A Nude Photo Scandal from the Other Side of the Lens

Sexy photo scandals are all the rage on the Internet these days. Just ask Vanessa Hudgens. Or Miley Cyrus. Or … Amnon Bar-Tur?

Granted, Bar-Tur may not have the same name recognition as Disney’s reigning teen princesses. But that’s because he’s in hot water for his work behind the camera.

Porn and the Bible Park

Bar-Tur, a former photographer, is now a wealthy New York developer. His current project is a proposed Murfreesboro, Tenn. theme park — Bible Park USA. The plan is for a “one-of-a-kind themed story park that brings the Bible to life through well-loved, familiar stories and ancient historical experiences.”

Bar-Tur is also, it came to light across Tennessee media outlets this week, a former photographer for Penthouse Magazine.

The revelation — which has been the buzz on local TV, newspapers and blogs — elicited a written statement from Bar-Tur’s son, Armon Bar-Tur:

Surely what a young immigrant photographer did 35 years ago to make a living in his first job out of college as a fashion photographer has no relevance to the development of our world-class tourist attraction in Rutherford County in 2008.

The younger Bar-Tur dismissed the heavy-breathing news reports, which come as the New York company is seeking local support for Bible Park USA, as “tabloid-style journalism.”

News flash for Armon: it’s 2008. Is there any other kind of journalism?

The real question is whether the elder Bar-Tur’s past photography employment could wreck the $400 million project, which still needs a variety of local government clearances and permissions.

It appears unlikely to come to that point, but the scandal is — at the least — a serious PR speedbump.

The Bar-Turs had been carefully lining up theologians and officials behind the park when the scandal broke.

Locals Chime In

As one commenter on an online newspaper story explained his objections:

This goes to character. The Elder BarTur is a partner in the business. Therefore it has a bearing. This is the kind of people that Armon deals with: His father who proves that he will do lowly things to make a buck … If you regularly hang out with people that will do anything for money then it will rub off on you.

Penned another opponent:

As a Christian, I sincerely believe this is a test for the land owners, Commissioners and the Mayor. God is asking them to decide on whether money is more important than taking a stand for what is honorable and right in his name. We’ll see what their answer is. I ask all Rutherford County citizens to reject this dishonest New Yorker who is totally lacking in principles.

One commenter looked on the bright side, however — posing this query:

Do you think that Bar-Tur senior’s photographic work for Penthouse could add to the ambiance of the Garden of Eden scene? Just a little something to capture the attention of Sunday School students on a group trip.

What Do You Think?

Author Daniel Radosh, in a blog entry for the Huffington Post, has suggested that the real reason for the community’s suspicions may be that the Bar-Turs are Jewish.

Who really knows? But this does bring us to a philosophical question for photographers. Does your choice of subject matter — now or in the past — shed light on your character?

What do you think?

[tags]Penthouse, Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens, photo scandals[/tags]

5 Responses to “A Nude Photo Scandal from the Other Side of the Lens”

  1. To the question: yes, of course it does. There are many kinds of photography work I would not do -- I would not shoot an ad for a tobacco company, for example. But that is a different issue from judging another person based on their decisions. In this case, I think the fact they the developer is from New York and Jewish has as much to do with the problem as the fact that he shot nude photos. Who was it that said, He who is without sin cast the first stone?

  2. funny piece. particularly when you're young and hungry, you take the assignments you can get. 35 years ago, there was no Web, so who knew that such decisions would leave such a long shadow?

  3. Daniel Radosh is way off base. Much of Evangelical Christianity is very supportive of Jewish people. It would be hard to find more ardent supporters, even within Judaism....

  4. As a woman who was photographed for Penthouse by Amnon Bar-Tur, I can tell you he has some LOVELY outdoor photos for the Garden of Eden.
    P.S. Religions are fairy tales.

  5. A lot of fuss about a very talented photographer. I knew Amnon in the seventies and he occasionally did a promotional set for me. What people probably do not understand that the quality of his nude photography (I will not accept it as being described as pornography) was exceptional. He should be feted for his achievements, not chastised. What could be more wonderful than taking a beautiful woman and presenting her in the most tasteful, albeit erotic, fashion.

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