The suppression of natural forms

Photo by Mathilde Grafström

Recently, a exhibition held in Copenhagen by a photographer named Mathilde Grafström was closed down by the Danish police, who claimed that her photographs were “obscene”. Grafström’s exhibition, “Female Beauty”, featured various photos of naked women as part of a project to combat negative self-image. To that end, the artist selected a serious of photographs depicting normal, unaltered women in the nude, aiming to show that the female body is nothing to be ashamed of. Of course, the artist was outraged when she learned her exhibit was closed by the authorities, furious at the reprehensible suppression of her art, while an advertisement for plastic surgery featuring bare breasts isn’t being censored.

So let me get this straight. In Denmark, photos of normal-looking women being themselves are considered obscene, while adverts featuring plastic breasts are not. When did positive self-image become such a great crime in today’s world. I’ve seen the artist’s work, and I see why this would be important. The women in the pictures show confidence and communicate the sense of a free spirit, and what’s so obscene about that? To me, it sounds like the Danish police can’t tell the difference between art and porn, even though the difference is so glaringly obvious, that I don’t even need to spell it out.

I think that for Grafström’s photos to be denied the right to be displayed in public speaks volumes about how Western society values body image. In fact, I speculate that if another artist put up nude photos of a porn star, or some Z-list celebrity with fake breasts, then nobody would have minded, never mind that those sort of people consistently promote a negative sense of self-image, as does the very idea of plastic surgery, which makes a profit by exploiting people’s negative belief about their self-image and self-worth. Also, some of the coverage of this story was quite childish. For example, the Daily Mail censored the nipples of one of the photographs with little black squares, typical of their medieval attitudes towards the female body.

For me, the artist is attempting to expose the viewer to the kind of natural beauty and self-expression that is constantly shunned by the mainstream media, in favour of the artificial look we see being sported by Britain’s favourite celebrities. When did natural beauty become something to be despised? When the natural body is deemed an obscenity, but the plastic body is revered as an idol, then there is something grievously wrong with our attitude towards the female body, and as long as we continue to sweep this issue under the rug, then the idea that Western civilization is a sexually liberal society shall remain a joke for years to come.

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