Billboard Co. Says No to Soldier Portraits in St. Paul
A billboard company has canceled its contract to display one of photographer Suzanne Opton’s portraits of active-duty soldiers on an outdoor space in St. Paul, Minnesota, site of the Republican National Convention. Opton, a New York-based photographer, shot her “Soldiers Faces” series at Fort Drum, in New York State, between 2004 and 2005, with the permission of the soldiers and their commanders. Having exhibited the portraits in galleries around the U.S., this year Opton launched the “Soldier Billboard Project,” a program to display the images on public billboards in five U.S. cities.
One of her images was to go on display on a billboard in St. Paul last, but CBS Outdoor, which controls the space, canceled the contract. In an email sent to Opton last week, CBS Outdoor Executive Vice President of Marketing Jodi Senese wrote, “The reason we have advised you that we cannot post these as billboards is that out-of-context (neither in a museum setting or website) the images, as stand-alone highway or city billboards, appear to be deceased soldiers. The presentation in this manner could be perceived as being disrespectful to the men and women in our armed forces.”
Each portrait in Opton’s series is a close up of a soldier as he rests his face on a table.
In August, Opton’s photo of a soldier who had served 120 days in Afghanistan was displayed on a billboard in Denver, site of the Democratic Party’s convention. The Denver billboard was arranged with support from the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art. According to a press statement from Opton, other soldier billboards are planned for Houston (with help from DiverseWorks ArtSpace), Atlanta (Atlanta Contemporary Art Center) and Miami. The “Soldier Billboard Project” is supported by funding from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
“We have every intention of moving forward with our plans,” said Susan Reynolds, curator of the Billboard Project.
The nine images that make up “Soldier Billboard Project” are on view at www.soldiersface.com.
thanks Alice Arnold
More on billboards denied for anti-war content:
Minnesota ant-war video billboard
“All your arguments about (free) speech are ridiculous”
2004 – Group sues over anti-war billboard and wins (er, settles)