Artist fights 'porn' label

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The following statement was read by Don Mader, the photographer whose work was seized by Amsterdam police in the Intermale bookstore raid, at a press conference at the store following the seizure.

I have for ten years been a photographer. Most of my work was commercial photography, some advertising, some public relations work, considerable evidentiary photography for American defense attorneys and investigators, and accident reports. At the same time I have done creative work. My first one-man show was of architectural studies, done in 1981, at the Gardner Sage Library of New Brunswick Seminary, New Brunswick, New Jersey, entitled "Historic Reformed Churches of the Lower Hudson Valley." I have also exhibited prints - including some that were part of the seizure here - in group shows at the Leslie-Lohman Gallery in New York City, and the Southern Vermont Art Center. My work - and indeed some of these same prints - has clearly been accepted elsewhere as art.

I categorically reject charge that my work is pornography. Pornography is notoriously hard to define, but the bottom line is that it is a work intended to sexually excite the viewer. It is also generally characterized by presenting the person in it as an object for the viewer's desire or fantasy.

The intention behind the series of photographs seized from Intermale gallery is quite different from pornography. The intention was to explore and document the development and character and personality of boys as they grew into young men and adults. That is why the photographs were being shown in a gallery that deals with men and the male image.

None of us are disembodied spirits, ghosts. All human beings come packaged in bodies. How we relate to those bodies, how we stand and carry ourselves and the body language by which we present ourselves, whether we keep the body fit or let it get fat is all a part of us, of our being. That is particularly true during adolescence, when the body changes so rapidly. Nude portraits deal openly with this fact. And each of our bodies has gender, sexuality - and how we relate to this fact - this very important fact that makes us women or men - is also a part of our being. Again, this is particularly so during those years that our sexual identities are being formed. And the nude portraits deals openly and honestly with this - too openly and honestly, it would appear, for censors. Some of the boys and young men photographed here are very comfortable with their bodies and sexuality, some playful, some ambivalent, and some frankly proud of their maleness; all, of course, common responses in human beings of other ages, too. The photographs merely report these facts about the subject's experience of and attitudes about themselves. The photographs were not taken with the intention of sexuality exciting the viewer.

Because these photographs deal with the personality of boys and young men, because they deal openly with the issue of sexuality, they may be of erotic interest to some persons. That may be of erotic interest to some persons. That is incidental to the intention behind them. I also know that some pedophiles have responded negatively to these images, precisely because the boys and young men who are the subjects are the ones in control of how they are seen here: their personality is so strongly captured they cannot be seen as passive objects for the viewer's fantasy. The boys and young men are clearly subjects, not objects.

On both grounds then - intention and the objectification of the individuals shown - I reject the charge that these photographs are "kiddie-" - or any other - pornography.

source: Article 'Artist Fights "Porn" Label'; NAMBLA Bulletin, vol. 8, no. 7; September 1987