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ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN

TOKYO – Singapore-born, Tokyo-based fashion photographer Leslie Kee, 41, has reportedly been arrested for selling books featuring pictures of male genitals reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).

According to AFP, Kee was arrested on Monday on “suspicion of obscenity after selling the books at his Tokyo gallery”. The Japan Times also reported that two other individuals were arrested at the same time for the same offence; Hiromi Yoshii, 45, an executive of the company that operates a gallery and Yuko Kanda, 27, who works at the gallery involved.

Although pornography is widely available in Japan, domestic law requires genitals to be “obscured” states the AFP report, this is usually done via pixellation in the post-production of images.

If found guilty Kee could be jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to ¥2.5 million (S$33,320), reports AFP. According to The Japan Times report, Kee and the other two involved sold seven books worth ¥42,000 to two visitors at an event held at the gallery on Sunday, February 3, 2013. The police said that  most of the pictures in the 50-page book showed male genitalia, said The Japan Times.

Born and raised in Singapore, Kee moved to Japan after completing his National Service to study the language before entering the Tokyo School of Visual Arts to study photography in 1995.

After graduating he became a professional photographer working for a variety of publications including Vogue Taiwan and shooting a number of celebrities; Kee moved to New York in 2002 where he built a cult following for his work with celebrities like Beyonce, Heidi Klum, Paris Hilton and Cindy Crawford.

Years of flying between New York and Asia ended in 2005 when Kee officially moved back to Tokyo where he has continued to build up a following for his striking fashion and art photography; over the years he has also published numerous books and magazine featuring his work and the celebrities and top models he has worked with. Kee is also a guest lecturer at his old alma mater, the Tokyo School of Visual Arts.

After news of Kee’s arrest was announced, the Japanese fashion industry jumped to his defence with the AFP report quoting social media comments from model Ai Tominaga and top fashion editor Yamamuro Kazz’s blog on the topic supporting Kee’s work.

“The news took me entirely by surprise,” commented Singapore fashion industry insider Daniel Boey, “but in hindsight, Japan is a very conservative market with very conservative – and very clear – laws on nudity so he [Leslie Kee] was actually treading on very thin ice.

“Although I do think there should be a distinction made between porn and Leslie’s art photography. I hope for a fair verdict for Leslie and I pray for him.”