Tag Archives: Herman van den Boom

Herman van den Boom responds to Brighton Photo Fringe 2010 statement over removed photos

There have been some new developments. Over the weekend, further discussions between the Brighton Photo Fringe festival organisers and van den Boom took place regarding the removal of three of his photos from his Better In Tune series.

It is easy in these situations for things to become conflated and confused so I will reflect on all that has been said regarding this situation and will write a post looking at exactly what the implications are as there are quite a few aspects to separate out and consider. In the meantime, I have requested to see the contracts that have been signed by photographers taking part both in the Fringe and Biennial with the ‘department store’ building where work is being shown.

For now, here’s his reply.

Herman van den Boom replies:

First of all, I want to express my feelings that I am very unhappy with this situation.

A controversy like this is the last thing I expected to happen about some of my pictures and certainly not in the context of a serious photo festival. And not in the least that I have or had the intention of attracting away the attention of other shows or artists nor did I want to discredit the festival and festival curators. I saw all the shows yesterday and today and I was impressed by the quality and innovative choice that is to be seen and experienced. It is a wonderful festival with a very high quality of work, exactly as I expected.

I exhibited at international important festivals like Fotofest Houston, the Biennial of Moscow, the photo festivals of Lodz in Poland, the New York Photo Festival etc and I can assure that Brighton Photo Fringe is one of the major events one should visit.

That’s why I was so “surprised” by the “things” that happened, I never experienced such a confrontation in my life. Thinking about this “event” the last days, I come probably to another conclusion than I did before.

Certainly there was a big misunderstanding from both sides about the other party’s artistic vision and position. One really can say that there was a kind of small clash of civilisations. We do things differently, not necessarily better or worse, and the English do things differently also, not necessarily better or worse. I come to this realisation because I live in Belgium and we have these kind of “confrontations” all the time the clash between the Flemish and the Walons. There, I’m aware and used to it and deal with it, here I didn’t expect it and didn’t see it.

Things, words and meanings can be completely differently read and understood and interpreted.

Realising this and thinking this over, I can say that I made a show which was perfect for a continental audience but inappropriate for a British audience.

I realise that in Britain there is a complete different emotional relationship between the arts, the artists and the public. A building contractor renting out his building to an art show would never, wouldn’t even dare, let an art festival sign a contract about moral issues.

Here they do and nobody takes notice, in Holland Belgium Germany, France the company would be lynched by the media and the artists!! And so for the curatorial staff!

Was this then censorship?

Yes, from my point of view and coming from my artistic upbringing and environment.

No, from the point of view from PhotoFringe because they brought in their skills and know how to bring my work in the best way possible they thought to the British audience. And, as I pointed out before, Gordon McDonald is an excellent curator and editor.

It really was a pity that we didn’t get into a more intellectual discussion but that it all became focused on one aspect, namely the contract, and that therefore things escalated in a way I don’t feel comfortable with.

One thing I learned is that, if I might have in the future another exhibition in Britain I make a special British version.

Herman van den Boom

Photo censorship controversy at Brighton Photo Fringe as photographer claims festival asks him to remove photos

©Miranda Gavin, Herman van den Boom

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.”

© Herman van den Boom, photo installation of van den Boom's work before he was asked to remove photos

© Herman van den Boom, photo installation of Boom's work after he was asked to remove photos

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