A smoke screen to suppress free speech and artistic expression

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Aperture, the leading American fine arts photography magazine, devoted its fall, 1990, issue to the theme, "The Body in Question," providing an in-depth look at censorship, sexual repression, and artistic freedom. In defiance of government censors, Aperture brought together photographers whose work has been suppressed because the subject of their art involves sexuality or nudity - in particular nude children or adolescents.

Included in this book are works by some of America's leading contemporary photographers: Donna Ferrato, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jock Sturges, David Wojnarowics, and others. All have faced harassment in some way. Statements by some of the artists tell of their ordeals with the law.

While working on her series Water Babies, which shows her baby daughter in a montage of water lilies, Alice Sims found herself under investigation for producing "child pornography." Gun-toting police raided her home. After searching for three hours, an officer informed Sims and her husband that their two children and several boxes of "evidence" were being taken away. After the children were examined for sexual abuse at a hospital and placed in foster care, the government dropped all charges.

The book includes important essays on photography and censorship. Noted poet and NAMBLA supporter Allen Ginsberg, along with Joseph Richey, argue for "The Right to Depict Children in the Nude." "The Big Chill: Censorship and the Law" and "Photography, Pornography and Sexual Politics" also should help open the eyes of the artistic community to the dangers of censorship.

In "The Body in Question" we find examples of what the government considers "child pornography." In reality, these works are only art. This book exposes the battle against "obscenity" and "pornography" for what it truly is: a smoke screen to suppress free speech and artistic expression.

Aperture, No.121: The Body in Question. New York: The Aperture foundation, 1990. $18,50, softbound

source: 'Aperture on 'The Body in Question' > by P.D.R. [edit]; Nambla Bulletin, Vol.12, No. 4; May 1991