In a February 9 article, Publisher’s Weekly reported that the publisher Rosen Editions had blueprints for an upcoming print project for the art photo book “Pees on Earth” seized by Chinese customs officials- forcing the publisher to move the work off the mainland. “Pees on Earth” which contains photos showing Ellen Jong urinating in public is understandably controversial. Although, the publisher’s web site describes it as a serious artistic work, “a collection of images that fuse documentary, landscape, and fine art photography.”
Other publishers, with less controversial art subjects that are less likely to raise an eyebrow, are also encountering difficulties. Maureen Johnson, publisher of the book “Art Models Life Nudes for Drawing Painting and Sculpting,” ran into similar difficulties printing her title. “It is a modest book, there’s nothing in here that would make your grandmother blush,” Johnson remarked describing the nude photos which are intended as a reference for artists to use while practicing.
“Initially, our printer told us there wouldn’t be a problem, but when it came time to print the book, we were told at the last minute that Chinese officials would not allow it.” This sent the New Hampshire based startup publisher scrambling for a new printer. Like Rosen, Johnson finally located a printer off the mainland. By the time new books arrived at Live Model Books' offices the holiday season was over. "Our books are a pretty popular gift for artists, so we probably lost a fair amount of business.”
These publishers’ experiences illustrate the complexity of working in a global environment with a variety of cultural standards- particularly with controversial subjects. And the controls in China may come as a surprise to people working for companies located in more open societies.
However, when a book includes nudes, China is not the only country where publishers encounter difficulty. “We ran into similar problems with a few U.S. companies,” Johnson said. “One company refused to print Art Models because they also print bibles. At least in the U.S. you can look for other companies since prudishness is not an official government policy yet.”
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