Maybe Facebook Would Let Photographer Spencer Tunick Post Naked Pics If He Worked for Sports Illustrated

Photo by Spencer Tunick
"Dead Sea 3," 2011
Last month, we told you about photographer Spencer Tunick's ongoing struggles with Facebook : Tunick takes non-sexual, not particularly explicit photos of nude people, typically large groups of them. Then Facebook takes some of those photos down, freezes his account, and occasionally threatens him with the deletion of his page . It's a vicious cycle, and not fun for anybody, particularly Spencer Tunick.

A spokesperson from Facebook told us at the time that with few exceptions, the company doesn't just pull photos down of their own volition. (Those exceptions, he said, involved extreme and graphic images involving things like child pornography.) First, someone has to flag the photo as objectionable; if a content monitor employed by Facebook agrees, the photo comes down. And Chris Park, a representative from the company, told Tunick that if he had any questions about whether a specific photo might violate Facebook's nudity guidelines, he could email said photo to Park, and he'd let him know where it stood.

Tunick was slightly uncomfortable with that plan, telling us he was ambivalent about the idea that "someone in an office in the middle of wherever - Nebraska, San Francisco - that one person decides what's OK or not when it comes to the body in art." But he was game to give it a try. On Valentine's Day, Tunick sent over six photos, which Park told him he'd forwarded to the company's "policy folks." Four days later, Tunick got his answer.

- See also: Photographer Spencer Tunick Can't Stop Running Afoul of Facebook's Baffling Rules on Naked People

Before we get to Facebook's response, let's take a quick look at a few of the photos Tunick sent over. One of them is at the top of this post, part of a series Tunick shot at the Dead Sea. Here are four others:

All photos by Spencer Tunick. Images courtesy of the artist.
"Desert Spirits," 2013

"San Miguel de Allende 2 (El Charco de Ingenio Botanical Gardens)," 2011

"Switzerland, Aletsch Glacier 3 (Greenpeace)," 2007

"Dead Sea 10," 2011

You can see where this is going. Park wrote back to Tunick and told him that every single one of the photos would be unacceptable for the Facebook-viewing public: "I'm told the images below would violate our community standards on displays of nudity," he wrote, in an email Tunick shared with the Voice. "Pixelation may make a difference. Let me know if you need anything else."

So, naked people aren't OK, and mud or curtain-covered naked people are equally not OK. Seems pretty straightforward.

But in a wonderful coincidence, this month is also when Sports Illustrated releases its annual Swimsuit Issue. This year is the 50th anniversary! Fun! Naturally, the Facebook page for the swimsuit issue (yep, it has its own page), is celebrating in a manner befitting the modesty police at Facebook HQ. Tunick says he was particularly taken with this image:


Yes. That is famed model and Uncle Jessie's ex-wife Rebecca Romijn, wearing a painted-on swimsuit. Clay-covered Dead Sea people are unacceptable, apparently, while latex paint-covered swimsuit model people are just fine.

Tunick says he won't bother trying to pixelate the photos, which he's done previously in order to make them Facebook-kosher.

"Too much work to pixelate all of them," he writes in an email. "Maybe the nude in art is officially defeated on Facebook now. It's over, no freedom of visual expression."

If that sounds drastic, there is one alternate explanation: nudity on Facebook is only acceptable when it involves a famous person, preferably one who's selling something. That might explain why Tunick's photos get so assiduously removed, while Sports Illustrated and things like PETA's Ink Not Mink campaign are apparently Facebook-appropriate (as is, er, the "Naked Girls" fanpage).

If there are any celebrities who enjoy disrobing and might like to smear themselves with Dead Sea mud as a sort of science experiment, we know a photographer who'd probably love to hear from you.

Send your story tips to the author, Anna Merlan.

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My Voice Nation Help

To bad USA is so uptight about Social Nudity. Your born nude you should be able live your life nude. Thank God for AANR fighting for nudist rights. Don't take that from us!

Karen Stephens
Karen Stephens

Meanwhile my feed is rife with auto play video of maggots being extracted from labia and snuff film clips. Facebook is full of shit.


I'm a photo-activist with a focus on body positivity and fat politics. I've lost count of how many times Facebook has banned me for linking to photos containing non-sexual nudity, some of it barely perceptible, whether my own or that of other artists. Even images of sculpture have gotten me warnings and deletions. Meanwhile, some of us have been trying to get Facebook to remove photos of minor children being used in a group called "Girl I Like to F*%k," including a shot of a little girl showing off her braces, earning her the caption "GIRL I LIKE TO MAKE MY SLUT." Facebook repeatedly tells us this group and these photos are not in violation of their standards.

Violence, misogyny, bigotry, pedophilia. All okay. But the human body, when not serving the male gaze, not so much. There's a frat boy mentality in the way Facebook's rules are established and executed. An anti-art frat boy mentality.

Substantia Jones

The Adipositivity Project

Facebook's arbitrary and inconsistently applied content guides cause grief for well-intended folks all the time, while doing little to prevent porn and violence. Sometimes it's not even a matter of posting 'improper' material; once someone makes a report to FB mysterious events occur.

Images may be removed with a light warning (but no explanation), a Page owner may be blocked from administering for a period of time, or an entire Page may be deleted   There is supposedly an appeal process but rarely does it provoke a response from FB.

All of this can happen because one person objects to something.  A link to THIS article could cause a Page to be disciplined because it reflects poorly on Facebook!

Our FB Page has been punished a few times over the years and is currently on a 30 day suspension for posting a link to our website's YOGA section!  Oddly, FB did not remove the link, and we can't.  Go figure.

Facebook is a marvelous marketing tool, and the price is right, but the hassle of dealing with its capricious content policy is driving some good folks away.  Pity is, it's still the best!

It a shame that such a great platform for promoting the expansion of free speech throughout the world is run by people who don't believe in it themselves.

Our Page on FB, including the offending post (scroll down a bit!) topcommenter

If FB rules make no sense, then move on!  Who needs them?  With somewhere close to a billion users, unfortunately anyone wishing to be visible needs FB.  All the stats lead directly to FB for the greatest market reach, and it's free.  Sometimes personal feelings are overridden by practicality...

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