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.