Maybe I have read it over a hundred times in the media. An innocent nude photograph can ruin a girl’s life forever. As a photographer with 40 years of experience, I am not too sure if this is actually true.
We must ask ourselves what the definition ‘innocent nude photograph’ means. The first thing we have to understand is that the meaning of the words ‘innocent nude photograph’ change rapidly over time. I vividly recall the 1970s when photographer David Hamilton who photographed very young girls in a hazy, pseudo-romantic environment was highly popular. Despite the graininess of the photographs, his pictures were quite revealing. An example of a typical Hamilton photograph: an extremely young model kissing a slightly older girl.
These pictures were called fine art photography and they were praised because they were supposed to be celebrating the innocence of youth. Camera company Minolta used these pictures to promote their cameras. In the 1980s and 1990s, this way of thinking changed. Suddenly the works of David Hamilton were labeled ‘child pornography’ and I tend to agree with that. I believe in age limits for photography.
After a few lawsuits and a nearly complete ban on his works, Hamilton committed suicide.
Now, in 2017, it seems that every photograph showing a nipple is considered to be provocative, even if the nipple shows on a picture of a woman breastfeeding her child. So, from a pragmatic point of view, one could say that ‘innocent nude photographs’ no longer exist. All nude photographs are to be considered ‘guilty nude photographs’ from now on. I know, the words ‘guilty nude photographs’ as the exact opposite of ‘innocent nude photographs’ sound odd, because photographs do not have a mind of their own.
Photographers and models obviously have a mind of their own and they are to be considered ‘guilty’ if you happen to believe that human nudity is offensive. You also have to ask yourself why you think the natural human form is offensive or obscene. My best guess is that you have been taught to think that way. By whom? By your parents or most probably by social media run by people who do not want to displease advertisers who hate distraction from their sales messages. Because however decent we are, most of us do like to look at nude photography. Statistics show that we even prefer looking at pornographic pictures.
Hypocrisy is not a philosophy, although many seem to think so. We are all voyeurs in one way or another. Some people prefer to look at images of people being cut in half by machine guns, others get a kick from watching Tsunamis on YouTube, gamers get a high from killing virtual opponents, we are all animals of some sort.
It is not the photograph that ruins people’s lives, it is the social embedding in which it is taken and shown that may ruin lives. If you are surrounded by sexually frustrated bullies expect to be bullied if you show yourself in the nude on a photograph. Just take a look at the last scandal in the US Marine Corps. These Marines, prepared to kill innocent people if ordered to do so, formed a Facebook group to post pornographic pictures of their female colleagues and of course, they were enthusiastically posting degrading comments.
The news is brought to the world as if this is a surprise. I feel bad for the women are who are victims of these actions, but why would you want to be in the Marine Corps in the first place? Despite your poor American education, you must have had some knowledge that the Marine Corps is and has been illegally invading countries for decades to celebrate American exceptionalism?
So, if one of these Marines points an iPhone at you while you are happily sucking dick, know who are you dealing with and do not blame the smartphone or digital photography, but the man or woman taking the photographs. Just say no, and if the person does not comply, file him for sexual harassment. And if that hurts your position within the Marine Corps, you have simply chosen the wrong profession. You were trained to kill, so don’t go all soft when your position is in danger because of your own gullibility.
In my archives, there are numerous photographs taken decades ago of people who are now in positions that these photographs could really hurt their careers. They are worth quite a lot of money if I would sell them to the media. I shall never do that because that would result in professional suicide. I depend on the trust of the people I photograph. There are many photographers like me who have that kind of material and they would not publish those images for the same reason. Professional photographers are trained to know about the legal responsibilities that come with photography and since everybody is a photographer now, it is time to educate people about those same liabilities.
The Internet is becoming a dangerous place. We knew that all along but we always felt that it was sufficient to protect certain pages with password systems and in 21 years none of our password-protected sites were ever really hacked, mostly thanks to a company specializing in membership software called s2member.com.
This new site, however, is built on BuddyPress and WordPress. Both are quite heavy on load, especially if you need lots of extra functionality that is supplied by add-ons — or plugins as they are called in WordPress. Each plugin has its own load on the server and although s2member is remarkably lightweight for its many options, we decided not to use it here, because we will not have a payment system on this site. It is basically a small network for friend and models. Anybody can register, but all registrations go through a screening test and not all members get access to all groups.
This way we protect our models and the photographs. But to solely depend on WordPress security seemed like a gamble too. WordPress is regularly updated and quite secure, but we decided to add SSL encryption to the site.
There was an additional reason for that. There is this Google initiative to promote web safety. Through their own browser Chrome, they warn people for sites such as these that collect passwords and data if they are not encrypted through SSL. This also has an effect on the Google listings. As far as we know this site is not prominently listed at all on Google since it is pretty new, but we do not want to hurt future listings either.
As a photographer, I always work with a publication or an exhibit in mind and I rarely use more than one image of the person I photographed. Selecting photographs from a three or four-hour photo session is not easy, certainly if you have to pick the best pictures just a few days after it all happened. You still have vivid memories of the person you photographed and somehow that disturbs the process of selecting the best pictures. I cannot completely explain why this is, but a selection made after half a year or even a year after the shoot always delivers better photographs.
Of course, I cannot ask models to wait that long to see what I have produced. So a primary selection is made within a week after photography. It is not a quick selection, I take my time and I look for the photographs the model will most likely appreciate. In the end, 10 or 20 photographs go through post-processing. After that, I rarely look at these pictures until I need material for a show or a publication. Then I go through all those pictures once more and I often come up with a different selection. I strongly believe that there can only be one best photograph in each series and that is obviously the one I am looking for.
The model sets are interesting in a completely different fashion. They show how a photo shoot of hours slowly evolves, how directions pay off, how a model slowly relaxes, etc. Some of these pictures end up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. If I am lucky they are not cropped, filtered or otherwise tampered with. If I am really, really lucky I even get a photo credit, but that rarely happens. Lately, I happen to photograph a lot of BDSM Dominatrixes and it is often not in their mindset to say thank you or to give a photo credit. In their perception, every man is a slave. They confuse their profession with day to day reality.
I don’t mind the lack of a photo credit too much because these same people are often also the ones who like to filter, crop or disproportionally resize my pictures. I do not need a credit for other people’s violation of my copyright. Some Dominatrixes are emotionally disturbed beings who cover up their insecurities with a lot of shining armor, many slaves in their entourage and grotesque behavior. Well, no need to get upset about the mentally ill, they cannot help themselves.
But back to the model sets. Lately, I decided they deserve a place of their own and I created a closed group on this site, where only the models and a few trusted people can have a look at these sets. No need to sign up for a free registration on the site, because all registrations are closely monitored and one needs an invite to enter the group.