Australian Photographer Speaks in Defense of His Nude Egyptian Temple Shoot

Australian Photographer Speaks in Defense of His Nude Egyptian Temple Shoot

The Australian photographer who found himself in hot water after photographing a model in the nude within an ancient Egyptian temple has defended his project.

Jesse Walker, who is based in Sydney, was questioned for hours alongside his model after they were arrested in Luxor, Southern Egypt in April. The shoot has come to light this week after they were posted online for both Enki Eyewear and the personal blog of the model, Marisa Papen.

Keen to differentiate between art and porn, Walker defended his images:

It was my fifth time over there in Egypt. So I’m very well aware of the culture over there. It’s a place that I’m very close to and I feel very drawn to.

It’s no disrespect to the Egyptian culture because I love the country so much. I do this for the love of art and I do this to get that imagery that no one else can get.

He claims the shoot had been interrupted three times previously, but that the pair had been able to bribe or talk their way out of any trouble.

As soon as we would see them (the guards) I would delete the photos because I have software that retrieves data. We would play a bit naïve. We would say it’s an art project and the concept is ancient Egypt, the time of the kings and the queens and the pharaohs, which was true. One time, we were in the middle of the desert and this car just came roaring out of the nowhere and there was dust and smoke and sand everywhere. It was the military police and I was yelling at Marisa ‘put your clothes, put your clothes on’.

Having faced the courts, the pair were let off with a warning. Walker quotes the judge as stating, “This is an Islamic country and if you do it again we will put you back in jail.”

[via 9News]

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69 Comments

Ray Hardy's picture

well, that's what you get when dealing with religion based/ruled governments. the shots are beautiful and luckily they got off easy. hopefully one of these days humanity will deam these censorious and obtrusive religions obsolete, but until that time comes gurella style shoots are all we can hope for. keep up the great work Jesse Walker.

Fritz John Asuro's picture

It doesn't matter if the rules/law is obsolete. If the country deems that such obscene act is a display of disrespect and unlawful - you follow it or face the consequences. Not all people like the "freedom" that the West enjoys. Some still wants to stay conservative despite of people saying it is not in line with the current generation of lifestyle.

It's really easy. If you don't like their laws (religion based or otherwise) stay out of their country.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Exactly! Just like the muslims do!

Lane Shurtleff's picture

Great!!! another "I do what I want photographer" with no morals or respect for another culture.

I wish the same people from a certain segment of American society also extended that same attitude towards America when foreigners come here and disrespect our culture.

Daniel Shortt's picture

You do realize their culture has nude people on the walls of those temples...

Ray Hardy's picture

you call it photography, others call it art. no bashing here, everyone is entitled to there own opinions. but to say he lacks morals is an overstep. just remember that until 50 years ago the us had very strict anti nudity/pornography laws. but when artists started pushing these limits the laws were gradually relaxed, changed, dropped. without disrespect things seldom change.

Michael Rapp's picture

Ever try to shoot a topless model in Kansas? Nebraska? Utah? In the freest country in the world?
No matter how beautiful the pictures are, cops tend to be unimpressed. Judges, too.
Don't confuse local laws with government.
In Europe, we sometimes shake our heads about how prudent the US is (i. e. swearing on tv, display of female breasts - but before you go bashing on my head, I'm more than certain that here in Europe we have our issues, too).
It's a sign of good manners as a guest in a foreign county to comply to local laws.
It is a sign of maturity of complying with them vs. "getting away with breaking them".
After all, we are our countries' calling cards when visiting other countries.

I got caught taking photos in a restricted place in Egypt on my phone. Had to delete the photos on my phone for them to return it. I promptly recovered the photos from the trash folder lol.

The government and legal system of Egypt is what it is... They have laws just like any other country in the world. Just because you disagree with their laws does not make what he is doing legal or helpful. This, to me, is just as wrong as trespassing on a bridge or military base or nuclear power plant in the United States and taking pictures. It's trespassing, it's wrong, it's against the law, and you have no right to be doing it. The fact that we refer to this type of shooting with a military term "Guerrilla" shows that the people who agree with it acknowledge that it is an activity meant to be a kick in the face of authority, a complete disregarding for laws. There are less obnoxious ways to protest the Egyptian legal system, and from the sound of it that was not his point, he, in his words did this, "for the love of art and I do this to get that imagery that no one else can get" Like breaking any law in the US, the glorification of breaking the law should not be praised.

Mac MacDonald's picture

When good nudes go untaken, or unpublished, we all suffer. #freeTheNudes

I'm living in Egypt and got arrested just because I shot an old telephone cabin in front of Te Data, the national telephone company, it's forbidden here to shoot any official buildings even the garbage in front of it. So, shooting a nude... they are lucky to be foreigners, if they were Egyptian they would get six months minimum, or two, three years depending on the judge, their answers, and the governorate where they are arrested. The problem is not Sissi or the dictatorship, it is islam and don't compare the occidental altered islam that you have in Europe or US with the pure islam almost half of the Egyptians believe in. It has nothing to compare. The true dictatorship here is not politic, but islamic. Sorry to talk about freedom on this website but I have a big bowl in my throat and I cannot shoot it.

Scott Spellman's picture

The statement "It’s no disrespect to the Egyptian culture because I love the country so much." is complete bullshit. Obviously it is a problem for the people and government of Egypt because there are laws prohibiting it and police interrupted the shoot so many times. Only the most massive ego cannot see that other people get to decide for themselves what is disrespectful to them. Art is not an excuse to break laws or clearly violate the cultural traditions of another country. If an Egyptian photographer wanted to create art by beating Jesse face with a jackhammer, then I am sure he would be less arrogant.

This same arrogance in the name of art or better photos is what leads to people trespassing and damaging national parks, monuments, and cultural beacons. It is questionable for Fstoppers to even publish this article as if there is any validity to this statement. Jesse should have been prosecuted.just like those filmakers who trampled across the prismatic springs at Yellowstone.

Samuel Flores Sanchez's picture

Laws are not perfect, that's why your constitution have amendments.

No thing is going to be respectful or unrespectful for everyone, ever! I'm sure that a lot of people in Egypt have nothing against the work of this artist, and a lot of people have. That's the way it is, always.

Artist search the limits, are revolutionaries. Think of every relevant movement, impressionism, expressionism, cubism, surrealism... all were revolutionaries.

You assume that this artist lies and you question his motivations. You have to know this person very well for that, and even though... that's a hell of an assumption.

You try to connect this with "trespassing and damaging national parks, monuments, and cultural beacons". Now you are simply deranged. Apart from the fact that trying to relate the two things is like if I try to relate your defense of the Egypt laws with the defense of Pinochet dictatorship, the way I see it, artist are very respectful with his environment precisely because like artist, appreciate beauty and freedom. People who damaged national parks etc are people with lack of sensibility and empathy.

And you question Fstoppers for publishing an article. Now you're trying to censor the freedom of information. You know, I don't like what you say, but I can fight so you or everyone else can speak freely. You talk about "massive ego"? Really?

Have a nice day, I mean, as far as possible inside that mind

Hans Rosemond's picture

Yeaaah...a wee bit ethnocentric. Kinda like doing a nude shoot on an altar in a Catholic church and saying it's cool because you love Jesus. Respect for other cultures is about them, not you.

They were in the middle of the desert not in a mosque! And had no intention to offend anybody, your comparison is tendentious. Do you know Christians do not have the same rights as Muslims in Egypt, and because of what? Dictatorship? No. Islamic rules, but if you prefer to call that Culture not to see the inequity ans the violence of these rules, it's up to you.

Hans Rosemond's picture

The fact is that the photographer knew the rules before he decided to break them. His opinion of the rules is secondary to the fact that he was a guest in a foreign country. Judgement of the moral "correctness" of the rules is not what is at question. Mosque or no, even if it was him drinking in a place where it was forbidden, for instance, is disrespectful because he KNEW he was breaking the rules.

The correctness of the rules is not at question? It is the whole subject. Do you follow the rules you think iniquitous? Even in a foreign country? Hans, how many artists, I mean real artists, never broke the rules? How many photos from the best photographers have been taken breaking the rules, especially in the 50's, 60's, 70's, when almost everything was forbidden if those photographers were not at wars, taking all the risks, breaking all the rules? Not so far ago, it was segregation in USA. And it was the rule. What would be USA now if no one had courage to break the rules? Would you, yourself, support segregation at this time? I don't think, Hans, you would have done this. But you would have been "disrespectful", as you say, because you KNEW you were breaking the rules.
Amicalement.

Hans Rosemond's picture

There is a huge difference between participating in a civil rights movement and someone taking nude photos. The equivalency here is non-existant. There is no statement being made here. There are no rights being fought for. This is a guy who wanted to break the rules for his art and got caught. Period.

Isn't artistic freedom of expression a civil right?

In Egypt? Not likely

Clearly. The same goes for most of the Middle East, if not all of it.

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

How about I take a shit on your face as my art work? How about that for freedom.... People have fought for freedom to do certain things. Don't abuse their ideas.

How is that ridiculous comment a reasonable response to what I wrote?

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

If it sounded ridiculous, then I've made my point

What point was that??

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

Don't take a shit on another man's face. Hope I'm clear now?

Nope, still not clear.

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

The pyramid is still in Egypt, go pose naked. The Egyptian police would explain better