Getting Close

So, here we are at the beginning of the final week of 2008. We’re getting close to the end of this year and the beginning of the next – and, thankfully, to the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of Obama’s, as well.

I worked another ten hour day today (and may put in eleven hours tomorrow) as I still have plenty of work to do at the office. At least it should all be over by the end of next week. I don’t get paid for overtime as it’s not mandatory, but I do want to try to finish my work as a matter of personal pride (though it’s not the fault of me or my co-workers that management gave out the work nearly two months late this year). I do get compensated with Comp Time, and I’ve already earned another week’s worth of vacation time so far. By the time it’s all done, I may have about two and a half extra weeks in total – perhaps even close to three – and the thought of getting away helps to keep me going.

Of course, one cannot live on dreams alone. So, this weekend I managed to do something so unusual that I can’t remember the last time I did it: I managed to get to bed by 11:00 pm two nights in a row. That’s very early for me, I’m sorry to say, but I need to get enough rest if I’m going to be working so many extra hours. I’ll see if I can keep it up even after I return to a normal schedule. (Staying away from the computer and the internet will certainly help!)

I guess I should chime in with my reaction to the new 2257 record-keeping requirements here in the U.S. for photographers who photograph nude (or even clothed) models. Dave Swanson and Stephen Haynes have made some posts that go into detail about this (read them here and here).

Essentially, I am as outraged by this as most other art photographers seem to be. The idea that one could get locked away for five years and labeled a sex offender for failing to keep proper records and make them available for inspection for 20 hours a week, all because someone considers one of their fine art images to be a “lascivious exhibition of the pubic area,” is actually beyond outrageous.

As others have noted, the wording of the new rules is so vague that it can encompass almost everything. The use of the word “lascivious” reminds me of a scene from the crazy 1960’s film, What’s New, Pussycat. Peter Sellers is in it as a wacky, long-haired German psychiatrist who likes to chase after beautiful young women. When his fat, opera singer wife catches him at it, she shouts out to him, “Lascivious adulterer! Lascivious adulterer!”

“Silence when you’re shouting at me!!!” he retorts. “Don’t call me that until I’ve had a chance to look up what it means!” So, he opens up a dictionary and reads from it, “A lascivious adulterer is a person who is a lascivious adulterer.”

Well, if Peter Sellers’ dictionary couldn’t give a more specific meaning, do you think the U.S. government will? All this is supposed to protect children from being involved in pornography, of course – just as illegally spying on American citizens is supposed to protect us, too. It’s as if, just because we’re photographers, we are automatically suspected of being involved in kiddy porn and thus are being forced to wear electronic bracelets to trace of each and every move we make, even though we have done nothing at all wrong.

Of course, the government claims that it has to do this to protect the kids. So what if innocent people are grossly inconvenienced – or sent to prison and labeled as sex offenders – if it will keep the real bad guys away from the little ones? This is like saying that if a mass murderer who is supposed to be executed is hiding out in a crowd of 100 people, it is perfectly reasonable to put all 100 people to death just to make sure that one murderer is dealt with properly. So what if 99 innocent people are killed in the process? It’s all for the public good, isn’t it???

I would like to think that people who do fine art nudes wouldn’t fall into the porno category which these rules are supposed to target. Still, if “one man’s meat is another man’s poison,” one can equally say that one man’s art is another man’s pornography. Just ask Jock Sturges – or just ask the fine art photographers like me who had our blogs labeled as having “objectionable” content. I’d like to think that the Obama administration will have better things to do than to pick on art photographers, but who knows when another ideological conservative like John Ashcroft will become Attorney General???

I mentioned these new rules to a friend of mine who is politically conservative but even he admitted that the whole purpose seems to be to throw cold water on the idea of anybody photographing nudes, period. While I understand that child pornography is a reprehensible thing and that it’s the responsibility of the government to combat it, it is also wrong to try to do so by attempting to abolish all forms of nude art through difficult-to-follow regulations. (At the Olympics in Beijing this year, people wanting to protest were nominally permitted to protest publicly at certain locations, but the process one had to follow to get the permits to do it was so onerous as to be impossible – and not a single person ended up being allowed to protest.)

Hopefully, common sense will prevail before too long. Stephen’s post dealt with a court case challenging the 2257 rules, and in the last round the court ruled against the government and the rules. We can only hope that it will stand up in the next round.

The other good thing (if one can call it that) is that – if I understand it correctly – those new regulations only apply to images made in camera on or after March 18, 2009. Therefore, any photos taken before then – even if they will be published or displayed after that date – are not subject to these new regs. As it happens, I’ve been photographing nudes since 1995 and have one helluva backlog – not just of a few months worth of film to develop, but of years and years worth of photos to print. The photos I’m posting tonight were made at a workshop in upstate New York ten years ago, and I have only printed one of them. (There are plenty more just of this model alone.)

Still, although I’ve said that I probably won’t take any new photos until at least May, perhaps I’ll try to squeeze in another photo session or two with a model before the middle of March – just in case.

About Dave Rudin

Dave Rudin is a fine art photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in art nude and travel photography, using black & white film and making silver gelatin prints in a darkroom.
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3 Responses to Getting Close

  1. MichaelV. says:

    I’m with you! I hope this all blows over and someone get’s some sense but I’m not expecting it. Have a good 2009.

  2. Lin says:

    Good post, Dave. This 2257 thing is total madness, as are our new laws over here (which aren’t that dissimilar in the end effect.)Anyway, all the best for 2009, regardless of what happens!(P.S. Beautiful photos, as ever. That first one is particularly striking. I love her expression.)

  3. TLNeasley says:

    Happy New Year, Dave!Your Bud,Terrell

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