New South Wales Government Criticized for Censoring Photojournalism Exhibition


The Reportage Festival in Sydney, Australia is a well-known Vivid exhibition that displays the powerful work of some of the world’s best photojournalists and documentary photographers. But this year, the New South Wales government has gotten involved by telling the curators what they can and cannot display, stirring up many photographers and anti-censorship advocates in the process.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, photos of the Cronulla riots, the Granville train accident, as well as several award-winning Magnum photographs have all been deemed inappropriate or “too distressing” by the NSW government’s tourism department, Destination NSW.


Festival curator Stephen Dupont called the censorship “embarrassing.” Speaking with the Herald, he laments that many high-profile photographers who have traveled from all over the world to display their photography may not even see it up.

Photojournalist Ed Giles, who has spent the past couple of years documenting political upheaval in Egypt, was outraged:

Over two thirds of the photographers who submitted work have either been banned from our outdoor projections, or have elected to pull their bodies of work after having their stories heavily clipped.

For example, my edit of 36 pictures from my two years documenting Egypt’s post revolution political scene was reduced to 17 pictures, and I have pulled my work completely from the outdoor show in protest.


For their part, Destination NSW makes no apologies. While censorship certainly isn’t popular, in this case, Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase argues it is necessary. Because the show is held outdoors, Chipchase feels they are justified in preventing children from seeing potentially horrifying imagery:

What we don’t want is children walking around the corner and seeing pictures of dead children. We think it is threatening to families. Would they want those children to see that?

This story is ongoing. The festival runs from May 15th to June 15th, and many of the photojournalists (like Giles) who pulled their photos in protest of the censorship, would like to set up an uncensored Reportage 2013 show at an indoor venue sometime soon.

For now, those interested in seeing more of the photos that were cut out of the exhibition can see 32 of them at The Sydney Morning Herald‘s gallery here.

(via The Sydney Morning Herald)

Image credits: Photographs by James Nachtwey, David Burnett and Ed Giles.

  • rz67

    Pictures of dead children.

  • Grokular

    Haven forbid children know that in some parts of the world, people their age don’t have lives as good as theirs. We better make sure they don’t grow up to be aware of the plight of others and do something about it.

  • mrbeard

    its their exhibition, they can show anything they want, nothing to stop the censored pictures being shown at another exhibition

  • Jake

    Leave it to the parents to expose their 5-year-old to murder and torture imagery in a way they deem appropriate, not some art exhibit forcing it on them in the public space. Would you make the same “This is how the world is” argument if some guy was seen masturbating or defecating in public?

  • Jas

    Don’t go, blody simple. There is no “forcing”

  • vivanteco

    Well if it was private property that might be somewhat relevant – this is an exhibition in public (the NSW Government own that land). All arguments about no one is forcing them to go etc go out the window when it is being exhibited in a public space that is used as a general thoroughfare.

  • Anon

    The funny thing is that in Australia, there is no ‘bill of rights’ or constinution to protect people. There is no legally protected ‘free-speech’ or ‘freedom-of-the-press’. They do this, so that for the other 364 days, they can pretend to support free-press.

  • Vitek Fromage

    When it comes to the attitude towards the arts in this country, we’re still in the 1950’s.

  • hdc77494

    Between photo censorship in AU and GB jailing people for Facebook posts I’m beginning to worry about free speech. Who would have thought it would be in danger in Erstetn societies.

  • hdc77494

    If festival mgt makes that call, ok, but a govt tourist bureaucrat?

  • ian

    It’s always been in danger, ever since the term “free speech” was coined. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not fully aware of what goes on.

  • Richard Ford

    This is so bad. It almost reminds me of the censorship that there is in China. We need a royal commission right away. While we are at it – maybe one to stop grandfathers taking their kids to the beach too?

  • Gord

    Children who are victimized by war is a very different thing from a guy playing with his penis.

  • Nate Cochrane

    Not quite so. There is an Australian Constitution. Also, there’s an implied right to freedom of political speech at the federal level in judge-made law. Also, in some states, truth is an absolute defence against defamation.

  • james

    I didn’t see any photographs of dead children at the premier last night which was shown in its entirety at Customs House. Unsure where she came up with that one

  • Benicio Murray

    This story is copy/pasted word for word. Very lazy of you Petapixel

  • Jake

    So skip the whole festival because your kid might stumble upon a graphic art installation with no signage indicating its presence?

  • Jake

    Duh, they’re not the same. But seeing graphic images in public can be considered inappropriate is insensitive, no matter the nature of the images.