Photography & Censorship

After the photography opening at The Bui Gallery a few weeks ago, the above image was pulled from the walls on fears of censorship issues and violations of Vietnamese law. And pedophilia concerns. Maybe. I think. Though that isn’t the kind of thing that gets talked about in Vietnam, in my experience. All of it’s a gray area at best. I’m happy that the image got to hang for the opening, though it’s a bit frustrating to see it pulled down only a few days later, along with a photograph from fellow exhibitor Jamie Maxtone-Graham, all because too many local journalists and media agencies were coming in and asking questions. A little controversy should be a good thing. Asking questions should be a good thing. Art, whether you like it or not, should be a good thing.

Of course on my end I fully stand by the gallery’s decision to remove the image from the show. Their necks are on the line much more than mine. I disagree with the much larger picture, the one that has nothing to do with us much smaller beings. So what do you think about this kind of imagery? Is it exploitative or wrong or disgusting? Does it violate some innate sense of privacy? I’m not sure that it matters whether or not I had permission to take the photograph. It’s on a wall. Permission or not. Right or wrong. We don’t always have the luxury of knowing every story behind every image. I’m just curious. Maybe there’s no reaction at all?

12 thoughts on “Photography & Censorship”

  1. Which law and which term of the law did it violate? Was there any clear explanation?

  2. Seems like this will be interesting……..Looking forward to your postings…..

  3. I’m in Australia now and I know taking that kind of photo here will land you in a pot of bubbling trouble. Not long ago, a man was arrested and his camera confiscated for taking pictures of a couple of children in their swimmers at the beach (he was later released, but not his camera). It’s all fuelled by the media playing on the general public’s fears. I know in Vietnam things aren’t as cut and dry (read: paranoid about paedophilia), but it seems like the line between “what constitutes art” and “what constitutes a naked child being photographed without permission” is quite blurred in their eyes. I agree with Jamie, with the removal, the debate has sadly ended. It’s a pity.

  4. very interesting story here aaron, and I think I feel the same way you do in most respects, though I think i’d be a but more pissed off than you are atleast letting on. On one hand, your image created a response, maybe not the response that every photographer wants, but a response and reaction none the less. but as far as the image being pornographic or anyting like that, this argument has been going on for a long time, and it always ends up, atleast in my eyes, as a mute point. People get offended, but photographers are still going to make the images because they are beautiful…

    cheers to you and glad the show went off with success! The prints looked great from what I saw and would love to have seen some of those big suckers in person!

  5. Thanks to everyone for your responses. Ly, I’m not sure which law was (questionably) violated. My lawyer friend seems to think that none were. To all else, I agree that without the images, the debate has ended, and that’s perhaps the worst outcome of all. People should be able to discuss these things, in a gallery setting if nowhere else.

    Adam, how did your recent show go? Overall, I’m extremely happy with the response to the exhibition. Censorship or no. Charge it to the game.

  6. They’d likely not have shown in at all in Australia. There was a huge scandal a year or two ago over there was a scandal relating to an artist called Bill Henson. He was nearly arrested for child pornography for his photos.

  7. this debate brings up the age old arguement of naked vs. nude. As an artist myself, i find nothing offensive about this image, but i understand how people can take offense to it. So many times people (ie: government, press, etc) just put naked and nude all under one category. Unfortunately, as artists and viewers of art, we must be overly careful not to offend anyone, and that means taking away some of our artistic voice.

    I do find this image very beautiful and it is sad that it was taken down from your show.

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