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Famous photographer - anyone having his books risks arrest

Hamilton's naked girl shots ruled 'indecent'

Chris Warmoll, GUARDIAN 05-06-23

David Hamilton - the photographer whose images hang in the US Library of Congress, Carnegie Hall and the Royal Danish Palace - has had his multi-million-selling images of young, naked women and girls officially branded as indecent in a landmark British ruling. Anyone owning one of his coffee-table books now risks being "arrested for possession of indecent photographs", following a ruling at Guildford Crown Court.

The case revolves around Stanley Loam, a 49-year-old auditor from Walton on Thames, Surrey, who was charged with being in possession of 19,000 indecent images of children - the biggest ever haul by the county's force. Loam claimed he had a genuine interest in artistic material, and that the images in his collection by Hamilton were freely available in books sold by websites run by WHSmith, Tesco, Waterstones and Amazon. Loam said he thought they were not indecent, but lost his defence.

Prosecutor Simon Connolly told the court that Loam's home was raided as part of Operation Ore, after receiving a tip-off from the US Postal Investigation Service. He argued that the images, including those by Hamilton,

"are plainly indecent. The content cannot be described as artistic and is plainly of a sexual nature."

The court heard the images seized were of the lowest indecency rating - category 1. Speaking after, DC Simon Ledger, of Surrey Police, said:

"It is no defence in law to say pictures of naked children are 'artistic'."

Whether Hamilton's images are widely available or not, he suggested, they are clearly unlawful.

"The fact he [Loam] has been convicted demonstrates they are not legal."
He added:
"Anyone who has David Hamilton's books can be arrested for the possession of indecent photographs. We are liaising with the publishers of his books to explain this."

Hamilton's photographs have long been at the forefront of the "is it art or pornography?" debate. Glenn Holland, spokesman for the 71-year-old photographer, who lives in St Tropez, said:

"We are deeply saddened and disappointed by this, as David is one of the most successful art photographers the world has ever known. His books have sold millions. "We have known for some time that the law in Britain and the US - our two biggest markets - is becoming tighter each year. But the fact remains that the courts still have to decide on each case."

On Tuesday, WHSmith said it was withdrawing one of Hamilton's books - The Age of Innocence - from sale on its website, following a discussion with London publishers, Aurum Press.

Correction 1: Letter to the Editor


Art on trial

Wednesday July 13, 2005
The Guardian

I am writing in response to your article on the artwork of David Hamilton (Hamilton's naked girl shots ruled 'indecent', G2, June 23). As a photographic artist and a campaigner for freedom of speech, I disagree with the comments of DC Simon Ledger. Following written advice from the Home Office, speaking to the Crown Prosecution Service and reading the appeals court judgement cited to me by Home Office minister Paul Goggins, the book Age of Innocence is not indecent. It has also never been before a British jury, in any case. In the US it is constitutionally protected as art.

Correction 2: The Editor speaks

The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Tuesday July 12 2005:

In the article below [the original article is re-printed], we [the Guardian newspaper] say that the books of the photographer, David Hamilton, were declared indecent in a "landmark ruling" at Guildford crown court. This was not a landmark ruling. The defendant had pleaded guilty to specimen charges and this fact was accidentally edited from the original story.

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