Feb 05 2013

Singaporean Photographer Arrested in Tokyo on Obscenity Charges

by Hanae Ko

A screenshot of the press image for Leslie Kee’s solo exhibition at Hiromi Yoshii gallery, 2013. 

On February 4, Singaporean photographer Leslie Kee was arrested on suspicion of obscenity after selling copies of his book, which contains pictures of uncensored male nudes, at a gallery in Tokyo.

Kee, who is based in Tokyo, is best known for his commercial work photographing local and international celebrities, including album covers for musicians such as Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. According to a report by the Agence France-Presse, the Metropolitan Police Department of Tokyo arrested the 41-year-old photographer along with two Japanese publishing-firm employees who assisted with the sale. A statement released by the police department alleges that the arrested party sold seven copies of a book, “containing many photographs explicitly showing male genitals and others,” to two male customers at the gallery.

The sale allegedly took place on February 2, at Hiromi Yoshii gallery in Roppongi, during the opening night of Kee’s solo exhibition, “Forever Young: Uncensored Edition.” The exhibition also displayed uncensored photographs of male nudes, similar to those included in the book in question. The book was priced at 6,000 yen (USD 65), with the majority of its pages featuring images of male genitalia.

Conflicting reports by several Japanese news outlets, including Sankei News and Nihon Keizai Shimbun, have stated that Kee was arrested alongside the gallery’s director, Hiromi Yoshii, and an unnamed third person. The trio could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to 2.5 million yen (USD 2,700), if convicted of the obscenity charge. Under Japanese law, commercial pictures that include genitals must be censored—a process that is usually done through pixelation.