Recently, I came across this horrifying news story: “Photographer Accused of Posting ‘Pornographic’ Photos of His 2-Year-Old, Here’s How He Responded” (8/22/14).
Here’s the gist:
Wyatt Neumann is a photographer and father who last year took his two-year-old daughter Stella on a road trip across the country, documenting their travels as they went. Along the way he captured beautiful landscapes, pictures of the open road, as well as a handful of adorable images of Stella wearing what two-year-olds very often wear: a fairy dress or nothing at all…
As the trip progressed, Neumann shared the images from his travels with his daughter through Facebook and Instagram. Until, that is, about halfway through the road trip when the images began drawing criticism from people the world over. (here)
“What kind of criticism?” you ask. The “child abuser, shame on you!” kind – lots of it.
Wyatt then responded with a gallery and an accompanying photography book. He called the whole thing I FEEL SORRY FOR YOUR CHILDREN: The Sexualization of Innocence in America. He explains in his artist’s statement:
This show, and this work, details a stark contrast between two very different ideologies and worldviews in both America and abroad. One is open minded, proud and expressive. Unafraid. The other is far more conservative; a point of view bent on shame, and the manipulations of people’s freedoms based on subjective will.
What’s troubling is the abject reviling of the human body, the intense and overt sexualization of the natural form, especially the naked bodies of carefree young children, who have yet to feel the burden of institutionalized body image awareness and the embarrassment that comes with adolescence. My children are free, they live without shame…
In my photographs, some people see innocence and beauty, while others see only sexual victimization and violence. It’s an interesting lesson in the power of fear and fundamentalism, and the aggression that it can spawn. It’s also a mirror that we can look at and see ourselves looking back. It’s a chance to decide how we want to view the world, and to decide what kind of world we want to create. For ourselves, our futures, and the future we leave for our children. (here, plus more)
I looked through some of Wyatt’s images, and I see nothing wrong with them. A collection is here – see for yourself.
This whole thing made me mad; and, in my ire, I received a useful link from and by Brian Alexander (who I regard as a professional mentor, ally, and friend) – “Eye of the Beholder: Cute, naked photos of tots pose dilemma for parents” (11/2/10).
Brian raises several good points, namely that you can’t control what people do with or think about images. From professional photographers like Wyatt to my parents taking pictures of me and one of my younger brothers, both of us naked, in an inflatable kid bathtub at ages three and two respectively, you cannot control what weirdness people garner from innocence (or humor or art or just random nothing).
This then begs the questions: do we continue to act, knowing full well the likelihood of misguided “consequence”? Or do we refrain, modifying our behavior to satisfy the lowest common human denominator? Something else?
I thought about this for a couple of days and then decided to put it up here on CT.com – it’s an interesting series of considerations. I had originally shared the links close together on Facebook, so I went back to my page to retrieve them.
Surprisingly, but not really, they were all gone…
This world that we live in.
(pictured: Google turns up some wild bathing)
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