what do boudoir photographers do with archives if they quit the business?


TPF Noob!
Jul 14, 2013
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I am not a professional photographer. However...... I have a very serious and personal question.

My wife is not a professional model. However, in 2005 she posed mostly naked for boudoir photos as a personal gift for me. She was paranoid about the photos ending up on the Internet or in the wrong hands. If they did and she was discovered, it would be very embarrassing for both of us as well as possibly damaging for her career. We specifically chose a photographer from a neighboring state so there was no chance she would run into him in our town. It was purely to be a one-time thing for her and the photos were supposed to be for my eyes only. He gave me several model references. I contacted three and all stressed he was a true professional.

In 2008 I ordered more enlargements and he made them. No problem there. Last holiday season I decided I wanted more enlargements; of course, I didn't know if he even had them after so many years.

I was stunned to find that he seems to have vanished. The phone number I have for him is no longer in service. My emails to him have been returned. He still has his web site up but it looks like it hasn't been updated for years. (A friend told me there is no regular maintenance fee for that type of web site.)

I got in touch with a handful of other photographers from his area and not a one ever heard of him, to say nothing of where he is. One of those photographers did me a favor and put a note about my search for him on the forum of a state photographers group. Those who replied said they never heard of him. I did locate one of the models who served as a reference back in 2005. She said she thinks he left photography because his girlfriend was unhappy with the lack of a steady income. She reassured me that he always acted professionally during the six or so shoots she did with him. (I know he also did environmental photography as well as photographs of new products and house interiors in addition to boudoir photography.)

I did google and facebook searches and nothing came up. One other note -- I did a who is search and found a street address for him in a town near his former studio. However, I called information and was told there is no one by his name at that address.

Naturally, this whole thing sounds very suspicious to me -- not to mention very creepy. All sorts of horrible scenarios have gone through my mind (he is in legal trouble; he sold his previous models' photos to web sites, etc.) I admittedly know very little about your business, so I am asking does this type of thing happen often with photographers. Are many just "fly by nighters? His ex-model that I spoke with told me I am likely over-thinking this. She said he probably just quit the business, got another job and likely moved. She again stressed that he was always a professional with her. So do you think I am over-reeacting?

My main questions -- other than how common this is in your business -- are: 1) what do most boudoir photographers do with their archived photos if they leave the business -- do they destroy them or do they continue to keep them, or do some actually sell them? and 2) should I have expected him to contact me when he left the business to ask me what I wanted him to do with the photos of my wife. A school photographer who once took school pix of my kids retired and asked me if I wanted to buy the original art. Should I have expected this boudoir photographer to do the same?

In sum, my wife and I are both anxious as to whose hands those pictures are in now. I am preoccupied with this as we put our absolute trust in this photographer that her pictures would not end up on the Internet. He gave me his word. I am really sorry I ever had them done.

One other note -- he was registered with modelmayhem and his modelmayhem site says he last checked in in Oct. 2012, for whatever that is worth.

I truly appreciate any feedback from professionals. Thanks very much.
I see no reason why he would destroy the photos, unless that was explicitly agreed upon. Photographers aren't generally in the habit of destroying their work willy nilly.

As for what he can do with them, that depends on the model release you signed. If the document specified that the images were to be kept locked or encrypted except upon your request to obtain more prints or whatever, then that is what he is legally obligated to do. If the document said they have to be destroyed after some date, then that is what he is obligated to do. If you didn't sign a release, then it would be whatever you agreed to by oral agreement, although that is of course difficult to establish. If you didn't have a written OR oral agreement about what he can do with the photos, then it is a bit up in the air what he could do with them.

If the photos paint you in a slanderous light, then he couldn't even post them theoretically, although that would be a difficult argument to make since you were obviously aware of the camera and consenting to be photographed, etc. If you can't argue that they are slanderous, then he could post them on his portfolio if he wanted to, or potentially maybe sell them even, although very few places would buy any racy photos for any amount of real money without a model release that explicitly clears them of any legal liability.

It primarily comes down to your model release document, and what it said.

Now, having said all that, I wouldn't really worry particularly if I were you. If his references STILL vouch for him and seem legit even after he disappeared, then it is very unlikely that they were planted stooges or anything (otherwise they would have disappeared too). So that + him seeming professional at the time + him having sent you more prints, etc. all adds up to him sounding like a perfectly legit, normal, photographer who happens to have just quit the business. If so, then there would be no reason at all to assume that he would just suddenly become all immoral and unprofessional out of the blue and start selling his boudoir shots for money or anything crazy like that.

And if you have a document that says he can't, then even more so (not only would he be going against what seems to be his established personality, but he would get pennies for them without legal liability release, and he would be opening himself up to potential lawsuits, etc. Not worth it, even if pretty desperate)
A lot can change in eight years.

The fact that he's no longer at an old address means little; the same with his phone number. People change careers. People move. Life happens.

I wouldn't stress about it. The photos are probably buried on some hard drive in a box somewhere, and they will likely never see the light of day. Hell, the guy could be in box in the ground for all you know.

Honestly, and I don't mean to judge, but it seems pretty silly for you to be preoccupied with this now when you found all of this out five years ago.

Go have a Coke and a smile and enjoy your summer...
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If you are THAT concerned, hire a PI to track him down. Otherwise I don't think there's much to worry about. The only thing may be that someone else finds the photos and think it's ok to put them on the internet or something. I guess my point is I don't think he's the one you should be worried about as long as he still have possession of the photos.
dude...I think you seriously need to chill out. So he isn't in the 'biz' anymore! So what!!! I seriously doubt he gives a crap about your wife's photos...unless she is famous...is she??
If you are THAT concerned, hire a PI to track him down.

I had that thought, as well.

We're talking about something that the OP found out five years ago, though. I honestly think it's time to stop worrying. If his wife was "mostly naked", the odds are slim to none that anyone would pay for the photos, regardless of how hot she might be...
"Naturally, this whole thing sounds very suspicious to me -- not to mention very creepy."

Why "naturally". Have you never moved house? Have you never changed your phone etc.
Many people do so.

Have you got any reason to believe, after this amount of time and having assurances from others that dealt with him, that suddenly your photos will end up on the www??

NO is the answer. Let it go. He has moved away or given up the business.
often at lot can be gained by posting the photos in question.
A sad fact of the photography business is that most photographers don't make much money. Most of them also aren't great at understanding the financial aspect of their business, and couldn't even tell you what their cost of doing business is. They start out liking to shoot photos, then decide to start up a side business to do what they love, then decide to go full time with it and quit their regular job to "pursue their dream" of being a photographer, THEN they find out over time just how tough it is to actually make a living as one. As a result, business failure amongst photographers is very high, and they frequently drop out and move back to working a "regular" job where they can keep a roof over their heads and feed their families.

It's pretty easy to surmise that's what happened to the photographer in question. Moving could simply be explained as an extension of a failed business, where in the end he needed to cut his expenses drastically, forcing him into a cheaper living space. Financial struggles may even have caused enough stress to lead to divorce, and that can lead to both parties finding smaller, cheaper residences as well. Business phone numbers get disconnected and there's also been a trend over the past several years for folks to give up wall phone service altogether, since we all carry cell phones with us everywhere we go anyway.

In short, his "disappearance" is probably not nefarious at all.

As to what has or possibly could or might or will happen with your wife's photos, it's a legal matter entirely, and depends solely on the contract terms between the parties involved. In most cases, a photographer retains unlimited rights to copy, produce, and sell and otherwise distribute any and all of their work in any way they like. That may not be the case with you folks, depending on what's written in your contract with that photographer.

My gut tells me you have nothing to worry about, but the reality is that unless your contract prohibits the photographer from distributing the photos to anyone other than yourselves, they could legally end up anywhere, and there's probably not much you could do about it.
Chances are he simply went out of business and has a bunch of negs sitting in a file somewhere that will never see the light of day again. Unless your wife is of some great importance to the rest of the world where the photographer could make money off the pictures, I wouldn't be concerned about them turning up online anywhere.

Chalk this one up to having boudoir pictures done and not working out a deal with the photographer to get all the negs as part of the original photo shoot. It may have cost more, but it would have given both you and your wife peace of mind. I wouldn't worry about it.
Someone gave you an explanation - quit because his girlfriend didn't like the instability of his income. Do you have a reason not to believe that person? Perhaps a stable income was a contingency for the girlfriend becoming a wife, and he changed careers in order to keep the relationship - that happens in every type of career. People move all the time as well (especially if relationship changes are involved). I can't imagine anyone going through their professional files to notify every past client of a move or 'going out of business'.

Even if he did sell or release them, unless he has a specific contact to people important to you, they may never see them. (How much time do you spend looking for embarrassing photos of your acquaintances?) If he DOES have that contact, you'll get the blackmail note before he sends out the pictures :D . The only way a general release/internet posting would be a problem is if you or your wife is particularly well-known. Utter worst case, as I see it, is someone sees them and you have to say "Yes, I like how MY WIFE looks naked, but why are YOU looking at them?" ... very unlikely, but still not all that bad.
Buckster said pretty much what I would have said.

If there was one, I wonder if you still have a copy of the contract.
By the way - The school photographer wasn't doing you any favors, the school photographer was making a final try at making some money.
"Paranoia do destroy ya."

Remember that lyric???

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