A statement, a few stories, a bit of philosophy, and a new policy.
Statement: My favorite shoots involve hiking to somewhere beautiful then shooting art nudes in several different locations in the area.
Shooting with Stephen Melvin two or three years ago, we drove through the very small town of Blackwater, Missouri. It had that quaint prairie/stick up your ass feel about it, therefore we thought it would be hilarious to shoot a nude in front of their town hall. In the middle of the afternoon. On a Saturday. We did the ‘flash and dash’ and then manically giggled our way back to the car. In the end, I think we got better photos elsewhere that day, so aside from the ‘fuck you’ communicated in this abuse of public property, the risk was wasted.
Shooting with Ric 18 months ago. After Scarborough Faire in Waxahachie, Texas. We’d been shooting silly stuff at the Faire all day, and left around 5PM. We took a detour through town to avoid traffic and ended up on a back road, where we were presented with the most beautiful trellised bridge under a canopy of mist and glowy golden sunlight filtering through the thick foliage. Salivatingtly perfect, right? We parked the car, hiked to the bridge, and lacking any clothes other than what he’d been shooting me in all day – I stripped and we shot on the glorious bridge. 10 minutes in a lady and her dog passed at 100 yards. We kept going, certain she couldn’t have seen us or allowing for a visual miracle, certain that she couldn’t tell I was nude. Fate being on our side, after the full day of shooting Ric’s last camera battery gave up the ghost and we packed out. Driving back through town we were stopped by two police cars. They immediately asked for my ID and started grilling us about a report of a nude woman down on the bridge. Since they didn’t catch me and we didn’t admit to shooting anything naked they had to let us go, but one slip would have landed us in hot water fast. My understanding of the law in Texas is that if it is possible for a minor to see you naked, even through your own window, you can land yourself on the sex offender list and in other sorts of trouble. Again…not having enough time before the battery died there was no result and the risk (again) wasn’t worth it.
Shooting today with a photographer from Dayton, G Images in a state park off highway 42. Creek, waterfalls, mossy rocks and changing leaves. Beautiful setting and we were scheduled to shoot art nudes for a little while. We hiked a while and passed a few people, but eventually found a spot I deemed secluded enough and we got some fantastic images. We kept going until I saw a guy in camo 100 ft away in my peripheral vision. And did the only thing reasonable: waved. The man and his friend were kind enough to escort G and I back to their police cars, where they held us for over an hour trying to figure out what to do with us. A complaint was called in to dispatch by a woman ‘and her son’. We had to wait and find out how old the kid was, thank God he was 23, because if he had been a minor they were ready to book me. As it was, the appropriate meting of justice was a Misdemeanor ticket, which when involving an alcohol, drug, or sex related offense in the state of Ohio requires a court appearance. The cop handling us was extremely compassionate and asked me where I was from etc. Determining that it would be difficult for me to return to Ohio to appear in court, he worked reading the codes for about an hour trying to find something else he could ticket me for (to appease the person who called it in and likely keep his job) that wouldn’t require me to appear in court. Eventually they wrote us both tickets for something like ‘failure to follow rules posted on signs in the park’. Which was extremely lenient. A word in G’s favor – he never pressured me to shoot this location, he was utterly horrified by the whole ordeal, and he’s taking care of the ticket. He remains one of my favorite photographers and we’ll definitely continue to work together. Bottom line, even though we produced beautiful images, the trip down the road less clothed again proved to be too risky.
I often feel there is some sort of glory associated with posing nude where you shouldn’t. Like our community lauds this behavior as gutsy. A model who will pose nude on the streets of New York City is awesome or ‘a real model.’ Here’s one definition of ‘a real model’: one who actually makes money. Its tough to make money posing nude when you’re in prison. Its tough for me to make my return flight home when I’m busy dealing with cops. Hard to pass my classes at school when I miss my flight and therefore the test the next day. Hard to turn a profit if I have to pay a bunch of tickets. So…while I agree that great art can be done in places it shouldn’t be and that our society is off the wall Puritanical about nudity, I don’t feel that I makes any sense for anyone doing this for a living to accept these assignments. Consider these numbers. Presuming every photographer I work with has some grand idea about taking a nude photo where nude photos should not be taken. Presuming half of them ask me to do it. Presuming I agree, and presuming they only want to do it once, vs. on every shoot they do. That means if we both do 20 shoots a month, I’m naked 10 times where I shouldn’t be and the photographer is shooting someone naked only once – not even naked themselves and therefore not breaking any laws. The numbers are bad for me – eventually I’m going to get caught. The photographer, however, scratching his one itch will probably get away with it.
Henceforth any nude work done outside of private closed locations will require a lot of explaining, and will still likely be refused. If I show up to a shoot and the grand plan is to take me to the local park and sneak a few upskirt shots or exposed booby shots, there is going to be a conflict. If a photographer brings me somewhere I deem “too public” I reserve the right to keep my clothes on, and I feel perfectly fine asking for my fee if the photographer did not discuss this location with me in advance. Also, anyone who seems too cavalier about a possibly risky situation is not going to have success booking me for the job.
Possible acceptable explanations/solutions include: 1) We will be on a houseboat on Lake Powell, there will be no one around and even if someone does see us, they can’t call anyone because there’s no cell reception. Even if they could call someone this lake is so freakin’ big and the park rangers are so dispersed its unlikely anyone will bother us. Or other huge place in the wilderness with nothing around for literally hundreds of miles. 2) I am (or have hired) a lawyer/cop/judge/some other person intimately acquainted with the law and it is perfectly legal for you to be nude in this area. Here is the state and local code noting such. 3) I have a special permit that I will show you in physical form from XYZ municipality to shoot nude photos here. 4) This location is utterly abandoned, it is not a local park. It is likely an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere and our discretion is assured. I have shot here before and encountered no one.
I’ve heard about models entering contracts with photographers – any legal trouble will be handled by the photographer yadda yadda. I don’t care if the big guy himself takes care of my legal woes…I’d rather not have woes in the first place. An outstanding ticket is one more thing I have to worry about even if I’m SURE the photographer has it handled. Jail time is still a huge inconvenience even when I’m SURE the photographer is going to get me out.