Monday, February 23, 2009

Mumbai Frees Gaëtan Vandelanotte

Updated June 3 '09 : Video added at bottom of this piece
Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth
of a true democratic spirit.

~ Mohandas Gandhi

Feb. 19th 2009 is a day that Gaëtan Vandelanotte a.k.a
Francois Matthys, will forever cherish. An internationally respected
Belgian photographer who has shot campaigns for Blackberry, Elle,
Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and more, Gaëtan was exonerated
on that day after being held for 13 months in a Mumbai jail after charges
of being a Paedophile were dropped.

In December 2007, Gaetan was introduced to two aspiring
(male, adult)
models for a portfolio shoot:

“Let’s shoot something different they insisted. This is when I
thought let’s do some artistic nudes. I had enough friends in the
industry (or so I thought then, for this ‘friend circle’ certainly
shrunk considerably after I was arrested) who were very cool
about doing nudes. There is a whole school of nude art, a genre
in which nudity and pornography are two separate things.

I thought I was subscribing to the former," says Gaëtan.
Thanks to the overzealous Police officers making the arrest,
insurmountable Red Tape and the old-school moralistic attitudes
that have survived for centuries in India, Gaëtan had one of the
most unimaginable jail stays possible for a person awaiting
a fair trial in the world's largest Democracy.

"I was sharing a room of about 300 square metres, with 200 odd
Every man literally had only the floor area on which
he lay down. There are
only three holes for your ablutions and a
tiny tap to wash yourself.
Food is dumped inside the room which
attracted cockroaches and rats.
I developed some serious skin
and stomach infections and was in JJ Hospital
for almost a month..."

~ The Mumbai Mirror

I am bothered not only by the antiquated and awful prison standards
and conditions,
but also by the whole situation surrounding the arrest.
Something keeps telling me
that a person, possibly jealous of the two
aspiring models went to some crooked cops
and tried to get Gaetan
well-heeled socialite to put out some hush money
( common practice for the corrupt lawmen ) in order to squelch
Pedophile incident, which as it tuns out could never be proved, short
of the cops
grabbing a camera and forcing said accused into lewd

Although this all sounds rather
speculative on my part, straight out of
a Nancy Grace show, I have heard
and seen stranger things during
my 25 years in India. Like the time my schoolmate and
close friend,
an Afghan exile Prince, missed only a week of classes because his
was beheaded with an axe by an Afghani hitman. Or the annual
ritual bloodshed,
beatings and piercings that took place in my old
neighborhood, and still do.

As a Straight, single Male with an eye on the state of things in India, the
country of my birth,
I wanted to share this fascinating story from the
Mumbai Mirror
, written with great passion by Vishwas Kulkarni.

Gaëtan's world-acclaimed photography may be seen on Picasa web

and Model Mayhem


Francois is on Facebook !