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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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 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It doesn't matter if the rules/law is obsolete.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.

Anonymous's picture

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.

dan-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.

Morgan Glassco's picture

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.

Andrew Ashley's picture

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

Eric Thomas's picture

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.

Eric Thomas's picture

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.

Eric Thomas's picture

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.

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.

Anonymous's picture

In Egypt? Not likely

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.

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

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

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

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

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

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

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

Nope, people like you need the Egyptian police

Felix Wu's picture

No okay means no okay. One can break the rules and be prepared to face consequences. Isn't that how it works? You can not use the standard of your own country to measure what's in other countries.

Felix Wu's picture

How are you different from any form of dictatorship that tries to impose your rules of freedom of action/speech? You can criticise those countries however you want politically, but law is law and it's different between countries. You simply don't have jurisdiction.

Hans Rosemond's picture

Yes and no. Not to get into a political debate here (we all know how those end up), but there are two problems here with illegal immigrants who knowingly enter the country unlawfully. One, that they are doing it. And two, that our system creates an environment in which it's necessary, from their point of view, to do so.

So no, this isn't quite the same. One is people trying to create a better life for themselves and their families. The other is someone taking photos. It's not even apples and oranges. It's apples and beach balls.

Hans Rosemond's picture

Yes, they are, and still, the circumstances are different, no matter how much you'd like to ignore context. My argument concerning the photographer is that he flaunted the rules, knowingly, and for a purpose that is inconsequential to his well being.

If you read my last post, I actually agreed with you concerning the legality of someone who enters the country illegally. There need to be consequences as it is the rule of law. However, in addition, there needs to be reform so that the system works better to allow people to enter legally.

Hans Rosemond's picture

Context is everything when dealing with different cultural norms and mores. As for the rest of the post, as I said, I dont want to get into a political argument. I respect your opinion and you've been perfectly pleasant. However, I choose not to go down that path.

Hans Rosemond's picture

And I would say that context is implied in any discussion worth having. The fact that I didnt say "my argument is contextual" does not exclude context from being a consideration. I, and I hope you as well, would consider context in any serious discussion.

Simon Randall's picture

The pyramids are 400 yards from the edge of Cairo and the entire site is a cemetery.

Hans Rosemond's picture

Because it was the first thing I thought of?

Michael Rapp's picture

Remember the heat Madonna received in the 90s for her video "Like a Prayer"? Not even nudes, just a Jesus coming down from the cross and interacting?
Maybe, it was because they chose a black dude for the video, .... but now my cynicism is getting the better of me... ;-)

Hans Rosemond's picture

Haha. Yeah, scantily clad madonna, black saint-like figure, burning crosses...lots of fuel for that fire.

michael buehrle's picture

most of the stuff that is written here on fstoppers is quality stuff. i don't think this piece was. way too vague in my opinion. it was basically, we took a few pics, guards came, i told her to get dressed, we were questioned. how about who what where when why ? no photos ? not nudes but he took none of other things ? maybe i came to expect more from fstoppers.

John Sheehan's picture

I hate to be jaded but the photographer owns the eyewear company (Enki Eyewear) that these images were taken for. Part of me smells an attempt to drum up publicity for his company. I can't believe someone, who has been to Egypt before and knows the country, would be so stupid as to think it was alright to take nudes there. Being Westerners they probably assumed (and were correct) that they'd be detained but released.

michael buehrle's picture

and not very fashionable glasses either.

Eduardo Cervantes's picture

I am self banned for all muslim countries for life. No worries. With so many free friendly places on earth! Why bother?

Michael Rapp's picture

Are you supposed to pop open a beer in church during ceremony? Guess not.
Somet hings we find offensive, some things offend others.
When you are guests in a friend's house you play by the landlord's book. Anything else is rude, at thevery least.
Carrying a camera and having an artistic aura does NOT excempt you from respectful behaviour in a foreign country.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Is it ok to bring Islam in the west?

Michael Rapp's picture

Christianity was brought to the west, too. Not too far away from the country this thread is all about, ironically.
There was a happy and thriving religion already in place in central europe when Christianity came on the map.
And emperor Charlemagne christianized the Kelts at swordpoint, a practice nowadays (thankfully) unacceptable.
So do I want to convert to islam? No way.
Do I have problems with muslims? Not as such.
Problems arise when fundamentalists (of any religion, really) take a narrow view of their own religion, try to negate other people's point of view and way of life and try to make their own way the only way.

Deleted Account's picture

It's always easier to ask forgiveness than permission, especially when you know permission will not be granted. That doesn't make it right. Sometimes you seem to get lucky, and get away with it, but you know you're a disrespectful pu$$y whose sole reason for doing it wasn't art, it was fleeting internet fame and glory.

What's really poignant is that the temple shots aren't even all that good, and the one that is really good doesn't use the temple prominently. The shots with the camel, which could have been taken anywhere, are the best.

What sickens me is they guy's attitude of "look what I got away with, fooling these ignorant primitives with my fake deletes!"

B C's picture

They needed a nude and a pyramid to distract everyone from some majorly butt-ugly glasses.

benpearse's picture

As an Aussie photographer, I say well done, the shots looked great!

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

It's simple - if you can't accept the culture as it is, then you stay in countries close to your religion. Look at all the muslims: you don't see any of them coming to the western countries and bringing their culture there. They adopt and integrate right when they come and treat women with respect! ☝🏼

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Nice pix. Only weird that the hair on her head is shorter than her pubes...

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