Publishers defy vice squad over Mapplethorpe pictures

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The Independent Online
THE PUBLISHERS of a book by the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe yesterday refused demands by a police vice squad to remove two "offending" pictures or to pulp the publication.

The West Midlands police's Paedophile and Pornography Unit is expected to attempt to prosecute Random House publishers under the Obscene Publications Act for two photographs they consider pornographic.

If they are successful they will force libraries to cut out the two images or destroy the books. The University of Central England in Birmingham, where a complaint about the book was originally made, is also expected to face prosecution. The university has already refused to voluntarily destroy the book.

Included in the late Mapplethorpe's work, which has an international reputation, are explicit photographs of his - and other people's - sex lives.

The two photographs the police want to ban are Helmut and Brooks, NYC, 1978, which shows a man "fisting" - a form of anal sex - another man. And Jim and Tom, Sausalito, 1977, which is of a man clad in a dog collar, a leather mask and trousers, urinating into another man's mouth. Gail Rebuck, Chief Executive of Random House, said: "We consider this investigation to be wholly misguided, and are astonished that a scholarly work of such acknowledged artistic and literary merit should be at risk of prosecution.

"We will be making representation through our lawyers that no action should be taken, and still hope that sense will prevail."