The original poster referred to Sturges as "internationally known". If my memory is correct, he actually was a very obscure San Francisco-area dance photographer at the time of his encounter with the legal system, and it was that event that brought him to the attention of the international art world. The photographs that created the stir were some color snapshots that he had done in a naturist resort in Northern California as "studies" for his large format monochrome work.
I like Sturges' work a lot - I am amazed at the naturalness that he is able to achieve under highly unnatural circumstances (the large camera, not the nudity of the subjects), and I think his work is beautiful.
But there are two questions that I have always wondered about. The first is would we have ever known about Jock Sturges if the experience with that legendary lab technician had not occurred?
The other question is can the man make photographs of anything other than nude figures in the environment? I have nothing against nude figures in the environment, but it seems to me that if he is the consummate photographer that he would like us to believe that he is, he would have a broader body of work.
So the paradox that I struggle with is that while I like Jock Stuges and his work, I have this nagging feeling that he is an opportunist who is exploiting the unfortunate experience he had in 1990. And had that event not occurred, we would never have heard of him. I would be very disappointed if that were the case.
And as far as the lab technician is concerned - he was a technician and his role was to process film. Society also asked him to sound an alarm if he saw things that suggested depicted inappropriate activities. He was not expected to investigate the background and make judgements about what he found - his role was merely to observe and report, and that's what he did.
Instead, my issue with the rigid government bureaucrats who chose to be blind to the difference between an abusive situation and artistic depiction of a healthy but unconventional life style, and who were arbitrarily overzealous in persecuting Sturges simply because they didn't like what they saw in his work. That's the same kind of narrow minded extremist thinking that we've seen with John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, and its dangerous.