As you may have read here, earlier this year I ordered some books of my photos from the Kodak Gallery online. I was generally satisfied with what I got, but I also have a $33 credit on my account.
I saw that that credit will be expiring in a few weeks and that there’s currently a 25% off sale, so I thought I’d take advantage of both things by ordering a larger, hardcover book. I’ll be going to Las Vegas for a few days soon and I’ll be getting together with my friend Terrell Neasley there, so I thought it would be good to show him a book of my fine art nudes, which I know he’d enjoy seeing.
I planned to use their two-day delivery with FedEx, but because I had a problem with FedEx on my last order, the woman I spoke with on the phone at Kodak gave me a credit for Next Day shipping to help insure that I got it on time. Yes, I was being given Next Day delivery for free – so everything was more than fine.
I then spent several hours last night scanning some new negatives to include in the book and putting together the book online. It all looked good and I expected the book to look great. That, unfortunately, was as close as the book was to get to being made.
After getting home from work today, I just happened to log onto the Kodak Gallery to look at the book layout again, but first I decided to look up the order status. It was there that I found out that my book order had been cancelled!!! The reason given was this: “Cancelled for Terms of Service.” I was shocked! I knew that it was a book of nudes, but I’d ordered books of nudes before with Kodak with no problem – so what was wrong here???
I called up Kodak, and the automated system told me that I should have been sent an e-mail explaining just what was wrong. Well, I never received any such e-mail. So, I stayed on and actually spoke with someone. This phone call lasted for about an hour as I was put on hold as the fellow tried to find out what had happened. First he said that some of my photos violated Kodak’s anti-pornography clause by showing genitalia. I told him that none of my photos showed that. At my request, he dug deeper and deeper to find out what was wrong, and at last he told me this: only one photo was objectionable. I asked him if I could guess which one it was – and I got it right.
The image in question is the one I’ve posted at the top here. It’s a photo of Betcee May in my motel room near Los Angeles when I was visiting there in July. I’d wanted to work with her outdoors, but as I couldn’t find a good location, I ended up photographing her at my motel. For someone like me who likes to work with more interesting settings, a generic motel room is somewhat difficult to work in. Still, Betcee is an experienced model, very beautiful and fun to work with. (She is a natural giggler, I’d say.)
Toward the end of our session, I decided to set my tripod up high and stood on a chair to make some photos from a high angle. I was really trying to think up things that might look interesting, so I asked Betcee to spread her legs wide. I was just interested in the graphic play of arms and legs – not anything erotic – and I asked her to put her hand where you see it to intentionally cover up what Monty Python would call “the naughty bits.” This was all I had in mind.
When I saw the recently developed film, I liked this photo for the positioning of the arms and hands and also the calm, dreamy look on Betcee’s face – a rare moment of quietude between the giggles, actually. So, I decided to include this and another one of her in the book.
I had no idea that someone would find that this image crossed the line from fine art into pornography. I had thought that Kodak was an American company, but obviously it must be located closer to Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan. (Or, as I said to the fellow on the phone, the man reviewing the photos must have been a Republican. The guy laughed.)
Now, as I had guessed that this was the photo in question, I must have felt that this photo was a little different from the other 79 in the book. Yes, I can see how some people might find this image to be more erotic in nature than the others – but come on now! I can understand the objections if her hand wasn’t there, but there’s nothing showing here that’s pornographic – with the exception, I suppose, of the imagination of the person at Kodak reviewing it. I might even understand if the entire book was composed of photos like this, but to cancel the order (and not tell me about it!) for just one photo like this out of 80? That’s ridiculous. (The other photos here are among those other ones, including another of Betcee.)
I was told that the order could go through if I ‘d replace this photo with another one, but I said ‘no.’ This was the photo I chose, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it and I will not change my order. “The Kodak Gallery,” I said, “has lost me as a customer and they don’t deserve my money.” Perhaps they don’t deserve the money of the people reading this, either.
So, valued reader, now that you’ve read my story and seen the photo, what do you think? Am I right in thinking that Kodak is acting like a bunch of idiots here, or do you agree with them that the photo in question is, indeed, too risqué? I’d like to know what you think.