Photographer's censorship claims denied by printing company

Genderqueer Photographer Dean Hutton writes an open letter accusing a printing company of censoring and violating her freedom of expression. (Supplied)

Genderqueer Photographer Dean Hutton writes an open letter accusing a printing company of censoring and violating her freedom of expression. (Supplied)

In an open letter, photojournalist and former Mail & Guardian photo editor Dean Hutton has accused printing company Remata of violating the Constitution. 

“It is a clear case of censorship,” Hutton said on Thursday of Remata’s handling of the photographer’s images. 

According to Hutton, whose photographs interrogate queer culture, Remata had initially agreed to print the images for Hutton’s upcoming exhibition # transitions: In Search of An Authentic Queer. (Below are some of the images in the upcoming show.)

In October, the genderqueer artist discussed the print job with the company, who then sent Hutton a quote. 

After paying a deposit to Remata on Wednesday, the company contacted Hutton, according to the open letter, and said it has a “policy not to print nude pictures and would not accept the job”.  

“In my first contact with salesperson Viloshini Ragavan on October 22 2014, I sent a mockup of my print job. I then visited Remata on the next day to show samples of a similar catalogue and to see print samples,” writes Hutton. 

“We discussed my mockup.
At no point did Viloshini Ragavan mention any problem with the artwork, Neither verbally, or by way of signage, was I ever informed that there are terms and conditions to printing nudity by your company.”    

Just two weeks ahead of Hutton’s exhibition, which explores queer visual culture in South Africa and is set to take place at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg, the photographer says she is concerned about printing deadlines the closer the show comes.  

“By failing on numerous occasions to advise and clearly notify me of your ‘no-nudity’ policy and then going further to accept this job by invoicing me and accepting my deposit with receipt of my artwork, you stand in violation of the Consumer Protection Act (No. 68, 2008).”

She continued: “In addition, your refusal – at a very late notice – to print my catalogue, has not only compromised my exhibition but amounts (for arbitrary reasons) to censorship and a violation of my constitutional right to freedom of expression.”   

In a response to Hutton, who also shared the open letter on Facebook, Remata on Friday denied the allegations, calling them false. 

“It is unfortunate that Hutton has gone to Facebook to state these untruths about Remata. Remata apologises for the inconvenience caused by cancelling the printing of Hutton’s catalogue. However, Remata’s standards, integrity and work ethic have led to the cancellation of Hutton’s catalogue, because some of its material was deemed offensive in nature.”   

Artistic director at the National Arts Festival Ismail Mahomed weighed in on the saga to the Mail & Guardian on Friday morning.

“Dean Hutton’s work is rooted in queer politics so apart from the censorship of her work by the printing company and the bad faith they’ve shown her in terms of their business practice, another issue of concern here is the company’s discrimination policy. It is a show of clear prejudice towards the artworks of her nude body which she has created as an articulate statement intended to challenge public perceptions of the queer body/politics.”    

However, in a statement, the Midrand-based company denied discriminating “directly or indirectly against anyone on grounds of race, gender, sex, religion, etc”, but said it “provides services to any client that abides by its terms and conditions, which states: ‘The supplier [Remata] reserves the right to withhold production of any material it deems unsuitable or unlawful, in its sole discretion.’”   

Responding to my questions on what exactly it was that Remata deemed “inappropriate”, the printing company directed me to  online images of the exhibition.

When I pried, and questioned what was wrong with the images in the link, Remata responded: “It’s full frontal nudes.”   

Briefly chatting to the M&G on Friday, Hutton said: “I do not know what there is to do but I’m considering speaking to a lawyer.”

stefanie jason

stefanie jason

Following studying towards her Film & Media degree at the University of Cape Town and North Carolina State University, Stefanie Jason began work as a copy editor and writer for various South African publications, including Bona, True Love and Sowetan, as well as the Mail & Guardian. For the M&G's arts & culture supplement Friday, she writes about art, music & lifestyle when she isn't relaxing, traveling or checking out Jo'burg's many art galleries. Read more from stefanie jason

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