“I like my relationships like I like my eggs. Over easy.” — Jarod Kintz, It Occurred to Me

Well, we find relationships more likely to end up scrambled. The cliché is “50% of all marriages end in divorce”. If that stat is accurate then we guess that nearly twice as many “personal relationships” break up in less formal and more acrimonious fashion. Just to note, Jack and Ed are still married to their first wives for a combined 68 years. So we’re both skewing the average.

A highlight of our lectures for years has been a segment where we urge, yell, cajole and persuade photographers and models who are involved in personal relationships with each other to obtain model releases in the same manner as if the relationship were strictly business. The genders of the model and/or photographers is/are irrelevant. If they were engaged in a personal relationship while photographing one or the other, they often ignore the need for obtaining releases under the belief that the nature of their bond trumps the legal need for a model release. That assumption will come back and bite you in the wallet.

Example (and we have lots): A former top model, mother of QB Tom Brady’s child and current star of the CBS hit “Blue Bloods”, Bridget Moynahan is the subject of some nude photos, taken in a long ago relationship. Ironically, Ms. Moynahan plays a lawyer on TV.  She would have been smart seeing a real lawyer for some real legal advice before the photos were ever taken.

Over a decade ago, the lovely Ms. Moynahan was the girlfriend of photographer Tiff Pemberton. The NY Post (and others) report that Mr. Pemperton created about 1,000 nude and/or partially nude images of his then girlfriend during their 3-year relationship.   You can read more here.   Ms. Moynhan did not sign a release consenting nor prohibiting the use of the images either during or subsequent to their 3-year relationship.  Likely the two were lost in love and it never occurred to either that one day the party would be over but the photos would live on.

Apparently Mr. Pemperton now wants to use the images presumably for fine art purposes, which do not require a written release. Bridget Moynahan’s teams of attorneys are trying to prevent the publication of the images.

In New York and many other states, no model release would be required for Mr. Pemberton to employ the images for (at least) limited edition, fine art purposes. All of the hoopla, embarrassment and of course legal fees, could have been avoided by the simple execution of a one-page model release restricting the use of the images to those uses acceptable to Ms. Moynahan – or – she could have simply declined being photographed by her boyfriend sans a model release. A good release can protect either the photographer or the subject/model or both, depending on it’s wording.

This situation is exceptionally common when young photographer and young model each consider the other their muse.  Real life odds dictate that they will separate at some point and the product of their union will most likely be photos which have been used in portfolios, ads, web sites and promotional pieces for one or both of the parties.  Avoid grief – one page is all its takes.