Bizarre or trending subjects? Catch a break with our curiosity. Taboob, a project created by Jasper Declercq and Noortje Palmers is thwarting Instagram’s algorithm by reinventing our vision of the female breasts. A creative albeit deliciously insolent initiative.
“For a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals (…) also includes some photos of female nipples.” The rules of the social media dedicated to image leave no place to doubt. But what does a nipple represent? Why would pictures of women breastfeeding, and the naked bodies in painting and sculptures be authorised? Is this because of an excessive sexualisation? Many questions that have fascinated Jasper Declercq and Noortje Palmers, the two founders of Taboob, a photographic project giving breasts the place of honour they deserve.
“Jasper is a conceptual creative who works in advertising and television. And I am a photographer who has worked mainly in fashion. We’ve met during a photoshoot a couple years ago and have been friends ever since. We’re a tight team, complementing each other both in ideas and in aesthetics”, Noortje Palmers explains. Tired of the advertising industry, he turned to photography to create and develop his own style. His approach of the media? “colourful, impulsive and positive, he tells us. I want to offer an alternative to the colourless and grey photography that is so prominently present these days.” A more laid-back vision of the image. It was when he discovered the Instagram account of a model, posting naked pictures of herself that Jasper Declercq came up with a unique idea: developing a project around nipples. How had this young woman managed to bypass Instagram’s rules? Could breasts be published without being censored?
When is a breast considered a breast?
“We know Instagram blocks pictures on two grounds: their algorithm and a function that allows people to report ‘offensive content’. But it was the algorithm that we were interested in. When is a breast considered a breast? the artists asked themselves. Curious, they planned four photoshoots, and gathered nine models – aged between 20 and 70, from B to E cup – and produced 75 pictures. 75 hidden, disguised breasts: a series of “taboobs” thwarting Instagram’s vigilance. Pressed between two slices of bread, hidden behind ice, coloured or multiplied, each nipple appears in an absurd, yet remarkably creative staged scene.
And their popularity rose quickly. Two days after the creation of @taboob_official, the two artists already had 22 000 followers. “A short while after, they deleted our account. We started a second one (@taboobofficial) and continued our investigation. And then, for some random reason, Instagram reactivated our original account”, the photographers say. By numbering each image, to be able to quickly spot which ones are blocked, they kept publishing on both accounts.
An initiative evoking the feminist movement #freethenipple, born in 2012. Although Jasper and Noorthe are delighted to be associated with these actions, they feel their project is aesthetics above all. Surprised by the rapid success, however, the two men decided to sell their creations in limited editions, on Taboob’s official website, and to give all the proceeds to Think Pink, a charity supporting scientific research for breast cancer. Light and cheeky, the Taboob project highlights a new vision of the female breast. An interesting research on what pushes social media to censor this part of a woman’s anatomy. Made up or even transformed, the nipple seems indeed to be authorised on the platform. An obvious desexualisation misleading the network’s algorithm and upsetting the idea of a nudity too often deemed “pornographic”.