BYU Censors Student Work

A photo student at Brigham Young University in Utah has had his pictures removed, without his knowledge, from a student show on campus due to the subject matter of the images. The first-hand story on his blog, appropriately titled Censorship Sucks.

(Update 12/9: The photographer, Michael Wiltbank, has moved the posts from his personal blog to his “professional blog”. Also, Dan Savage has an update and a story on Slog).

(Update 12/10: Apparently the pictures are back up in the gallery: article from Deseret News)

Apparently the topic of homosexuality is a bit much for the BYU audience and my part of our Fine Art Classes show was taken down today. It seems that censorship is favored over support and love. This really saddens me. I found out because a friend of mine went to the show and said that my peices (sic) had been removed and the show had been rearranged.

From the artist’s statement:

These portraits are of BYU students who identify themselves as homosexual and a person that supports them. This support person could be a family member, friend or may also identify themselves as homosexual and both people may provide support to each other. I have not included labels with these portraits as I feel that labels only create separation and division and further ungrounded stereotypes. We never know who may identify themselves as homosexual and I felt that not labeling these images would force us as a society to question what it is to be homosexual.

While we don’t appear to have any response from the school which, I’ll add, is a private institution and more or less gets to do what it wants in circumstances like this (I think? please correct me if I’m wrong), it makes sense that they took the photos down because of their content. It certainly isn’t because the work is not strong… I trust the photographer when he says so.
There are comments pouring in on the pages (since I first saw it posted a couple hours ago) and I’m pretty sure this story will have some legs, so hopefully we will learn more. I’ll pass on anything I find.

Be sure to click on the photo and look at some of the other diptychs from the series, I think they’re quite good. Ultimately, my point here is that I think these photos deserve to be seen.

(Via Dan Savage at SLOG)

3 Responses to “BYU Censors Student Work”

  1. M. Scott Brauer

    Well, I think that private schools can’t get out of Title 9-style gender discrimination if they, their faculty, or their students receive any government money (loans, grants, etc.) but I don’t know if that covers sexual orientation discrimination. I sat in on a US Supreme Court hearing a few years back on just that issue, though it related to the difference in school facilities for men’s sports vs. women’s sports.

  2. Dave Smith

    Well, he is getting the kind of attention that his “average art” would of never received. So I guess you could say “mission accomplished”. On the other hand when his “moment of fame” has passed, he will still be an average artist, with little gained, except that now people will know what his true motivation was, and that was simple to be noticed.

  3. M

    isn’t getting work noticed, particularly work in which you’re trying to say something, precisely the point?

    He didn’t take the pictures down from the show (other people did) or broadcast this outside of his friends, he isn’t making a stink about what happened .. it is other people (like me) who see this occurring and think it is worthy of thought.

    He isn’t doing this for attention. I think that is perfectly clear.

    I haven’t seen any more of his work, so I couldn’t say if he is an average artist or not, but I think these pictures have an interesting message and are done in an interesting enough (if a bit cliche, of course) way.

    and what’s with the quotes? seems like a SNL sketch..

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