A few days ago, one of my students from the self-portrait workshop that I teach, told the class about the traumatic experience that it meant for her that one of her photographs was censored by the Instagram platform. It was a very subtle nude self-portrait – his silhouette against the light, in an empty space and artistically conceived to denote loneliness – that, nevertheless, violated the rigid norms of the social network on the subject. From the surprise of having lost the material contained in her account, my student went to the discomfort and humiliation of having been limited in what she considers her right to expression.
This is not an unusual fact: for Instagram, as for most of the most popular social networks, a nude is a nude and can be considered offensive, no matter the intention with which it was taken or the subjective element it may symbolize. It insists on the protection of users and, above all, on the need that the network in question does not detract from its essential objective – whatever it may be – through images or content that may harm the susceptibility of a potentially sensitive public. However, most of today’s social networks seem to forget that behind all content (and above all, all material sensitive or not to opinion, susceptible or not to censorship) there is a user and a very specific story.
A fact of censorship, whatever its origin and reason, is automatic. Aggression has a very tough connotation not only on an intellectual but also on an emotional level. My student insists that the entire circumstance – from the fact that her account was deleted to being directly censored – affected her in such a profound way that it even affected her photographic work. Overwhelmed and bewildered, she stopped self-portraying and began photographing in an increasingly impersonal way, until finally, she simply stopped taking it entirely. When she reflects on this, she admits that she did not stop photographing (herself) only because of the fact that her Instagram account had been closed, but because of the concrete fact of feeling that her work and perception of herself had been directly violated. “I felt mutilated, affected on many levels by the fact of having been censored. I stopped photographing myself because I couldn’t overcome the feeling of emptiness that censorship produced in me. As if I had lost a very deep and consistent idea of myself. Part of my identity ”.
Perhaps the reaction seems excessive, until it is analyzed that for each photographer a photograph is a very direct expression of his opinion and way of understanding the world. For Oriana, it was not just a photograph that was erased, but a message that was silenced. Although it can be argued that Instagram is only a social platform, the images they contain have a personal, emotional, concrete meaning. An unrepeatable visual document. And censorship, with all its restrictive burden, not only destroys the end result of what the message evokes – the photograph itself – but the symbol that is constructed, the idea that is understood through it.
Source: The Huffington Post
Original publication 20 April, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 7th May 2020
Reference to an article does not infer endorsement of any views expressed.