Standing up for photography as artistic and cultural expression (or not)
As a long time supporter of Nikon equipment I was disappointed to read in last weekend’s NZ Herald, that Nikon had tried to cancel an exhibition by Korean photographer Ahn Sehong about former ‘comfort women’ or sex slaves of the Japanese military in World War 11.
The exhibition only went ahead after the Tokyo District Court issued a ruling ordering the exhibition to proceed. It was held at the Nikon Salon in Tokyo last month, but with restrictions (for example no reporters inside the hall, and the photographer was not allowed to sell photographs).
Nikon apparently told the court it wanted to cancel the show because it was ‘political activity’ but the judge rejected this postition saying photography was a form of artistic and cultural expression.
I would have hoped that Nikon wouldn’t have needed a court to tell it that photography was art, and that it would have stood up for freedom of expression, even if the company was under pressure.
Creating and exhibiting political and controversial photography is difficult both for photographers and institutions. Pressures such as vocal stakeholders, criticism in the media, brand damage, and loss of funding must loom large.
But next time I go to update my camera or buy a new lens I want to know that that I’m buying from a company that stands behind photography as an art form that asks questions and raises issues.
There’s been quite a bit of coverage of the issue on the net. Here are a couple of links:
Here’s a link to a terrific piece about comfort women from Wellington Society of Author’s president Maggie Rainey Smith.