Photographer Vs. Nude Model: Who’s Right in This Situation?

A photographer is coming under fire for a photobook he plans to publish.

Nude photography is a polarizing topic. Whether it’s arguing about objectification or questioning a photographer’s motives, nude photography is seldom free from negativity. In the latest case, photographer David Paul Larson is being accused of acting inappropriately, even if what he’s doing falls in line with the law. He’s looking to publish a photobook which contains images of him and models he has worked with in the past. While his subjects consented to the photos, some models are not happy with the photographer publishing them. This brings us back to the topic of law vs. ethics pertaining to photography.

Nude Model Agreement

While we’ve not seen a copy of the actual contract between the photographer and the nude model in this instance, we can explain what’s meant by an agreement in perpetuity.

The fact the photographer is using the images and the nude model is not threatening legal action suggests that full use of the images was given to the photographer at the point of the agreement. The model was likely paid for the work, but had no ownership or power over how the images are used. By perpetuity, it means the agreement is not void after an agreed date. Instead, the terms are in place indefinitely.

In this case, the photographer is well within his legal right to use the images for his photobook. Unfortunately, the model, despite not wanting to be included, has no legal right to prevent the photos from being published.

But, is the photographer acting ethically?

Respect for the Human

In any business agreement, it’s very easy to see people as transactions rather than humans. This may seem fine in the moment; it allows people to work effectively without letting human emotions get in the way of a project. But years later, as in this case, things can become complicated.

Young people are often attracted to the model lifestyle. It can pay well and opens the door to many lucrative opportunities. However, some people, over time, evolve. They can fall out of love with parts of their past, especially if it involved some form of nude modeling. Looking to move on, they would rather that part of their life was largely forgotten. Photographers using images that models regret were taken is a harsh reminder of decisions the models had rather not made.

Despite having a contract, it is possible for the photographer to see the human side of the situation. He is negligent of the mental state of the individual or the impact publishing the photo may have. He should, in my opinion, show empathy and agree not to use the photo.

Is that frustrating? Of course it is. We have had several models contact us here at The Phoblographer asking us to remove images they were once happy with being published. Regardless of what we feel, our priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of models we have featured in the past. So, we comply and remove the image at their request.

A person’s mental health and emotional security are more important than the use of a single photo.

Think Twice About Lasting Contracts

Whether you’re a photographer or a nude model, an agreement in perpetuity may seem attractive at the time. They tend to mean a higher fee, which we appreciate is difficult to turn down. But times change, and so do your values and outlook on the world. What may seem like a good decision at the time, may not be one in 10 years.

Instead, negotiate contracts that have an expiration date. Some companies may pressure you into a lasting agreement, and if that’s the case, don’t work with them. A company that’s unwilling to be flexible has no care or interest in you as a person – they’re unethical and a stain on the industry.

What do you think? Is the photographer acting accordingly, or should he show some flexibility? Let us know in the comments below.

All images in this article are screenshots.

Dan Ginn

Dan Ginn is a content writer and journalist. He brings with him five years' experience writing in the photographic niche. During that time he has worked with a range of leading brands, as well as a host professional photographers within the industry.