Last week, yet another nude photo shoot leaked onto the Chinese internet, this time from Dali’s Erhai Lake. Apparently, Xinhua has had just about enough of this new national pastime and decided to do something about by writing an editorial.
First, some context. The pictures featuring a naked woman with long black-hair hit Weibo last Thursday. The woman in the photographs says that she was posing for own individual and “artistic” project. Before taking off her clothes, she and her photographer made sure that there was absolutely no one around; unfortunately for her there was — her driver, who secretly snapped some photos and later uploaded them online, creating quite the buzz.
Somehow, someway, these kinds of photo shoots always seem to end up on Weibo, whether they were taken in the Forbidden City or beside a remote Tibetan Lake, inside an IKEA or on the streets of Dali (again). Once their work has been exposed for all to see, most photographers and models argue that were merely exercising their own creativity and trying to create some “art.”
In appropriately-titled editorial 挡不住的裸？– 公开场合拍裸照，这样的艺术自由有点low — or as in our rough English translation Is Nudity unstoppable? — Public nude photography, this kind of artistic freedom is pretty “low” — Xinhua journalist Hou Wenkun briefly summarizes this whole saga and throws in his own opinion. He also talks with a lawyer, a local and a scholar to back up his views on the subject. Since there is quite a bit to translate, here is a brief summary of the journalist’s opinion;
Under the shield of “artistic freedom,” pictures showing public nudity have become more prevalent in society. Kunming lawyer Li Chengcai believes that the reason behind performing these indecent acts in public is that people’s thoughts are becoming more progressive and the way that they express their feelings is becoming more direct. However, one must caution that some people do not care how others feel. They have no common sense, are deficient in civil values and lack basic knowledge of the law.
Artistic creations must have a bottom line. Did the people who took nude pictures in public ever think about respecting local customs and culture? Dali local Shi Huaiji said that artistic creations must not offend the prevalent social order, nor harm public interests. Our country’s traditional moral values and present social order does not permit nude photography in public areas.
This so-called “artistic freedom” cannot become the shield to override public order. “Some people lack self discipline, responsibility and the ability to judge what is right and wrong…” [scholar] Li Chengwei stated.
For those who can read Chinese, you can read the whole spiel here.
This intriguing commentary has divided the country into two opposing camps, those who think public nude photos can be considered as art and those who do not. A large number of netizens supported the journalist’s stance:
“I really don’t understand, why does nudity equal art?”
“If being naked is art, then everyone is an artist when taking a shower!”
Some suggested that nude photos are essentially pornography:
“Porn is porn, don’t equate it with art.”
“What’s the difference [between this] and Japanese AV porn? Even primitive people had the decency to cover up their private parts with leaves.”
However, others defended the nude photographers and hit back at the critics:
“Why do people think being naked is disgusting?”
“Actually, humans are just animals, but they always see themselves as the kings of the land. They shouldn’t be covered up, but blend in with nature. This is true beauty.”
Meanwhile, some put the blame on the guy who had sneakily taken and uploaded the nude pictures:
“There is no problem in taking these photos in private. What makes me angry is the guy who uploaded the stuff online. These private things shouldn’t have been made public [in the first place].”
“Don’t a lot of foreign statues and murals feature naked bodies? The creator didn’t force you to look [at the photographs], nor had the intent to distribute them illegally. On what grounds can you claim [the model] is responsible? Why not accuse the guy who had sneakily taken and uploaded [the nude photos] instead?”
One particular commentator vented his frustration at Xinhua for kicking up a fuss over nude pictures when there are more important topics they could be editorializing about:
“[Look at how] irresponsible Xinhua is. They don’t care about what actually matters. [For example, there are] typhoons in Fujian province and rivers flooding. Stop hiding them [from the public]!”
On the other hand, some netizens poked fun at all the prudes online:
“To tell you the truth, with China’s level of culture, most people would only see this as pornography!! Because our perception of sexuality is too backward!!”
“To tell you the truth, this is [the model’s] freedom. It is said that she had cleared the scene to avoid affecting other people. However, the guy who had sneakily snapped pictures of them and posted them online, as well as those prudish critics are pretty “low'”
Perhaps the most sarcastic of all is one making fun of the article’s title:
“In China, lots of art has been described as “low”, so in the end what [type of art] is actually “low”?”
We’ll let you judge.
By Arnie Yung
[Images via Sina Weibo]