In my years as a nude art photographer, I met numerous models. Most models want their photos published under a chosen name, an artist name. And that’s perfectly fine. The same happens in music or other creative fields. Some models use this name to hide behind. A different identity. Those models don’t want their real identity revealed. Especially part-time models who don’t want their co-workers to know about their modeling career. Or models whose parents or other relatives don’t approve of (nude) modeling.
It was always tricky to try to hide your modeling career. Especially in the digital age where photos are shared so easily. And you always have to trust the photographers you work with. They need to know your real name for legal reasons like a model release and age check. But it was still doable. A photo with a fake name wasn’t easy to match with a real person’s name.
Due to recent developments in facial recognition, things have changed. You could already search the internet for a person if you knew their name. Or you can search for visually similar images with Google Image Search or Tineye.com. Both wouldn’t reveal the real name of the model. But now you can search for faces.
A facial recognition system matches a human face from a digital picture against a database of faces. It works by pinpointing and measuring facial features. With systems like this, you don’t look for similar images anymore. You look for the person! It doesn’t matter if you smile in one picture and look mad in another one. The distance between your eyes and hundreds of other markers doesn’t change.
This technology used to be complex and needed a lot of computing capacity. But technology develops fast. New websites opened recently, where everyone can look for a person within a few seconds. Upload a photo and just look at the results. I tested one of these websites in two ways: with my own photo which I can use to publish in this article. And with a selection of models from Purpleport.com. I won’t post any images from this last test.
To start with me: I publish my photos using my real name. My family and friends know I’m a nude art photographer. So I can safely share the results of this test. For this test, I use a selfie I take ‘live’. So it’s not a photo from the internet. This is important to check how the system works with new faces.
Below are the results. I’m quite surprised. It works extremely well. All pictures are really me. Three of them are no real surprise: they look like the selfie and are public pictures from my own or model websites. But the first result is special. I didn’t know of the existence of this image (it’s a still from a television interview). My eyes are closed, my mouth is open, I’m shaved with short hair. Very different from the selfie I took for this test. And the bottom right shows the danger of this technology. It’s a picture of me getting decorated as a firefighter. As said, my work as a photographer is no secret. But it’s something different that now everybody can find out in seconds that I’m also a firefighter. You need to visit the website to see that it is a picture in uniform. To visit the websites where the images were found or to see the unblurred images, you need the paid version of the tool.
For this test a selected ten random models from PurplePort. I visited the model’s portfolio pages and looked for a photo where the face is clearly visible and without too much make-up. I used this photo in the test. Out of ten models, I could find the real names of two. I think they don’t like that. Even if you are open about your work as a model, it doesn’t mean you want everybody to be able to find your Facebook page or real name.
There is something else I noticed as a possible issue for models when I looked at the results. For many models, I found images that are ‘sexier’ than the shooting style they advertise on PP. Again, this might not be a problem for every model, but some may have done shoots in the past or used a different model name that they don’t want everybody to know about. This happened more than I expected. Out of ten models, I found quite erotic pictures for four of them.
I also bumped into a flaw in my research: I looked at random models, to make this test anonymous. The problem is, of course, that I can’t tell for sure if a match is accurate. Looking at the results from my selfie I guess most of the results are quite reliable, but I can’t be sure. So if you are a model and want to participate in this research, let me know.
And last but not least I found an unexpected nastiness of this system: it also finds lookalikes. You know how people always say everybody has someone who looks exactly like them. Rather unfortunate if this someone looking like you is in the porn business and you’re not.
You can use Google Images or Tineye.com to search the web for websites that use your images without permission. In the same way, you can use this new tool to see where your images are used. And this also scans for images of you that you maybe even didn’t know about. The only downside is that you need the paid version of the tool to visit the websites where it found the images.
With the new, publicly available, facial recognition software it becomes almost impossible to stay anonymous as a model. It’s also impossible to have different modeling jobs with different names.
I found the real names of two models. That might not look like a lot, but you have to take into account that not all models will have their real names online, and also this technology will quickly improve. Models need be to be aware of this technology.