Instagram is often criticized for being too strict and heavy-handed with their censorship. As soon as their algorithm detects the hint of a nipple or even a few hairs on a thigh, the network swoops down like a hawk to remove the images.
Pics or it Didn't Happen: Images Banned from Instagram (published by Prestel) is a new book created by Molly Soda and Arvida Byström – two Instagrammers with creative profiles who hope to push the limits of the rules set on social media.
Both consider social media to be a venue for artistic expression that is unique to the 21st century. But Instagram doesn't seem to be able to tell the difference between art and vulgarity.
Arvida Byström isn't afraid to be nude on Instagram and she developed this book project in response to the excessive censorship she encountered on the network. The Swedish model and photographer recently shot a campaign with Pamela Anderson for the brand Missguided in which she posed for a body positive lingerie brand.
Molly Soda has a similar interest in body positive art. The American artist works for a variety of web platforms on which she writes about things she's passionate about: culture, our relationship to perversion, feminism and identity issues. Through her photos, she defies beauty standards and norms.
For this project, Arvida and Molly collaborated with Chris Kraus, the author of Summer of Hate (MIT Press, 2012) and I Love Dick (Flammarion, 2016) in addition to two other works on cultural criticism.
Rules, rules, rules
The Instagram guidelines forbid the publication of violent images, nudes (including partial nudity), discriminatory content, illegal activity, pornography, anything inciting hate, and sexual content (even if it's only suggestive).
Obviously, these rules have sparked debate among creatives who use the network to share their art.
Faced with Instagram censorship numerous times, Molly and Arvida decided to ask their community of artists to submit photos they'd posted that had been removed by Instagram.
They received a lot of images from Instagrammers like Petra Collins, Rupi Kaur, Amalia Ulman, Lina Scheynius and Harley Weir, in addition to work by lesser known artists.
The book is a photographic journey through topics like sex, nude selfies, body image and menstruation. And it's all beautiful.