Is This Photographer Creating Art Or Child Porn?

Photo: Jock Sturges
photography
Sex, Family

Where do you draw the line between art and pornography?

American photographer Jock Sturges has stirred up controversy once again. It's a state that he's well familiar with, but this time it's Russia who's censoring his work.

Sturges shoots much of his work around nudist beaches in France and Northern California, and his most frequent subjects have been adolescent girls.

Some people believe that his work is thinly disguised underage pornography, as they have an undeniably erotic quality. 

Here's are examples of his work:

All photos: Jock Sturges​

This isn't the first time Sturges has come under attack. In 1991, his photos were seized by the FBI when a film developer thought they were pornographic. The charges were dropped when a federal grand jury refused to indict him.

In 1998, his books inspired protesters, lead by Randall Terry, to rip out pages of Sturges' books right in the bookstores. And in two cases (both in the South), protesters managed to convince prosecutors to indict Barnes and Noble on pornography and obscenity charges.

In 2006, Sturges put his portfolio on the site Photo.net. He lasted less than a month before being asked to remove his images.

Now, Russia has censored his work by taking steps to erase it from the Russian Internet. Russia's media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, views Sturges' work as child pornography, and their awareness of his work may feed the censorship fire that's already burning there.

But Russian law is inconsistent on what qualifies as objectionable material. 

The country has previously banned a Halloween makeup tutorial on YouTube and a cartoony PSA on Australian railway safety, called Dumb Ways To Die, on the grounds that the videos allegedly promote suicide.

Russian laws also maintain a notorious anti-homosexual propaganda law to ostensibly protect children from being exposed to alternative lifestyles; in short, anything conveying any information about homosexuality is illegal.

This isn't just about the interpretation of artistic versus pornography, homosexuality and suicide; this is about the limiting of free speech and artistic expression.

Note: We have cropped these images from their original versions.