took a turn when a group of boys who appeared to be minors began harassing Menkin.

In Joy’s video, the boys are heard yelling out “Wooo” and calling Menkin an Instagram model.

“At first, I thought it was just a typical catcall,” Joy tells PetaPixel. “Victoria is stunning and easily catches eyes, especially dressed up and gorgeous as she was that day. I thought nothing of it at first and figured it would stop after the boys got it out of their system.”

But the comments become increasingly inappropriate. They make comments about the woman being drunk and unable to stand as she balances and poses on rocks in heels. They start making growling and barking noises. Joy says she even cut out some of the comments she considered disrespectful.

All the while, Menkin and Joy kept cool heads.

Model Victoria Menkin is seen smiling and posing, and a group is visible in the background.

“As my friend Jana Williams said to me after watching the episode, ‘She didn’t learn that kind of strength that day.’ I don’t know how she learned to focus while insulting chaos was happening around her, but she did and executed it perfectly that day,” Joy says.

Both Joy’s and Menkin’s husbands were on the scene and, eventually, Menkin’s partner, who is a former offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, stepped in and attempted to deescalate the situation, but things only got more heated.

“I figured his sheer size alone would get them to calm down as he asked them to stop. But it didn’t. They fought back and became violent and started coming at us. It was absolutely terrifying,” Joy says.

They begin yelling profanities and calling Menkin ugly. One of the boys even threatens the husband, saying, “I’ll smash your head with this rock.” Some of the boys follow the group as the police are being called.

“Everything ran through my head: What if they hurt us? Was that a gun one of them was holding onto? Are they going to beat me and rob me, like I’ve seen happening to other photographers? Am I dumb to not be carrying any kind of protection with me? I suppose this camera and lens is heavy enough to fight with. Will Victoria or I ever see our kids again? Are my kids going to grow up without a father? And over what, taking pictures and making a living?” Joy recalls.

It was something the photographer with more than two decades of professional experience under her belt said she had never encountered before. Joy says she typically shoots with just her and a model, and occasionally has an assistant with her. In this case, she says she was thankful that both husbands were present as well.

Finally, the police arrived, and Joy and Menkin were able to continue their photo shoot. Though Joy was still left rattled.

“I can’t say my hands stopped shaking or that my heart stopped wildly beating through the rest of the session and on the car ride home,” Joy says. “But I managed to smile and move on and be creative anyway and grab the images I wanted to capture of Victoria during our time together.”

Photographer Vanessa Joy takes a picture of her model as an assistant stands off to the side.

Joy says she recommends that others have an assistant on hand when shooting in public to keep an eye out for dangerous situations, noting that there is safety in numbers. She adds that no matter the group size or whether someone is carrying protection of any kind, the best course of action is to disengage.

“No picture is worth a life or even getting hurt over or hurting someone else. Go somewhere else. Reschedule the shoot. Do whatever it takes to ensure your safety and the safety of everyone else around you,” Joy advises.

The incident also left Joy thinking about the kind of behavior that women are regularly forced to brush off.

“It’s a sad reality that enduring that kind of public disrespect is normal and something we’ve learned to smile through, and while I suppose we’re stronger for it, I’m disheartened by the reality of it.”

“This shouldn’t happen to anyone,” Joy adds, “but it just might.”

Image credits: Vanessa Joy