They aren't models, they're camp members. According to the website owner, as told by a reddit poster.
He email her this:
There is likely going to be a significant backlash to your company from the Burning Man community as you are using elements of the event for commercial purposes. This can't be unexpected for you as the same thing happened when Krug Champagne attempted to commoditize the event. The "Legal Stuff" disclaimer at the end says that the photos will not be sold for commercial purposes. Like you, Krug was not attempting to sell pictures of the event, but rather to build brand recognition by associating with the event. There is no difference.
My purpose in writing you is to ask you to go on the record with a few answers to questions that many in the Burning Man community will have.
1) The obvious first question is were the "models" in the $0 photo shoot actual burners that your photographer spontaneously encountered at the event or were they in any way compensated by your company in their attending Burning Man with the understanding that this shoot would take place? In essence, did you or an intermediary have any contact with any of these "models" before the event began?
2) You stated that no money was exchanged with the models. Is it safe to assume that they were, at the very least, compensated with sunglasses for participating in your ad campaign?
3) Were the heads of the "Disco Knights" theme camp aware that you were using photographs taken at the event for advertising purposes on your website? If so, whom specifically did you talk to at the camp to authorize their event for this purpose?
I'm not saying that I speak for every burner and I'm guessing that the vast majority of burners are pro-commerce off the playa. The fact is that the majority of the occupied space of the world is designed to facilitate the monetization of almost anything and everything. All we ask is that you don't bring that to our very special place... because it is the exact OPPOSITE of what we are doing at that exact place. And because we are so clear about this purpose to anyone and everyone who attends this event, I'm sure it's easy for you to see why many of us view your attempt to exploit this very special place for commercial gain as a belligerent act.
I'm sure this email will not change your mind about choosing to do what you did any more than your reply will change my mind to make me feel better about what you did. I would appreciate the respect of a reply to the above questions so that at least the facts are out there for people to make up their own minds about it.
And then she replied this:
Hey, Of course i'll answer your questions. Thanks for taking the time to write us such an eloquent email. We are not virgin burners, it is a second home to us. The comments have been incredibly painful for me, as we are not a corporate entity, we are two people who built a company from the ground up trying to support independent artists in the eyewear community. This year we created our first line of glasses, and half of them we gave away to our best friends. My business partner alex, has a brother in law who was at burning man with a full media pass to take pictures for the actual organizers of burning man. He came to our camp, disco knights, with Alex's sister and we thought it would be really fun after three days of partying to take pictures of all of us. These are not models, there was no wardrobe, every single person in that photo is if not my best friend a great one. After we were back I wanted to do something cool with the pics, and I created that little slideshow. I had wanted it to be a funny, quirky testament to that moment in time, and to make my friends laugh now that we are so far apart. NEVER ever did I imagine the backlash I would get from the community that I love so much. Being compared to Krueg is like a shot in the heart and I am working very hard to correct this assotiation. I haven't taken it down, because I didn't want there to be this blog forum about it, without people being able to see what it was that we had created. We will take it down, and I am apologizing individually to everyone who writes us. Your points were well thought out and valid, I never wanted to dillute the message of burning man or use it's positive influence for our companies monetary gain.
I really, truly, just wanted to showcase these amazing pictures and make something my friends would all love. Either way, I really heard you and thanks for your email.
My take, Krug was worse, they mooped badly and were complete outsiders. This looks like somethig more along the lines of a bad decision when deciding to add these pictures to their commercial website. In another comment on reddit about the policy I stated "The photographer didn't screw up. The website owner did in associating the photos with the commercial website. The only point that I see as being unclear is the difference between hosting the images on a site that sells stuff vs what most do (myself included); hosting the images on their own blog where advertising may be present. Some could argue that that constitues commercial use, however I don't think that's the intent of the LLC otherwise there would be no pics of the event online that are within policy except what's on the BM LLC website."
Nebraska Regional ContactTallgrass Burners - The Omaha and Nebraska Area Burning Man Regional Grouphttp://www.tallgrassburners.comEmail: nebraska [at] burningman.com