San Diego Public Library

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Date: 2000

Region: North America

Subject: Explicit Sexuality, Nudity

Medium: Photography


Artist: Artist and photographers Graham Ovenden and David Hamilton

Confronting Bodies: San Diego Public Library; San Diego Superior Court Judge William Kennedy

Dates of Action: 2000

Location: San Diego, California USA

Description of Artwork: There were two photos at issue: one from David Hamilton’s Twenty Five Years as an Artist and the other from Graham Ovenden’s State of Grace. In both pictures in question there were images of naked girls in different provocative poses. Both artists whose pictures are in question are respected and notable artists. Twenty Five Years as an Artist by artist and photographer David Hamilton has sold more than one million copies. Although controversial, Hamilton’s photographs have been displayed by galleries and distributed to libraries around the world.

The Incident: While investigating 49-year-old convicted pedophile Charles Davis San Diego police discovered that Davis had in his possession various photocopies of images of naked girls in different provocative positions. There were two photos at issue: one from David Hamilton’s Twenty Five Years as an Artist and the other from Graham Ovenden’s State of Grace. Davis told the police that he photocopied the images from two reference books in the San Diego downtown public library. Davis was arrested and tried in April 2000 for possessing child pornography. San Diego Superior Court Judge William Kennedy convicted Davis of the charges against him ruling that the defendant obtained the two books from the library for sexual purposes. In his ruling the Judge stated, “[The books] are not for art’s sake but for sexual purposes”.

Results of Incident: The discovery that Charles Davis, a convicted pedophile, had obtained provocative images of young girls from books in the San Diego public library system led to a review of the library books in question. Judge Kennedy’s ruling in the Davis case prompted library officials to assemble a new panel to review the books’ contents to see if they need to be pulled from the library’s art reference collection. Library officials have been reviewing the books in question and working with San Diego police investigators and the city attorney to decide what to do.

Source: San Diego Metro archives and The San Diego Union-Tribune archives