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tsunagaristFeb. 05, 2013 - 05:11PM JST
I really doubt that Kee's publisher would have been worried about obscenity charges. Even if the law talks of mosaic to blur out genitals, this has only really been applied to pornographic material--and artwork and art books are widely considered to fall beyond this frame. Kee was not depicting sexual acts or pornographic settings-- The laws themselves are archaic, and in practice this is just one of those things that people usually seem to turn a blind eye to in recent decades, unless it's a depiction of children or something explicitly sexual. But that's not what this is, effectively. This is explicitly police anxiety about the portrayal of the male nude body, despite the widespread depiction of the fully exposed (and hairy) nude female body in popular magazines and books all over Japan. I am sure it caught the publisher and gallery off guard because these kinds of works and books are now widely published and sold in Japan. Kee is but one of many artists who have been successful in this genre. Go to any art book store in Japan and see for yourself.
Posted in: Renowned photographer Leslie Kee arrested in Japan over obscene photos
tsunagaristFeb. 05, 2013 - 02:40PM JST
@taj-- Leslie Kee is not some back alley photographer shooting pornographic shots. He has major exhibitions in big and major public venues, like Omotesando Hills near Harajuku and Aoyama. He is well known for his amazing portraits of some of Japan's biggest celebrities, including Matsutoya Yumi and many other women. He's also photographed Lady Gaga and other foreign celebrities. Often these celebrities are photographed nude, but the images are not particularly sexual. And even if they are suggestive, it's been definitely on the "art" side of suggestive, rather than some sort of pornographic smut-- displayed in major galleries and sold in very upscale art book shops. More recently he's gotten into shooting male celebrities and ordinary models or guys off the street who happen to be very handsome, and often these shots are nude, too. But there's no difference with what he's been doing for the past decade or more in his work. And in fact this work has also garnered a lot of praise from the gay community in Japan, because they feel he's standing up for their rights and representation, as an openly out, gay artist who tries to express male aesthetic beauty as a counter to all the media saturation of women. But it's ART.
So in response to your question as to whether it would be someone in his promotion retinue, I highly doubt it. The guy is famous enough. He doesn't need some scandal to launch his career. But he's also not ridiculously famous. He's just very popular, well-liked, very accessible, and a very talented photographer. So it's hard not to think they're scapegoating him for something else. And he's been selling these books already for several years as art books. Another article states that the police got the tip from reading his public facebook fan page. And yes, he is Singaporean but he lives in Japan with his partner, and Tokyo is his main base of operation. Deporting him would be devastating to his career and his personal life, too, I'm sure.
tsunagaristFeb. 05, 2013 - 12:28PM JST
And there's a huge Aida Makoto retrospective on right now at the Mori Art Museum in which adolescent girls are depicted naked, maimed, and abused in various sexual poses. There are images of naked women, photographic and non photographic, in every imaginable suggestive pose, and they're also sold at the museum shop. Why isn't Aida being arrested-- his stuff is actually problematic and not done in the same honest kind of spirit that Kee's is. And what of all the art students around Japan who shoot nude photos regularly as part of their creative work? What about the Mapplethorpe books, the Nan Goldin books, the Araki books, the various nude photograph books of men all over this country? What about images of naked men taking baths? This is NORMAL!!!!
This isn't just about porn, it's a crackdown on the eroticization of the male body itself, which is not just homophobic, it's a paranoid move because the patriarchal power base of Japan is feeling sorely threatened by this kind of representation AND the fact that it so popular with the public. And it's ironic, because it was this kind of male erotica that was popular among the same ilk of masculinist elites in Japan up until the early 1900s at least.
In the end I am sure that this will lead to even more male nudity in art and photography actually, just like the famous case against Oshima Nagisa confronted all kinds of themes of nudity and sex in films. Censorship cases like this-- including those against Robert Mapplethorpe or Allen Ginsberg in the US--were actually revolutionary turning points for gay visibility and expression as well. What makes me ache in this case, however, is that Leslie Kee is the nicest guy, a great artist and photographer who does respectful and highly respected work-- and, because he's not Japanese-- they can easily deport him and really ruin his career. Now, if Lady Gaga and Matsutoya Yumi and all those big celebrities who Leslie photographed all rally behind him and shame the Japanese government into rethinking it's stance, then we will really see the beginnings of a gender and sexuality public revolution here that is long overdue.
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