Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Elton John vs Child Pornography Laws

A photograph in the collection of of Sir Elton John has been seized by police from the Baltic Modern, on suspicion it may have breached child pornography laws. The image, which features two young girls one of whom is sitting down with her legs apart, was taken by photographer Nan Goldin for her "Thanksgiving" series. The day before the mini-retrospective (culled from the collection of Elton John, a friend of the artist) was set to open police came and removed the image over fears that it might be breaking the law. It is suspected that an assistant director at the centre alerted the authorities.

The picture is now being examined by lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service.

The offending image does not apear on the Baltic website. Pictured above: Nan Goldin self-portrait, one month after being battered, 1984.

Photographers Sally Mann, Jock Sturges and Robert Mapplethorpe have all faced similar charges. FBI agents raided Sturges' studio in 1990, confiscating his equipment and his work, and alleged he was creating child pornography. That same year an exhibition of Mapplethorpe's photographs resulted in the unsuccessful prosecution of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and its director Dennis Barrie on charges of "pandering obscenity". In 1996 Congress slashed the budget of the NEA, partly in response to the Mapplethorpe controversy. The budget of approximately $180 million was reduced to 99 million. A slight rebound 8 years later reinstated some of the budget and current levels sit around $120 million. The work of Mann, Sturges and Mapplethorpe remain controversial, though coffee-table books of their work are available at chain bookstores everywhere.

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