PostingModels, Model Releases, Nudes and late Regrets
As probably every photographer since photography was invented, I shoot nudes. Started exactly 23 years ago and will probably do it until you can take my camera out of my cold, dead hands...
My pictures can be seen since ~11 years on my web site, I had several very successful exhibitions and the pictures got published all over the place.
Maybe in 1995 I realized that model releases make sense and started to use them practically for every shooting I did. Models get properly compensated with either money or with a TFP agreement, sometimes I also shoot regular head shots/model portfolios in exchange for modeling for my ideas. Works fine and I have a steady pool of models asking me to shoot them.
But lately it happened more often than I like (5 times in 10 years, 2 times alone in the last 4 months) that a model has late regrets and ask me to "take the pictures down". The last request I just received a couple of days ago with the subject line "Urgent", even the pictures are on my web site since 8 (!) years and I gave away probably 1000 postcards with one the shots from this particular session (of 3 I made with this model).
Additionally to the model releases, I also keep all the emails which lead to the shooting and after, so its kinda interesting to see the immediate feedback after a shooting "Great pictures! Great experience, when do we shoot again?" to the sudden "Take them down, they damage my reputation!"...
The pictures are taken with consent, models are older than 18, a release exists, accompanying emails exist and I work in 99% of the cases also with an assistant, which makes a great witness, so I feel very safe on the legal side of things. Plus I see myself as easy-going and people can talk and discuss things with me. However, my usual reply is a No, I don't take them down.
What I am doing is to explain models that just because she changed her mind years later and has regrets, doesn't mean that deleting pictures from my web site will not really change the fact that the pictures exists...maybe somebody made already a copy from my web site, or people shot a picture of a picture in one of my exhibitions...it cannot be undone. I suggest to live with it and have the self-confidence to acknowledge the fact that she did something she regrets today, but its done and time to move on. By accepting this, the possible attack vectors are taken away and there is nothing embarrassing about it, because nobody can blackmail you with something you openly admit. Of course my advice sounds kinda easy and is probably harder to do than it sounds.
But for me such a request is close to being insulting, because it kinda implies that we did something sleazy and also doesn't acknowledge the value of the photographs...some of my sets took me a long time to build and prepare, they costs me money and I even looked longer for the right model for the right shooting. In short: these pictures are unique. They also chronicle my development as a photographer and so my life. I cannot just take them down and forget about them, my inner artist revolts against it.
In the last request I gave the model a lesson in self-esteem, but I also offered for the first time that if she really cannot cope with the situation, she can think of compensating me financially and we can reach an agreement to never show the pictures again in public, or up to a full "buy out" with the clause that I have to delete the pictures from my site and archive. I left a price open, but should this happen, it will not be cheap.
What are you guys doing in case you get such a request? Any better way to handle this?