C. Stephen Eckel, a Democratic New York state legislator, is facing scrutiny after a recent look over his personal website turned up nude pictures.
Eckel, who is in the midst of running for reelection in an upstate district divided by redistricting, removed the photos after being notified of the news. They had reportedly been available without any sort of age verification or disclaimer.
In a subsequent interview with New York's WHAM news, Eckel offered an unorthodox explanation, saying that he had taken the pictures of himself as part of a project he had completed more than a decade ago while getting his Master's degree:
"I invite people to look at it and judge for themselves," Eckel said in an interview with 13WHAM News hours after this was brought to his attention. "This is art. This is my art. This is my work and as a professor of photography that's what they want to see if they're evaluating me for a position."
According to WHAM, Eckel is a photographer and artist who spends time off from legislating as an art professor at various colleges. Most recently he served as an adjunct professor of photography at Genesee Community College.
While WHAM reports that some constituents appear unperturbed by the self-portraits, others, such as Tony Micciche, Eckel's Republican challenger, beg to differ.
"The sheer fact that you have to remove them, that should say enough to all voters," Micciche told WHAM.
Eckel, however, explained that he had removed the pictures because they would only "distract" from the campaign, and claimed that the use of his artwork as an attack was a crooked tactic.
"They have to resort to these lowdown, slimy tricks," he told the New York Post. "This is just a low attack on me to put my stuff from an artistic portfolio to be used to smear me.
"My integrity as a photographer and as an artist is strong and powerful, and my integrity as a county legislator is strong and powerful," Eckel continued.
An unelected Republican source not affiliated with Micciche's campaign reportedly tipped WHAM off on the presence of the photographs.