Switzerland: Ban on photographic book

9 February 2013

On 24 January 2013, Zurich Civil Court confirmed a ban on the photographic book by Christian Lutz, ‘In Jesus’ Name’, based on complaints from 21 people who appear in the book.

Photos: Christian Lutz

The photographer, along with the Musée de l’Elysée and Lars Müller Publishers, have called the ban a “breach of freedom of speech and of artistic expression”. They add: “In a non-partisan way, ‘In Jesus’ Name’ highlights the functioning of a religious enterprise and of the individual sharing this living together.”

Already, more than 70 photographers, curators and editors have joined a committee to support Christian Lutz’s work.

Investigation on the issue of power
In 2003, Swiss photographer Christian Lutz initiated a photographic investigation on the issue of power. His investigation led to the publication of the book ‘Protokoll’ on political power in 2007, ‘Tropical Gift’ on economic power in 2010, and ‘In Jesus’ Name’ on religious power in 2012.

The first publication of this trilogy launched the photographer’s career both nationally and internationally, in addition to earning him numerous distinctions. The third publication, however, was banned by Swiss authorities.

On 7 February 2013, Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne wrote the following in a press release:

The Musée de l’Elysée had planned to exhibit the full trilogy from June to September 2013. However, legal proceedings led to a ban of ‘In Jesus’ Name’ upon its release.

Twenty-one people appearing in the book individually filed a complaint against Christian Lutz and his publisher, on the basis of their image rights. The photographer and his publisher appeared before the Zurich Civil Court on 24 January 2013. The Law temporarily confirmed this censorship.

At the Heart of Religious Power
ICF (International Christian Fellowship) is one of the most important free churches in Switzerland. Its success and rapid expansion are a matter of public concern. Created according to the American model of megachurches, it was initiated in Zurich at the end of the 90s, and has now spread throughout Roman Switzerland thanks to a solid establishment in Lausanne and Geneva. It manages a considerable budget and is characterized by the use of sophisticated and performing marketing and communication methods.

Christian Lutz met the pastor and founder of the Evangelical movement ICF, Leo Bigger, in May 2011. He then introduced him to the other church managers to whom the photographer also presented his project, his former books, his approach and the stakes involved in his Trilogy. He was subsequently granted express consent from the managers who welcomed him in the community.

The photographer nonetheless still systematically kept requesting specific authorizations to the organizers for each ICF’s activity which he wished to participate in and photograph. He joined in several trips and summer camps organized by the church, and took part in all sorts of events: celebrations, baptisms, ladies lounge, blood donation, theater show, workshop on the addiction to pornography, etc. He met members of the church, exchanged constantly with them, and freely discussed his reportage.

As for each of his series, Christian Lutz immerged himself totally, photographing faces and individuals up close while fully respecting a rigorous deontology. He was given an ICF photo-reporter badge, and affiliates or organizers of activities regularly ordered prints from him. He thus photographed openly, each one being aware of the project and accepting to be part of it.

Public Interest and Freedom of Speech
In light of the above, and in view of the violent reaction and of the censorship imposed by legal means on In Jesus’ Name, Christian Lutz and his publisher, along with the Musée de l’Elysée, wish to express their concern and bewilderment. This breach of freedom of speech and of artistic expression is all the more surprising given that the purpose of Christian Lutz’s photography is nothing else but to show what he sees. In a non-partisan way, In Jesus’ Name highlights the functioning of a religious enterprise and of the individual sharing this living together. It appears to be the first art book dedicated to the evangelist phenomenon.

This book has received support from the Swiss Confederation, the City of Geneva and from prestigious foundations. A set of images from this series has already been exhibited in reputed institutions: at the Musée de l’Elysée, as part of the group show Culture/Contre culture, from December 2011 through January 2012, and at the Musée de Bagnes, in the Summer of 2012.

The Musée de l’Elysée is a vigorous advocate of photographers, their work, their freedom of speech as well as their artistic freedom. In Jesus’ Name constitutes an essential and indisputable ethnographic and sociological testimony. A support committee — whose members are listed below — has rapidly been established to defend the global existence of this work of public interest. While ensuring respect for the legal framework, the Musée de l’Elysée reiterates its commitment to these fundamental values.

Members of the Support Committee to ‘In Jesus’ Name’ on 7 February 2013 :

Sam Stourdzé, Director of the Musée de l’Elysée;
Daniel Girardin, Curator, Musée de l’Elysée;
Alain Tanner, Film Director;
Pascal Couchepin, former President of the Swiss Confederation;
Stephan Eicher, Singer-Composer;
Christian Caujolle, Professor, independent Curator, founder of the Agence VU;
Rémy Pagani, Mayor of the City of Geneva;
Jean-Paul Felley, Director, Swiss Cultural Center in Paris;
Richard Dumas, Photographer;
Sami Kanaan, Administrative Advisor in charge of Culture and Sports for the City of Geneva;
Thomas D. Meier, President of Zürcher Hochschule der Künste;
Xavier Canonne, Director, Photography Museum of Charleroi;
Urs Staub, Head of the Museums and Collections Department at the Federal Office for Culture of the Swiss Federation;
Thérèse Obrecht, President, Reporter Without Borders Switzerland;
Vincent Cartuyvels, Director, Ecole Supérieure des Arts de l’Image «le 75», Brussels;
Luc Chessex, Photographer;
Pius Knüsel, former Director of the Foundation Pro Helvetia;
Eric Larrouil, Director, Agence VU;
Franz Treichler, Singer-Composer, Young Gods;
David Streiff, former Director of the Federal Office for Culture, President of the Swiss Foundation for Photography;
Stefano Stoll, Director, Festival Images of Vevey;
Chantal Prod’Hom, Director, MUDAC, Lausanne ;
Francis Traunig, Photographer, Christian Brändle, Director, Design Museum, Zurich;
Anne Bisang, Stage Director;
Peter Pfrunder, Director, Swiss Foundation for Photography;
Martin Gasser, Curator, Swiss Foundation for Photography;
Andreas Schoellhorn, member of the Governing Board, Fotostiftung Schweiz Foundation ;
Mario Del Curto, Photographer;
Cynthia Odier, Director, Fluxlaboratory, Geneva;
Reto Camenisch, professor at MAZ, Journalism School, Luzern;
Beat Rüdt, professor at MAZ, Journalism School, Luzern;
Jann Jenatsch, CEO, Keystone, Zurich;
Jean-François Leroy, Director, International Photojournalism Festival Visa pour l’image, Perpignan;
Olivier Vogelsang, Photographer;
Hervé Marchand, Director, Festival Quinzaine Photographique Nantaise;
Jean Revillard, Photographer;
Géraldine Savary, Councilor to the States, Lausanne;
Nicolas Crispini, Photographer;
Georges Vercheval, Honorary Director, founder of Charleroi Photography Museum;
Pierre-Jérôme Jehel, Photography Professor at Gobelins, Paris;
Maya Boesch, Stage Director, Director of the Cie Sturmfrei;
Philippe Macasdar, Director, Theater Saint-Gervais, Geneva;
Urs Stahel, Director, Fotomuseum Winterthur;
Arnaud Laroche, Director, Boutographies Photography Festival, Montpellier;
Hugues de Würstemberger, Photographer;
Pierre Morath, Film Director;
Joerg Bader, Director, Center for Photography, Geneva;
Matthieu Gafsou, Photographer;
Nathalie Herschdorfer, Director, Festival Altitude +1000;
Christian Gattinoni, Editor in Chief, online magazine;
Laura Serani, Director, Bamako Photography Festival;
Steeve Iuncker, Photographer;
Gilles Verneret, Director, Gallery Le Bleu du Ciel, Lyon;
Pierre-Antoine Grisoni, Photographer, Agency Strates;
Gaël Turine, Photographer;
Claudia Durgnat, Director, Festival Tous Ecrans, Geneva;
Bénédicte Montant, Architect;
Jean-Marc Lacabe, Director, Galerie du Château d’Eau, Toulouse;
François Saint-Pierre, Director, Lectoure Art and Photography Center;
Aude Vermeil, Director, Fonction Cinéma, Geneva;
Anne Golaz, Photographer;
Pierre Ducrey, Honorary Professor at the University of Lausanne;
Alan Humerose, Photographer;
Anne-Marie Grobet, Photographer, and former member of the Governing Board of Pro Helvetia;
Catherine Kohler & Hélène Joye-Cagnard, Directors, Journées Photographiques, Bienne;
Mark Henley, Photographer;
Charles Kleiber, Architect, former Secretary of State;
Bernard Demenge, Photographer;
Daniel Devaud, Judge;
Claude Ratzé, Director, Association for Contemporary Dance, Geneva;
Marco Meier, Director, Lassalle-Institut, member of the Swiss Foundation for Photography, Luzern;
Jacques Cerami, Director, Gallery Jacques Cerami, Charleroi;
Gilbert Vogt, Photographer;
Laurent Berney, Director, Berney Associés ;
Xavier Voirol, Photographer, Association Focale, Nyon;
Françoise Lacoste, Artistic Advisor, Curator for Toulouse City Council

British Journal of Photography – 11 February 2013:
Swiss photographer in legal battle to publish photobook
Agence Vu photographer Christian Lutz is facing a legal challenge launched against his latest book, In Jesus’ Name, by a group of people he had photographed

Portfolio, books and stories: Christian Lutz

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