On Censorship –
When I began these studies I made a conscious decision not to censor myself or my work as I felt I had missed out on opportunities when I did my BA for some degree of exploration. I have not set out to be deliberately provocative, but likewise I have not pulled my punches either. I have simply allowed myself the freedom to use the naked male to represent certain ideas and question others. But we have just come to a stage whereby censorship has the chance to actually impact upon my work & how it is shown. First came a comment on my work…paraphrasing it basically said ‘I like your work, but wonder had you thought about leaving the model out?’ – I may be being hyper-sensitive but surely any viewer can recognise the naked male form is the key to what I am exploring? It is an interesting stand-point and one I am not sure how to react to. The second more important issue to be addressed comes with the setting-up of our joint exhibition and the publicity material that will need to be produced. I am the only practitioner that is creating images that are so obviously controversial (it could be that other artists have more subtle representations that could be culturally miss-read). There could be a problem of the group exhibition & group poster when it comes to my nude work. What do I do in this situation? Do I censor myself? Do the design team censor it? The problems this raises in different countries and cultures. It feeds back to my questioning of the censorship of the naked male in comparison to the naked female in photographic art. And there is still the problem for myself to resolve in finding an exhibition space that may be willing to show representations of the naked male. All very interesting, but highly problematic on a practical level. Gary pointed me in the direction of a Japanese photographer who physically veiled his prints in order to stop the police prosecuting him & still allowing the exhibition to continue. I must respect such a creative reaction to censorship.
Some things that were raised in this weeks tutorials need to feed back into my practise in either actions to consider or research to be done. I need to continue my use of mirrors as I feel (and tutors seem to agree) they have the potential to be an powerful metaphor as a weapon against poor self-image. I shouldn’t get too hung-up on only capturing mirror shots to the extent that they become repetitive & clichéd. It has been pointed out my use of the reclining nude which is traditionally associated with the female form in Western Art. My use gives a more contemporary perspective in use of the male body & the gay male body & the non-standard (ie not Adonis). Pornography (and it’s easy availability due to the internet) is skewing our ideas of the representation of what the body should be. Gay imagery is often more provocative & I like to think mine is more sensitive(?)
I try to avoid deliberate posing; preferring to allow them to pose(!) themselves in order that they feel comfortable as they are already in the exposed position of being naked in their home environment being the subject of a fully-clothed photographers gaze and the threatening gaze of the camera (Sontag, p.65). Is the reclined pose merely the most relaxed the model can be when they are sitting for an artist rather than a specifically suggestive and passive pose. As my models assume these poses – are they entirely natural or are they subconsciously assuming poses drawn from high-art? Is there really a bravery in showing everything full-frontal? Certainly for the model, but have I become so accustomed to seeing the nude that I forget what a controversial image he still is? I need to ensure my naked forms are not sexually provocative – the major difference between the naked & the nude is the nude’s ability to arouse whereas the naked should be more innocent. Finding the balance of acceptability so that my naked forms are so natural that they cannot offend.
Sontag, S. On Photography (New York: Penguin Books, 1977)