Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Back to the Future Photo Project (NSFW) (irinawerning.com)
506 points by DanielRibeiro on Nov 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments

The amount of hyperbole and ranting on the NSFW angle to me on this thread over the last day is rather disappointing.

One should not think of the NSFW tag as a comment on morality, puritanism or anything else. It is simply a common part of netiquette which developed as a courtesy.

"Hey, there is some stuff in this link such as nudity, questionable content, etc which may be an issue for you if you are at work, sitting in public or somewhere else potentially sensitive. Just a heads up!"

All it is meant to do is let you know. Some people work in schools, libraries or other places where this isn't OK. Not to mention that while many of us don't have any issues with nudity, myself included, we might not want to browse it at work.

Get over the whole "Oh my god $XYZ is so full of prudes, in my country this is totally OK" and appreciate the fact that it's considered polite.

> "All it is meant to do is let you know."

Specifically, it allows you to make an informed decision as to whether, when, where, and in whose company to access the page in question.

For example, I don't care one way or the other about "explicit language" for my own sake, but I'd like to limit my toddler's exposure. An NSFW-language warning on videos is a courtesy to me.

I was going to agree with you before I actually clicked the link.

Any place where this is NSFW has some serious issues. Sure, I know such places exists, but you cannot expect submitters to constantly be aware of such outliers any time they submit a link. Otherwise we would constantly have to check a whole list of obscure cultural sensitivities around the planet.

You want an NSFW tag for this utterly harmless link, just ask politely. But don't accuse people for whom it's genuinely hard to imagine why this would be an issue of being impolite.

I feel like a prude now, but you saw the boobs, right?

And to preclude the "But it is art!" argument, the point of NSFW is what you think about it being art has no bearing on what your boss thinks.

And rickmb's point is that some people may not even realize that this would be NSFW in some places. Not everyone is an American or knows how prudish people are here.

rickmb said "Sure, I know such places exists" -- and anyone here who didn't know has now been informed. "I didn't know" is no longer a valid excuse.

Once you understand that nudity is a big no-no in some workplaces, it's impolite to leave off the NSFW label.

That's why I said "some people".

"but you cannot expect submitters to constantly be aware of such outliers any time they submit a link. Otherwise we would constantly have to check a whole list of obscure cultural sensitivities around the planet"

Of course you know what's not allowed at your work. Do you keep tabs on everything else? I hope so! There are thousands of different cultures out there, better not miss any!

This is increasingly weird for me. I'm self employed, I work at home, or in an office with three other males who are self employed. I drink, I swear, I know how babies are made and have made one with my wife. I like boobs! I have art with boobs on the walls of my house.

And yet I don't want my wife or any of my colleagues to look over my shoulder and see boobs on my screen. I'm not in any _danger_ if that happens, so it's not strictly _unsafe_ for work. But it's embarrassing and uncomfortable. I would be peeved to inadvertantly click on a link, see boobs (they were decent boobs too, it's not like I hate them), and then be embarrassed in front of people.

I didn't really think I was a prude until this thread. I mean, perhaps in a hundred years we'll laugh about attitudes to boobs the way we laugh about Victorian attitudes to ankles and the like? But today, for almost everyone I know ANKLES ARE FILTH^H^H^H^H boobs are NSFW.

It's not a matter of keeping tabs on every possible cultural taboo. True outliers aren't the issue here. Be aware of common issues for the audience of the website you're posting on, and label appropriately. Given the audience for HN, nudity of any kind, sexual content (including text), and profanity in audio/video are all issues for a large enough percentage of the audience that they should have the NSFW label. (If you were not previously aware of these taboos, you are now.)

My own "workplace" is home; I'm a full-time parent, and not at all worried about being fired. But I recognize the issues that are common for others, and label my posts appropriately. Please have the courtesy to do the same.

The first clue on common issues being this site is in English. Not to take an Anglo-centric point of view, but odds are the overwhelming majority of HN readers work somewhere with Western workplace values.

(Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the 'NSFW' tag is quite appropriate in all the main English hubs- USA, UK, Canada, Australia, probably even Singapore)

Given that there are thousands of HN readers, what are the chances that at least a few of them have an unreasonable coworker, sysadmin, or corporate policy?

That's why the NSFW convention exists. Be aware that nudity of any kind, sexual content (including text), and profanity in audio/video can get people into trouble. Given that you are now aware of this issue, it would be impolite not to use the NSFW label in those circumstances.

So, I flagged this post as not relevant to HN, and normally that would be the only action I would take. But I'm kind of curious as to why this is being up-voted so much.

Is there some element of this site that is legitimately within the purview of links appropriate for HN (http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html)?

It is getting enough votes that I am curious if there is some deeper element that I'm missing other than just the ascetic interest of it.

It's quite creative. As developers, entrepreneurs, etc., shouldn't we be nurturing this very hard to qualify talent?

Yes! I'd normally stay quiet, but since the parent comment is the highest voted comment, I'll take from the guidelines[1]:

What to Submit

...anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity

Compare this with pg's latest submission[2]: Spotted Horses in Cave Art Weren’t Just a Figment, DNA Shows

It is not about startups, programming, languages, or technolody per se. But it is geeky and does bring some intellectual curiosity.

On the other hand, if you think that something shouldn't be here, please flag. I always trust my fellow HN users to keep me on my toes.

[1] http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

[2] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3214336

I don't see any comparison possible between an article showing progress on understanding humankind (pg's), and a list of well done funny pics (op).

Strangely, pg's submission had only five votes. Maybe, just maybe it is a sign HN has deviated a bit from its creator's intent.

These are well done, but the idea's been floating around social-media sites for a while now. I'm not sure where exactly it started, but it's been a meme on Reddit for people to find childhood photos and pose to recreate them. This is basically a professional version of that, it seems. Though, interestingly, it comes across with a different aesthetic, which I do like better. The Reddit ones often seem jokey, while these come across as oddly surreal/timeless.

Shortly after my brother was born a photo was taken of myself and my siblings. Many years later one of my sisters noted the ordering and we've since made a point, on the times we're all together, to group ourselves in the same ordering for a group shot.

I don't think we've ever done a recreation sort of picture as this site has (some of which are quite striking) but it's fun to look over pix from 10 or twenty years and see how we've changed.

"quite creative"

I know this blurs on the internet, as everyone sees different content, but in the last year I've seen at least 3-4 projects with the exact same premise; most importantly, Irina Werning's. Maybe this is the first that HN readers are seeing.





While it is indeed true, this isn't a very unique talent and I really don't think that any nurturing is required. I comlpetely agree with the first comment that this seems to not fall within Hacker News guidelines. While the aesthetic quality of the photos is indeed quite high, I fear for Hacker News being "reddit"-ified.

I like that conceit in the abstract, but I don't think this site even passes that. Does is display a significant talent in that there are many pictures from many sources with all the same theme?

Doesn't this site just display an ascetically interesting element that is easily replicable.

That isn't to say it isn't nice to look at, but is it more than that from the perspective of HN? How does this differ from any other artistic tumbler blog.

(This is not meant as a dig against the creator of this site. Only a question of this sites relevance in regard to HN. After all it is friday, maybe I should just get over it...)

I followed the link, looked at the site, enjoyed the images, then came back here and flagged the story.

Just because I find the site interesting doesn't mean it belongs here.

I enjoyed it so I upvoted it. I don't just come to HN for news about startups. The occasional off-topic but interesting site is nice to see.

Agreed, this is what I wanted to say when I saw this.

I think it's creative and interesting. If one doesn't like it, what is preventing them from either ignoring it or quickly viewing and moving on?

It sure is alot better than great amount of other posts that make the front page throughout the days.

Also, just note, that a lot of the Hackers / Hacker News members I met at Startup School 2010 and in general are very much interested in and do things like this as a side gig or hobby and invest just as much money or more in nice equipment to do so.

Nah, its just arty creative, not hacker creative.

Serious question: Do you really feel there's a material difference? There was creativity in concept and extremely masterful technical execution. Feels pretty "hackerly" to me.

Frankly, other than painting, I can't think of any visually creative activity that is more hacky than photography. What you are glibly passing over as "arty" is often the result of non-trivial, technical work.

Probably not, but relevance is only one dimension. I enjoyed this far more than any of the flood of bitcoin articles we had a whiles back.

It seems to have spurred a conversation on culture also, which I find interesting in regards to how our many, many cultures deal with each other. The protective vs. the laissez-faire lifestylers. Why it was requested to put an NFSW tag on this post, we should take into consideration how we censor ourselves in general, and in business.

I was assuming there was some post-processing going on to make the pictures look similar. Almost all of the "before" pictures appear to have been taken with a fairly low quality camera. I assume that the "after" pictures were taken with a much better, digital camera. Therefor these pictures shouldn't look anything alike (color, grain, etc.)

The author must have used some photo processing software to correct, crop, and maybe even replace, parts of the pictures. While I really like the creativity of the images I wish that they would have expounded on how the images were created.

I think you mean aesthetic. I definitely missed the ascetic part too :)

Creativity and effort taken to recreate the same situations on the photos. Personally I found this very interesting, and it certainly 'gratified my intellectual curiosity', so IMO it's on-topic by the rules.

Check out pg's essay Hackers and Painters: http://www.paulgraham.com/hp.html

Very well done. My favorite is the image of the kid chipping away at the Berlin Wall and then having it gone when he's older. Things can drastically change in a lifetime (or a quarter of a lifetime)

Not sure if anybody noticed, but the picture of Patrick B (the kid/man inside the box) has stamped on it "Berlin West" in 1982 and simply "Berlin" in 2011.

I also love how the author kept the proportions of the images almost identical, except in cases where she wanted to convey a sense of growth. For example, the doorway (Fer, Buenos Aires) and the book "Crude Black Molasses" (Alexandra, Paris).

The opposite is true in pictures such as Patrick B (the box has to be bigger to accommodate a man), and Evan in NY).

I hate to simply chime in with an "I agree," but that specific image achieved a verbal "Oh, Wow" from me.


One, in my case, that was delayed a few moments while I tried to grok why the second photo obviously wasn't taken in the same location as the first ... and then ... oh, it was.

The lives that wall divided.

Please change the title to include the string NSFW.

[EDIT: Thanks for updating. Nudity, no matter how innocent, should probably have this warning.]

Just out of curiosity: what is it that makes you think the pictures aren't SFW? Is it the nudity? This a serious question, as I suppose you're saying it's NSFW in the US, but I don't think there would be a problem in my country.


EDIT: Okay, from the comments so far I now understand it's not so much that there's nudity in some of the pictures, but that some of them contain children. Even though it's still nuts I think (not all pictures containing nudity are pornographic, and none of the ones here are even close to pornography), I get the idea now. Thanks again.

NSFW means Not Safe For Work. There are places where nude photos on a work computers can get you fired immediately.

So people must live in fear of clicking on links that contain a few nipples?

[Edit: Presumably just female nipples?]

Yes, American employers are pretty terribly paranoid when it comes to nipples. What it boils down to is they adopt a strong policy as a defense against lawsuits, so if they are ever dragged into court by an employee claiming a 'hostile work environment', they can point to their policy enforcement as proof that they aren't a 'hostile environment'. In practice the policies don't just ban porn, they ban anything that could possibly make anybody feel uncomfortable or objectified, so swimsuit calendars or even dirty jokes can get you fired.

So the upshot is, if a site isn't careful about identifying links to naked photos, it is no longer safe to read it at work. Even some sites that sometimes have racy ads are best avoided at big companies (who tend to have bigger legal departments, lawsuit exposure, and stricter policies).


No criticism intended.

What strikes me as odd about that is this:

- Free Speech is (over?)valued, things that are forbidden as insulting/hate-speech etc. over in DE are 'okay' and free to express in the US. Something the people I talked to were proud of and regularly pointed to as the fundamental freedom.


- Careful what you say, it might get you fired. We had the swear words discussion lately, now we're talking nipples / nudity and references to those.

I understand that these issues are not the same. It just feels like the Freedom of Speech is reduced(?) w/o actually touching the constitution, is it really still that free?

To answer your last point, the constitution only protects from government restrictions on free speech, it says nothing about what private parties may require from their employees at work.

Ouch. Sometimes, the US sounds like how DDR would have been if it had been run by conservative christians.

Sigh. It's feminists he's talking about. People hate conservatives and Christians with an irrationality I just can't understand.

They meddle. The only reason I ever know what somebody is is because they told me (annoyed me), or otherwise made their issue my own.

I don't hate buddhists. Do you know why? Because they don't go out of their way to bug me regularly.

Regarding Christians anyway, you might be interested in John 15:18-19, and the following verses, assuming you're not aware of them. We expect a certain amount of irrational hate.

Yes, alas.

Startup opportunity?

Not just in the US, but also in Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Syria and Iran.

Also in Australia, at a bare minimum. I'm remembering the banker gaffe from a few months ago.

Meh. I had two jobs in Australia, and in both places people would call everyone at work to look at funny porn they have been forwarded. Men & women.

Photos of topless women are usually not suitable in most western workplaces.

The one in this specific example is likely ok in most western workplaces, outside of the US. Europeans don't freak out nearly as much over this kind of stuff as Americans do. It isn't porn, as anyone with a pair of eyes can clearly see.

True, but in America the the 'before' photo is especially problematic. Though it clearly isn't pornographic, a topless (presumably) under-aged girl is potentially job-hazardous.

For example, I'm a public high-school teacher; I'm quite glad I waiting until I was home from work to check out the link. Having that image in my work browser cache is a risk I'd prefer not to take.

Also, we are very litigation happy over here. If I were a workplace, I'd be worried about a lawsuit over a 'hostile work environment' to be honest.

Are you saying this as an American or as a European?

I've lived in the UK, Australia and US. I wouldn't want to be seen browsing naked images in any office I've worked at. It's not like I work in stuffy corporate offices either; more than one of them ran "adult" focused services on the side.

I'm lucky to work in an extremely liberal work place in London, to the point of unlocked computers being sabotaged with a fairly well known website showing old men conducting sexual acts on other old men.

Saying that, I've worked in other places were I'd defiantly avoid looking at anything featuring the nsfw flag.

Americans, in my experience, don't "freak out" about it. It's really all about litigation.

Litigation because of freaking out.. but I just have the image of the Simpsons in my mind 'who will think of the children'. The U.S., love 'em, admits violence but is prudish. Always found it a strange thing but hey, it's cultural so we'll accept their quirks. The internet is mature enough to handle not forcing cultural change.

No, wyclif is right. The people who "freak out" over this kind of thing at work are really just looking for a payday. Anyone can be easily offended if money is involved.

Hm, I'm not so sure. Some of us come from cultures where reason and responsibility are widely-held ideals, and come before making a quick buck on the expense of others.

It's more a question of the legal environment than culture. No matter what the culture says there will always be people ready to exploit these kinds of situations.

There is not one 'European attitude'. French attitude would be different from British attitude. Despite what the Daily Mail says, UK is 'European'

I've never claimed there to be a singular European attitude.

In Scandinavia we couldn't care less.

Right. In Sweden a guy was fined for collecting manga comics with drawn (!) pictures of creatures that resemble naked kids.

We were talking about work, weren't we? Also, child pornography is another matter.

And I would hope drawings are another matter yet.

Not if you work in a museum

In the US, it's entirely possible that an image on that site could get someone charged with possession of child pornography.

I don't think anything on that site qualifies as pornography or child pornography in the US. "Pornography" is not a legal term, but is generally defined as "intended to cause sexual excitement" [1]. "Child Pornography" is a legal term, with similar definition in law [2].

If you look at the pictures there are a lot that show topless or covered-nude young males. They are not child pornography because they do not display "sexually explicit conduct." It's not illegal to take pictures of your naked baby [3]. If the under-age males in the photographs were depicted performing fellatio on a sex toy it would be child pornography, no matter how much clothing they had on. Nudity != Pornography.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pornography

[2] http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/usc_sec_18_00002256----000...

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography_by_region#Child_por...

As with all things even remotely approaching the label "child pornography", caution is better than not. The fact that a charge wouldn't stand up in a court of law is one thing, your reputation and life is another.

Being accused of anything even remotely like this is enough to end one's useful life. Our society can't give two shits that you were exonerated, they just care that you were accused.

This is particularly true for those who work with children. Once rumors start circulating that your kid's 4th grade teacher "got busted for child porn", there's a high likelihood they'll never be able to teach again, even if the investigation clears them or the charge is thrown out. Sure, some parents will be understanding, but it only takes a few to cause a frenzy.

It's also important for those of us who browse the internet with our children present. If your first grader tells his friend he saw a naked picture of a little kid on daddy's computer, and an adult overhears, that's probably going to bring child protective services (or SRS or whatever it's called in your area). Once CPS is involved, your entire life comes under intense scrutiny.

Point being: exercise caution. Use NSFW labels whenever you link to nudity, especially child nudity, even if it's totally non-sexual.

You are living in fear. There is an entire rational society in the USA that is alive and well. Its just not as large as the ignorant, irrational one.

Will the rational people ride to my rescue? If not, I fail to see what your point is. So, some people will be rational enough to see through the bullshit, but the vast majority of the world will not, and unfortunately one doesn't have much control who he/she runs into in their lifetime.

Well, you might have to move.

It's not at all irrational to be wary of a system that can ruin your life if you run afoul of it. It's a shame that the situation forces self-censorship, but the situation is a reality in the US, and it's irrational to pretend the risk isn't real.

Here's an article that stuck in my mind when I read it a few years back: http://www.salon.com/2006/07/18/photos_18/

It discusses (after the writer's personal horror story of being investigated for child porn after taking photos of his kids nude on a camping trip) how the laws intended to keep kids safe are actually causing many unsubstantiated reports, which in turn must be investigated, which in turn has disastrous consequences for many completely innocent parties. It also takes a stab at estimating how many people this actually happens to.

Would you to have all of your co-workers, neighbors, etc. interviewed about you due to child pornography charges? Be forced to take your own children into child protection services to be asked leading questions about good touches and bad touches? That damage isn't fixed when the charges are dropped.

I'm a parent, and perfectly comfortable with breast-feeding, nudity, and all that. My daughter loves running around naked, and that's awesome. But I don't put any photos online that would put me or anyone else at risk, and would never send them to a photo lab, in the US or any other country I've lived in. It's just not worth the risk.

I suggest using the http://nsfw.in/ shortener and safer linking service for such NSFW links. (Disclaimer: Site run by my team.)

This is awesome! The German Wall pictures are among my favorites.

In case you'd like to send your praise to the artist: irinawerning@yahoo.com

Just as a warning for those reading the comments before the linked article: at least one of the photos is NSFW.

agree, missing Berlin Wall photos may be offending to your conservative co-workers as an "in-your-face" reminder that the human race progress can't be stopped.

It's entertaining that you picked a subject that can be used perfectly both ways. ;)

the difference between Communist Party bosses back in the USSR/Germany and right wing conservatives in the US today is only superficial. So, i'm not sure how you can have it both ways.


Both of you, stop it.

Take it to reddit/r/particularlyinaptandodiouspolitics

"Maartje 1990 & 2011 Amsterdam" is going to be really tricky for people in England. The sexual offences act makes that kind of photo pretty much illegal for anyone, with narrow exceptions for law enforcement doing their job.

Maybe context would provide some kind of defence - but still the disruption to a person's life (computers seized; suspended from work; possible court cases; etc etc) are still significant.

To post such content without an NSFW[1] warning is stupid.

Let's say it's an art. See dozens of movies where you can see naked teens or even children, movies which are still publicly available and no ones computers are being seized. Also millions of family photo albums contain this kind of imagery.

> no ones computers are being seized.

Yes they are.

> Also millions of family photo albums contain this kind of imagery

and people taking these kind of photos today[1] are being reported to the police.

[1] at least, a few years ago when people were using film.

Part 1 is NSFW in exactly the same way as part 2. See http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3253422

While not professionally done (and some done much better than others), this is quite similar to 'Young me, Now me':


Neat. An interesting alternative title is 'Old me, New me'.

Wow, this is really phenomenal. It's amazing to see how little some people change versus how much others do.

FYI, that's Billy Bragg in the Riff Raff photo

I found the link interesting and am glad it was posted on here. If not the content itself, then certainly the ensuing conversation is relevant to HN. The fact that sexuality is so taboo in our culture yet motivates humans at the most basic level is fascinating. Others question why this link and not others get so much attention, which is another HN relevant issue. Maybe more people saw it at the same time and the sudden influx of upvotes sent it on its way.

This is fricking awesome. For some reason, I really love 'back to the future' 'before and after' photographs.

One thing I noticed its how good the Argentinians age.

This is weird, the sidebar says "All Photographs © Irina Werning" but it seems obvious that the old photos were not taken by her.

Not having taken the photos doesn't mean that she doesn't currently hold the copyright to them. It would be easy for her to have a copyright transfer from the original photographer be a condition for inclusion in her project.

(Also, I expect that there would be a separate copyrightable work for the combination of the old and new pictures, and the compilation of the series as a whole.)

someone is pretty serious about color matching

(You might already be aware of this, but it's relevant to the post and others might be curious.)

I'm sure that more effort than this was put into the color matching, but the Photoshop color match function allows for statistical sampling of an image/layer and applies those values to an existing image.

It can produce the same results and is one of the hidden gems of Photoshop that few users take advantage of. Not a filter, it's one of the adjustments.

Life truism: you will get saggier.

Being labeled as NSFW on HN is for me the more interesting part of the link.

Don't you dare visit the page. There is at least one underage girl in underwear and a pair of developed female breasts.

Also a naked toddler!

Is it SFW if you know the girl in underwear is from Amsterdam?


nsfw fyi

The first image is currently being used in an anti-smoking ad which I saw yesterday in the London Underground.


This is not hacker news.

Agreed, the number of wow-answers seem to correlate, maybe wow should be counted as downvote?

Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact