Freelance model left with serious burns after Vancouver photo shoot
Robyn-Lee Jansen never expected she would be left with first and second degree burns after connecting with a photographer for a photo shoot in Vancouver last week.
"It was the most painful thing that I've ever experienced," Jansen told CTV News Vancouver.
The 22 year-old freelance model responded to an ad for a shoot on the website "Model Mayhem", which connects photographers, models, makeup artists and others.
She showed her communications with the photographer to CTV, but is not naming him publicly as she intends to pursue legal action.
She said the ad was for an abandoned warehouse shoot, and when she got in touch, he mentioned he'd like to involve fire.
"He had a concept that he wanted to try with me, like a fire queen concept, which he had already had on his portfolio," Jansen said, and added the photo showed two women and something on fire that was a distance in front of them.
"So I looked at that, and I was like, that's cool, like that's a cool concept. It doesn't look dangerous," Jansen said. She said she knew a couple of other models who had worked with him, and also checked out his pictures and reviews.
"The comments that were left on his page were really good, like he's great to work with, he's really considerate," Jansen said.
They met in East Vancouver on June 13th for the shoot, and initially things were going well. But Jansen said the photographer began to get interrupted by phone calls during the two-hour shoot, and she felt he was becoming rushed.
"Towards the end, he started doing some fire-lighting art behind me," Jansen said.
"He's kind of going between the camera to set the exposure and the timer, and behind me. And he starts getting frustrated because he's not getting the shot he that wants," she said.
Jansen said the photographer didn't explain what he was planning, but grabbed something he later described as a bottle of tiki torch fluid or liquid paraffin and rushed behind her again.
"He just yells,'stand still, this is going to be tricky,' or 'this is where it gets tricky'," Jansen said.
She said she turned her head, but before she could ask what was going on, the photographer squeezed the bottle.
"And the next thing, I'm in flames," she said.
She said the photographer yelled at her to drop, and she rolled into a puddle to extinguish the fire.
Jansen said she never saw a fire extinguisher or first aid kit. She added she was terrified, because as an international student from Malaysia, her family is far away.
"The only thing that's like going through my mind is like something's going to happen to me, and I'm not going to be able to get a hold of my family," she said. Jansen was able to send a message to her boyfriend, who was working a 12-hour shift.
"I just knew something was terribly wrong because after the fire got put out, it felt like it was scorching even further," she said.
Jansen said the photographer did not call 911, but insisted on driving her to the hospital and packed up his equipment before he did so while she waited in shock and pain.
Jansen said on the drive to the Burnaby hospital, the photographer suggested she could say there was an accident with a barbecue, but added it was her choice on what she said at the hospital.
"I didn't reply to that, because he did say at the end, it's up to you," she said
Once at the hospital, Jansen learned she had second degree burns to about 25 per cent of her body.
"The whole back of my legs, from my ankles all the way just to under the butt, that's all second degree. And then I've got a mixture between second and first degree on my actual butt and my back," Jansen said.
"I may need skin grafts. We'll find out next week if I'm looking at more surgery."
She said the photographer transferred her money for the shoot and told her he would send her the photos, some of which he said captured the aftermath of the fire, but so far that has not happened.
Jansen now wants to warn other models to put their safety first and demand a waiver form in advance.
"Demand that there be safety, security and emergency procedures in place," she said.
"If you have any doubts, don't do it."