Monroe County Legislator Stephen Eckel abruptly removed two nude photos of himself from a personal website on Friday after being questioned about them by a television reporter.The New York Post has one of the shots here.
Eckel, 46, a Democrat from Rochester in the midst of a re-election campaign, said in a phone interview that he took the photos of himself in 2000 as a student at the Visual Studies Workshop while working on a master of fine arts degree at The College at Brockport. He received the degree a year later.
The sepia-toned photos, taken with a wide lens at an elevated angle, were full frontal nude shots of Eckel, but were not sexual in nature. He described them as art.
They were part of a portfolio of Eckel's from that time that he said he showcased on the Internet to find photography work and jobs teaching photography. He has periodically taught photography at local colleges since then.
Eckel said he had never been questioned about the appropriateness of the photos until today, when he was contacted by a reporter from 13WHAM-TV, who had learned of the photos from the Monroe County Republican Committee.
"This is nothing more than a Republican stooping to a new low in order to distract the public from the real issues facing Monroe County taxpayers," Eckel said. "These were taken 10 years ago as part of a portfolio that helped me earn a master's of fine arts. Clearly, they have nothing to do with my service in my district."
Eckel said he removed the photos because they would "deflect attention from the true issues of the campaign." Asked if he would post them again after the campaign, he said that would be something he would have to consider.
Tony Micciche, who is challenging Eckel for the seat in the 26th District — which covers parts of Rochester, Gates and Greece — said such photos, even as artistic works, show poor judgment.
"How do you trust someone who posts naked pictures of himself on the Internet?" Micciche asked. "He's an elected official. He should be held to a higher standard."
Update: Also posted at the new and improved JWF.