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Diane Ducruet, “Mother & Daughter II” (2014) (courtesy the artist, via dianeducruet.com)

A photograph of a mother and her young daughter embracing has been removed from a gallery exhibition in Paris after seven anonymous letters prompted the gallerist and the director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) to censor the work.

The photograph in question, titled “Mother and Daughter II” (2014), is a composite of four images showing the artist, Diane Ducruet, cuddling with her daughter. Both of them are nude. It was to be featured in L’intime comme illusion (The Intimate as Illusion), an exhibition that is part of Le Mois de la Photo, an annual, monthlong, city-wide photography festival in Paris. One of the festival’s themes this year, selected by MEP’s and Le Mois de la Photo’s director Jean-Luc Monterosso, is intimacy. Ducruet’s piece was removed from the exhibition at Galerie Catherine Houard on October 30, before the exhibition’s opening reception, rue89 reported.

The flyer for ‘L’intime comme illusion’ at Galerie Catherine Houard (courtesy Galerie Catherine Houard, via Le Nouvel Observateur) (click to enlarge)

The letters of protest directed at Monterosso, Houard, Ducruet, and the exhibition’s curator, Françoise Paviot, found fault not with “Mother and Daughter II,” but with another photo from the same series that appeared in a flyer for the show. That image shows Ducruet and her daughter in a three-quarters portrait, kissing playfully; anonymous complaints suggested it might incite incest or even pedophilia, according to Le Monde. “Please remove this photo, which has nothing of an act of love!!! Please on behalf of victims of incest (of which I am one) and the groups that represent them,” read one letter. Although the offending image was not actually included in the show, the objections prompted Monterosso and Houard to remove “Mother and Daughter II” instead.

“I still don’t understand how a gallerist and the director of an institution that is supposed to promote artists’ work could have, without even the slightest threat, on simple anonymous requests, and without really knowing my past and current work, decided to remove my work,” Ducruet told rue89.

In a blog post about the situation, photographer Marie Docher, who helped conceive of the exhibition and whose work is featured in it, offers a timeline of the events leading up to the removal of Ducruet’s work. Addressing Monterosso, she writes:

Seven people decided, without knowing the work, to censor it and to prevent Diane Ducruet from showing it. You who defend photographers, there is still time to prove it by exhibiting the censored work at the MEP, prominently, during the entire Mois de la Photo festival, and while explaining clearly why you are doing it. We are persuaded that you care about defending freedom of expression and freedom to work.

Ducruet will be meeting with Monterosso on November 7, she told Hyperallergic via email.

L’intime comme illusion, minus Diane Ducruet’s work, remains on view at Galerie Catherine Houard (15 rue Saint-Benoît, Paris) through November 9.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

11 replies on “Paris Festival Censors Photo of Mother-Daughter Embrace”

  1. This photo seems to be about pushing buttons, being provocative. Period. There’s nothing new about seeing lots of skin, or layering images, so all we have is the provocation of the title. Are we to feel touched, moved, liberated, confused or voyeuristic? If the defense is that it is innocent intimacy between mother and daughter…well then show that. What we actually get is a tease that maybe it isn’t innocent, so why pretend otherwise. It’s really about self promotion.

  2. Don’t believe this is sheer provocation for the sake of provocation. I think we are supposed to feel confused, shaken even, but ultimately moved. This clearly isn’t a normal depiction of mother-daughter intimacy, but it reveals something about the possibility of intimacy and how the multi-faceted character of sexuality (this is not to say sex, but rather, desire and love perhaps) is compartmentalized and directed towards certain people/things in certain ways. Not to say incest should be accepted, I just think these works are more than about blunt sex or literal erotics. Its not about saying “wow, how naughty?”– but rather, “why do these images seem so off to us? Don’t we feel intimate with our children, our family? Why is it that intimacy otherwise is expressed in exclusive ways?” Its a politics of erotics that at the very least, deserves to be mulled over.

    1. What’s there to mull over? I am not in favor of no boundaries in everything, in the name of freedom or free expression. Most “liberation” is really based on the right to establish one’s own boundaries. I think this artist is violating her child’s boundaries by presenting this image. To me, It’s all about it being a child involved, not about theoretical politics of erotics or whatever subjects adults want to discuss.

        1. I am all for testing lines, but when I see or sense exploitation of the child for self promotion it makes me cringe and I am no longer interested in the artistic license or intentions. I agree, every culture and time produces and responds accordingly, and also I do find myself changed over time, and different things move me or repel me than when I was younger.

  3. It is outrageous that the works were removed – the attitude of the complainers and some of the posters here say (to me at any rate) that they are incapable of looking at unclothed images without sexualizing them. I am as sad and sorry for victims of incest as much as anyone, and particularly sad that they may only be able to see physical demonstration of intimacy between a mother and a child (who in this case, appears to be still nursing) as sexual or abusive. For the vast majority, we treasure that physical closeness with our infant children who have not yet figured out where they end and their mother begins – it is, after, all, a short time since they were one.

  4. its a weird composition & quite ugly i think!
    it lends itself to any thought & that can be disturbing…its why i believe people complained..
    just saying..

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