“I write to you as a photographer who has been silenced, and on behalf of all fellow artists who have been harassed, censored and removed by Instagram for sharing artwork that aims to provoke and challenge the viewer.”
AdeY’s Letter to Instagram on October 6th, 2017
Who decides what is appropriate and inappropriate? In our modern world, we face several contradictions and double standards in terms of what we believe and deem to be acceptable. We boast the fact that we are the most open society regarding sexuality, yet we continue to have underlying ideas that prove our claims to be wrong. We talk about sex, yet the sight of a naked body is shocking to us. This last statement is almost always in regards to the male figure. Recently, Instagram removed the account of choreographer and photographer AdeY for the third time. What sort of controversial or explicit image did this artist upload? Well it featured three male models, but not in a sexualized or even explicit manner.
We had the chance to interview AdeY prior to this event and spoke about his artistic narrative, censorship, and the contradictions that come with our current society’s invisible sexism and homophobia. This cape of invisibility implies how these attitudes have always existed but only that now we pretend they don't exist. There are all these conversations going on that create the illusion that we have evolved into a more transparent world. Yet there are still plenty of anchors keeping us from reaching true enlightenment.
“Even though the world is connected like never before we are being held back from real change and equality because of the people who are in positions of power.”
“I would say my focus as an artist is to create a fictitious world that shows the beauty of difference, whilst highlighting the need for change within current societies.”
I also asked AdeY on his thoughts regarding how media and society find it acceptable to look at female bodies as public objects. Nobody blinks an eye at a nude statue or painting as long as the protagonist is a woman. This extends also to advertising and other mediums that also use particular bodies to present a message but are “horrified” at ever being presented with a male nude or even a hint of nudity.
“I think within popular culture and marketing this is very true. Women’s bodies must be soft, sensual, sexy, vulnerable and feminine for the viewer to objectify. Whereas the male body must strong, dominant and masculine but never vulnerable.”
In AdeY’s letter to Instagram regarding the censorship and removal of his account, the artist explained:
“It’s clear for many people the double standards that exist and are promoted on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. You do not have to look far to find accounts with hundreds of thousand or even millions of followers who regularly post images that sexualise, objectify and degrade in the majority of cases, women. How can a picture of a woman with her legs spread and child’s teddy bear covering her genitals be acceptable whilst my image of 2 men embracing in a hug cannot? Could sexism, sponsorship, marketing and homophobia have anything to do with it?”
One of the main double standards I find is the fact that for a generation who claims to embrace diversity in both gender and sexuality, male sensuality continues to be a taboo. And considering, how the images that have resulted in AdeY’s censorship have almost always been about men embracing vulnerability, I can’t help but believe that this might be true.
In the letter he explains:
“Since joining Instagram I have been blessed with having some of the most wonderful and humbling words said to me that gave me so much focus and drive to create my work. In stark contrast, however, I have endured a continuous, and almost daily, bombardment of homophobic, racism and hateful comments that show Instagram is certainly not the safe haven you want it to be. Even though I reported and blocked many of these users I’m almost positive that the majority are still active users of your platform.”
When we asked about whether male sensuality was a modern taboo:
“I receive so many hate and homophobic messages when I post an image of men embracing that it has become the norm for me. It’s a taboo that is holding men back from exploring so many more sides of themselves.”
However, it’s not only the digital world and social media that attempts to censor the artist. Aside from his work in Sweden, where the photographer resides, he also travels to different places for his work.
“In other countries I visit, one of the biggest problems can be finding locations where models can run around naked without the fear of being reported or arrested. So far the worst that has happened is getting shouted at or having to avoid security guards on the hunt for us.”
Most of us would be disheartened when witnessing these constant setbacks and prohibitions. However, Adey continues to demonstrate how his vision and esthetic go beyond the beautiful. Through art, the artist is trying to hold up a mirror to contemporary society regarding prejudice, repression, and restrictions. Because, if an image of two men embracing is enough for the artist to be blocked from social media, what does that mean for two men embracing on any street of the world?
“I’m inspired by the models I shoot and my own acknowledgement of feeling outside of the mainstream. My works are about equality, love, connection, acceptance, and breaking down stigmas associated with same sex relationships.”
There are several other artists who are also fighting against censorship and social standards on what bodies should be shown. One continues on the theme of the taboo of male sensuality, while another artist attempts to change the way we judge women’s bodies.