The question is: are naked bodies threatening, profane, abusive, deceptive, pornographic, obscene, defamatory, slanderous, offensive, or just “inappropriate”?

(So, this is only related to the normal content of this blog in that it has to do with me and my art, except in this case, it’s photography instead of writing. Just a heads-up.)

I recently began using the services of ScanCafe, a really awesome company who takes your photo negatives, slides, and printed photos and makes high-quality digital scans of the images. It’s a fantastic business model–helpful for anybody from folks who want baby photos preserved or photos of grandparents restored, to photographers who work in film but don’t have access to a decent scanner. And even better, ScanCafe regularly offers really fantastic coupons for their services–I got an amazing deal on the current batch of mine that they’re working on. In this era of digital photography, I like a company that knows the practicality of the digital format combined with an understanding of film.

Now, with that being said…

Among the photos that I sent in were a series of negatives from a photo shoot that I did my first semester of photography classes while I was in college–a series of simple nudes. A nude woman sitting on a stool and reclining on a backdrop.They’re awesome and lovely, but are probably the tamest nudes in the history of mankind.

Now, back when I was in college, the Basic Photo class hadn’t quite switched over to the film/digital hybrid that it is today. I shot these photos using film, I printed them in the darkroom. The only copies of the photos that I have are the physical prints, as well as a very low-res scan that I did from the prints themselves. Luckily, I saved the negatives.”Excellent!” I thought. “I can have ScanCafe make high-resolution scans of the negatives, and I can have digital copies of this series. Maybe I’ll be able to go through the original negatives and find even more images that I really liked. Woo-hoo!”

Before I sent these photos in to be scanned, I checked the ScanCafe Terms & Conditions. Here is what I read:

You agree not to use or attempt to use the Service to have the following types of Content produced on Your behalf (“Prohibited Content”):

a. Content that is threatening, profane, abusive, deceptive, pornographic, obscene, defamatory, slanderous, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate.

“Whew,” I thought to myself. “Good thing a naked body is none of those things.” So, among dozens of other photographs that I wanted preserved, including baby pictures of myself and my family, and some other film work that I did for my photography classes in college, I included the negatives of that particular shoot.

Just this morning, I got an email in my inbox about my ScanCafe order.

Dear Carmen,

Thank you for placing an order with ScanCafe.

Unfortunately, we are unable to scan 38, 35mm B&W negatives because they contain some nudity. At ScanCafe, we aim at providing high quality scanning services but our strict guidelines restricts us from scanning media which contains any sort of nudity in them. Although in some cases nudity is considered art, we have had to draw a rather conservative line to avoid any subjectivity in the decision process. We do list this limitation in our terms and conditions (http://www.scancafe.com/terms_condition.php).

Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions or concerns.

Best Regards,
[Customer Support Guy]
Scancafe Support Team

I chuckled for a little bit at this email, until I realized that it meant that I wasn’t going to get my negatives scanned. Then I got annoyed, and I wrote an annoyed email.

Hey [Customer Service Guy],

I totally understand that you’re not able to scan those images, but unless I’m missing something, you really need to change/clarify your Terms and Conditions to include “naked human flesh.” I checked the T&C before I sent my negatives into scan, and the reason I sent these is it never occurred to me that a simple naked body would fall under “threatening, profane, abusive, deceptive, pornographic, obscene, defamatory, slanderous, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate.” In fact, I’d argue pretty vocally that a naked body is, in fact, none of those things. (I’d also argue that there’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about images that are “profane, pornographic, obscene, offensive, or inappropriate”, and that such labels are highly subjective anyway, but that’s sort of off track at this point.)

Okay, I actually just read the T&C again, and I see later that you repeat the above sentence with, “ScanCafe will not accept or process photographs with any nudity. While certain artists or photographers do consider nudity as art, ScanCafe will make the final determination in this regard.” That’s just… wow. Just out of curiosity, I sent in photos of myself as an infant with my dad giving me my first bath – will those not be scanned either?

I get that it’s above you to make these decisions (so this really isn’t directed at you, just whoever it is that made that executive decision to not allow nudity), but this is actually really disappointing for an otherwise awesome company.

Best,
Carmen Machado

Later in the Terms & Conditions–which, I’ll give them this, I should have read fully, without stopping at the “Content” section (though the nudity clause is listed under “Restoration Services”, which I skipped because… I wasn’t using restoration services)–they do say that no nudity is permitted. Which is obnoxious on multiple levels, because:

1.) I bet they still allow (non-sexualized, obviously) photos of kids in various states of undress. I bet baby photos of siblings in a bathtub or a parent giving a just-born infant a first bath or whatever are totally okay by ScanCafe’s standards. (Granted, he hasn’t responded to my email, so I’m not positive on this point, but I’m guessing that this is the case.)

2.) It implies that all adult nudity is sexualized.

3.) It implies that adult nudity, that the naked human body, sexualized or otherwise, is either threatening, profane, abusive, deceptive, pornographic, obscene, defamatory, slanderous, offensive, or […] inappropriate.

4.) It implies that there is something wrong with images that are profane, obscene, pornographic, offensive, etc., and that those elements could not somehow have artistic value, and that those terms are not completely subjective.

Would a sexy pose without nudity be acceptable? What about a sexy pose in just undergarments? What about a non-sexy pose in undergarments?

I also can’t, for the life of me, figure out the reasoning behind this policy. I mean, besides obvious things like child pornography–things where there’s actual liability, actual things happening that are illegal–I can’t understand why a service that makes digital images from photos already owned by the customer would balk at, well, nudity, for example. What’s the liability or risk? They’re not publishing the photos. They didn’t take the photos. They’re just providing scans. Perhaps the policy is designed to protect the delicate sensibilities of their scanners? Maybe? I’m just guessing here.

And, yeah, the line in the T&C:

While certain artists or photographers do consider nudity as art, ScanCafe will make the final determination in this regard.

… is probably just poorly worded–they obviously mean that they will make the final determination about what gets scanned or not, not what’s art or not–but still kind of ridiculous (-slash-hilarious).

Apparently, people’s “memories deserve the very best”–unless their memories are of dirty, dirty naked bodies, in which case, they don’t deserve anything.

Yes, I’m coming down really hard on them. Like I said above, they offer an awesome service. And yes, they’re a private company and can scan or not scan whatever they want. But still. Yeesh.

The question is: are naked bodies threatening, profane, abusive, deceptive, pornographic, obsecene, defamatory, slanderous, offensive, or just “inappropriate”?

4 thoughts on “The question is: are naked bodies threatening, profane, abusive, deceptive, pornographic, obscene, defamatory, slanderous, offensive, or just “inappropriate”?

  1. Mommy

    Wow! No wonder you didn’t respond to my battle with my fish and the Heron who Mario claims is a blue Heron (endangered) but I swear is gray and he is more annoying than endangered.
    Ok, I am digressing, I am sorry that you are having this dilimma. Bottom line is that it is their business and they are probally worried about child pornagraphic or maybe they have a christian stance but they are the final say as to what they will do. Sorry.
    Side Story: Many years ago, when I was first married I went into the drug store to drop off a perscription for birth control pills. The pharmacist was trying to convert me into not filling the perscription because she had a christian/moral issue with the pill. I probally thought WTF but did not say it, I just left, filled the perscription somewhere else and wrote a letter of complaint.

  2. Harumph. I don’t have much to say except: 1.) they can scan nudes without propagating child pornography. I mean seriously. That’s why there are things such as “judgment calls.”

  3. Gary

    Thank you Carmen!

    I was just going to send some things to scancafe and you just saved me the hassle of sending them some stuff (I now know) that they wouldn’t scan.

    I like what you wrote too. Righteous!

    GARY

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