Does the artwork of Wilhelm Von Gloeden count as CSEM?

Wilhelm Von Gloeden was a german photographer known for his pastoral nudes of Sicilian boys, he was an innovator of several photographic filters and body makeups used to disguise skin blemishes in his models. Most of his noteworthy work was done before 1910 ( over 100 years ago ).

Despite the fact that Wilhelm Von Gloeden’s artwork primarily comprises of romanticized photographs of nude minors, you can easily find all or most of it online without getting a warning from Google, furthermore, his artwork is hosted on sites such as alamy and various online fine art galleries.

I asked this question on r/MorbidQuestions a long time ago. The consensus was diverse but the most upvoted answer argued that Von Gloeden’s artwork did not constitute as CSEM simply because ‘‘pictures of nude children do not automatically constitute as CSEM’’.

Therefore I have two questions. Does Von Gloeden’s artwork constitute as CSEM? and If not, where exactly is the legal line drawn by using Gloeden’s artwork as an example? If his artwork is not CSEM, what exactly would it need to portray to qualify as such?

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I think I researched WVG a few months ago after stumbling upon him on accident, and I had similar questions. If I remember correctly, the thing is–nude photos are absolutely not inherently CSEM, but these do go from Simple Nudity to Approaching Sexuality.

It’s enough of a grey line, however, that I think it depends entirely on his conduct with the children themselves. Were they harmed in any way? What was the social climate like for sexual imagery and children? In the context of that specific place and time, compared to other children and the conventions of how to treat children, did they and could they consent to photography like this?

These children are dead now. These are definitively not photographs of a crime scene. However, they could be a haunting memory of a terrible time in their lives… or this could’ve been a “perfectly normal” experience in context.

I think, for something to enter Definitely CSEM Territory, there has to be provable harm (including emotion), otherwise, it’s a grey area that’s case by case. I… don’t think there’s currently proof any of these kids were being exceptionally mistreated.

If something was considered Normal And Fine a century ago but is now seen possibly otherwise, does that mean EVERY image or document of it is exploitative? Would this photographer have acted differently in this time and place? Was posing them like this any worse than how society treated them?

It’s a difficult subject. I think I’m gonna say that no, I wouldn’t really call it CSEM–even though I probably would if they were made today. This isn’t a perfect 1 to 1, but like… making children clean chimneys nowadays would be horrifying and abusive, but even though it still was just as harmful back then, I’m not going to label every person that hired a Chimeny Boy inherently a child abuser.

But, again, that’s not a GREAT metaphor. [shrug]

WVG was a pederast ( I’m not sure what the difference is between a pederast and pedophile ), he had a sexual relationship with at least one of his models named Panzrazio Buciuni who was 23 years younger than Gloeden. Panzrazio inherited all of WVG’s work and he is the reason why his work is known in the first place, he died in 1963 and never made any negative comments about WVG.

There haven’t been photographers or artists like WVG in over 40 years due to the fact that work such as his is unofficially illegal and socially frowned upon and absolutely no fine art galleries would accept modern iterations of his work so why is WVG given a pass by fine art communities? Is it because of his technical contributions to the art of photography?

I mean, there have certainly been other modern photographers whose work featuring nude children has been controversial. Sally Mann, Jock Sturges, David Hamilton… Jock Sturges did an interview (which I can find, if you’re curious) where he describes some of the safeguards that he employed. For example, every time he re-exhibits or re-publishes any of his works, he gets permission once again from all of the models (who are now adults). But apparently, they have never refused because of the trust that they have in him.

I remember seeing one of Sally Mann’s nude children photos on the Guggenheim Art Museum website…

Mapplethorpe as well, but his seem to have been expunged for some reason or another.

I’ve seen the naked Brooke Shields photo Spiritual America in two separate gallery exhibitions, and also saw an exhibition of Bill Henson’s works which feature nude adolescents—though I think that Bill’s work has since become more controversial, despite being supported by the artistic community.

The brooke shields image has already been ruled legally IIOC in the UK. One of the galleries was forced to take it down citing likelihood it’s an illegal image. Strangely enough I don’t know if the authorities have confiscated it, they simply forced them to take it down from public view.

As for the question about the other nude images of minors, I hope you are all aware that yes, maybe they don’t count as an illegal image in the US on itself, but misuse of such images can still be illegal. If you upload these innocuous nude images of minors onto a porn site, you are in violation of law.

If people are collect them for your own sexual gratification, it’s not so clear, I will have to research more about the law in so far as possession. But it’s still a violation of the dignity of the child to do so, so please do not use ANY images of children as a masturbatory aid, irrespective of whether it violates a legal code or not. Children cannot consent to their images being used in that sort of way.

I’m not going to label every person that hired a Chimeny Boy inherently a child abuser.

They WERE abusers though. Just because the social norms back then were different doesn’t negate the seriousness of the offence. I know in 100 years, intentionally purchasing meat from animal abuse factory farms would probably be considered a very serious offense and they would have a good reason for such a law. And I wouldn’t blame them if they consider modern humans eating habits to be heinous and unforgivable. Because Morals are timeless, right and wrong do not change very much as time goes on. It is ALWAYS wrong to exploit children, sexually, or physically. It’s ALWAYS wrong to torture animals as a means to increase profits or for pleasure. These are universal ethics created since before the big bang. As long as there is consciousness that is capable of pain or pleasure, these ethics exist.

I think you posted on an incorrect forum.

This thread was a question about classification rules of what constitutes a photo to be a Child Sexual Exploitation Material and morality of making photos of naked children for artistic purposes. A question quite serious considering a lot of people take photos of their own naked babies and kids for family albums and for social media sites.

Nowhere in this thread is there any proposition of using such materials for masturbation, it’s a disingenuous proposition coming from you that uncovers your bias, which considering you already read 169 posts, according to your profile statistics, is unreasonable. You should already lose any initial misconception of this site potentially being dedicated for promotion of sexual abuse of minors simply because it has a more original approach to the topic.

The Sebastian_Sabra_Thom mention of different social norms of the past was put in the context of him stating, that in his opinion, the main rule for defining whenever a photo should be constituted a CSEM, is provable harm. His spitballing of different points of view of such old photos in different periods of time was made in an effort to answer the question of whenever the societal view could classify as such harm, and his conclusion was, that in modern days, due to societal views of nudity of children, such child whose photo was made of, would be harmed, while in the past it wouldn’t, assuming the nudity of children alone really didn’t make people panic and be outraged, and was treated as something inherently nonsexual (unlike in modern times, where it seems that most self-proclaimed “anti-pedophiles who for sure aren’t attracted to kids” just can’t help themselves, to not see everything as the “arousing depiction of children”).

His conclusion, albeit not decisive, was that in modern times he would classify it as CSEM, while in the time of the past, he wouldn’t. This was his answer, that in his opinion, societal views on such photos do participate in potential of harming the individuals contained on such photos, and should be taken under consideration as a criterion for whenever something classify as CSEM.

Nowhere in his response the was anything, that could even remotely be read as him supposedly creating apologetics for such acts. His entire post was dedicated to answering the question of classification. Not an effort to justify any action.

I’m genuinely surprised how easily you misconstructed the entire post to suit a strawman you created and saw no issues posting it without even second-guessing.

Also, some nitpicking on my side:

These two lines exclude each other, there was no consciousness whatsoever before the big bang. I don’t think you put any effort in actually understanding what morality is, and instead, you use it as a universal free pass to push any agenda and justify any action of yours, no matter how much harm it will cause to innocent people.

Yes, it’s always wrong to exploit children in any way, sexually, physically, even emotionally. It’s always wrong to abuse children in any way. Same rules apply to adults, and to animals. It seems to me that the only reason why you felt the need to state that on a forum that has the same opinion and displayed it on multiple times in many posts, of many which you should already seen is because you are uncertain in your own belief, that this moral codex is really correct, and you seek social validation of it being the case.

So here you have. I gave you the confirmation you needed. You are right that abuse is evil. The floor is made out of the floor and the water is wet. You can be proud of yourself, that you do recognize the very basic rules of morality, everyone on this forum, and the grand majority of people of this planet, do recognize as well. So congratulations at discovering what everyone already knows. It must have been hard for you to came this long way. So I’m proud of you.

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The question also has a historical element. If all the persons portrayed are no longer living, if the work has been generally accepted and become canonical, etc then it doesn’t generally fall under CSEM.

Any proof of this? I can’t find any case law around this. Because what you said makes literally no sense. If you read the federal statues, it literally says nothing about whether it becomes canonical or not. It’s based strictly on whether it involved recorded sexual penetration, sadistic or machoistic sexual abuse, masturbation or lascivious exhibitions of the pubic area/anus area. If you were to look at the automatic defenses, it says zero on canonical. The automatic defenses or “affirmative defenses” as the feds call them are based on the fact that you can prove they were created without actual children. Like if you have proof that the people the feds thought were children actually were adults at time image taken. I believe the federal statue in question is usc 2252. There might be others but IDK.

In the US, Wilhelm Von Gloeden’s work most probably—like Lolita—passes (or would pass) the Miller test. The significance of something being canonical or widely accepted as a part of the history of a particular artistic medium—in this case photography, in the case of Lolita, literature—is central to whether or not something can or cannot be legally censored by the state. Despite the manifold problems we may all have with Miller, it would pass the S(LAPS) prong of the test. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

csem aka child pornography law is exempt from the miller test though.

It’s tricky in this particular case if the work in question would be considered CSEM because of Miller. Again, Lolita passes muster despite its narrative—one that many would now consider written CSEM.

The central question is whether or not Wilhelm Von Gloeden‘s work is considered child pornography. Given its age, it’s historical context, it’s canonical status (no, those naked cherubs taken from real children in iconography around the world are not considered CSEM, so canon does play a role here) I doubt it is. This applies only to Wilhelm Von Gloeden‘s work but I can’t speak to other more contemporary pieces. Additionally, this is why I suspect his work has not been filtered out of Google image searches.

As I said in the post or tried to say in the post, the top comment on r/MorbidQuestions agreed that it wasn’t CSEM but everywhere else, including r/LegalAdvice stated that it was CSEM via the PROTECT Act. However, asking any questions about sex laws on r/LegalAdvice is difficult to begin with as all posts and comments pertaining to the matter are regularly downvoted to oblivion because they are ‘‘disgusting’’ and in the mods own words ‘‘no one wants to talk about it’’.

If r/legaladvice thinks it’s CSAM, than maybe it’s more likely than not to be. But /legaladvice often gives bad legal advice. But they do agree that Innocuous nudity is in on itself not csam/cp, however, if poses are sufficiently suggestive enough it could be.

Given that it’s an early — almost foundational — aspect of photography, over 100 years old, I think it’s more than likely not CSEM.

BTW, he’s totally canonical and not even wiki mentions any criticisms in its introduction. His work is praised for advancing the science of photography! So no, I highly doubt that, legally, his work constitutes CSEM.

His subject matter is “clothed” broadly under:


Lastly, now that I’ve had time to investigate—I am a critic—his works have been written about and displayed in highly respected publications, and by scholars in the history of photography. Many. In the US, France and elsewhere. Legally, his work, is not CSEM.

  • Roger Peyrefitte: Wilhelm von Gloeden , (biography and 50 pictures of nudes by Gloeden). Editions Textes Gais, Paris (2008), ISBN 978-2-914679-30-5

  • Peter Weiermair: Wilhelm von Gloeden (Cologne, Taschen Verlag, 1996) (96 pages, mainly illus. 22 cm; text in Ger., Engl. & Fr.) ISBN 978-3-8228-8314-3

  • Charles Leslie: Wilhelm Von Gloeden Photographer. A Brief Introduction to His Life and Work . (SoHo Photographic Publishers, New York, 1977) (143 pages, 31 cm). Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 77-83146.

  • Charles Leslie: Wilhelm von Gloeden, 1856–1931: eine Einführung in Sein Leben u. Werk (Innsbruck, Allerheiligenpresse, 1980) (137 pages) (German edition of 1977 book)

  • Ulrich Pohlmann: Wilhelm von Gloeden: Taormina , (Munich, Schirmer Mosel, 1998) (95 pages, 53 illus., 21 cm), German edition: ISBN 3-88814-474-4 English edition: ISBN 3-88814-406-X (Dr Pohlmann is head of the photographic archive at the Munich City Museum.)

  • Ulrich Pohlmann: Wilhelm von Gloeden. Sehnsucht nach Arkadien (Berlin, Nishen, 1987) (159 pages, mainly illus., 27x22cm) Issued in conjunction with an exhibition at the Stadt Museum, Munich. ISBN 3-88940-018-3

  • Roger Peyrefitte: Wilhelm von Gloeden , (biography and 50 pictures of nudes by Gloeden). Editions Textes Gais, Paris (2008), ISBN 978-2-914679-30-5

  • Tobias G. Natter & Peter Weiermair (editors): Et in Arcadia Ego: Turn-of-the-Century Photography (82 full page photographs, 25 by Gloeden, with introduction, assessment & biographical chronology; texts are in English & German.) (Edition Oehrli, Zurich, 2000) ISBN 3-905597-20-9

  • Jack Woody (ed.): Taormina: Wilhelm von Gloeden (Pasadena, Twelvetrees Press, 1986) (112 pages, mainly illus. 35 cm) ISBN 0-942642-22-8 (2nd edition 1990, 3rd 1997)

  • Jean-Claude Lemagny: Photographs of the classic male nude, Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (New York, Camera/Graphic Press, 1977) (105 pages, mainly illus. 24 cm) ISBN 0-918696-03-8

  • Hans-Joachim Schickedanz (ed.): Wilhelm von Gloeden. Akte in Arkadien (Dortmund, Harenberg, 1987) (167 pages, 80 illus., some double-paged, 17.5 cm) ISBN 3-88379-506-2 (New edition also 167 pages: Munich, Orbis, 2000 ISBN 3-572-01113-2)

  • Vincenzo Galdi – Wilhelm von Gloeden – Wilhelm von Plüschow. Aktaufnahmen aus der Sammlung Scheid (Bibliothek des Blicks, Vol. 3: Aachen, Rimbaud-Verlag, 1993) (2nd revised edition 2009)

  • Ekkehard Hieronimus: Wilhelm von Gloeden. Photographien als Beschwörung (Aachen, Rimbaud-Presse, 1982) (62 pages 21 cm) ISBN 3-922322-15-8

  • Zannier, Italo (ed.) Exhibition catalogue (Milano Palazzo della Ragione 2008): Wilhelm von Gloeden: fotografie, nudi, paesaggi, scene di genere (Florence, Alinari, 2008) (191 pages, 154 illus. of a wide range of subjects from the Fratelli Alinari & Milan Civic Photographic Archive collections, with detailed catalogue, 29 cm; text in Engl. & Ital.) ISBN 978-88-6302-004-5

  • Joseph Kiermeier-Debre & Fritz Franz Vogel (eds.): Wilhelm von Gloeden – Auch ich in Arkadien (Vienna & Cologne, Böhlau Verlag, Oct. 2007) (208 pages, 350 col. illus., 34 cm) ISBN 978-3-412-20065-7

  • Galerie Au Bonheur du Jour Nicole Canet Editions : Paradis Siciliens, Paysages, portraits, Nus 1890–1905 (Paris, 2008) (96 pages, 65 illus.) ISBN 29523322-5-8

  • Canet, Nicole (2005). Gloedeneries Caravagesques: von Gloeden, von Pluschow, Vincenzo Galdi . France: Au Bonheur du Jour.

  • Nicole Canet: Wilhelm von Gloeden, Wilhelm von Pluschow, Vincenzo Galdi – Beautés Siciliennes (Photographies 1880 – 1915: Portraits, Scenes de genre et Nus) (Paris, 2014) with French & English texts (most of the 246 pages are illustrated) |url= |

  • Grewolls, Grete (2011). Wer war wer in Mecklenburg und Vorpommern. Das Personenlexikon (in German). Rostock: Hinstorff Verlag. p. 3365. ISBN 978-3-356-01301-6.