When is a nipple not just a nipple? When it’s on a female-presenting body and you want to share it on social media.
Photographers and models have long been required to edit or alter their work to ensure it can be shared across various social networks—the same platforms many of them rely on to develop a following and make money.
“I am a full-time artist,” says photographer Shelbie Dimond, "and I depend on social media for 100% of my income. But my experience on social media has been having fully censored images removed on a weekly basis. Instagram has even gone so far as to remove an image of my dog. ”
For our latest project, we worked with almost 50 passionate Format photographers to curate a collection of work and words to create Terms and Conditions—a direct response to the unfair censorship that comes with community guidelines.
“We chose to take on the persisting issue of gendered censorship on social media since we know it’s on the minds of our users,” says Format’s Megan Wilton. “As a company that celebrates all forms of expression, we wanted to create a platform to discuss how one-sided community guidelines on social media stifle creativity and equal access to self-expression.”
Photographer and project contributor Amanda Calquhoun says, "As a photographer whose art revolves largely around the beauty of the nude female body, it’s been a constant uphill battle to publish my art on social media platforms. There’s nothing more inhibiting as an artist than having to censor the art I’ve created. ”
The project—and the talented Format photographers who made it possible—has been noticed by the international press. It’s been talked about in outlets like Vice, PAPER Magazine, W Magazine, AnOther, and Highsnobiety, to name a few.
“Social media censorship of breasts perpetuates the sexualization of women as objects, and is alienating to others,” says photographer Erica Sterling. "It is extremely discriminatory to people with different gender identities—not all people who have breasts are women, for instance. Breasts and nipples belong to women, men, and non-binary individuals, regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth, and should not be censored. ”
Kayla Mann says the forced censorship is akin to destroying her art.
"The minute I have to censor my work for social media, the magic is lost. In this moment, the intent behind my art is broken, and the meaning behind it is diminished. While society has painted breasts to be provocative and inviting to sexual thoughts, in reality, nudity emulates confidence, vulnerability, and nature in its purest form. ”