To me my hobby is quite simple, I go to interesting places with creative young women, we create images we both like, and then I share some of our images both online and in camera club talks so that others can appreciate what we have created as well.
Unfortunately it’s not that simple as the images we create sometimes – well most of the time! – involve nudity, and to some people nudity=sex so instantly the images are sexual, and should be censored or forbidden in case they cause offence.
First, I can tell you that there is nothing sexual about climbing a mountain at 5am in the morning and then finding the right location and moment to capture the morning rays illuminating the model’s body. It is a rather magical experience seeing a magnificent sunrise, and as well as enjoying the moment we are both concerned with capturing that feeling as best we can in the images, and also on a practical note minimising the model’s discomfort by keeping her nude for as short a time as possible..
Here’s a couple of images of the wonderful Lulu Lockhart, taken at sunrise on the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye. I just see the beauty of Lulu and the landscape in these images.
Censorship is another consideration. Many of the popular social media sites such as FaceBook and Instagram have rather strange rules on nudity. the model can be completely nude in an image, as long as women’s nipples and pubic region are either not on show or are blurred out or covered in some way, usually with a wide variety of humorous and sometimes strange icons or emoticons. Buttocks come in for special consideration as you are OK as long as the image does not “focus in on fully exposed buttocks.”, how large the buttocks have to be in the frame to be the focus of the image is not specified!
While I will happily let models blur parts of images I supply to them so they meet the rules, I just cannot do it on principle with images I post, as it is no longer the same image. I can afford to be principled as this is just a hobby for me, whereas for a model it is their living, and if they are suspended from a platform that can mean lost income.
The social media platforms are now using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to try to detect nipples, and I sadly see many models and photographers getting regular suspensions for censored images presumably because they’ve “missed a bit” when doing their blurring. I seem to be doing OK on this front as I either post images that meet their guidelines or post uncensored images where the model is quite small in the frame and presumably the AI bot cannot detect the nipples. My images can only be seen by people on my friends list anyway, who are all aware of the type of images I produce when sending me a friend request, so they are perversely trying to protect people who are quite happy to see my images.
My strategy is therefore to post social media friendly images where the model is large in the frame, and keep other images for my blog posts and talks or have the model small enough in the frame to fly under the radar of the ‘nipplebot’ as I have christened them :D
This does often mean I edit more images from a set, which is no bad thing. Here’s a couple from a shoot at a great location arranged by the talented photographer Richard Egan. First I edited one for social media, then another which wouldn’t be allowed.
I like this one from the same location, which happened to be social-media friendly by accident rather than design.
This one from Ireland last year again required two images to be edited, fortunately it was a rather easy edit.
Sometimes I am very lucky and all the editing can be done in LightRoom, such as with these very recent images, so editing one image automatically produced the other, and I really do like the social media friendly one.
As mentioned I do also post images on some platforms that do not technically meet the rules, but the model is so small in the frame I doubt whether you could see whether the nipples had been blurred or not, and the AI bot also misses them. I call these my 1-pixel nipple images, a phrase that is unlikely to catch on.
And sometimes the best pose from a set will happen to meet the rules anyway.
I love the images I create with models, and I go out of my way to try and not offend people. I know that some people are not comfortable with nudity, so by calling my camera club talk “Have I Got Nudes For You” I doubt anybody could accidentally turn up and not be aware of what my images are about.
Nobody who has ever seen my images has ever told me they are offended by them. However, I am aware that I have offended some people at camera clubs who have not even taken the trouble to even look at my images, but they are offended by the very act of me producing these unseen images. While I can hope to educate some people about my genre of photography, I think this group of people are a lost cause!
Conversely, I also regularly get people coming up to me at the end of my talks, usually women, saying they weren’t looking forward to my talk, but they decided to come and that they thoroughly enjoyed it and were so pleased they came.
It’s good that I can change people’s minds, and show them that there is nothing wrong with capturing the beauty of the human body.
Many thank to Lulu for being such a good example for all of these images, and hopefully by reading my mini-rant my blog readers got to see lots of great images we created together.