Originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 20 October, 2010. Written by: Christine Kellett.
An Australian photographer whose pictures of breastfeeding women have been banned from Facebook says the social networking site is wrong to appoint itself arbiter of what constitutes art.
Melbourne-based art dealer and photographer Christopher Rimmer travelled to Africa to shoot pictures for an upcoming exhibition documenting the continent’s western aspirations, their affect on Africa’s natural environment and tribal culture.
Tribal Himba, who have featured in the pages of National Geographic and are popular attractions on the African tourist trail through northern Namibia where they live, have worn loincloths and covered their naked bodies in ocre body paint “probably for centuries” Mr Rimmer said.
“I find it absolutely absurd that anybody would consider those pictures offensive in any way.
“To suggest they are pornographic or gratuitous is quite unbelievable. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would suggest it.”
Mr Rimmer spent five months with the tribe and said all of the women in the pictures gave their consent.
“They were up for five days and not a single person complained about them,” he said.
“The comments I had were positive.
“I suspect we are moving into unfamiliar territory when an organisation the size of Facebook acts as an arbiter of what constitutes art and what constitutes pornography, especially considering some of the material and language they do allow.”
Banning the pictures sexualised the women in them, which was never his intention, Mr Rimmer said.
“I am deeply offended that my work has been deemed pornographic.
“These were lovely people, fantastic people who allowed me to spend time with them. I’m offended for them.”
Strangely, he said website administrators had allowed him to keep his Facebook profile picture, which features a topless Himba woman carrying a child on her back.
The company does not allow “content that is hateful, threatening or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence,” it said in a statement.
Mr Rimmer said he would sent Facebook’s billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg a signed print of one of the pictures that had been removed.
“I hope that he deems the work inoffensive enough to hang on his wall,” he said.