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Author Topic: Images that Offend  (Read 42684 times)
gr82bart
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« on: November 26, 2006, 09:16:23 AM »
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When is it OK to show images that may offend the sensibilities of others or are inherently controversial? For example:

1. An image of Nazi memorabilia taken as a still life
2. An image of the male erect penis close up
3. Images of couples in a sexual embrace
4. Images of the dead or dismembered body parts
5. Children naked taken by their parents playing in their bath tub

etc...

Where does the balance between freedom of expression and courtesy/respect lie? As artists, are there any responsibilities one has when taking and displaying images? Can images that may be considered pornographic ever be art? Does there have to be context in the image? Are there images people will never take? Do the morals, cultures, beliefs, religions, etc... of others dictate what images you take versus what you show? Is that self censorship?

Assuming the images, when taken, were NOT in the commission of a crime (this means I am not talking about snuff images, underage sexual images, etc...)

Many questions this morning, and no real answers.

Regards, Art.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2006, 05:45:38 AM by gr82bart » Logged

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howiesmith
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« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2006, 02:15:32 PM »
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Interesting topic.  But then who desides what is or isn't offensive?  

What is art?  I asked a person on this this site that question, and even though that person described himself as a "visual artist," he seemed to get offended rather than provide an answer.

Photojournalists take "offensive" (to me at least) photos routinely - seemimgly the more offensive the better.  War photographrs take images of the dead, dieing and maimed.

Pornography is a huge industry - several times more porn than Big Macs in the US alone.  It must not be offensive to many people.

It seems like a photo will always appeal to someone, while being offensive to another.  To me, there are black areas (always offensive), white areas (never offensive) and many shades of gray (offensive to some).  Some folks are just offended by photographs, regardless of content.

"Can images that may be considered pornographic ever be art?"  Robert Maplethorpe comes to mind.  Many considered him an artist.  In addition to homosexual men, he took many images of flowers and normal portraits that I consider art.  I think his use of soft light and a green filter combined for some beautiful b&w portraits

"Does there have to be context in the image?"  No, I don't think so.

"Do the morals, cultures, beliefs, religions, etc... of others dictate what images you take versus what you show?"  No.  I have never taken a photo I would not show to someone else simply because of its content.  I have taken many photos that I simply didn't think were worth showing (or even keeping), but not because of their content.  Onece I framed a photo of a 3 month old boy in black.  A Chinede viewer said how sad that the boy was dead.  He wasn't, but to the Chinese viewer, the black matt meant the boy was dead.  Sometimes other cultures can be a land mine.

Self censorship?  Yes.  I do not take images I consider offensive.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2006, 02:37:50 PM by howiesmith » Logged
Danijela D. Karic
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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2007, 05:50:42 AM »
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Very controversial, for sure not one answer will fit all.

Regards
Danijela
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KolinP
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2007, 11:10:23 PM »
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I'd prefer zero regulation and zero cencorship, but with fair and reasonable warnings to protect folks with fragile feelings ...

This might be a bit idealistic (and note that as a new Forum member I haven't yet seen any previous dialogue on this theme), but ...

Imagine you're walking through a shopping mall. If you're in a part of the mall that is known to offer 'arty' or  'challenging' or 'liberated' products then you shouldn't be surprised to see a billboard on the pavement in front of you offering a chance to see some 'new and original' artistic work.

If you *never* wished to view such free-thinking and liberated material then you'd probably aim never to visit those parts of the mall.

But if you happened accidentally to wander through that part of the mall, then your second-level of protection could be simply to note-and-ignore the pavement bill-board invitation to 'enter here to have your mind expanded'. You can choose just to walk on by...

Or, if somehow you happened to step inside the 'artistic' venue by accident, you'd see further warning notices explaining that the "material herein is aimed at free-thinking and at-ease-with-life folks [and] you venture further entirely at your own risk [and] Please leave now if you are not comfortable ...".

Then - given all those protective layers, allow me(us) please to present my work to the world, showing whatever subject matter I want, to my own standards, reflecting my own tastes, in my own style and in whatever-the-heck manner *I* choose, and please don't complain if you've stepped across all of my warning thresholds to get here ...

If we can build our web sites with equivalent layers of warnings for the benefit of some folks' genuine but fragile sensibilities, or possibly wreckless mouse-click navigation, and (of course) with appropriate SafeSurf and ICRA labelling, then ... I think we should be free to indulge ourselves and to share our work in complete freedom!!

But ... I doubt we'll reach this level of enlightenment for another generation or two...

Colin
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howiesmith
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« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2007, 07:50:57 PM »
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Perhaps this is the place to respond to the image of two women, nude from at least the waist up, in an article on printers on LL.

A response said the image was from Studio One as a fine example of it's printing.  So what where it came from or why?  Believe it or not, there are people in this world that still believe nudity and lesbian acts are immoral.  They are offended by unexpected images of these.

It is not "us against them."  The issue is not black/white or on/off (binary).  There are OK images (white) and not OK images (black).  Most are shades of gray.

We have a responsibility to our neighbors to not cause them to stumble.  We should behave in a way as to not cause our neighbor to stumble.  Will we make mistakes?  Sure.  But when those mistakes are pointed out to us, we have to take steps to prevent it from happening again.

It matters not one bit if the offensive image is art or we call ourselves artists.  That does not change our responsibilty.
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jule
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« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2007, 08:15:43 PM »
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We have a responsibility to our neighbors to not cause them to stumble.  We should behave in a way as to not cause our neighbor to stumble. 

It matters not one bit if the offensive image is art or we call ourselves artists.  That does not change our responsibilty.
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Howie,
Stumble?? Mistakes???

Who or what gives each of us the right to think that another may stumble? I think those judgements only reflect arrogance.

Julie
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howiesmith
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« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2007, 11:01:28 PM »
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Howie,
Stumble?? Mistakes???

Who or what gives each of us the right to think that another may stumble? I think those judgements only reflect arrogance.

Julie
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The "who" would be the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians (Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.)  I'm not sure I would call it a right to think that another might stumble, but an imparitive to prevent it as best I can.  The "mistakes" are mine when I might inadvertantly cause another to stumble.
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macgyver
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« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2007, 12:21:40 AM »
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Howie's right.  Regardless of what we think we have a responsibility to those around us.  Think of it as a kindness to others.  You may not care but others might, so it is simple courtesy to attempt to consider how others feel.  Don't be the person who is so concerned with what they want that they aren't even willing to think of others.  There are so many people on fourms like this that care so much about "making a statment" with their photos and defending the photographer's right and all that jazz (which is great) that they miss the very people to whom their "statements" are supposed to benifit.  The poster in the other topic wasn't saying it was bad (i think, correct me if I'm wrong) or evil, he was simply saying that he might have liked a warning.  I know of quite a few photography sites around who do that in cases like this, it's not a big deal.  I'm not saying that I expect Michael to do so, it is his site, I'm just saying that it's not unheard of.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2007, 12:22:29 AM by macgyver » Logged
howiesmith
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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2007, 09:42:31 AM »
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Regardless of what we think we have a responsibility to those around us.  Think of it as a kindness to others.  You may not care but others might, so it is simple courtesy to attempt to consider how others feel.  Don't be the person who is so concerned with what they want that they aren't even willing to think of others.
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Yes, a kindness to others.

This post could have appeared in response to the rude workshop that stood where others were trying to photograph.  There would have been very little if any objection or outcry.

But ask for a simple kindness of telling me there is some nudity coming, ...

When I offer the simple kindness of allowing a car to change lanes in front of me, usually the only objection comes from the driver behind me, blowing his horn in rage.  And what has this really cost him?  Nothing or a fraction of a second (that he would lose at the next traffic light) of his time.  What has he gained?  Exercising his right to be angry as long as he wants.
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blansky
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« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2007, 11:14:59 AM »
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I agree that we should have respect for the rights and ignorance of others. If this site had been a site on the "practices of accounting" or on "house construction" then the so called "offending" picture may have been out of place.

But this is a site for photographers/artists? and for anyone to be offended on this site over something as innocuous as that picture, maybe he/she is just too fragile to be on any site that contains "art".

The Taliban comment was probably correct in that if we bowed to their wishes any part of a womans body needs to be covered. Should we be sensitive to them and not show a naked face in a magazine. Obviously, an exageration but how far do we go so that someone's tender sensibilities aren't offended.

Well the answer is that as a society or community we draw up vague standards as to what is acceptable. This picture obviously meets that standard.

Does it need a warning label so as not to injure anyone?

On an art site. NO.


Michael
« Last Edit: March 22, 2007, 11:18:56 AM by blansky » Logged
howiesmith
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« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2007, 11:55:54 AM »
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Two last comments on the locked topic.

Julie, seldom if ever, are you forced to look at eithre violance or lesbians.  A third choice could be neither.

Michael, is the standard for LL now anything that is tamer than anything you have seen is OK?  Whether it is tamer or not is arguable, and irrelavant to many of us.  Are there really degrees of wrong?

The request was not for censorship or deleting the image, but merely for a warning that nudity was coming.  My question for Michael now is "How can you ban nudity from posts on this site?"
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Rob C
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« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2007, 03:50:51 PM »
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Two last comments on the locked topic.

Julie, seldom if ever, are you forced to look at eithre violance or lesbians. A third choice could be neither.

Michael, is the standard for LL now anything that is tamer than anything you have seen is OK? Whether it is tamer or not is arguable, and irrelavant to many of us. Are there really degrees of wrong?

The request was not for censorship or deleting the image, but merely for a warning that nudity was coming. My question for Michael now is "How can you ban nudity from posts on this site?"
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Howie

If I may interject, yet again, why are you trying to impose 'christian' ethics on this site? There may be all manner of other faiths looking in but not finding it necessary to proclaim their stance. I know all about the need to preach, having spent the most unhappy years of my childhood in a boarding school in India run by American, Canadian and Australian Baptists.

I need no reminding now of the horrors of narrow vision; it was possibly in response to this mental persecution that, when I found my freedom again back in the UK, I gravitated with much force into the world of photography, models, fashion and calendars. You could look upon this as a sort of reverse trajectory to that being forced upon a callow youth by biggots; if my life's work counts against me in some other manifestation of future life, then you know now who pushed me there.

No, I don't need lessons in morality, direct or implied from anyone.

For what it's worth, yes I do believe in God; but He isn't the monster that successive power groups have tried to project upon others, mainly as a form of political and financial control; and yes, this same God has answered prayers.

Cordially - Rob C
« Last Edit: March 23, 2007, 03:54:08 PM by Rob C » Logged

Carl Harsch
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« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2007, 09:34:37 AM »
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Rather than turning this into a philosophical argument between the secular humanists and the evangelical Christian, I suggest that we return to the topic at hand and consider the original post.

Is is a "right" of an individual to display a photography that others might find morally or ethically questionable or even disgusting and scream "It's art and you shall not complain"?  Does this right trump the right of an individual who might not want to have explicit images thrust in their face uninvited?

To illustrate, forget about the image that started the topic at hand and consider an image of a seal with his brains bashed out, a child that has been hit by a automobile leaving his twisted and torn body in the street, images of decapitation, images that display an erect penis as the man masturbates to orgasm, etc.    Yes, there are many that find these images perfectly acceptable.  But there are equally as many that would be offended or even repulsed.  

Forums are attended by a wide variety of individuals.  They range in scope from the religious individual to the individual that thinks anything is acceptable.  You cannot possibly satisfy every individual in a forum setting.  There needs to be some method to at least provide an environment that does not alienate individuals, neither by springing objectionable material upon them nor by restricting the freedoms of the artists that feel even over the top material is merely art.

Just my .02
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Rob C
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« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2007, 11:22:01 AM »
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WARNING: This post does not include nudity; it does express an opinion so read at your own discretion.


Carl, there is one great problem with what you write: there is  no way on earth that such a thing as a universally acceptable consensus of morality can exist.

Your examples of dead brats etc. are extremes which, possibly, most folks would understand as being sensitive and only appropriate to more specifically focussed fora; the photo published, which started all this, was only there on Michael's say so and, as owner of this site, it is his devine right to do with it as he pleases without asking you, me or anyone else for their permission. As he says himself, the picture is quite harmless and it's rather silly to use it as an excuse for venturing into the realm of censorship which, I'm afraid, the posting of some kind of 'warning' implies by its very application.

You can, if not find a consensus for morality, at least reduce everything to kindergarten level; if you want to, that may provide you with your solution. You will, however, be the only person checking in...

N'est ce pas?

Ciao - Rob C
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Nill Toulme
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« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2007, 11:33:01 AM »
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There are still some in this world perhaps even many who would find an image of a black man holding hands with a white woman to be offensive, even, some of them would say, morally offensive.  Must we cater to them too?  If not, why not?

Nill
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Carl Harsch
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« Reply #15 on: March 24, 2007, 12:44:15 PM »
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Rob, I believe you have misunderstood my intent.  I'm not suggesting imposing morality guidelines at all.  After rereading my last post, quite understandable as I did imply exactly that, so let me rephrase...

While someone's negative response to nudity generally initiates these threads, the topic is generally within the control of the forum guidelines and is not the basis for my thoughts.

In this case, I'm exploring the extreme edges of photography, not a naked woman or man, nor even an image that a narrow minded individual may find objectionable (such as the one Nils suggested (and Nils, I don't have a good answer for why not)).  I'm referring more to the ones that many reasonable people may find offensive/objectionable in society.  And, I realize that even this is impossible to neatly define, but humor me on the limits of that definition

I'm not suggesting an answer or a guideline be imposed.  I'm merely asking "is there a limit that we impose upon ourselves, as photographers, when posting images or do we cover it under one wrap of creative expression?"   (and then when the moderator removes the image, claim foul play and censorship    )

edit: (now I remember why ethics courses in college gave me headaches  ... there is no clear answer in most cases  )
« Last Edit: March 24, 2007, 12:47:10 PM by Carl Harsch » Logged
Nill Toulme
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« Reply #16 on: March 24, 2007, 02:36:55 PM »
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...  I'm merely asking "is there a limit that we impose upon ourselves, as photographers, when posting images or do we cover it under one wrap of creative expression?" 

Of course there is such a limit, but it's not a bright line, and it's a line that moves from time to time and context to context, and it's plainly not the same line for all of us.

Some images are "obviously" on the other side of that line for most of us, in most contexts some of Mapplethorpe's work comes readily to mind, but that's probably just me.  ;-)  Autopsy photos, whatever.

Where the question should be more interesting, but sadly usually isn't because of the sorts of arguments that invariably ensue, is with regard to stuff more in the middle ground, like the subject of the current discussion.

Personally, I am much more morally offended by the substance and tone of many of the arguments that get espoused in favor of restricting this sort of image than I am by just about any image that would typically elicit those arguments but again, that's just me, and it's the price I pay for wandering (stumbling?) into threads like this one.  ;-)

Nill
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Rob C
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« Reply #17 on: March 24, 2007, 02:57:13 PM »
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Carl

Okay, I accept we had a crossed wire.

Now, on the newer question of self-imposed regulation, my answer can be more explicit.

As a photographer, and I am talking from the point of view of being both pro and very interested from the personal, amateur (literal meaning) aspect too, I can safely say that I have never applied, as far as I am aware, a double standard of personal as compared with professional image making. I mean that anything I have photographed has been photographed in the full expectation - even hope - that it will/might be in the public domain. I have photographed lots of girls with and without clothes and I have never, as far as my interpretation of these things goes, created a pornographic picture. I feel no sadness or sense of loss; I just never felt any wish to do so. I have been in love with the idea of beauty all my life and its what I've tried to express in my photography of women, sometimes with greater success than at others.

I'm informed that the web contains many sites which cater to porn of various grades; the closest I ever got was once when I tried to be smart and type in the name of this very site from memory: I forgot the hyphen and up came some dumb Spanish site which wasn't at all what I'd expected. Perhaps I've also stumbled onto less pleasing female 'studies' when checking out the sites of various photographers who feature in photography magazines, but this presents no problem - I just click away from them.

I can understand Nil's point of view regarding recent posters on a high morality kick, but at the end of the day, one cannot deny their right of protest if one does not want to deny one's own right to opinion; it's just that there are ways of expressing opinion and we don't always use the most appropriate, whether because we shoot off a reply in a hurry and in the heat of the moment (I excel at that) or because some of us go rigid at the thought of moral censure from anybody other than ourselves.

Ciao - Rob C
« Last Edit: March 24, 2007, 03:01:20 PM by Rob C » Logged

Carl Harsch
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« Reply #18 on: March 24, 2007, 03:54:41 PM »
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Actually, I'm with you Nils.  I generally avoid these topics like the plague.  I have no idea why I responded to this one (certainly wasn't looking for a debate, much less an argument).  

Well...that's enough from me on this topic...I'm off to read things of more interest to me, like seeing how others are struggling with or mastering Lightroom, CS3, and other post processing tools....MUCH MORE INTERESTING  
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Rob C
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« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2007, 08:44:40 AM »
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Actually, I'm with you Nils.  I generally avoid these topics like the plague.  I have no idea why I responded to this one (certainly wasn't looking for a debate, much less an argument). 

Well...that's enough from me on this topic...I'm off to read things of more interest to me, like seeing how others are struggling with or mastering Lightroom, CS3, and other post processing tools....MUCH MORE INTERESTING 
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Carl - disappointed to find your interests lie where they do...

Debate is what allows us to know we are alive and not alone.

Ciao - Rob C
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