The controversial show, by South Korean photographer Ahn Sehong, was due to depict the lives of ‘Comfort Women’ – Koreans reportedly ‘kidnapped and forced to work as sex slaves’ by Japanese soldiers during World War Two.
Sehong, who has been working on the project since 1996, said Nikon pulled the show amid political protests in Japan.
The photographer said he has since been bombarded by crank phone calls and threats to his family over the exhibition, due to be shown at the Nikon Salon in Tokyo.
‘Everything was prepared, printed and framed, ready for the opening on 26 June,’ said Sehong.
‘It was due to show the efforts of 15 years of work. Suddenly, it was cancelled by the sponsor Nikon who apologised to us but did not offer any reasonable explanation.’
He added: ‘Since then I have found my personal information being posted on the internet, and I and my family have been intimidated by some anonymous calls.’
Nikon had reportedly received complaints about the exhibition, but has refused to give a reason for axing the show.
A Nikon Europe spokesperson told Amateur Photographer (AP): ‘Nikon Corporation in Japan decided to retract its support of the photo exhibition for a number of different reasons.
‘Unfortunately, we don’t have anything further to add at this time.’
Picture credit: Ahn Sehong
Photographers, including Magnum’s Chris Steele-Perkins and Chris Furlong of Getty, have demanded Nikon reverse its ‘censorship’.
Among those springing to Sehong’s defence is photojournalist Brian Harris who said: ‘It’s the job of the photographer to uncover difficult truths and confront the world with them. Censorship in any form is abhorrent.
‘Nikon should do the decent thing and show Ahn Sehong’s work and recognise it is an important contribution to Japan’s understanding of history.’
British photographer Simon Barber has drafted an open letter to Nikon that, he tells AP, has so far attracted nearly 250 signatures from amateur and professional photographers across the globe.
‘The support for Ahn Sehong has been incredible,’ he said.
The letter, to Nikon UK’s managing director, states: ‘The photograph is a crucial part of the matrix in free and fair societies and it is essential that photographers who are undertaking important and difficult work such as Ahn Sehong should be allowed to work without interference of narrow political interests.’
Barber added: ‘I would urge anyone, whether they are a pro or a hobbyist, to offer their name because this is a really important issue about corporate responsibility.’
The Japan Visual Journalist Association has also condemned Nikon’s decision, according to a report in the Japan Times.
The petition can be seen HERE