A Change To The "rules" Regarding Sexually Explicit And Potentially Disturbing Imagery

Hamish Gill

Tech Support (and Marketing)
The following is soon to be added to the rules & ethos and terms of service section of the website found here. It is an amendment that we feel is necessary to more accurately portray the ethos of this forum.
I am putting it here to give people a chance to comment before it goes "live".
Just for clarity, I haven't made the thread prefixes yet, but I will be making them imminently


It is very difficult to create rules regarding the display of sexual or disturbing images. My first instinct has always been to allow members to post images of whatever they wish including overtly sexual or upsetting images. But with the one proviso that as long as the intention remains equal to the that when posting an image of anything else. Until today we have had strict rules relating to posting this sort of image, but today the rules are changing. The rules relating to posting images with illegal content have not changed. What is changing are the rules about everything up until the point an image becomes illegal. We are relaxing these "rules", but in lieu of them we will be having some guidelines that are to be based on a commonly held stance of the owners of this forum (me and Pete)

I am going to talk about this stance across a few areas of photography a little bit to hopefully illustrate what I mean.

When posting a landscape image the intention is often to display the various skills, artistic temperament, understanding of light and composition etc. and probably to demonstrate ones ability. I am sure we all have our own reasons for wishing to share our images on a forum and those reasons, when it comes to landscape photography are very likely to be innocent ones. Because of this there is probably very little chance of upsetting anyone by posting a landscape image... Right??

Documentary photography on the other hand can cover almost any subject matter and is therefore liable to upset some people! To use very famous pictures as an examples, take Diane Arbus' photo of the little lad with the hand grenade or William Klein's Boy with a gun. Both these photos, especially without any prior knowledge of might incite a disquieting feeling in their viewer. But both are a lot more innocent than they appear at first glance!

Robert Capa's famous photo of a Spanish soldier falling dead could also be considered a distressing, and rightfully so, it is real! There are many more photos from times gone by of burning monks, people about to be shot etc that are all very shocking and shocking because they are also real! Yet somehow these photos from a different time seem separate from the reality of today.

Documentary photography of more recent years can feel a lot more real and therefore somehow shock more. Taslima Akhter's 'Final Embrace' is a very hard image to look at because of its depiction of the dead, yet it also depicts the love between two human beings in a quite powerful way. Then beyond that, and without necessarily wanting to even look it up I have seen some combat photography of people with bits missing, dead people, the dying etc. This sort of photography is incredibly hard to look at, for me to the point of repulsion. But that doesn't detract from it and it's validity as a type of photography.

Today, as part of writing this article I'm sure I could have referenced a photo of some hideous atrocity. But I chose not to, I chose not to put myself through the experience of viewing images like that to make a point... The point here is that this was a choice I made. Choice is a very important thing which I will come back to a little later.

Back to the images ... It is arguably important that these aforementioned atrocities are documented and shared around the world. Of course there is a certain distaste in the way these images are presented to us, and indeed a perhaps a distasteful way in which some may view them ... The most innocent of these ways being a little "car crash" like. You know you don't really want to see, but are somehow compelled to look!?

It's also worth thinking about the intention of the photographer here. A modern combat photographer is, I expect, driven hard by the modern media to capture more and more shocking images. I have recently seen an image taken of a bunch of photographers surrounding a dead body all snapping away, some inspecting their work on the back of their cameras. Instinct tells me to be a little repulsed by their actions, like photo-vultures scavenging for their next meal ticket! But is it they who are responsible for taking the photos? Or the media, or therefore by proxy, the general public? It could be said to be western societies bloodthirst for this sort of thing that has driven these photographers to do what they do? They are just trying to earn a living and they could be argued as being brave for putting themselves in harms way to share some of these brutal realities of the world with the world. It is these brutal realities that inspire people to do positive work for charity or the like to try and fix them. Without some of these atrocities being being presented to the outside world in various ways less people would be driven to fight to solve them!

So, should this sort of imagery be censored? No I don't believe it should, but I would suggest adequate warning given to the potential viewer, especially when being displayed openly on the Internet.

I find that sort of thing very easy to take a balanced view of. Sexually graphic images on the other hand are possibly slightly harder to be pragmatic about.
From the mildly graphic "page three" style images all the way right up to the line that an image becomes illegal people have differing views! Subjects like "the exploitation of women" tend to be incredibly divisive and whilst I do have a view on subjects like that, not being a woman, I find it hard to even take my own perspectives seriously. But what remains true is that there are a vast array of perspectives on this sort of thing. What to one person might be arousing, to the next might be repugnant, and indeed to the next person might incite little more than a raised eyebrow.

Because of this potential for such differing views, if an image is legal in its content it is very difficult to make a judgement call about its content on behalf of others. To the point in fact that I choose not to make that call! I choose, in the same way I choose not to censor a photo of an atrocity, not to censor an sexually explicit photo.

(The word choose again... I'm getting to that concept soon)

So you may be wondering why I mentioned landscape photography, and indeed how innocent it is? Well perspective is an important factor in all images. Pretend for a moment, hypothetically speaking that I presented the forum with a photo of a tree set to a backdrop of rolling countryside. I've captured the light wonderfully, beautiful colours, the composition is perfect etc. To most of its viewers it's just a pretty photo. Now imagine that tree to have scars upon it's lower branches. To most an anomaly, but let's imagine this tree to be the hanging site of two black men wrongly accused, due to the colour of their skin, of rape. The scars on the tree left by the rope used to hang the men. This is an entirely hypothetical situation you understand, there is no tree that I know of today. But go back 80 odd years and there might have been. To illustrate my point I have chosen a photo from far in the past, but please do look up this image with caution, it doesn't make pleasant viewing: 'Lynching of young blacks' by Lawrence H. Beitler shows two black men hung for the reasons I've mentioned above. Now imagine I had been there and taken that beautiful photo of this tree the following day. This "landscape" photo could, if viewed by certain people be highly representative of a range of things. To the white people who hung the boys it could represent a victory of justice. Even more so to family of the person who was raped! It might represent something very different to the victim themselves, I have no concept of what! Then take the position of the families of the men, they wouldn't see justice, they would see the exact opposite! Yet without these perspectives the context is lost, it is just a simple photo of a tree!

My point being, we all have a differing perspective on the world, some things offend, upset, distress some people, that others might see as nothing more than a photo of a tree! These differing views make us who we are, and from one person to the next even a simple opinion might be offensive to the point of repulsion. But this is the way of the world, we are all different! It is therefore very difficult to make any judgments on behalf of others! Who am I, the owner of this forum to control what should and shouldn't be displayed? By me controlling what is displayed, I am taking away the choice of all of you to view that content! That is not my right, it is yours!

I mentioned choice before, well here we are back at the concept! It is possibly the most important concept in all of this! Because for me, it is one of the most important things we as human beings posses! And I am not going to be taking that choice away from people by imposing limitations on what can be posted on this forum! As long as it is within the law, it can be posted!

What I am going to make is a few guideline suggestions:

Firstly, please consider the other members of the forum! I have today created a set of forum cautionary prefixes which should be used if the nature of the photo fits within them.

If you discover an image that you feel might offend others but doesn't have one of these prefixes please report it using the "report" button at the bottom of the post.

If you are of a sensitive disposition, please take note of the cautionary prefixes and do not open the post!

If you see anything which you believe to be illegal in its nature, please report it using the "report" button as above but also voice your concerns relating to the legality of it. It will then be moved by the moderator who first sees the report to the admin area of the forum. It will remain in the admin area until the legality of the image can be established. If it turns out to be illegal it will be removed! If it can be proven to be legal it shall be returned to the open forum. If the legality of the image remains ambiguous it will remain out of sight until the legality of it can be established.

Lastly, please abide by the laws of your country! If it is illegal to view sexually graphic images if you are under 18. Then please take note of the cautionary prefixes and abide by the relevant laws!
The same goes for any other law relating to the viewing or sharing of images.
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Okay, I have a question.

All veterans here know that I'm a bit of a wild card and drive my satisfaction to go that bit further in to the depths of the unknown to achieve what I envisage, varying from mild, to extreme.

If I took a beautiful photo of inside a mansion for example, deeming this as an extraordinary photo with others agreeing. No questions asked.

If i added my journey description clarifying how I got to achieve the photo, eg, avoiding security cameras, hiding from dogs, bypassing 'no tresspassing - trespassers will be prosecuted' signs.
Would people view this as an illegal activity due to tresspassing laws etc?

It's sounds like a dumb question, and I'm not trying to make things awkward. Hamish has explained in depth about other people perceptions and thoughts behind photos and how they could affect others, or simply not.
In terms of photography, there is so much out there still yet to be photograph from scenes that are restricted. A guy on Flickr in the name of Andre Govia is a perfect example to use. His work is heroic.

Mothballs ( explore )
by andre govia., on Flickr
This is a FANTASIC photo, and categorise itself under 'urbexing'

Urban Exploring is 90% of the time exploring and taking photos on grounds where there are restrictions, that's part of the thrill and excitement of getting a new dynamic style in your hat.
I will clarify that no breaking and entering is ever considered on the cards of urban exploring. If it's locked, it's game over. It then becomes and whole new ball game to condone what then becomes criminal damage if anything is removed or broken.

Anyway, can anyone advise me what to do when posting a photo to ensure I do not have the 'report' against me.
Just want to make sure that I do not tread on anyone's toes.
case by case indeed ...
And i think this is where we perhaps need to look at this:

The providers ("we", "us", "our") of the service provided by this web site ("Service") are not responsible for any user-generated content and accounts ("Content"). Content submitted express the views of their author only.

You agree to not use the Service to submit or link to any Content which is defamatory, abusive, hateful, threatening, spam or spam-like, likely to offend, contains adult or objectionable content, contains personal information of others, risks copyright infringement, encourages unlawful activity, or otherwise violates any laws.

But that is next on my list of rules to look at ... for now I'm talking about specifically the things I have spoken about in the above
... unless we can find a way to include your concerns within what I have written?
I wonder how urbexing websites deal with this sort of thing? Have you any links Dan?
I recently went on a flashlight tour of a former state hospital/asylum, conducted by the staff of the organization that is involved in slowly renovating the complex (about 50 buildings). Only one has been refurbished into residences, retail space & senior housing. Lead & asbestos abatement is mandatory before permitting access & further restoration, so most of the buildings are boarded up & locked. But they have a constant struggle with people breaking in, partying & vandalizing.

The tour guide got a small amount of satisfaction from mocking the pathetic spelling errors committed to wall graffiti by local 'illiterati'.

I recently looked something up on Photo.net and aside from many historical links being broken (or purged), I was a bit shocked by pornographic content (mild by today's 'standards'), but not by earlier ones...no warning, no login, etc. it occurred to me the photographer(s) might be economically better off hosting a site for paying subscribers...unless Photo.net serves as their 'portfolio' for clients desiring boudoir photos to review.

I just didn't expect to have the albums scrolling like the eBay ads on Photrio!

Eventually, someone will sell them on eBay as unknown after the photographer passes away. Who knows, could be someone's daughter, mother, grandmother...
It is a difficult issue, Murray and there is still no easy answer. One of the strengths of RPF is that we have to reveal our true identity and so the authorship of our images becomes clear and that hopefully 'moderates' (in the broadest sense of the word) what we present and ensures a responsible attitude in our postings.

Thanks also to answer the question about the hospital images!