When Did We Forget That Nudity Isn’t The Same As Pornography?

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Unless youâ??ve been living under a rock for the last couple of months you will have undoubtedly heard about the controversy surrounding one of the pictures in a recent exhibition of Nan Goldin’s work.

For obvious reasons we can’t show the photo here but for those of you who havenâ??t seen it, it’s a picture of two young girls belly dancing; one of them is naked and in what could be considered a compromising position.

The photograph, Klare and Edda belly-dancing, was taken away by police on September 20th due to concerns that it might breach child pornography laws.

Firstly, please understand that I (and everyone at TDM) certainly believe that the matter of child pornography should be taken very seriously and I donâ??t believe that there can ever be a severe enough punishment for these kinds of offences, but when did we, as a society, completely lose all common sense? Whilst I understand that we need to protect children from abuse and exploitation, I don’t understand how anyone who has actually seen the photograph could see anything pornographic about it, or even feel the need to question it’s validity in relation to the law. When did we forget that nudity doesn’t mean pornography? And when did we decide that it was a good idea to turn a common depiction of the innocence of youth into something sinister?

Throughout history there have been countless occurrences in art of all genres of nude children. Some of the most famous pieces of work created by the old masters contain nude children. Why is this any different? Surely any “normal” person would take one look at the piece and realise that there is nothing sinister about the photograph?

Right, everybody close your eyes. Now think back. As a child did you at any point run about, playing, doing silly things without your clothes on. If you did, put your hand up. Now open your eyes. Yup I thought so. It wasn’t that uncommon a thing was it. How many of your parents have a photo of you like that. You know that photo that your mum always gets out and shows your significant other the first time you take them home to meet your parents. I thought so. Now, it could be argued that that isn’t the kind of photo you really want to display in an art gallery, but except for the embarrassment it would cause is there really anything wrong with that?

If the photo wasn’t clearly the type of photo above then I absolutely agree it should have been removed. If it had been removed just in case a paedophile should see it then that would at least make some sense, but to potentially brand a piece of art like this as paedophilic and then in turn brand the photographer as a paedophile is moronic at best.

Personally, Iâ??m not a fan of Goldin’s work. I can’t say that I particularly care for the photograph in question either, but I believe itâ??s important that as photographers we support one and other’s right to be creative. Furthermore I think it’s our duty as humans to support our society’s values but also to remember that common sense should prevail over political correctness and that we shouldn’t live in a society where we are afraid to go about normal daily life because of a minority who would cause trouble because of it. After all, isn’t that what the fight against terrorism is all about?

This is obviously a potentially controversial subject and there must be other important points of view to consider. What do you have to say on the subject?

4 Replies to “When Did We Forget That Nudity Isn’t The Same As Pornography?”

  1. I have to admit that I had not even heard of Nan Goldin before this controversy and I have not been able to find a copy of the photo to see what it is all about (which is no great surprise, of course!).

    Having viewed quite a lot of Goldin’s work during this debate, I declare I am not a fan.

    Obviously the main issue here is that a child is involved, so I can understand the prompt removal of the photograph from the exhibition. What I find odd is that it has taken such a very long time for someone to decide that prompt action was required!

    I guess I agree with what Charlie has said here – let’s make sure our children are protected, but let’s be intelligent and realistic about it.

  2. Update:
    I have just seen a (very small!) copy of the image in question.

    Frankly, it’s crap.

    It is a joke to call it “art” and Sir Reginald Dwight should be ashamed of himself, spending his cash on this drivel. At best, it is a second-rate snapshot which could use one of those little stickers offering advice on how to take proper photographs.

    I’m not sure I would classifiy it as pornography (I find it hard to imagine there was any intention to titillate the viewer) but I do feel it is inappropriate to put on public display.

    Art, it ain’t.

  3. I really have to agree with Gaz. To call the piece art is really stretching the definition of art. It could only be described as a snapshot. I’ve seen a decent sized version of the image and unhappily I have to say that it isn’t even a well taken snapshot. Out of interest is there anyone out there who thinks differently? Are we being to harsh?

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