Artist: Jock Sturges
Confronting Bodies: Federal Bureau of Investigation
Date of Action: April 1990
Description of Artwork: The work included nude shots of naturists, taken on a naturist beach (all of Sturges fine art work with nudes is done with individuals and families who chose nudity as a lifestyle and a natural expression of themselves).
Description of Incident: On Tuesday, April 25, 1990, acting on a tip from Newell Color Lab concerning "questionable photographs of juveniles," a task force consisting of elements of the San Francisco Police and the FBI raided the home of Joe Semien, who was working on internegatives from color slides for Sturges. Joe, a black male approximately 23 years old, and his roommates and several girlfriends were rousted out of bed and made to stand against a wall. Several of them, including Joe, were naked. The residence was searched and ultimately Joseph Semien was arrested and taken to jail. All of his possessions that had any possible bearing on his photographic business were seized. He was told initially that he was to be charged with 27 felonies and 27 misdemeanors regarding the production with intent to distribute child pornography. He was interrogated at length by the FBI but, despite numerous requests, never saw a public defender while in jail. He was told that unless he cooperated and made a statement he would "never see any of his professional possessions again." Feeling tremendously pressured , but despite having no attorney present, he finally did make a statement. His initial bail was set at $81,000 but he was ultimately released two days later on his own recognizance, charged with two felonies and ten misdemeanors. After aggressive questioning the Colorarts Photo Lab proprietor, officials discovered the work was Sturges. The Taskforce progressed to searching his apartment and all his belongings, where as Sturges called an attorney to represent him. After three and a half hours, all of Sturges equipment, photographic work, business related material and personal reference items were confiscated along with a box of negatives belonging to photographer, Ken Miller. Unlike Semian, Jock Sturges was not arrested nor charged with a crime.
Results of Incident: Sturges' and Semien's charges were dropped after a lengthy period along with materials returned. Both suffered from the stigma and loss of business related to the investigation.
Source: Committee For Artists' Rights Archive
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