American photography company Eastman Kodak has deleted and apologized for an Instagram post after public backlash from supporters of the Chinese Communist Party.
The post included images shot with Kodak film of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region documented by French photographer Patrick Wack, who lived in China for eleven years and is now based in Berlin, Germany.
Supporters of Beijing took issue with Kodak linking to Wack’s personal Instagram account, which contained a caption under a promotion for his upcoming book “Dust,” in which he referred to Xinjiang as an “Orwellian dystopia” due to China’s well-documented human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims.
“In recent years, the region has been at the center of an international outcry following the mass incarceration of its Uyghur population and other Muslim minorities,” the caption read. “This body of work captures a visual narrative of the region and is a testimony to its abrupt descent into an Orwellian dystopia.”
The backlash led Kodak to delete the image and issue a follow up post in which they apologized for “any misunderstanding or offense” Wack’s work caused.
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“Content from the photographer Patrick Wack was recently posted on this Instagram page,” the apology read. “The content of the post was provided by the photographer and was not authored by Kodak. Kodak’s Instagram page is intended to enable creativity by providing a platform for promoting the medium of film. It is not intended to be a platform for political commentary.”
“The views expressed by Mr. Wack do not represent those of Kodak and are not endorsed by Kodak.”
Wack responded in an interview with the New York Times, saying that Kodak’s decision was notable due to the use of their products for years to document political events. (RELATED: Nike CEO John Donahoe Pledges Allegiance To China, Says It’s ‘A Brand That Is Of China And For China’)
“So for them, one of the main actors historically in photography, to say they don’t want to be political is what’s upsetting so many people,” Wack told the Times.
American corporations have come under fire for remaining silent on China’s human rights abuses due to their business interests in the country. Some, such as Apple, have even lobbied against bills in Congress to crack down on use of Chinese slave labor.
On the last day of the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the Chinese Communist Party is committing a “genocide” against Uyghur Muslims, making the U.S. the first country to formally do so.