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Thread: LFPF censorship and moderation

  1. #1

    LFPF censorship and moderation

    This is archived as

    I believe the LFPF (Large Format Photography Forum) moderators have finally crossed the line into censorship. As related fallout, I now expect to be banned and this post deleted, but if that's the case, then so be it. I will have saved a copy of this post.

    The original post in question is this:

    If the thread gets deleted, it's saved as a PDF file here:

    I created the original thread to post images from my 4x5 film portrait project "Hearts on Our Sleeves, Portraits and Stories of Transgender People on large format 4x5 film". The initial post was made on May 21, 2016 and currently (Aug 23, 2016) has 2800+ views. I had been posting my portraits on the forum's (Monthly) Portraits threads, but I thought that this cohesive project should stand by itself, so that when I post a new image, the viewers could see the images from the beginning if they wish.

    I had received only positive comments on and off the thread since the beginning, until Aug 22nd when one person, "Kent" raised a question as to "why is a political thread in a photography forum". Note that all the image posts are accompanied by text and stories from the image subjects themselves, documenting their personal experiences. As I and several other members made replies to"Kent", eventually the moderators decided to close the thread because they seem to have deemed that it's too "political", or "controversial".

    You can see for yourselves that I am not the person who introduced the subject of alleged "politics" into this. The moderators could have deleted all comments deemed political and otherwise left the thread alone; this sort of deletion is frequently done on this forum.

    When I inquired whether I can post future images in the (Monthly) Portraits posts, I was informed that it would be OK, and I can even post that they are part of such and such project, but I cannot post the text that accompanies the images. Note again that all the text are descriptions from the people being photographed themselves, and not my editorial commentary.

    This where I feel I have to take a stand. While I agree with the great Mary Ellen Mark that good photos can stand up without words, and I do believe this series of portraits do well enough without words, I also feel that the subject's personal stories are important to enhance the depth of understanding of the photos. The photos are of a subset of members of American society from all walks of life, not even any kind of "radical fringe group" or any organization with a specific political bent. There is nothing inherent political about these people's individual stories; there is however a current political climate which actively encourages the arbitrary demonization of various groups of people, including transgender people, that may make their personal stories appear to some to be "political".

    By exercising censorship, I believe that the moderators have clearly entered into the political fray themselves. I think this is an object example of how the voices of minority groups are routinely silenced, even under the possible auspices of "good intentions".

    I do not know how long this thread will last, but here I stand.

  2. #2
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Albuquerque, Nuevo Mexico

    Re: LFPF censorship and moderation

    FWIW, as a former moderator, I could see it coming. No surprise. They weren't picking on you. That was standard practice. It did become political. I wouldn't take it personally, but that is easy for me to say. Moderation is always censorship and as a privately owned vehicle they can and do censor. I did it too. Frankly given the rules here as they have evolved in response to the Flame Wars (before you joined) it seemed quite necessary to us and I think it has served a purpose. Moderation never makes everyone happy. Ever. Its a shitty job and you get shit whether you act or don't act or act moderately or slash and burn. I did it for 4 years and would never do it again.

    However let me say personally that I learned a lot from your thread and the discussions. Thank you for posting it. Coincidentally last night, where I teach photography in New Mexico, the faculty was invited to a session on transgender sensitivity. There was a huge turnout. Art schools have somewhat been a safe haven for gays, lesbians and transgender people. It always seemed to me that they constituted a much larger percentage of the art school populations than in the general population. At both universities I teach at we have tried to be sensitive to their issues but it has frankly been muddling through with good intentions. The school I teach at in Santa Fe though has recently become more proactive with policy and education and it has been enlightening to me and others. I think there is a growing awareness and to me that is a good sign. Little steps-two steps forward and one step backwards.

    at age 70:
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    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  3. #3
    Roger Thoms's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    San Francisco, CA, Flagstaff AZ

    Re: LFPF censorship and moderation

    Richard, just want to say that your Hearts on Our Sleeves, is a very moving project and I'm saddened to hear that your thread was closed. I wholeheartedly agree that the moderators have stepped over a line here. I also sincerely hope that you aren't banned. Regardless of the outcome I do hope you will continue with the project.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Northern Virginia

    LFPF censorship and moderation

    I found that the photos were beautiful and dignified, and accomplished far more to my photographic eye than the text, which could have been linked to a separate site, as we suggested to you.

    This is a photography forum, and mixed media presents a challenge to us when the non-photography part incites the kinds of discussions that we have (of necessity) prohibited. This is an incendiary topic. The one complaint you saw in the thread was not all the comment we received. I think the comments we got are running about 50-50.

    But the text was so dominant in the media mix that it seemed to me to reduce those wonderful portraits to mere illustrations of it. This isn't a writing, philosophy, or even mixed-media art site, and we have to be consistent with the guidelines as best we can.

    I hope you post more of the photographs, and it's okay if you link to another site where the stories can be read.

    Rick "not liking this one little bit, but agreeing with the action" Denney

  5. #5

    Re: LFPF censorship and moderation

    // EDITED

    Sorry, I will not post the images without the text. I know it's a privilege and not a right to post in this forum, and I will not participate in this forum.

    The current decision makes the forum moderators political participants, indeed, IMHO, more than I have been.

  6. #6
    Corran's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    North GA Mountains

    Re: LFPF censorship and moderation

    +1 for Richard. Sorry guys, this is certainly a misstep on the part of the moderators.

    The images AND writing had absolutely no political message at all. It was images and quotes/stories from the person in the image. Any political posts were brought on by one vocal complainer in the thread and the subsequent chatter.

    From where I'm sitting, it seems like the "normal" moderator action here would be to delete the political banter and steer the thread back towards civility. Instead, it was outright locked. This is a troubling escalation IMO.

    As for the other comments that you all received privately - it seems like that's irrelevant. If people don't like it, they don't have to look at it. The images and text had no intrinsic political message. Richard didn't editorialize anything. His one response to a post was the only apparent infraction (and one which was still fairly apolitical), after many photos and stories were posted. It is not a stretch whatsoever to assume this was mere pretext to closing a thread.

    Let's not forget that anything can be twisted to be political. Many of us shoot landscape images - if I were to include a paragraph about my trip to a National Park, am I politicizing state lands and conservation?

    The right thing to do is as you have been - delete offending posts with political banter and reopen the thread. Allow Richard to post stories that are not political in nature and don't take a stance on any issue.
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | Portfolio
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  7. #7
    Tin Can's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Re: LFPF censorship and moderation

    We must all hang together or we hang separately.

    Ben Franklin.
    wear mask or NOT

    is ???

  8. #8

    Join Date
    May 2004
    Montara, California

    Re: LFPF censorship and moderation

    Very odd that gun threads--which really weren't about photographs at all--are allowed (pretending that they aren't extremely political) but a thread on Richard's project--which is most definitely a photography project--is censored.

    Obviously moderators will always bring their own political views into the mix when deciding what is political and what is not--it is unavoidable. I get that. But the high comfort level with guns and the low comfort level with sexuality is revealing.

    As for images incorporated with text, you don't have to look far. Would Jim Goldberg's amazing work, Rich and Poor (, be allowed on this forum? What about Barbara Kruger's work (

    Isn't all of Chris Jordon's work (a former member here) political? ( What about Edward Burtynsky's work? ( Seems overtly political to me.

    Should we only allow photos here that mimic Group f/64 work? (And do we ignore the politics of *that* work when we do?)

    It strikes me that the moderators have moved from equating the word "political" with "politics" to equating "political" with "issues." Photography--serious, artistic photography--is much more than trees and white porcelain and slot canyons and flowers.

    If you want this forum to be a photography forum as opposed to a gear-talk forum (and it is not at all clear that you, the moderators, do) then you are going to to have to think harder about allowing photography that deals with issues.


  9. #9

    Join Date
    May 2016

    Re: LFPF censorship and moderation

    Quote Originally Posted by rdenney View Post

    This isn't a writing, philosophy, or even mixed-media art site, and we have to be consistent with the guidelines as best we can.

    Image Sharing (LF) & Discussion
    Post your own large-format images (based on 4"x5" or larger format) for sharing and discussion.

    On Photography
    Discuss aesthetics, philosophy, history, photographers and photographs.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2011

    Re: LFPF censorship and moderation

    I am saddened to hear the mods closed that thread. You are correct in insisting the text accompany the images, given the subject matter it would be impossible to infer the full stories from the photographs alone. I didn't post on the thread, but it was my favorite thread on LFPF. Yes, the mods have gone too far in this instance. If some individuals have a problem with transgender folk, it's their problem and their belief that the story of a transgender person's life is somehow 'political'. Perhaps their problem is with humanizing transgender folk?

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