John Midgley’s Altered Image: Reasonable Caution, or Outrageous Censorship?

©John Midgley

Have the morality police chilled artistic expression, or does this image by John Midgley–which appears on an APA promo for a talk by the fashion and celebrity photographer–violate the standards of public decency without the alteration?

Midgley is scheduled to give a talk called “Memory: Journey’s of Fiction and Fantasy” at the Apple Store at 7 p.m. today. The talk is part of the Image Maker Lecture Series sponsored by APA New York, and Midgley provided the image, undoctored, so APA could promote his talk via e-mail blasts.

According to Midgley, APA New York regional director Jocelyn Zucker told him the image wasn’t acceptable because of the boy’s nudity. “We might shock someone with a naked little boy’s penis, or do some other greater damage,” says Midgley, apologizing for his cynicism. He adds, “The puritanism drives me a little crazy sometimes.”

Zucker says, “As per our agreement with Apple, all lectures and the images presented must be ‘family friendly’ – no nudity or swearing, etc. This is not a concern on APA’s behalf; we would enjoy being able to present more controversial content, however, the Apple lectures are not the proper venue. John made the decision to use that image and censor it, rather than select a different image for the promo.”

Midgley ended up not only covering the boy’s penis, but defacing his own image.

“It wasn’t really meant to be a form of protest, it was ‘Well, if I censor the offending bits could that work?’” he explains. “So I did it quickly and in hindsight, badly. Next thing I know it’s up there [in an APA promotion.] And in a way I think subconsciously I was so pissed that it is a form of protest. It [the objection to nudity] is ridiculous and so is the censorship I imposed.”

Information about Midgley’s talk this evening is posted here (without the image) on APA’s web site.

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4 Responses to “John Midgley’s Altered Image: Reasonable Caution, or Outrageous Censorship?”

  1. Mark Sperry Says:

    American prudishness prevails always.

  2. Kim Says:

    Its got nothing to do with prudishness, and everything to do with perverts wanking off to a nude child. It is not necessary to create images with impact using any nudity at all. This image sucks anyways. If one cannot create impact without it then you need to reevaluate career. How about originality? Little children’s bits and pieces are so cliche. Heres an idea, have both women naked (after getting their consent and model release), and having the little boy dressed? I’m all for free speech. And yes it is different when photographing a child nude if its a candid home photo.

  3. Michael Says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Americans could get their collective panties in a knot about, say, killing people by the thousands on the other side of the world, instead of bare skin? But it’s so much easier to be a prude.

    THAT is perversion, Kim.

  4. Royal Says:

    I see nothing wrong with the image, and whether someone masturbates to the image is not the concern of the photographer. (I wonder what Kim thinks about people masturbating to pictures of clothed people. Should we then ban those photos?)

    It’s been 21 years since Nirvana released the album Nevermind, and that album’s cover featuring a naked, swimming boy has been reproduced on countless posters in record shops and bedrooms across the nation. While debating with the label over the cover, Cobain had suggested putting a label over the child’s penis that read “If you’re offended by this you’re a pedophile.”

    It’s time American culture finally grew up and released that the naked body is not shameful, nor is it in and of itself a sexual thing. This image is clearly not taken with the intent to titillate or exploit, and the protection of free speech is more important than not offending the feelings of prudes.