Artist Interview: Facebook Censored Photographer Gracie Hagen’s New Book

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If you were following us back in December, you may remember a post we did about Gracie Hagen‘s project, “Illusions of the Body.” This proved our most popular post to date, and was even flagged and banned by Facebook as inappropriate, something I covered in a separate post. Since the December post, Hagen has finished putting a book together of full color images of the project, including 17 never before released images. The book is available for pre-order on sale for $50 (regularly $60) to be shipped on May 1st, and each advance purchase will be numbered and signed by Hagen. What better way to show your support of work like Hagen’s, work that shouldn’t be censored by social media just because it features nude bodies, than to own your very own collection of these powerful images?  Hagen was able to answer a few questions about the ban and her work via email.

Censored Pornography That Oozes An Uncomfortable Eroticism

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After searching through the deepest corners of the internet pornography universe, the South African mixed media artist Von Brandis blanked out the carnal content in an attempt to reinterpret sexual imagery. The project, titled “Obscene Interiors” somehow heightens the voyeuristic thrust of the erotic images; behind a shield of white, sexual activities become more mysterious and forbidden, forcing the viewer to examine the images with more self-consciousness than the original porn might elicit.

The series also works to redefine the erotic. As blanked-out figures magically flatten and morph into a single two-dimensional being, signs of intercourse and movement disappear. In contrast to the white-out bodies, which often appear to be pasted onto the photographs, the space of the pornography sets do indeed become the “obscene” photographic content, inviting the eye to penetrate their depths. The pornographic subject becomes the interior itself: the cheesy bedding, the slightly parted curtain, a glistening clock radio, a stained rug.

The images, if slightly dehumanized by their alterations, maintain their intense sexual charge; the off-kilter frame suggests movement within the room, an amateur pornographer’s fast and anxious shots. Shadows billow from the white shapes, hinting at the breath, dimension and passions of the human form.

The series, with its censorship, paradoxically becomes more suggestive and uncomfortable. Forced to consider the erotic impulse and visual fetishization, the viewer cannot help but feel awkward about our engagement with the porn. In this way, this powerful piece touches on contemporary debates about the medium: is porn a healthy, natural human activity, or is it objectifying and morally ambiguous? What do you think? (via Lost at E Minor)

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Is it Time to Audit the Auditors? Why Facebook Blocked Our Most Popular Post To Date (NSFW)

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Last week, we published our most viral post to date: Nude Bodies Transform From Flattering To Unflattering With Slight Shift In Pose (NSFW). After gaining momentum on Facebook and accruing a considerable amount of traffic, we were notified that the post violated Facebook’s Community Standards. The (incredibly vague) policy states,

“Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved. We also impose limitations on the display of nudity. We aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo’s David or family photos of a child breastfeeding.”

Should this apply to nudes that are part of an artistic endeavor, or “content of personal importance,” such as Gracie Hagen’s photographs (featured above)? Why has Facebook never flagged any other post of ours, others of which also feature a comparable amount of nudity (featured below)?

It’s safe to assume that our post was targeted because it received viral Facebook exposure, inviting the scrutiny of many Facebook users who may or may not recognize nudity’s artistic value – any Facebook user can flag a post as inappropriate and subject that post to the review of Facebook’s moderators. Who are Facebook’s moderators? They are (unsurprisingly) employees who are outsourced to 3rd world countries, where they typically receive around $1/hour for the work of wading through what is sure to be the dirtiest and unsettling parts of the internet. Once a moderator receives a flagged post, they can confirm it’s a violation, dismiss it, or escalate it. (Escalation is reserved for posts that could be illegal or are remarkably insidious). Moderators are to follow a detailed guidebook, first uncovered by Gawker, which specifically states, “Art nudity ok” with regard to nudity on Facebook. (Though experience suggests Facebook may only consider illustrations and sculptures of nudes okay.)

The Dutch Use Abstraction To Creatively Censor Sensitive Google Maps Images

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The advent of Google maps was eventful for the general public – it became the first time most of us had access to these views of earth.  However, it also turned out to be problematic for some governements.  Some governments obscure areas they deem too sensitive to appear on Google maps.  This is generally done by simple blurring or covering an area with a white or black box.  In his series Dutch Landscapes, Mishka Henner presents the unique censorship of the Dutch countryside.  The Dutch forgo simpler censorship methods for a strangely attractive one.  Variously shaped and colored polygons cover sites the government would rather keep off the map.  Inadvertently (or perhaps intentionally) the Dutch government abstracts the landscape in way that fits in well with an artistic tradition.