A Democratic legislator running for reelection in New York's Monroe County has been immersed in controversy after naked photos of the legislator appeared on a website he uses for both personal and professional reasons. WHAM now reports that C. Sephen Eckel has admitted to posting the photos, and defends his right to do so as art:
"C. Stephen Eckel removed two of the photos Friday after 13WHAM's Sean Carroll questioned Eckel, a Democrat, about the photographs. Those two images very clearly showed his private parts and were accessible on the website without any filters, disclaimers, or warnings.
There is no doubting that the photos are presented as art and Eckel confirmed that they are of him and were part of a class project he worked on eleven years ago while pursuing a Master's of Fine Arts degree.
'I invite people to look at it and judge for themselves,' Eckel said in an interview with 13WHAM News hours after this was brought to his attention. 'This is art. This is my art. This is my work and as a professor of photography that's what they want to see if they're evaluating me for a position.'"
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle describes the photos as sepia-toned, taken with a wide lens at an elevated angle, and were full frontal nude shots of Eckel but not sexual in nature.
Eckel, a former photography professor, has represented the 26th legislative district in Monroe County since 2005. Some constituents have told WHAM that they are not offended by the photos given Eckel's explanation.
"I don't have a problem with it, I don't have an issue with it as long as he's not sending these pictures out to little kids," Tina Despos, a self-described independent voter, told WHAM. "If he's a good guy and he has a good judgment and he's looking out for the welfare of the community I don't see a problem with the artistic side of what he's doing."
However Andy Pena, a parent and voter in Eckel’s district, said "Those images are inappropriate. How would you represent the city and look like that on the Internet? That's inappropriate."
Eckel faces Republican Tony Micciche in the general election this Tuesday. While Eckel has accused his opponent of bringing the images to the media's attention as a "smear tactic" to distract voters from the real issues, Micciche countered; “The sheer fact that you have to remove them, that should say enough to all voters."
The 46-year-old Eckel says he pulled the photos Friday because he didn't want to distract voters from the issues in his re-election campaign.