My Good Friend, Go Takayama, Wrongfully Imprisoned in Cambodia1:38 am - 12/05/2010
From the National Press Photographers Association:
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA (December 3, 2010) – Photojournalist Go Takayama, 28, a visual journalist from Japan who is a graduate of Ohio University's School of Visual Communication and who has interned at several American newspapers, has been jailed in Cambodia after taking pictures for a story he was working while participating in the Angkor Photo Workshops.
After photographing a married couple inside a home on the evening of November 23, 2010, Takayama was stopped on the street by undercover police and detained until additional police arrived, Angkor Photo Workshop organizer Jessica Lim told News Photographer magazine today. They confiscated his camera along with 78 photographs from his memory card, which have been admitted as evidence in an accusation charging Takayama with producing pornographic content. He has been under arrest and in prison since that night.
"The 78 photographs depict a couple hugging and holding each other," Lim said today. "Although there was never any nudity, the man had his shirt off and halfway through the shoot the woman took her blouse off as well. The man had on shorts and the woman had on trousers throughout the entire shoot and there was no explicit sexual activity."
"We are very concerned that press articles and reports released to date about Takayama's arrest are giving grossly inaccurate information, which contradict the actual events as well as the notes and reports that were made by the police," Lim said. "We would like to clarify all the information regarding Takayama and the circumstances of his arrest."
Lim said that they believe Takayama has been wrongfully accused and are urging Cambodian police and the court to drop all charges made against the photojournalist. A hearing date has been scheduled for December 7 in Siem Reap. She has visited Takayama in prison as recently as yesterday, and the photographer is being represented by a local Cambodian attorney.
Lim said that Takayama arrived in Siem Reap on November 17, one day before the start of the Angkor Photo Workshops were to begin, and he intended to leave when the festival concluded. A visual communications and political science graduate of Ohio University, Takayama is a frequent participant in photojournalism workshops. Lim says Takayama has participated in the Missouri Photo Workshop (2009), American Diversity Project (2008), Truth With A Camera Workshop (2008), the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar (2007), NPPA's 50th annual Flying Short Course (2007), and the VII Photo Seminar (2006). The photojournalist interned at the Evansville Courier & Press and at the Patuxent Publishing Company.
On the strength of his portfolio, Takayama was admitted to the Angkor Photo Workshops, an annual free workshop organized for young and talented Asian photographers, Lim said. During the workshop each participant has to develop a project and shoot a photographic essay. Takayama was one of 31 participants from 14 Asian countries in this year's Angkor event.
For his project, Takayama researched a Cambodian folk tale known as the "Seven Color Princess," Lim said. To illustrate the various aspects of the lore, a narrative about a princess and a crocodile, Takayama had already photographed several other people in various situations, including subjects at a crocodile farm, a floating market, Tonle Sap lake, a boxing match in a Pagoda, and a traditional Khmer wedding. Lim said Takayama had shot more than 1,400 photographs on his essay's theme, and some of the photographs are pictures of places that do not have people in them.
One component of the folk tale is the idea of "strong, possessive love," Lim said. In the tale, when the crocodile finds out the princess is planning to leave him to marry another, the crocodile eats the princess so that she will remain with him forever.
To illustrate this part of the story, Lim said, Takayama decided to show strong, possessive love demonstrated between two people. To do so, he was photographing a married couple, with their permission, who knew the context of the story he was trying to illustrate for the workshop.
"No explicit sexual activity took place during the shoot," Lim told News Photographer magazine. She said the couple were photographed hugging and kissing "in a romantic light."
When the photographer was stopped by police, Lim says, he and the couple were asked to accompany officers to a police station. There the photographer was charged with producing pornography for the purpose of distributing pornographic content. Lim and the Angkor Photo Workshops have helped to arrange for Takayama to be represented at his first hearing by local attorney Sourng Sophea.
Lim says that contrary to a story published in the Phonm Phen Post, Takayama never hired a Cambodian man and female sex workers to take him to brothels to photograph women, as the newspaper reported in a story that quoted a Cambodian police officer. Lim says that also contrary to published reports there is absolutely no nudity in any of the photographs, no sexual activity, and that all 78 photographs show the same couple. She also says his photographs were produced only for the workshop project, and Takayama had no intention of distributing or publishing the content. Lim says Takayama has told her that he has never photographed sexual acts in his photography career.
Since the time of his arrest, Lim and others have been working behind the scenes to try to convince Cambodian police that Takayama has been wrongfully accused. Letters from one of Takayama's professors at Ohio University and from editors who supervised him during his internships have been sent to Cambodia in support of the photojournalist, hoping to show police and the court that Takayama is a documentary photographer with a track record of credibility, and not a pornographer as accused.
Since police and authorities have so far held to their contention stated in the charges and appear to be moving forward to the first court hearing, Lim and workshop organizers who have been seeking support for Takayama today issued a press release telling their side of the story after press reports began to surface that made erroneous claims, Lim said.
from the Phnom Penh Post:
The Siem Reap provincial court will try a Japanese man next week on charges of producing pornography, though the defendant claims the photos were part of an inoffensive project shot in connection with the recently-concluded Angkor Photo Festival.
Chea Heng, deputy chief of Siem Reap’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection office, said Go Takayama had been arrested last month after he hired a Cambodian man and a female sex worker to take him to photograph women at a brothel in Siem Reap district’s Thvay Dangkum commune.
Police discovered 78 illicit photos on Go Takayama’s camera that depicted sex workers in Siem Reap, he added.
“I think this is a serious offence that has affected Cambodian women and society,” he said. “We request the court to punish him strongly in accordance with the law.”
But Jessica Lim, coordinator assistant for the Angkor Photo Festival, said Go Takayama’s photos depicted a single married couple and did not include any nudity, though she acknowledged that she had not had the chance to scrutinise them closely as she had only seen thumbnail photos.
“The couple, in some of the pictures they’re posing next to each other, as in a portrait shot, and in others they’re standing there hugging each other,” Lim said.
“There’s absolutely no nudity… there’s nothing you can see. If anything, it’s the viewer’s imagination.”
Lim said Go Takayama had traveled to Cambodia to participate in a workshop as part of the photo festival.
“The idea of him looking for sex workers and being asked to be taken to brothels – I think both are extremely inaccurate,” she said.
Go is a very good friend of mine and art_house_queen's. We all went to university together and have remained friends since. He is like a long-distance older brother. He's kind, funny and intelligent. He is an amazing friend and dedicated photographer. He is not famous, he's not rich; he's just an average person living his life.
Some of our other friends have set up a Facebook . The first and easiest step is to contact the embassies in Cambodia, the United States and Japan. From there, we are set to begin a defense fund to help with all costs associated with his case.
I am hopeful that some of my fellow ontd_pers will take an interest in this case and send an e-mail to the Cambodian embassy in your country on his behalf.
Information on how to contact your local embassy:
Royal Embassy of Cambodia
4530 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20011
Telephone Number: 202.726.7742; 202-726-7824; 202-726-8268
Fax Number: 202.726.8381
Consular Office Hours
Monday - Friday
9:00am - 12:00pm
1:00pm - 4:00pm
Telephone: 202.726.7742 ext. 10 or 13
903 - 168 Chadwick Court
64 Brondesbury Park
London NW6 7AT
Tel. 020-8451 7850
Fax. 020-8451 7594
all embassies and consulates listed here
From Free Go: To those struggling to figure out what to write when contacting embassies, photojournalist and attorney Matt Slaby has put together a form letter below:
To Whom it May Concern:
I am writing this letter regarding a matter of international interest of which I am hopeful that you are already aware of and working to resolve. On November 23rd, photojournalist Go Takayama was imprisoned in Cambodia for making photographs that illustrate the Cambodian folktale 'The Seven Color Princess.' The subjects of Takayama's photographs included a crocodile farm, Tonle Sap Lake, Wat Damnak Pagoda, and a traditional Khmer wedding. He was compiling these pictures as part of an annual photographic workshop held in Siem Reap. The workshop is held in conjunction with an annual, international photo festival and draws thirty of the most talented emerging photojournalists from throughout Asia.
By all public accounts, the circumstances surrounding Takayama's imprisonment appear to be somewhat misunderstood. During the course of photographing a couple hugging and holding hands, Takayama was taken into custody and charged with "producing pornography." It appears as though the facts surrounding the photo-session --and the images themselves --tell a different story. The photographs do not contain nudity and do not depict any sexual act. The couple in all of the photographs had given their consent to be photographed hugging and holding hands.
In fact, in all of Takayama's young career, he has never been involved with producing images that could even remotely be construed as pornography. To the contrary, Takayama's background is that of a young man who has consistently held himself to the highest of ethical standards and availed himself of an education from one of the most regarded photojournalism schools in the United States. In addition to being a graduate of Ohio University's Visual Communication program, Takayama has worked as a photography intern at Patuxent Publishing Company and Evansville Courier & Press. His work has been published in various publications such as the Vision, City Pictorial, Pen, Southeast Ohio Magazine, Soul of Athens and The Post.
I am particularly troubled by the chilling effect Takayama's arrest will have on photographers wishing to share the beauty of Cambodia. As you are no doubt aware, tourism is now the second largest foreign currency earner in Cambodia's economy and photographers and other storytellers are the primary means through which tourists discover a particular destination. Tourism depends on the perception that a host country has history and culture worth visiting and is also stable enough to safely support the presence of foreign travelers. As the story of Takayama's arrest continues to wind its way through foreign media, these perceptions will undoubtedly be undermined.
For the foregoing reasons I would respectfully like to voice my support for Takayama's immediate release. I believe this course of action embodies the most positive outcome for all parties involved.
Go's blog is located here. Please have a look at his portfolio and essays. That is the true Go.
edited for clarity and to add more links