Photo by gotpap/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
Bryant Eslava is a California-based film photographer known for his work with content creators and influencers, including the teen and twenty-something stars of two TikTok collab houses: the Hype House and Sway LA.
His custom Instagram and Snapchat filters, which replicate his signature style of shooting and editing, are popular with his mostly Gen Z fanbase. He currently has 6.9 million followers on Instagram and 1.9 million on TikTok.
After being accused of soliciting nude photographs from Tumblr fans, Eslava issued a lengthy apology on his Instagram. In the apology, he admitted that screenshots posted by Sam Rogers showing him asking for nude photos were real.
In a lengthy apology, Bryant Eslava — the 27-year-old "photographer of choice for influencers," including the likes of Emma Chamberlain, Addison Rae Easterling, and David Dobrik — addressed an allegation of sexual misconduct made against him this week. In his statement, he admitted that the allegation and evidence presented by his accuser was real.
In a viral Twitter thread shared by 27-year-old Sam Rogers on Sunday, Rogers detailed an uncomfortable encounter she had with Eslava in 2012, when she was a fan and Tumblr follower of his. At the time, Rogers was an aspiring model who admired Eslava because of his previous work shooting for American Apparel — he seemed cool, and she wanted to be "a cool AA model."
"In 2012, he exploited me making me believe it would help me in my career," Rogers tweeted Sunday.
Rogers says the conversation between herself and Eslava began via private message on Tumblr before moving to text and email. She says the conversation was sparked by a Tumblr post by Eslava, in which he expressed interest in taking pictures of some of his followers. Bryant, Rogers noted in the thread, "was just starting to get recognized" back then, so "it was easy to contact him."
In screenshots she posted of the alleged chat, Rogers is seen replying to Eslava's open call for subjects. Eslava seemingly replied by saying he would love to take photos of Rogers, and called her height "amazing" before asking her to send "some photos" of herself in "a simple black bra and black underwear: front, side, back photos."
—dont test me (@watssuptho) June 21, 2020
Rogers says she responded by asking if she could take the picture clothed.
"I'm not wearing anything extravagant, I just feel a little uneasy about sending photos like that," she replied. "If it is absolutely necessary I will do what I can! I appreciate the offer so much, thank you!"
Eslava countered with: "Agencies typically want to see photos like these because they want to see your body figure and height. At this point it is necessary, but yes of course do what you can. You deserve to be signed!"
Rogers agreed, then asked Eslava where to send the photos. According to the screenshots, he provided his personal email address and requested that she send the images "now," because he was "currently dealing with over 300+ messages." Rogers said she would not be able to send them right away, but promised to do so by "midday tomorrow." Eslava said that would be fine, but said she could text him the photos if that would be "easier" for her. Rogers agreed, and did so.
"I guess I trusted him because he seemed to have a reasonable following and to me, that type of power meant something (at the time.)," she told Insider. "I wanted to believe that yes, agencies needed to see me be able to be butt naked at a whim. It sounds crazy, and dumb, and naive. I get it. I'm just a person. I believed him because he wasn't just some neighbor boy who was trying to be a photographer."
But shortly after Rogers sent him the partially nude photos, Eslava made an additional request.
"After he gave me his number, I texted him the bra and panties pictures," Rogers wrote on Twitter. "He then asked for nude photos, because 'agencies expect you to' for jobs."
Once Eslava received the nude photo, Rogers said she "never heard back from him, regarding modeling or anything at all."
"I thought I had made a huge mistake, and that people would genuinely think I'm dumb," Rogers said. "It took me a while to see the screenshots as embarrassing for him, not for me."
—dont test me (@watssuptho) June 21, 2020
In response to Rogers' thread, other women told their own alleged stories about Eslava, but he did not appear to address them in his apology, and they were not able to be verified by Insider.
On Thursday, Eslava addressed the allegations against him in a lengthy public apology on Twitter.
In a note published on social media, Eslava apologized for the incidents, admitting that he did solicit nude photographs from women on Tumblr and that the screenshots published by Rogers were real.
"A few days ago, some screenshots resurfaced from my Tumblr blog from 2012. I wish that I could say these screenshots were fake because of how embarrassing they are, but they aren't, and I wanted to take some time to address them head-on. When I first started in photography eight years ago on Tumblr, I wanted to get into the fashion industry. I was a teenager who had just started to grow a following for the first time on social media, and I was excited about the attention that I was getting from other photographers, and quite honestly, girls.
A few people came to me wanting to shoot together, and I did ask the girls to send me racy photos. I want to apologize to the girls I was in contact with for making them feel uncomfortable or hurt by asking them for these photos. I'm very sorry. I'm not proud to admit it, but it took me a few years to realize how inappropriate and wrong this behavior is.
Although I am disappointed in myself and my past actions, I am proud to say that they are not a representation of who I am today. I have learned and grown so much as a photographer, but more importantly — a person. I want to prove to all of you that I am not the same person I was in the past. I am committing to learning and growing each day and treat my clients, followers, and aspiring collaborators with the utmost professionalism and respect."
Rogers tweeted that she'd received a private, personal apology from Eslava via Twitter direct message minutes before his public-facing version was published. In his note, Eslava told Rogers he wanted to "deeply apologize" for his actions in 2012.
"i have grown a lot throughout the years and although i'm not that person anymore i wanted to still take responsibility for what i've done," he wrote. "seeing those messages again made me sick to my stomach. i don't expect you to forgive me but i still wanted to reach out and let you know that i'm very sorry and what i did was never appropriate."
Rogers replied to Eslava by thanking him for recognizing that what he did was wrong, explaining that she did not personally message him originally "bc men are scary and also it deserves to be public for the sake of other girls," and telling him she'd acknowledge his private apology later in a tweet.
"This was before I read the shitty public apology," she said. "Since then I'm just sitting."
—dont test me (@watssuptho) June 26, 2020
Rogers says she hasn't been following Eslava's career in the years since their 2012 exchange.
According to Rogers, her initial tweet came after seeing his account tagged on an influencer's Instagram post.
"I went to his profile and everything clicked again and I saw his following was mainly gen z and his pics were of people mainly gen z and it scared me leading me to tweet about it," she told Insider.
Rogers' modeling career never came to fruition. In the months that followed, she tried going to an open call for Ford Models, but was told she wasn't what they were looking for.
Eslava's star, however, continued to rise. Today, his ultra-recognizable style of candid, film photography is beloved by It Kids and brands alike. According to The New York Times' Taylor Lorenz, who profiled Eslava earlier this year, the young photographer "makes the majority of his living doing brand work and commercial photography."
"This allows him to have a more casual relationship with his subjects, some of whom have become close friends," Lorenz wrote. "It's a win-win situation: They get photos to post on social media and Mr. Eslava gets to capture a world he's been immersed in for nearly a decade."
Online, the backlash against Eslava is snowballing. Fellow photographers were especially dismayed.
—Greko.Raw (@greko_raw) June 26, 2020
For some, the news of Rogers' allegation gave credence to concerns about the disparity between Eslava's age and that of his subjects, many of whom consider him a friend. Eslava's career took off in 2014 when Vine's Cameron Dallas invited him to collaborate. And in the intervening years, Eslava has built an impressive reputation for spotting promising talent on social media. Internet ingenues are his niche.
—the manny will not be televised (@leshawnabaII) June 23, 2020
But, for others, Eslava's public apology simply wasn't enough.
—not today (@mellow_ally) June 26, 2020
—ariel ♒︎ (@okay_ariel) June 25, 2020
Eslava did not respond to Insider's request for comment.
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