Saturday, October 11, 2008

America: Printed in China, Censored in China

OK, as I worked on the book one HUGE problem came up. Not a little problem. A problem that could have prevented this edition from being published at all. The book was censored by the printer. Not the publisher, but the actual printer refused to print two nude images. So the book is complete, and about to go on press and I get a call that they refuse to print the two nude images. Not an editorial decision with the publisher, but the actual printing press that's been reserved for printing will not print the two nude photos. This presented a tremendous dilemma, because if the publisher, AMMO, moved it to a different printer, the book would be pushed back 6 months... which was actually a big, big problem for me because I wanted to book to be out right around the election, the timing was central to the publication of the book and was a part of the working process in the production of the book and how I was thinking about the image choices.

If you know me, you know that I WAS LOSING MY FUCKING MIND. First of all, refusing to print a photo of a penis is what was happening. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I was, and am, furious. There's no need delve further into what's wrong with this entire situation, it's obvious. There's approximately 150 million men in the United States and I'm going to venture a guess that the great majority of them have penises... but the 3 penises that were visible in the book were 3 too many for the printer.

Not just the flow, but the meaning of the book was going to be changed if the two photos came out. And who the fuck is anyone to tell me what's in my book? Unfuckingbelievable. Even typing this now, I am filled with tremendous anger... and genuine bafflement. And in truth, it's not just the principle that was making me ready to kill, the ordering was laid out in a way so that each photo weighed a lot, and the two nude photos are very, very important in the creation of a narrative about America.

You can't imagine the extraordinarily difficult and painful deliberation as I went over every fucking scenario during the two day period when the decision had to be made. After all was said, and believe me you, there was A LOT said, I decided that the first edition could be published to coincide with the election, without the two nude photos, and that I would make the photos available at full size, high resolution, for people to download. I will send out the hi-res photos to my email list and I hope to make them available on my gallery's website and encourage all to print them out and keep them with the book. I went over and over and over the order without the photos and felt very strongly that the book was rock solid and should get out at election time, and have hopes that the ensuing discourse regarding the censorship will be important to my process, as well as to the understanding the human body is regarded, how the male body is regarded and how the male nude is still considered taboo. Friends, while I am familiar with the patriarchal structure of the Western art canon I am honesty shocked that a pecker is consider so offensive that a Chinese printing press REFUSES TO PRINT A MALE NUDE. Seriously, shocked.

Part of what made me make peace with the idea of the first edition being published without the photos is that I hope people will see that this book is a detail of I-95 just as the individual photos are. And that it's a part of my big project, something that's a wider scope.

Here's what I said in the introduction

"...I’ve incorporated some of the stories of the people I have photographed in the book. I was a
little hesitant to include text about how these photos came about because I want the viewer
to make their own narrative about these images without any descriptive text; the images
are really meant to be seen without captions. But the more I thought about the importance
of transparency in the project, along with my interest in demystifying the process of how
the photos are made, and how in so many ways this book is a work in progress, it seemed
appropriate to talk about the images."

Ironically, the one photo I discussed in the entire introduction is one of the censored photos. I did a last second rewrite to reflect the absence. Of course, during the multitude of discussions of what I could do, my preference was to have text on the pages where the images was removed with something like "THIS IMAGE CENSORED BY PRINTER." This would have changed the tenor of the book, but would open up a completely new discussion of what imagery is found "indecent." The printer refused to have any acknowledgement or reference to their censorship.

Here's from the intro...

"...I made a photo that came from a second meeting that I was unable to include in this book, of two
guys showing their tattooed penises. One of the men in that photo was someone who I had
met the year before on Broad Street at the [Mummers] parade, and he showed me that his
penis was tattooed with the Harley-Davidson logo and I made a few photos of him. I saw him
the next year at the parade and was super excited and thanked him for letting me make his
photo. I told him how great it was that he would let me make such an intimate photo of him
on the street, and then he blew my mind by telling me he was with another guy in the brigade
who also had his penis tattooed with a Harley-Davidson logo, which led to a photo of both of
them showing their tattooed penises. It was great moment, and one that told a lot
about America."


As an aside, when I heard that the book was being printed in China, I really wrestled with it. But I found that the idea behind a book of photographs about being American, that's TITLED America, being printed in China spoke directly to the absence of industry that I hoped to address... it was the reality of the two false factories I had included, the cinderblocks in Chicago and the salt pile in Camden. I actually wanted to change the title to America: Printed in China, which would have been awesome, but felt that it was too specific to the scope of photos in the book.

More later on this. For right now, feel free to click on these images and print them out at the exact size they were intended to be shown in America. Bushes in Front of Tech School Door is a diptych with Man Nude on Bed, so that one went too.

Tattooed Penises was intended to be shown next to Wildwood Rollercoaster.

Print them at 6.75" x 10.16"


CENSORED man on stairs nude reclining

Click here for full size of photo above

CENSORED bushes in front of door tech school

Click here for full size of photo above

CENSORED showing tattooed penises_1

Click here for full size of photo above


Pettibon said...

I'll draw em' in for ya

ruben said...

So Sorry about the ignorance still prevailing in the world.

I still dont' get the penis envy thing that men have against each other.

Get the book out girl, don't let that stop you!

jonathan_lipkin said...

In my book, Prentice-Hall censored a picture of two people having sex, and the woody allen joke: "Hey, don't knock masturbation. It's sex with someone I love.'

Meg said...

News flash: Yes, photos of penises are censored in China. LGBT websites are censored in China. Websites with life-saving AIDS information are censored in China. And AIDS activist Hu Jia is currently serving a 3 1/2 year prison sentence.

sexy said...