March 19th, 2012

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.