Culture ministry grapples with nude photography dispute

Several photographers have voiced their opposition to a new Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism circular that bans artists and models from nude photography, saying that they would ignore the circular.


Forbidden fruit by Thai Phien

Circular 1 on how to implement Decree 15 released on March 15, which was supposed to deal with issues in the entertainment business, but it has raised much debate.

The circular stated that artists, models and beauty pageant entrants were banned from being photographed or recorded nude or in ‘inappropriate’ clothes or even makeup.

There was also a ban included in the circular on deliberately or accidentally spreading such images.

Nude photography has been debated for a long time because of the inability of state agencies to work out the difference between pornographic and artistic photos. Images of nude stars have also been at the centre of several scandals.

Even though the authorities held an online meeting with artists in Hanoi, Danang and HCM City on April 20 to discuss this difference, nothing was resolved and the authorities refused to change the circular while the artists refused to recognise the guiding circular.


Red Sunset by Thai Phien

Photographer Dung Art said, "I think this circular violates personal rights of the models and the photographers and even viewers."

When being asked what would happen when the circular took effect on May 15, Dung said the photographers probably would have to check whether the models were popular or not.

According to him, nude photography has always been unfairly marginalised, and now it will be even more undercover.

"Artwork is kept locked up," he said. "The space for artistic expression through nude photographer is already very limited so what's this circular aimed at? They previously said artistic nude photos could be given permits for exhibition but I know the reality is different, so this circular is meaningless."

Photographer Thai Phien agreed. He said there were obviously artistic and non-artistic nude photos.

He said there was no disagreement over banning poorly conceived or pornographic photos, so why were the authorities specifically naming artists, models and beauty pageant entrants?

"The authorities are still unable to distinguish artistic nude photos and pornography. And liking photography is individual artistic opinions," he said.

"Will it be okay if a photographer only takes a picture of a beauty queen's back and not her face? The rules must be clearer than this.

Until the authorities are able to differentiate pornographic and artistic photos, people will just continue with their nude photography albeit silently and hidden away, like it always has done. Nude photos have existed since cameras first appeared."

Phien further confirmed that he'll continue his works on nude photography no matter what.

Photographers are not the only one voiced opposition against the circular.

Song writers in Vietnam are also opposing the new regulations, claiming the vague rules may enable show organisers to use their works for free.


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