Singaporean photographer Leslie Kee and two others have been arrested on suspicion of selling photo collections containing images of male genitalia in Tokyo, an act police say constitutes illegal distribution of obscene documents.
Kee, 41, a Japan-based photographer known for his published works featuring celebrities such as Lady Gaga, and two Japanese organizers of a photo exhibition allegedly sold photo books containing the images, police said, adding that most of the pictures in the 50-page book showed male genitalia.
The two Japanese are 45-year-old Hiromi Yoshii, an executive of a company operating a gallery, and 27-year-old Yuko Kanda, an employee of the firm.
The three acknowledged the sales but the two Japanese denied the books contained obscene images. Kee gave evasive answers during questioning Monday, according to police.
The Metropolitan Police Department said the trio sold seven photo books worth ¥42,000 in total to two visitors at an event held in central Tokyo’s Roppongi district Saturday.
Fashionistas decry arrest
Japanese fashionistas leaped to the defense of Tokyo-based Singaporean photographer Leslie Kee on Tuesday after he was arrested for selling books containing pictures of male genitalia.
Kee, who has snapped megastars, including Lady Gaga and Beyonce, was arrested Monday on suspicion of obscenity after selling the books at his gallery.
The 41-year-old photographer could be jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to ¥2.5 million if convicted.
Pornography is widely available and produced in Japan, but under domestic law genitalia must be obscured.
“I am stunned by the news of Leslie Kee’s arrest,” Yamamuro Kazz, a leading fashion journalist and magazine editor, wrote on his website.
He questioned the police motivation behind the arrest, because Kee’s works were only available at a gallery event, a forum open just to people familiar with their artistic nature.
“The legal interpretation of whether genitals were exposed (or whether the work is obscene) is totally irrelevant to the intention of an artist,” Kazz said.
“Under their narrow interpretation, works by Terry Richardson and Robert Mapplethorpe are all considered obscene,” he said, referring to prominent U.S. photographers.
Popular model Ai Tominaga tweeted: “I am shocked. I am shocked for Japan.” Others expressed similar dismay online. Twitter user @onda_natsue said the arrest showed how unsophisticated Japanese culture is.