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Nan Goldin: It's ridiculous that we treat child nudity as a problem

Perversity is in the eye of the beholder. Children are born without a fear of sexuality or a fear of their own bodies. That fear is imposed on them. Children are sensual beings, they touch and they like to be touched. It's the adult who sometimes takes advantage of this situation.

It's not about what the children in an image are doing and there's nothing sick about a nude child. It's so ridiculous we treat this as a problem in society. It's one of the joys of life, the human body.

My little nephew grew up in Scotland and when he'd visit America with his parents, he'd run around the beach naked and people would be incensed. The more we are around nudity, the more it is demystified and the more we realise that the body is beautiful.

Pornography is another issue altogether. I used to work in Times Square and a lot of the people who worked in a bar there were sex workers who made their money from being in porn magazines. I would say the difference between pornography and art is that (in the first instance), children are abused to act out adult's version of their fantasies. Child abuse is all about power and I am not encouraging anyone to have a relationship with someone under-age.

Last year when I had my exhibition at the Baltic, the assistant director called the police and said there's a piece, here that you might not like. The image was of two little sisters belly-dancing. They decided to belly dance for me, I didn't set anything up. They were acting completely naturally. Afterwards I got a letter from the parents of the girls I photographed to tell me how much they had enjoyed the images.

But even respected publishers are now afraid of using that image in a book of my work because they think it could prevent its US distribution.

Art can't and shouldn't be regulated by the state. Politicians have nothing whatsoever to do with art or artists except to become anonymous collectors if they choose.

Nan Goldin, 54, is an American fine art and documentary photographer based in Paris