you are right, he did not get scammed. Almost all smaller agencies require you to get your own photo's and promotional material together, they do help you in makeing the right choices though. And yes, your are right again on the bigger agencies. They may choose to cover the cost of your initial start up, yet they do deduct these costs from your first paying gig. Smaller agencies usually don't have the means to do this.
People have alot of misconseptions of what an agency is and what they do. I like to call it the pixie dust syndrom.
A few of the most disturbing things I ran across working for my agent for three years:
Talent/model-no experiance or photos: "if you want me, you will pay for everything" NO "then I will submit to someone else" go right ahead, they will tell you the same.
Talent/model- "once I am signed, I should be rich and famous and working on large projects immediantly" NO, you must work hard and learn your craft, we get you to the audition, YOU make it happen.
ARRRGGGHHH! Reason number 1200 why I quit the agency!!!!
Happy New Years!