Japan fashionistas defend 'obscene' photographer

TOKYO, Feb 5, 2013 (AFP) - Japanese fashionistas leaped to the defence of Tokyo-based Singaporean photographer Leslie Kee on Tuesday after he was arrested for selling books containing pictures of male genitals.

Kee, who has snapped megastars including Lady Gaga and Super Bowl sensation Beyonce, was arrested Monday on suspicion of obscenity after selling the books at his Tokyo gallery.

The 41-year-old photographer could be jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to 2.5 million yen ($27,000) if convicted.

Pornography is widely available and produced in Japan, but under domestic law genitals must be obscured, a process usually done through pixellation.

"I am stunned by the news of Leslie Kee's arrest," Yamamuro Kazz, a leading fashion journalist and magazine editor in Japan, wrote on his website.

He questioned police motivation for the arrest because Kee's works were available at a gallery event, a forum only open to people familiar with the artistic nature of it.

"The legal interpretation of whether genitals were exposed or not (and whether the work is obscene or not) is totally irrelevant to the intention of an artist," he said.

"Under their narrow interpretation, works by Terry Richardson and Robert Mapplethorpe are all considered obscene," he said, referring to prominent US photographers.

Popular model Ai Tominaga tweeted "I am shocked. I am shocked for Japan", and was joined by others online who expressed similar dismay. Twitter user @onda_natsue said the arrest showed how unsophisticated Japanese culture is.

In 2008, Japan's top court ruled that nude pictures by Mapplethorpe were not obscene, in a verdict hailed as a victory for artistic freedom in the country, ending a decade-long battle over the censorship laws.

The plaintiff, a Japanese publisher, filed the lawsuit after his copy of a Mapplethorpe book was seized in 1999 when he tried to bring it from the United States for personal use.

  • 2015 Nissan Murano aims for the style-forward crowd 54 minutes ago
    2015 Nissan Murano aims for the style-forward crowd

    Nissan says its 2015 Murano crossover, only the second major revamp of the car since it debuted in 2003, draws its design cues from the “age of future space flight.” That’s probably taking it a little far, but the new Murano, based off the 2013 Resonance concept vehicle, is an exceptionally lovely machine, all fluid, curved metal on the outside, and flowing, soft-touch materials on the inside. Certain kinds of comfort and charms that were unheard-of outside of premium vehicles five years ago have definitely trickled down, and reached a kind of design apotheosis with this car.

  • Volkswagen brings new (ish) Jetta to New York along with Golf Sportwagen 3 hours ago
    Volkswagen brings new (ish) Jetta to New York along with Golf Sportwagen

    With its new President and CEO of America, Michael Horn, on stage in New York after just 100 days on the job, Volkswagen debuted its 2015 Jetta. You'd be forgiven for noticing little differences compared to the outgoing model, and in the words of Horn himself, the changes are indeed subtle. The most notable of those subtleties is the all-new 2.0 liter turbo diesel motor, offering 45 mpg highway and a modest increase of 10 hp. For VW, diesel is where it's at.

  • With Vantage GT, Aston Martin races below $100,000 4 hours ago
    With Vantage GT, Aston Martin races below $100,000

    Aston Martin is going downmarket, sort of. The 2015 Vantage GT, a sport-styled variant of Aston’s legendary flagship car, draws style and performance tips from their GT4 race cars, which will be running in North America this year. It’s also priced at $99,900, which shows that the market for these kinds of consumer sports cars has boomed in recent years.