International photographers have withdrawn their work in protest from a large outdoor exhibition at Sydney’s Vivid festival amid claims of censorship, after 18 of the 35 artists involved had work removed from the show by sponsor Destination NSW for being “threatening to families”.
The exhibit, which is being displayed on a screen near the Museum of Contemporary Art, includes images of dead children, the Granville train accident and the Cronulla riots. South African photographer Jodi Beiber has withdrawn her entire body of work after having a picture of a bare-breasted woman removed, telling ABC, “If I look at all the photographs that are not allowed to be shown, I feel that there’s a huge censorship.”
Vivid festival organisers are saying there’s no censorship going on – rather, some images just aren’t appropriate for screening in a public place where children might see them. The festival’s creative director, Ignatius Jones, suggested that Vivid may be legally prevented from displaying the confronting images, saying, “I would say to them to look at the laws and bylaws in New South Wales regarding what can be shown in a public precinct, a public park with fully unrestricted public access.”
But photographer Andrew Quilty, who had 30 images depicting the aftermath of an Australian bushfire removed, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the removal was about cultivating an image. “[Destination NSW] is an organisation that is trying to sell their product, which is NSW. They have an idea on how they want it depicted. [They are] denying the public one person’s interpretation of that.”
The works are being shown in full at other indoor exhibits.