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Facebook finds Nelly's Mona Paeva obscene

The social media platform banned the historic image posted by Melbourne's Hellenic Museum

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20 December 2017

It's not the first time Facebook has come under fire for banning emblematic pieces of art from its feed for being obscene, too suggestive or offensive-in a nutshell: inappropriate.

The latest major incident involved an iconic photo of Nelly's depicting an avant-garde black and white image of famous at the time ballerina Mona Paeva on the Parthenon. The photo is part of a controversial series taken in 1928, and were published in the French magazine 'Illustration de Paris', that changed people's perceptions on Neoromanticism, art-nudes and photography altogether.

The Hellenic Museum of Melbourne posted the photo to announce holding an exhibition in collaboration with the Benaki Museum in Athens that includes some of Nelly's most iconic works. The much anticipated exhibition had been endorsed by Premier Daniel Andrews following his recent visit to Athens.

Facebook decided to block the post, stating that the image violated their guidelines around sexual content. To avoid further censorship, the Hellenic Museum reposted the announcement using a more "modest" photo.

Nelly's aka Elli Sougioultzoglou-Seraidari is considered to be a trailblazer in photography and feminism celebrating freedom and movement through her aesthetic.

Nelly's was adored by the bourgeoisie having taken photos of the era's most prominent personalities from the worlds of politics and the arts. The Greek photographer who was born in Aydin, Asia Minor studied photography in Germany, where she was influences by Hugo Erfurt and Franz Fiedler, great teachers of the time. From 1924 on and after establishing herself in Athens and opening a photography studio in Ermou Street, Nelly's adopted a more Greek-centred and conservative approach to her work and became a Greek export to the USA.

Her work from 1927 and until World War II, depicts a rare view of Greek life in Greece and the Diaspora. Her images of ancient monuments and temples were used to promote Greek tourism while her constant use of dancers established her as one of the leading dance photographers of the interwar period. In 1939, she added advertising photography, colour photography and photo reporting to her range of skills.

Her work continues to influence photographers and artists across the globe to this date.

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