On the eve of the Republican National Convention, CBS Outdoor — a St. Paul, Minn. billboard company — canceled a contract with Suzanne Opton. The contract was for a series of photographs of American soldiers that would be displayed on the billboards, as part of Opton’s series called “Soldier Billboard Project.”
The images were taken of soldiers at Fort Drum, New York, in 2004 and 2005. Opton had permission from both the soldiers and their commanders. Images from the series are in in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Library of Congress and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. They have also been widely exhibited both in the U.S. and in Europe.
Jodi Senese, CBS Outdoor’s executive vice president of marketing, wrote Opton: “The reason we have advised you that we cannot post these as billboards is that out-of-context (neither in a museum setting or website) the images, as stand-alone highway or city billboards, appear to be deceased soldiers. The presentation in this manner could be perceived as being disrespectful to the men and women in our armed forces.”