Photos removed from Berlin Czech Center over fears of child pornography

Tereza Vlčková - 'Love'

An exhibition of Czech photography at the Czech Centre in Berlin recently made waves when two of the artists were told a day before the opening that they had to remove some of their pictures. The reason? Some say the content could be interpreted as child pornography. But the authors of the photos are speechless at the reaction to what they say are innocent photographs. Sarah Borufka reports.

Míla Preslová,  photo: CTK
A boy curled up into a ball. A girl feeding llamas, wearing the lower part of a bathing suit and holding balloons in her hand. Those are some of the photographs that were deemed too offensive to be part of an exhibition of Czech photography at Berlin’s Czech Centre.

The two photographers whose pictures were taken down a day before the exhibit “Women in Czech Photography” opened in Berlin on Thursday say they are really taken aback by this negative reaction. One of them is Tereza Vlčková.

“It was a shock, we found out about it a day before the opening. And the instructions were quite clear: either we take the photos down or the whole exhibit will be cancelled. And so the catalog that had been prepared for the exhibition couldn’t be shown at the opening. It was quite unpleasant for us, even more so for Míla Preslová, the other photographer, because the photos featured her son.”

Tereza Vlčková - 'Love'
Both photographers have said that the pictures are meant to capture the innocence and naiveté of children, and that any pornographic interpretation of the pictures would be very subjective.

“I had to remove three of my photos. It was pictures of my small cousin, and they were originally conceived as pictures for a children’s book. I’d say they were quite tasteful and emotional photos, done in a very contemporary and fashionable style. The girl is feeding llamas in the photo, and the whole scene looks something from a modern fairy-tale.”

The exhibit is under the patronage of the German government commissioner for the handicapped, and the Czech Centre, which curates the exhibit, presented the photos to the commissioner six months before the opening. But a new commissioner was appointed recently, which may be the reason for the commission’s change of view. Martin Krafl is the director of the Czech Centre in Berlin.

“A day before the opening, the new commissioner said that five of these pictures had to be taken down. The reason for this was that they allegedly could be seen as pornographic, that was his personal opinion. We tried to convince him that the pictures had no pornographic nature whatsoever. Then we discussed the issue with the authors of the photos, who were in Berlin, too, and decided on a compromise.”

In the end, the artists gave in and had their pictures removed so that the whole exhibit, which runs through July 21, would not have to be cancelled.