The use of photography is everywhere. From the advertising posters in the street to your newspaper in the morning and, of course, for those into their social media, a picture or two for the odd post works very well.
This is not a new phenomenon of course, and I’m not suggesting my family was typical, but I remember dad using an old pre-war Box Brownie camera well into the 70s to take the holiday snaps. Spontaneous it wasn’t, as it took a week for the film to be developed via the local chemist. By then, life had moved on and all too often the pictures were tossed into an old biscuit tin after a brief glance, and rarely looked at again.
I also remember in the 80s and 90s adverts in H&E for film development services aimed specifically at naturists. Then, of course, the magazine also had its readers’ picture gallery, now long gone but not necessarily forgotten. Digital photography killed all of that of course as taking a picture of a happy event couldn’t be easier through the camera of your mobile phone. The same Internet-connected mobile can distribute the picture to family and friends in an instant, or post it to Facebook, et cetera.
It is digital photography that has caused a good deal of anxiety within the naturist community because of its connectivity with the Internet. Those in the photograph, even the photographer themselves, can easily lose control of the image and there is a fear about where the photo might end up. As a result, many clubs and resorts have banned photography to help their patrons relax.
So who could you trust if you’re a proud parent and want pictures of your children in a naturist environment? Another naturist, perhaps! This is what Florida resident Brian Martens says he did and last November there was news that he might lose custody of his three daughters and could face jail time as a result. The man Martens commissioned – a professional photographer – is now serving a long sentence for producing and possessing child pornography and as the pictures he took of Martens’ daughters were found and identified on his computer, so Martens has been drawn into the web. Martens’ lawyer says it is a matter of interpretation; the prosecution case is that it is not.
There is no problem with interpreting the vast majority of pornography online; the problem is when it is a more ‘normal’ picture. To you and I, it might be an image of someone – man, woman or child – enjoying life naked, and that is the end of it. Unfortunately, to some who will concentrate their gaze to the groin/genital area it will be a source of sexual gratification. It does not matter if the person photographed is dressed or not; in fact they might prefer it if the model is dressed as their imagination will not be spoilt by reality. Yet to many naturists the idea of appearing in a photograph is still an anathema.
These days, there are billions of photos on the Internet, with many of them posted on Facebook and its ilk, but they have rules, which some have campaigned against because of the strict, some say over strict, interpretation of what constitutes an acceptable image. Here is what Facebook has to say in their community standards about nudity and pornography:
“Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved. We also impose limitations on the display of nudity. [My emphasis] We aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo’s David or family photos of a child breastfeeding.”
I am sure there is something written down to define what those limitations are, but I cannot readily find it, so we rely on the moderator’s interpretation of an ill-defined policy. It sounds very similar to the issue we are having with front line police officers being left to interpret what would constitute an offence under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill 2013, all over again. While we agree that nudity in a non-sexual context should be acceptable, others think differently and act accordingly. Pictures of a person’s bottom are apparently fine, but breasts (unless it is the act of feeding a baby) and penises are not, for these are sexual objects.
Much of the reason why photography is so prevalent today is because of the ease it is interpreted by the viewer, or misinterpreted. Think of the frequently used phrase: ‘if a picture can say a thousand words…’ or any of the many other versions. That began as an advertising slogan at the beginning of the 20th century. It has found so many uses, in so many contexts and it is so true. It is much easier to show the full graphic horror of 9/11 or 7/7 than to describe them. We share and understand the act of saving someone’s life in the operating theatre; the birth of a baby; the mixed emotions of Andrew Flintoff as he consoled Brett Lee when England beat Australia in the 2005 Ashes Test series more quickly as a picture than any number of words written to describe them. Show, not tell as my creative writing teacher might say.
The joy of naturism as a lifestyle, or as a life philosophy, is more easily illustrated in picture form than by any number of words you or I might write. Trying to get Facebook to alter its policy, or the legislators to define more clearly what they mean by anti-social behaviour is treating the symptoms, not curing the illness. If naturism is to be taken seriously – even if not enjoyed – then society needs to understand us more and this is what the Naturist Action Group is for, to campaign and educate for that change in society.
For the time being, we shall have to continue to follow their rules and be mindful of what is posted on the Internet. But, to misquote Nick Ross of Crimewatch fame, don’t miss the opportunity of posting a picture because of a fear of what might happen. There are so many available on the Internet already it will be extremely difficult to process your pictures alone for purposes they were never intended. By not posting, you’re just letting the buggers win.