It appears that all is not quite as it seems in photo land as Belgian photographer Herman van den Boom, who is taking part in these year’s Brighton Photo Fringe festival, claims that the fringe festival organisers have asked him to remove three photographs from his series BETTER IN TUNE. See more of the project, here. And follow this link to one of the photos in question.
British Journal of Photography (BJP), news editor, Olivier Laurent and I were contacted by van den Boom yesterday and met him together after the press tour to discuss the situation.
From Laurent over at BJP: “According to the photographer, when the Fringe’s two directors – Helen Cammock and Woodrow Kernohan – visited the exhibition, they asked the photographer to take down four images, which, they argued, were offending to women, claims Van den Boom. “There’s no nudity at all. It might be an unflattering photograph, but doesn’t that mean that it shouldn’t be shown?” he tells BJP and HotShoe. “These are car-babes. The music is loud. It’s not a beautiful world, but the world it’s like it. I’m just documenting it. They say it’s degrading. They say that these images could offend the public, and contact the landlord of the building and make problems.”
“Van den Boom was able to change the director’s mind on one image, which shows scantily-dressed women dancing in front of a crowd of young men. But, says the photographer, “now I have to interfere and implement a non-artistic value into my artistic work. You can say that it’s only three pictures, but that’s 30% of the show. You can say that it doesn’t matter, but I’m the artist. It matters. The way I select my work, the way I hang, it is crucial…”
After talking to van den Boom, Laurent and I sent a joint email to the organisers Helen Cammock and Woodrow Kernohan to ask for confirmation of the allegation and to find out their side of the story. So far, the questions we emailed remain unanswered. I am pasting them in at the end of this post, as we wait. In the meantime, read Laurent’s post over at BJP where he has a news report, and check back here for updates. We’ll be keeping you posted.
The project, according to van den Boom’s website, is: “All about car tuning. The project received a generous grant from the Dutch Foundation of the Visual Arts and the Sem Presser Foundation… and will be exhibited at Brighton Photo Fringe at the Brighton Biennial October 2010.”
Questions from the email: How the decision to pull down the images came about? Who made the decision to pull down these images?
What were the reasons behind that decision?
Specifically, what and how were these images degrading?
Why this pre-emptive move? Shouldn’t the public be allowed to make their own mind about the nature of these images?
Why were the photographer’s suggestion to have a disclaimer shown or to replace these images, while keeping the original layout but with white canvases, rejected?
Our understanding is that Brighton Photo Fringe, apart from two commissions, is self-curated. Can you confirm this? If so, why was this photographer not allowed to show his edit of his work?
Are you commenting on the content of the images or on the way they represent the subject? Are you saying that the photographer degraded the women depicted through the act of photographing them?
Have their been any other instances of this nature? If so, what were the specific reasons given in these cases?
Report by Miranda Gavin and Olivier Laurent.