What is the social network’s policy regarding the sharing of works of art depicting nudity?
The “censorship” by Facebook of one of our sponsored posts for the promotion of the exhibition Naked! Treasures of the Basel Museum of Ancient Art led us to wonder about Facebook’s current policy on sharing artistic nudes. The image portrayed the torso of a statue with pixelated genitals and its publication as a sponsored post was rejected because it contained “excessive nudity or portions of skin”.
Online nudity, but only art
The latest update of the Community Standards , which apply internationally, reads that the social network restricts the display of nudity because some people in their community may be sensitive to this type of content. More than two billion people aged 13+, from different countries and cultures with a different approach to nudity, have a Facebook profile. Another reason for the pruderie adopted by the social network is also to avoid the so-called “revenge porn”, i.e. sharing confidential photos or videos without the consent of the subject as a form of revenge or blackmail. The standards, however, allow the publication of photographs of paintings, sculptures or other forms of art depicting nude figures. Sharing works of art with subjects in the nude is therefore allowed (we have often done so on our page), but Facebook may consider removing this type of content following one or more reports of violation, assessing each situation on a case-by-case basis. Thus, it is an algorithm that determines what is art and what is not or, if the disapproved ad is appealed, the decision will be made by a person who has to view hundreds if not thousands of images a day, without any specific training in the subject.
Promoting nudity is forbidden
The situation is different for sponsored paid posts, which are viewed by a wider audience, selected on the basis of the location or the interests indicated by the advertiser. In this case, the social network can prevent an image containing nudity from being used as an advertisement, as in most cases it is assimilated to adult content of a sexual nature. Our post was rejected because, according to the algorithm that analysed it, the image did not comply with the advertising regulations. Following our appeal, where we explained that it was a statue with covered genitalia, and that the purpose of the advertisement was indeed to promote an exhibition on the theme of nudity in art, the promotion was approved.
Praxiteles yea, Rubens nay
VisitFlanders has recently had to deal with these limitations. In July 2018, a Flemish tourist board promotional campaign showing a Baroque nude by Pieter Paul Rubens was rejected and never approved, not even after the appeal. The same happened to a painting by Artemisia Gentileschi, Caritas romana, used for the online promotion of the exhibition Artemisia e i pittori del Conte in the Castle and Church of San Giuseppe, Conversano, Bari . Broadly speaking, it seems that sculpture is more tolerated than figurative art.
Reactions to censorship
VisitFlanders CEO Peter De Wilde sent an open letter to Facebook warning that the decision to block the distribution of this type of content made life more difficult for many museums and cultural institutions . However, VisitFlanders has taken advantage of the situation by making an amusing video at the Rubens museum house, in which visitors who claim to have a social network account are dragged away by fake police officers who prevent them from gazing at the nude paintings.
Clearly, the subject carries broad implications. From the judgement on art pronounced by artificial intelligence to the utopia of contents potentially suitable for a global platform that ignores the specificities of each culture, the subject of artistic nudity, or art tout court, on digital social networks does deserve some serious thought.
Archaeology will be the theme of the 2019 summer exhibition at the Geiger Foundation in Cecina. Conceived by the Basel Museum of Ancient Art and Ludwig Collection, Naked! Treasures of the Basel Museum of Ancient Art will arrive in Italy for the first time in late June.
Recently, certain European art collections have decided to take down pictures by old masters because they depicted bodies in the nude or in explicit poses. Facebook censored the Venus of Willendorf and the Little Mermaid of Copenhagen because, although one is a prehistoric cult object and the other the symbol of a cosmopolitan city, they are both naked young women.
The representation of both male and female nudity is as old as art itself. A message and a symbol not only of eroticism, it has taken on and conveyed a wide range of meanings that exalt the subject as invincible, heroic, immortal, vulnerable, sensual or in close communion with nature. The representation of the naked body is a dominant motif in most ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures.
Naked! Treasures of the Basel Museum of Ancient Art, through numerous pieces from the Swiss collection, aims to investigate the reasons why, in various periods and contexts, the human body was represented in the nude. The exhibits range from Mesopotamian and Egyptian to Greek, Etruscan and Roman art and are organized into six thematic sections.
The exhibition will be inaugurated on Saturday 22 June and will be open every day until 13 October with visiting hours from 6 to 11 pm until 8 September, and from 4 to 8 pm from 9 September onwards.
Naked! Treasures of the Basel Museum of Ancient Art
Curated by Tomas Lochman (Basel Museum of Ancient Art and Ludwig Collection)
Hermann Geiger Cultural Foundation
Piazza Guerrazzi 32, Cecina (LI)
22 June – 13 October 2019
Opening hours 22 June – 8 September: from 6 to 11 pm
Opening hours 9 September – 13 October: from 4 to 8 pm
In just over 40 days, the exhibition What a Wonderful World was seen by 12,000 visitors! The fifty amazing photographs taken by twenty photographers of the National Geographic Society fascinated an enthusiastic and appreciative audience with the wonders of our planet, reminding us that so much is at stake if we do not take care of the environment in which we live.
Some of our visitors’ comments
«It’s nice, and it’s OURS!», reads one of the remarks in the guestbook. «Long live our planet!», wrote Maria and Samuele. «We are breathless and unable to close our eyes, not even for one moment, lest we miss the wonder of it all».
The reactions of those who admired the photos are of amazement at the charm of our Earth and at the skills of the photographers. «At long last we can pause to reflect upon images that don’t just disappear».
We are glad to have offered the public the opportunity of undertaking a «tour around the world on two floors» and to have launched a message that we hope was heard loud and clear: our planet is wonderful, let’s take care of it!
Many National Geographic photographers whose works are shown in the exhibition What a Wonderful World in Cecina (LI) have a scientific background in biology. Their shots often capture rare species or animal behavior that is poorly documented or even newly discovered. Here are a couple of examples.
Clouds of bubbles
When emperor penguins return from fishing and jump out of the water, they are particularly vulnerable to leopard seal attacks. In this photo Paul Nicklen showed «from the inside» the cloud of millions of microbubbles that the penguins release from their feathers to lubricate the phase of exit from the ocean, triple their speed and confuse the predators lurking under the pack.
Paul has the Arctic in his blood. Born in 1968, he grew up on Baffin Island, Nunavut, in one of the few non-Inuit families in a small settlement amid Canada’s ice packs and icy seas. Today Paul is a naturalist and photographer specializing in portraying climate change in polar regions and is not afraid to face extreme conditions to reach the public with his images, in order to raise a voice in defence of these delicate and precious biodiversity-rich ecosystems. Paul lives a life of art, commitment and adventure, combining his career with activism. When not struggling against subzero temperatures, he makes his home on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where he lives together with Cristina Mittermeier.
These nice panther chameleons (Furcifer pardalis), an endemic species of northern Madagascar, are two males ready to engage in a fight. The African island is home to more than half of the world’s chameleon species, many of which, however, are endangered due to indiscriminate deforestation. In addition to their ability to change colour and blend in with the environment, chameleons have telescopic eyes and the planet’s fastest tongue.
Christian was born in Germany in 1972. A tropical ecologist by training, he has worked in rainforests on four continents. Christian’s goal is to highlight endangered species and ecosystems and share their beauty and importance with a wide audience through engaging, informed storytelling. Christian has produced, among others, stories about bonobos and carnivorous plants, and illustrated books on tropical ecology as well as wild orchids and their pollinators. He lives on the edge of the Panama National Park rainforest with his wife Daisy Dent, an ecologist, with whom he wrote his latest book after a serious health problem that took him out of action for almost a year.
Landscape photography is a genre that we all experience, at least once in our lifetime. The risk, when photographing a place, is to end up with ordinary results, especially if it is full of tourists and not a remote corner of the Earth. In the following two photographs, selected for the exhibition What a Wonderful World, two great photographers of the National Geographic Society used their touch to make these landscapes “magical”: one, with the strength of an original point of view, the other with the charm of a bold perspective. Let’s see what they represent.
Like a painting
In order to take a memorable picture, you often have to be in the right place, at the right time, with an idea in mind. This is what Frans Lanting did when he photographed the dead camel thorn trees in Dead Vlei, a desiccated clay pan ringed by 400-metre-high ferrous dunes in the Namib Desert. He patiently waited for the rising sun to gradually illuminate the dunes until it touched the clayey soil still in the shade, creating an incredible contrast. A small aperture for a sharp rendering of the grassy bushes in the background and a graduated filter to compensate for the difference in brightness were the only technical devices used to capture this shot, which resembles a painting. Just a few more minutes, and the magic moment would have faded away with the arrival of sunlight and tourists. This photograph, published on the digital platforms of National Geographic, was seen by more than half a million people in two days. The power of the image.
Frans is considered one of the greatest photographers of our time. Born in Rotterdam in 1951, he graduated in economics and then moved to America to study environmental planning. For thirty years he has documented nature from the Amazon to Antarctica, in order to promote understanding of the world and natural history through images that convey passion for the environment and a sense of wonder and amazement at the beauties of our planet. He has been described as having «the mind of a scientist, the heart of a hunter, and the eyes of a poet». Frans’s photos owe a great deal to art and literature as well as to science, technology and his own experiences with nature and wildlife on all seven continents.
This hot spring, that reaches up to 70°C and has a diameter of 110 metres, is the largest one in the United States and the third largest in the world. The name Grand Prismatic Spring stems from its colouring: while the pool’s centre is always of an intense blue, the colours towards the edge range from orange to red in the summer and will turn almost green in the winter. This incredible effect is caused by thermophilic bacteria in the water which thrive at high temperatures. The photo is taken from above with a drone, and you can appreciate the shades of colour of both water and soil at Yellowstone Park.
Michael is from Alabama, where he was born in 1952. In the early 1970s he was drafted into the photography unit of the U.S. Army. After studying at the University of North Alabama, where he met his mentor, former Life magazine photographer Charles Moore, Michael began his career as a photojournalist in 1979. He has documented elephants, African nature, lions, American zoos, tigers, and the relationship between man and chimpanzee. He uses innovative techniques to create huge composite images, such as that of a 300-foottall, 1,500-year-old redwood tree. He photographed 27 stories for National Geographic magazine, before retiring in 2016. He lives in Sugar Hollow, Virginia, with his wife, artist Reba Peck.
Many of the 20 photographers who took the pictures shown in the exhibition What a Wonderful World are biologists who have chosen photography as a means of connecting a large number of people with science. They are all very adventurous in their attitudes to field research and able to create amazing images: let’s see two of them in detail.
Photographing a greater bird of paradise performing a courtship ritual on top of a branch at a height of thirty metres, in perfect light conditions and with the rainforest in the background, is no mean feat. Tim Laman did it after years of trial and error and eight days spent climbing up and down the trees in the Aru Islands in West New Guinea. The technique used is almost unbelievable. A camera sewn inside large leaves and hidden on the branch that the birds of paradise normally use for perching was connected by means of an 18-metre USB cable to the tree opposite, where Tim built his «suspended» post. From inside a leaf tent, the photographer adjusted the camera’s focus and exposure by means of a laptop. In addition to the aesthetic value of the images and videos that Tim managed to capture, their scientific value is also enormous: so far, no scientist had ever been able to observe the behaviour of this rare animal from such a short distance.
Tim is a field biologist and a wildlife photojournalist. He was born in 1961, and spent his childhood in Japan, where he developed an early interest in nature exploration. He first went to the Borneo rainforest in 1987, and the Asia-Pacific region (especially the Indonesian archipelago) has since become the main subject of his scientific and photographic research. Tim has earned a reputation as a person who is able to return from his travels with shots of subjects almost impossible to photograph, such as the flying animals of Borneo, the displays of the birds of paradise and some of the most endangered birds in the world. Tim collaborates with his wife, Cheryl Knott, on orangutan research and conservation projects.
In this poetic shot a young whale shark filters the water rich in plankton attracted by a light in the night. The photo was taken in the Gulf of Aden, off the border between Djibouti and Somalia, where Thomas P. Peschak spent many nights with Somali fishermen to document the rich biodiversity of the seas surrounding the Arabian Peninsula. Despite its size, the whale shark is totally harmless to humans.
Thomas P. Peschak
Born in 1975 in Germany but raised in South Africa, Thomas is a marine biologist specializing in the conflict between man and nature. He became a photojournalist (mainly underwater) when he realized that he would have a greater impact on conservation through photographs than through statistics. In 2008, his first photos for National Geographic magazine documented the discovery of Hanifaru Bay, near the Maldivian atoll of Baa, where manta rays gather to feed on plankton: the story raised public awareness and prevented the construction of a harbour at the site, which has been declared a marine protected area. Today he focuses on documenting some of the most critical stories of our time regarding the conservation of oceans and islands.