I write to you as a photographer who has been silenced, and on behalf of all fellow artists who have been harassed, censored and removed by Instagram for sharing artwork that aim to provoke and challenge the viewer.
In the early hours of Thursday 10th May 2018 you, Instagram, removed my account without warning. For three and half years I have organically built up my network, investing hundreds of hours reaching out to find a community of people that would support and respond to my work. I gained a following of more than 80k people and through that self-published my first photobook, got featured in many online and print magazines, had exhibitions around the world, sold my images in print and, most recently, donated a work to Cosenza Pride with its proceeds going toward supporting abused LGBTQ victims.
I’m a British photographer whose work features nude models creating images that challenge gender roles and normative behaviour within society. The images I create are never sexually driven, never about sex and not sexually suggestive. They are about equality, love, connection, acceptance, and breaking down stigmas associated with same sex relationships.
It is clear for many people the double standards that exist and are promoted on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. You do not have to look far to find accounts with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers who regularly post images that sexualise, objectify and degrade, in the majority of cases, women. How can a picture of a naked woman with her legs spread and child’s teddy bear covering her genitals be acceptable whilst my image of 2 men embracing in a hug cannot? Could sexism, sponsorship, marketing and homophobia have anything to do with it?
When you, Instagram, remove an image or account, you talk about keeping the platform safe. The problem with removing all artistic forms of nudity are that Instagram/Facebook supports the automatic association that nudity equals sex. It does not! And by keeping sexualised images of mostly women will continue to play into the narrative that women are objects for men to look at and potentially abuse.
All my works on Instagram have always been censored to try and work with the community guidelines. By censoring images I understand that this was a way to share on Instagram but, at the same time, knowing this can also have negative implications. What could otherwise have been a completely innocent image featuring nude models can become interpreted in a number of sexually suggestive ways by trying to cover part of my picture.
Since joining Instagram I have been blessed with having some of the most wonderful and humbling words said to me that gave so much focus and drive to create my work. In stark contrast however, I have endured a continuous, and almost daily, bombardment of homophobic, racist and hateful comments that show Instagram is certainly not the safe haven you want it to be. Even though I reported and blocked many of these users I’m almost positive that the majority are still active users of your platform.
Instagram is still in many ways a great tool for artists to share and meet people who want to be challenged by the status quo. Most people, including myself, think there should be some form of monitoring of what is shared on the platform, but by automatically removing artists work that promote equality and human rights will not lead to a safer or progressive social media platform, nor will it, for that matter, help society evolve as a whole
I implore you to support the artists who have helped to build your platform and challenge yourselves to look beyond commercial profit and create a truly creative social experience. I implore you to stop catering for the lowest common denominator and to take social responsibility by engaging positively in debates around diversity and difference.
Update 1: Instagram reactivated AdeY’s account after both followers and media
outlets shared this letter.
Update 2: AdeY’s account has been removed and reactivated currently a total of 8 times.
Update 3: AdeY’s Facebook page has now been permanently removed!
Update 4: AdeY’s Instagram account (and backup account) has now been permanently removed!
Update 5: AdeY’s Instagram account has been reactivated without explanation.