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What age restrictions apply?

Ron Grover , Jul 30, 2007; 04:59 a.m.

Hi. I have only recently decided to take my photography more seriouslly and so find I may need a few answers to some points. I mainly do studio portraiture glamour fashion artistic nude. I belong to various camera clubs and also run my own camera club. Up until now I have always used models who I know as friends or are friends of friends. However, having now become quite well known locally I am being asked to expand my work, but as I am now in my 70's I am reluctant to get too involved. However, I now have developed a register of local models all of them just starting out on modelling. But, they are all ages from 18months up to 60+. When I did the original interviews I stipulated that anyone under 18 years had to have a parent/guardian with them and they had to sign their consent. However, I do have some questions about this.

(1) I assume that if 18 or over, they can do all types of photographic modelling, so no problem there. (2) But what about the 16 and 17 year olds? In many respects they are above the age of consent, ie for sex as an example. But what are they allowed to do as a model? (a) with parent/guardian consents (b) without consents. Some of the girls have stated they would like to do Artistic semi-nude (topless) or even nude. in some cases, but not all, consent has been granted. Most state they will do Lingerie, again some without consent being asked. (3) There are some aged 14 and 15 who would also like to do the above, but with consents given. (4) An 11 year old would like to do Lingerie, with consents given. (5) An 8 year old has, with parents consents, (in fact it is the parents who want her to do it) offered to also model swimware.

I realise that this is a detailed list of request, but I am sure there are laws and rules and guidelines that cover it all. Maybe there are very clear cut laws and rules about it, so infornmation/advice welcome please.

Many thanks, dps.


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Nick White , Jul 30, 2007; 07:40 a.m.

Ron, You do not tell us which country you are in, laws etc vary greatly in different locations. I'm presuming however that you are UK based?, largely from your 'correct' spelling/grammar - a feeling also endorsed by the knee-jerk reaction received from SL (ironic coming from a member in the country that produces the majority of the world's porn!). I am no expert in this field, however, with regard to the 16+ groups I think you are taking much the right approach, but with the added caveat that you should make use of Model Release forms at each and every session - these should clearly state the use to which the photos are to be put, and in the case of 16/17 yr olds, be countersigned by the guardian at the time of the shoot. When it comes to the young (-16) models, you are venturing into a much more difficult area. Whilst with the correct permissions etc you probably will not commit any offence (consider clothing catalogues for example), you could well fall foul of the law in the way you exhibit your work eg a photo that may be acceptable in a closed exhibition, probably would not be if you exhibit at, say, your local library. I would strongly suggest you get proper legal advice here, or contact one of the professional organisations, or the RPS, for clarification. I had a book entitled 'The Photographer and the Law' which I believe was published by the RPS - unfortunately I can't lay my hands on it at present. If, as I surmise, you are in the UK then I'm sure you will recall the spate of prosecutions a few years ago, of innocent parents snapping their own 'baby in the bath' - offending over zealous mini-lab operators! Hope this is of some help. Nick.

Kyle West , Jul 30, 2007; 09:48 a.m.

Photographing naked children? In the U.S., at least, I'd recommend that you should get the counsel of a criminal attorney in every jurisdiction (local, state and federal) in which you intend to photograph, print, possess and/or distribute such photographs. Given the potentially very serious repercussions of crossing the line between whatever you feel is artistic and what the law deems pornographic/obscene/exploitative/dangerous to the welfare of a child, excessive caution would be prudent. (FWIW, I'm a sex crimes prosecutor in the U.S.)

Kyle West , Jul 30, 2007; 09:53 a.m.

Oh. And be aware that what constitutes a crime in terms of child pornography laws and related statutes most often has nothing to do with whether parental consent was obtained. At times a consenting parent may be deemed to have broken the law, too. Again, this is not a simple area of the law with bright line rules.

Ron Grover , Jul 30, 2007; 02:24 p.m.

thanks for the replies. I am in the UK. First of all I would like to say to Steve Levine, joke or not, your responce was in very bad taste, I will leave it at that for now. Yes, what has been said is how I thought it would be. But one of the reasons I posted these questions is because some of the parents of the younger girls are very keen indeed to get them started in modelling if they can. Regarding the under age concerns, as has already been mentioned, they are used extensively by fashion catologues etc. But one of the parents felt that the euopean laws of human rights would now overide most laws and rules made for such thins as photographic modelling, and parents can give permission for what thay like. I wonder?

Regarding information from the RPS, I am a member of the RPS, but although I have asked similar questions there, I did not get any clear answers, hence posting here.

It is difficult when parents are so Keen, I know from the 40 odd years I was a top level specialist womens athletic coach. We as coaches have o abide by very strict codes of conduct but the athletes do not have such guidelines. I think the same seems to apply with photographers and models?

I sill feel that it is not that clear cut. For instance, I have a 14 year old model who has posed for some very impressive images. Not Nude or Semi-Nude AND WITH full parents consent. I am now in the process of producing a series of posters with them for commercial use. I have been told that this is perfectly legal and acceptable. by specific outlets for such work.

Any how. thanks for your replies, I would still very much welcome any further points on the subject.

All the best, dps.

Alec Myers , Jul 30, 2007; 02:26 p.m.

If you're in the UK, then a quick look through the relevant acts of Parliament reveals:

Taking a photograph that is not "indecent" of anyone of any age is not a problem. You don't need consent. (That is not the same as not needing consent to publish the image, which you usually don't in the UK, but that's a different question.)

Taking, distributing or posessing an "indecent" photograph of anyone under 16 is a serious offence.

Taking, distributing or posessing an "indecent" photograph of anyone aged between 16 and 18 is a serious offence, unless you happen to be married to them or living with them in a relationship, and you had their consent.

Quoting from Wikipedia: "In R v Graham-Kerr (1988), the accused had taken photographs of a young boy at a nudist meeting at a public swimming baths. The Court of Appeal held that the motivation of the photographer had no influence on the decency or otherwise of the photographs taken; a photograph is an indecent photograph of a child if it is indecent, and if it shows a child."

That is after a quick perusal of the c.33 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, The Protection of Children Act 1978, and the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Aside from arguments with angry parents (and unless you happen to be married to the model) then consent, from either the parent or child, appears to be entirely irrelevant to the legality of a photograph.

As to what is "indecent":

Again quoting from Wikipedia:

"The terms indecency and indecent have wide application in English law, but are not defined in any legislation. Historically, the words' dictionary definitions (as opposed to legal definitions) helped to resolve legal disputes concerning the scope or application of the terms.

* In R v Stanley (1965), Lord Parker attempted to differentiate indecency from obscenity:

"The words indecent or obscene convey one idea: namely, offending against the recognised standards of propriety?indecent being at the lower end of the scale and obscene at the upper end of the scale."

* In Knuller v DPP, Lord Reid said that indecency includes "anything which an ordinary decent man or woman would find to be shocking, disgusting, or revolting." * In R v Graham-Kerr (1988), Stocker L. J. said that the appropriate test in the case of the Protection of Children Act 1978 was the application of the "recognised standards of propriety" stated in R v Stamford (1972).

Hopefully that will be useful to someone, although obviously I accept no responsibility for the accuracy of this posting.

You will have to decide whether pictures of girls in swimwear or lingerie counts as indecent. The Court of Appeal is quite clear, however the purpose for which the photograph is taken is not a relevant factor.

Ron Grover , Jul 30, 2007; 02:28 p.m.

I meant to bring up the subject of anyone still at school age or under if the are a performer, needs a lience. Is this a true statement and if so, does photographic modelling come into it? It could be said they perform!

As mentioned I am in the UK and more specific England. Also note, that I refer to photographic modelling, not the open ended, modelling>

Thanks again, dps

Alec Myers , Jul 30, 2007; 02:31 p.m.

Just in case the previous answer was too wordy, my entirely unqualfied opinion is that the law is entirely clear that taking or posessing a nude or topless picture of a sixteen or seventeen-year old girl, no matter how artfully posed, will land you prison, and no form of consent from anyone will change that.

Alec Myers , Jul 30, 2007; 02:39 p.m.

With a bit more digging, children under compulsory school age need a licence from the local authority to engage in performance or modelling.

This is my local authority's helpful website on the subject:


Mark U , Jul 31, 2007; 06:27 a.m.

I think you are not going to get very useful advice from the average solicitor. Instead, try contacting an ad bureau or magazine/newspaper picture editor that has to deal with these issues day to day (they have access to more expert legal opinion). I'm sure that recent changes in the law and voluntary codes of practice will have an impact: for example, Sam Fox first posed topless for The Sun aged 16, but that was in the 1980s. Beware that newspapers have a "public interest" defense for some pictures that might not cover your situation.


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