Social media was already the bane of my existence, but now it was influencing the work that I was producing, and not in a good way.
Censorship has been a hot button issue in this country, and around the world, for many years, but often the most effective forms there of go by unnoticed. Lee Nutter opens our eyes.
Your censorship series has a caption that directly targets
Facebook. Are they really the main reason you started the series? Tell us about it.
I was once half way through a shoot when I found myself looking for a ‘Facebook Friendly’ shot. It wasn’t the kind of shot I would have previously looked for, but I knew if I wanted to share my work, it was the one I needed to take. Social media was already the bane of my existence, but now it was influencing the work that I was producing, and not in a good way. All of a sudden I was profoundly aware of the impact that Facebook and social media was having on not just myself, but every single person using it. Literally, a thousand times more people are affected by Facebook’s nudity policy every day than were denied access to Henry Miller’s books when they were banned in the US in 1934. (1.23 BILLION People use Facebook every day vs. 126 million people in the United States in 1934. Source:
…In 1934, when the American government prevented access to works of art because of alleged obscenity, people came together and fought the decision in court, but in 2015 people sit by and let Facebook dictate the kind of artwork that a fifth of the population of the planet can and cannot see when they flick through their Facebook feed trying to keep up with the goings on in the world.
As for the direction my personal little protest has taken, I’d seen too many beautiful pictures ruined when the artists censored them so they could share them with their friends, family and followers online. Big black censor bars are an ugly afterthought, and models who have had the ‘offensive’ parts of their anatomy blurred out are left looking alien. Carefully placed emoji are distracting and tacky. People don’t think ‘oh that would look great if it wasn’t censored.’ The censored piece becomes the person’s work. There had to be a better way.
Though it is time consuming and expensive, working with prints allows me to be off the computer, and though it doesn’t work with every picture I take, I can often work the censorship into the composition, and in doing so create an entirely new piece of art. Something that stands on its own, I’m left with a work that I’m proud of, that I can share with my friends and family who rarely wander outside of the sterile gated community that is Facebook. Most importantly, I don’t need to self-censor when shooting, as I know I can come back later and create a new Facebook Friendly version of the original composition. And I still have the uncensored photograph to share on less puritanical platforms too.
Satirical censorship aside, you do employ self-censorship in some of your photos using shadows and particular poses. How do you decide how much to include/exclude in each photo?
That’s the most frustrating thing. I don’t consider it self-censorship; I just like to tell a particular story. The most explicit shots I’ve ever taken are intentionally provocative ‘Facebook Friendly’ shots that were only ever taken to show the ridiculousness of Facebook’s policies. All my other pictures are intended to suggest, not make explicit. One of my favorite quotes is from Robert Aitken Roshi. He said, “Our job is not to clear up the mystery, it is to make the mystery clear.” I’ve never wanted to clear up any mysteries.
You seem quite comfortable shooting in black and white. I have noticed this as a trend amongst fine art nude photographers. Is there a special relationship between this genre and b&w?
I can’t speak for other nude photographers, but outside of just an aesthetic preference, there are lots of reasons why I prefer to work in black and white. The most important two reasons are seemingly contradictory.
The first is that I hope to create something of a story with my photographs, and that story is usually a mostly fictional one. Our reality is three-dimensional and in full color. My photographs are two dimensional, and in black and white. Perhaps this disconnect, and the missing information, might encourage a viewer to fill in the blanks, creating their own story that might not have anything to do with the story I intended, but one that nevertheless helps them engage with and enjoy the picture.
But on the flip side, we’re becoming more and more skeptical of the ultra realistic photographs we see around us. Anyone that can use a computer can modify a photograph, but darkroom trickery remains something of a dark art to most, so the black and white photographs of yesteryear seem somehow more authentic than the colorful high-resolution digital equivalents we have today. Perhaps in 2015 a black and white photograph, especially one shot on film, is somehow more believable, and therefore any story it implies so much easier to swallow.
The transfers are something new for me. Could you tell us a bit about them, technically and artistically?
The transfers were an experiment. I do a lot of journaling, and write a lot about my photographs, but when I stuck my photos alongside the writing, I disliked the way my journal grew fat and lumpy. Being a perfectionist sucks.
I had seen Polaroid transfers in the past and really liked the effect, so set out to see if I could replicate the process without resorting to re-photographing my work with expensive Polaroids. After playing with various different papers, printers and processes, I discovered a somewhat affordable and reasonably efficient way of melting off the top layer from certain prints and transferring it to my journal. It allowed me to stick my photos beside the writing, and didn’t bulk up the journal in the process.
I liked the effect so much that I started looking for shots that would suit it, and eventually amassed quite a collection! It’s lucky something came of it, because I gave up on transferring them into the journal, and resorted back to pasting pictures haphazardly onto the page.
The cinemagraphs are a lot of fun, but how do they fit into your body of work outside the Internet?
Great question! At first they were just that, a bit of fun, but I’m toying with the idea of an exhibition, and if all goes to plan, they won’t be left out.
As we were trying to promote this article on our FB page with the image published below, FB rejected the promotion stating that it was showing too much nudity… we personally believe there is absolutely nothing offensive about this image. (Lee, obviously, has a point)
1/17/2016 5pm EST
We tried again with a cropped image the showed no nudity at all… and the promotion was rejected again. This is way too much control on what we can or cannot see.