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I’m pretty sure most parents are pornographers…

©Wyatt Neumann, 2014

©Wyatt Neumann, 2014

This sort of harkens back to those stories I was posting a bit ago about the teens being arrested for child pornography because they were sexting their S.Os, but with a bit of a twist.

There was a story (Warning: NSFW, but not in the usual way) on one of my favorite photography websites, Petapixel, the other day that has been on my mind. Basically, to sum up. Wyatt Neumann, a married photographer and father of two, has to transport a car cross-country, so he decides to take his 3-year-old daughter on the road trip with him. They have lots of fun together seeing the country and like pretty much every parent in the last few years, he decides to spam social media with a bajillion pictures of his kid on their little vacation… because, you know, that’s what parents do.

Said daughter, appears to have a habit of taking her clothes off and scampering around naked. I guess, one could think this was scandalous, except for the part where she’s THREE! My neighborhood has at least half a dozen toddlers in it running up and down the street in states of undress pretty much at all times. As far as I can tell, three year olds basically just don’t like clothes.

Anyway, apparently Neumann’s photos have stirred up a shit-storm of internet controversy because “how dare you sexually exploit your daughter like that, you asshole” and stuff like that.

But looking at his shots, and oh my god are they gorgeous. Then I went and looked at my Facebook feed. Then I thought back to like every family photo album that I’ve ever seen from anyone ever (including some embarrassing ones that my own mother owns). I’m pretty sure the only difference between the photos that Neumann takes and that every other parent takes is that… well, he’s actually good at it.

The best part of the controversy is his response. He opened a gallery show with the photos of his daughter hung next to captions of the tweets he got calling him a horrible father and pornographer? Why? Because he’s my fucking hero, that’s why. He explains himself in this interview (youtube clip may involve sign-in for age verification).

Anyway, I’m sadly not in New York, but i kinda wish I was, because I’d love to go see the show. If you are, you totally should go and tell me about it.

62 comments for “I’m pretty sure most parents are pornographers…

  1. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I’ve been following this story for a few days. His photos are so beautiful and people suck so much. I’m hoping to make it to NY while the exhibit is up.

  2. avatar
    Patrick
    August 26, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    As someone who has both worked with young children AND considers himself an advocate of civil freedom, I have strongly mixed feelings about this issue. I think that, if forced into a vote, I would support Neumann and his decision. I agree that these pictures are not pornographic.

    At the same time, I feel there is a huge difference between allowing children to run naked through public and posting pictures of that same nudity on a publicly accessible web site. The former at least has a finite viewing radius, and presumably allows the father an element of control over the exposure (whether he chooses to enact it or not). The latter, meanwhile, has essentially infinite possibilities in regards to what is done to/with/because of his daughter’s exposed body. If the parents are aware of these possibilities, and accept them… then so be it.

    I think the question here is not “Is this art or pornography?” but “Who has the right to decide an ‘acceptable’ level of exposure for children?” Parents who flout pictures of their kids in skimpy bathing suits at the beach should be considered with similar suspicions as Mr. Neumann. And all sexuality aside, publishing a child’s entire emotional and physical development via social media (even to the point of creating unique profiles in the child’s name) should ultimately be questioned, as well.

    It is one thing to waive your own right to privacy by participating in social media, it is another to waive the right of a child who still cannot formulate their own opinion.

    • avatar
      mav
      August 26, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Patrick: Oh, I agree. There’s definitely a difference between the two. That said, I’m pretty sure, say my 1-yo nephew, will be horribly embarrassed by 90% of the photos my SIL posts of him online in about 13 years. By convention, we seem to assume that those below a certain age of consent are extensions of their parents as far as their rights to privacy go. So while you’re right, it’s not so much a case of pornographic or not, but right to freedom from embarrassment for minors, I don’t think Neumann is any more guilty of it than most other parents.

      Of course, that begs the question, is it wrong for all parents to do?

  3. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    As long as we’re getting on parents’ cases for doing things that embarrass their children, why don’t we talk about the big issues! How exactly can we punish those mothers who are so cruel as to force their sons to be seen with them in public?

  4. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    “…we seem to assume that those below a certain age of consent are extensions of their parents…”

    Indeed, this is the real issue at hand. Whether deciding to expose their child online or indoctrinating them with particular social/religious beliefs, the right of a parent to determine what is “healthy” for their child will forever be debated. As much as I may strongly disagree with how some parents raise their children, I would (almost?) always lean in favor of allowing them to legally do so however they wished.

  5. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Do you think your children’s future selves have a right to privacy? If the answer is yes, then what this artist and every other parent who plasters images of their children on line is wrong. If the answer is no, then understand that you have stolen something from your children that you yourself may not have been comfortable with sharing.

    People who document their kids lives online should go to their own parents house, find everything that is available(pics, videos, report cards) and post it to their own feeds. They should take all of the love notes, spankings, groundings and stupid shit they did and make add it to their timeline retroactively.

    Then imagine try to imagine 18 years from now as they go off into the world, the sheer volume of data they will have collected and served up to the rest of the world about their kids.

    Do your kids have a right to privacy? There is nothing wrong with using technology to document your kids growing up, but since when did family moments have to be public ones as well…

    • avatar
      mav
      August 26, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      Vic: I’m not sure your “solution” works, because I don’t think most people who do that have a problem with posting baby pictures of themselves. My FB and twitter feeds are also full of #ThrowbackThursday (or whatever it is) pics of people posting baby pics of themselves.

      The difference is in the #tbt shots, the subject of the photo has editorial control, whereas for parent shots, like Neumann’s, the photographer has editorial control.

      actually, the parent’s posting is far more in line (legally) with how photography works in this country. Technically the photographer owns the copyright on the image and therefore, even without a release, is able to utilize the work however they see fit, so long as the subject had no reasonable expectation of privacy while the photo was being taken.

      Since it can be argued that children have no reasonable expectation of privacy from their parents (and even if they did, the parents have power of attorney over their minor children and therefore could just waive the right to themselves anyway), ignoring child pornography laws, the parent has done nothing illegal. On the other hand, in the #TBT case, even though the photo is of the now-adult child, the copyright TECHNICALLY belongs to the parent and therefore the poster is in copyright violation, not that it’s likely that their parents would ever sue them over it.

      That said, I agree with you, that doesn’t necessarily make it “right.” Whether the kid has reasonable expectation of privacy or not legally, it might be nice morally to afford it to them. And I agree that documenting your children’s lives isn’t the same as publishing them (be it to the internet, a gallery show, or a family photo album on the coffee table). But, I also agree with Patrick. It’s more important to afford the parent the reasonable right to raise their children who (in the case of Stella Neumann, unlike my teen sexting cases from before) certainly aren’t of sound mind to make those decisions for themselves. This extends to everything: Religion, vegetarianism or photo releases.

      But its hard to say where there’s a right to draw a line. I don’t have a problem with baptisms or posting naked pics in a gallery, even if I might not do such a thing to a kid myself. On the other hand: say… facial tattooing, gender reassignment surgery, or sexual consent of a three year old by their parents would be unreasonable. But then you get into areas that I consider more gray and hard to figure out: Ear piercing. Circumcision. Vaccination refusal. Even vegetarianism.

  6. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    It is a parental choice, and just like the other things you mentioned, the child will have to deal with any and all consequences of said choices as an adult, having no recourse in regards to how they were raised.

    As you said, there is no way to draw that line without severely limiting a parents right to choose how their children grow up. Granted, I think the world would be better if that choice were made for a lot of parents, but that isn’t mine or anyone else’s call to make.

  7. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Man, I don’t know about this. While it’s not pornography, there are definitely some creepy undertones. That bathtub one is so not okay. There’s a difference in the traditional kid on the baby blanket with his buns exposed and a two year old on the porch in full frontal. Knowing what kind of weirdos are out there looking for these kind of pictures in a sexual way, why would you even do it? The one of the girl jumping on the bed is cute, and there’s definitely some talent in his shooting. I don’t see the upside to pretty much exploiting your naked child as art. But what do I know? I’m not comfortable with Nivana’s Nevermind cover either.

    • avatar
      mav
      August 26, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      Miguel: In order to answer that question, I must tell a short story. Once upon a time I started a community of self-portrait photographers called 365days (this was before the #selfie movement). I visually documented every day of my life for four straight years and inspired thousands of others to do the same. On one particular photo, a simple one of me wearing overalls, a t-shirt, a baseball cap and a mitt, I ended up getting a couple comments from two guys I’d never heard of before. Basically saying “you should dress like this all the time. You look so hot!” I went to their pages and found that both of them had extensive collections of photos of random sexy guys (most of them far beefier than I am) wearing overalls. Apparently, there is a whole underground sub-community of gay men who are into the “overalls” fetish. Who knew? The fact that I wasn’t standing provocatively, I was fully covered, etc, was irrelevant. They thought I was hot just because of that outfit.

      The lesson here is that, if you post a picture to the internet… no matter what it is… someone out there is masturbating to it. You just can’t control that. Even if you have a picture of yourself in a burkha, there are burkha fetish people out there. There are 7 billion people on this planet, and I guarantee you that right this very moment, somewhere, one of them is jacking off to old file footage of Mother Teresa ministering to hospital patients. That is the internet. That is humanity.

      Back to Neumann, there are two issues going on. 1) He’s a father and that’s his daughter and I’m sure he loves her. I know for a fact that my mother’s photo album has pictures of me, naked and bathing as a 2 or 3-yo in it. I hate that picture. It’s embarrassing. But I know it’s there. It’s just something a lot of parents do. 2) He’s an artist and that’s his art. To an artist (Be it a photographer, painter, writer, poet, singer, whatever), capturing the emotion of a moment is often very important. Sharing that emotion with your audience is what art is all about. However I might feel about privacy issues and the rights or sexuality of children, I can’t deny that Neumann’s photos are powerful. He really is gifted. And that’s what an artist does. His job is to get people to react, positively or negatively. The same is true of the never mind album art.

  8. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    ” I don’t see the upside to pretty much exploiting your naked child as art.”

    After watching the video I have to agree.

  9. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    So you don’t think he is exploiting his child in the name of “art”? In this instance I am not looking for a debate, but rather curious as to your opinion.

    What people end up using his pictures for(as you said everyone masturbates to everything), seems irrelevant. That is not within his control. But do you see him having a separate responsibility as a parent to respect his child’s privacy? Or do you believe that his drive as an artist trumps any parental duty? Or do you not see the two as being in conflict?

    Do you think it would be appropriate for him to ask other parents to take pictures of kids in a similar fashion and post them online? Even if they gave consent, agreeing it was just art, do you think they have the right to make that decision for their children?

    And one final question. Do you think the photos he took of his daughter clothed would have been any less powerful if he had left out the ones of her naked?

    • avatar
      mav
      August 26, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      Vic: That’s a complicated question… well series of questions. But I’ll try to answer them simplistically.

      So you don’t think he is exploiting his child in the name of “art”?

      By semantic meaning of the word “exploitive” I do think they are. Yes. I just don’t think it’s necessarily “wrong” to exploit your kids in this way. At least not in the cosmic sense of the word “wrong.” He is clearly raising his daughter to not be ashamed of her nudity. That may or may not work. But that is clearly his intent. So the documenting of it is almost orthogonal. She’s either going to grow up feeling that way or she’s going to revolt in her teens. Either way, whatever happens happens. So yes, he is “exploiting” her by using a being, with no real ability to make independent decisions (YET) in his art, but I’d say that the clothed pictures of her are exploitive in the same way. I mentioned the bathtub pics that I find embarrassing, but there are plenty of clothed pics that my family has that i find embarrassing as well. And both my mother and my cousin (who is fond of posting pics of us she found in my grandmother’s photo album that she inherited) will tell you that I often remove them from my timeline when they’re posted.

      But do you see him having a separate responsibility as a parent to respect his child’s privacy?

      Sort of? I mean, if it were ME, I’d say yes, it’s the right thing to do. Like you did. I similarly would allow a three year old, who chose to, to be a vegetarian even though I’m not (or if I was, I’d allow him/her to eat meat if they chose so). But that’s ME. I see it as the responsibility of a parent to respect their child’s independence. But, as you even alluded to before, I don’t see it as a an imperative that all parents feel the same way I do.

      • Or do you believe that his drive as an artist trumps any parental duty? Or do you not see the two as being in conflict?

      I don’t see them as in conflict. At least not in this case. For exactly the reason I said, he is certainly trying to effect a persona in his children that does not fear sexuality or nudity. He even says “she’s not masturbating, but even if she was. So what?” or something like that in the video. So I don’t think his art and his parenting philosophy are at all at odds. If anything his parenting philosophy just differs from that of his detractors. But that was true before the gallery show opened, so his being an artist is irrelevant in that respect.

      Do you think it would be appropriate for him to ask other parents to take pictures of kids in a similar fashion and post them online? Even if they gave consent, agreeing it was just art, do you think they have the right to make that decision for their children?

      Me personally? Yes, I do. For the same reasons as i feel he has that right with his kids. Again, the nudity is irrelevant here. It’s only a big deal because, sociologically, we (at least in this culture) imbue nudity with a taboo. He’s trying to erase that, and presumedly any parent who agreed would be as well. So it comes down to the second half of this question, do they have the right to make that decision for their children? And the answer is “yes” because a child that age can’t make it for itself. I find this no different than agreeing to put your kid in a diaper commercial, which would probably be equally embarrassing. In the grand scheme of things, I find this far less controversial than say, circumcision, which I agree with a parent’s right to do, even though it is far more “permanent” than baby pictures in a gallery. It’s just more socially acceptable.

      • And one final question. Do you think the photos he took of his daughter clothed would have been any less powerful if he had left out the ones of her naked?

      Yes I do. I lacteally love a lot of the clothed pics too. Of the ones on Petapixel, the one of his daughter, in the dress, sitting on the bathroom mirror sill is one of my favorites. But I also really love the one of her nude, crouching in the middle of the road. So aesthetically I’d hate to lose that. But from an art critiquing standpoint, I’m very much of the school of cultural criticism. This is actually something I was discussing in a class just last night. Which is to say that I don’t just view a work as an artifact unto itself, but as a commentary on the culture in which it was produced. In other words, in this case, the art isn’t just “pretty pictures” but the way the pictures interact with the society. Without the nudity, there would be no flamewar (maybe a few parents saying, “wash your daughter’s fucking clothes, you filthy bastard”), and that loses much of the power. In this case the “Art” happens now on the photo paper, or in the camera, or even at the moment he composed the shot, but instead as a congregation of those things with the interplay with the commentary he received.

      I think I covered all of the questions. Let me know if I missed something.

  10. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    My opinion is that he is exploiting the fact that the naked pictures caused controversy, when the ones where she is fully clothed are equally beautiful and do not seem to detract from his overall artistry.

  11. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    No you covered it and actually raised one more.

    “Again, the nudity is irrelevant here. It’s only a big deal because, sociologically, we (at least in this culture) imbue nudity with a taboo. He’s trying to erase that, and presumedly any parent who agreed would be as well.”

    Suppose that is not how society feels in 20 years, what if the pendulum shifts, as it often does, back in another direction, and modesty becomes the new norm. Well, actually, come to think of it, I guess that all goes to the initial question.

    Is he responsible for how this may affect his daughter in the future?

    And that I think is a question only the parent can answer for themselves.

    • avatar
      mav
      August 26, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      Vic: I guess it depends on how you define “responsible.” I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that it’s a question the parent has to answer for themselves.

      Take the issue of nudity out of the question. This is literally true for any parenting issue. There was a time when “spare the rod, spoil the child” was considered good parenting. There was a time when it was considered harmful to breastfeed and mothers were encouraged to use formula. In 2014, the pendulum has shifted and sociologically America tends to think just the opposite on both of those issues.

      Should a parent from the 50s feel bad for the spankings they might have given their children 60 years ago? Should they feel guilty for feeding their children from bottles?

      Paradigms shift. Parents get to choose the best manner in which they think they can raise their kids. It’s also entirely possible that in 2034, good body image and comfortability with nudity could be the most prized personality trait a person can have. If this is the case, Neumann is doing Stella a major service.

      There’s no way to know, and so, as you say, it’s an exercise best left to the parent to “do what they think is best.”

  12. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Calling this “controversy” is being generous. This is a bunch of people on the Internet complaining about stuff.

    And, no, he’s not exploiting his daughter. What he’s doing is rejecting the ill-conceived notion that nudity and sexuality are the same thing. A three-year-old’s natural state is in as little clothes as possible. That’s not pornography, that’s reality.

    Besides, if pedophiles are really your concern, these pictures aren’t what they are interested in. No one is going to look at these and decide to track down, kidnap, and do horrible things to that child. The pictures that child molesters want are things that drive normal people to suicide, not adorable photos of sweet little children playing innocently.

  13. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    I too did a 365 and yeah, occasionally I would get the random favoriting of a pic and a new friend and I’d look at my “new friend”‘s profile and whatever they’d faved, it was in a sea of similar favorites (long socks, clown make-up, clones, headless, you name it). I once did a mock up of the Jim Jones mass suicide. I’m still getting the occasional favorites of that. There’s a huge death fetish out there apparently. But I don’t care about any of that, well, much more than a wow, this guy is out there. I haven’t heard of any registered clown makeup offenders (John Wayne Gacy doesn’t count), or long socks offenders. There ARE hundreds of thousands of sex offenders in the US. So knowing that and the dangers of a predator, why would you expose your child (or even let her expose herself while you photograph it) in the name of “art”? To me as a parent, it’s not worth it. Your job as a parent is to protect your child from any harm, not exploit them and hope those hundreds of thousands of predators aren’t absorbing the pics and looking to take the next step. The mind of a predator is a very scary thing. Why would you feed that beast? Let’s hope there’s never an amber alert for this little girl because the dad was changing lenses and looked away for one second while his naked daughter danced in the alley. It’s so not worth it. Not to mention the creepy factor of the father snapping cozy bathtub pics like that. Being the father doesn’t excuse creepy behavior.

  14. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Miguel, as a father myself, I think your fears are not based in reality. I’m not aware of any research on the subject, but I don’t believe for a second that there’s any incremental risk to his daughter from pedophiles as a result of this. If you can point to any evidence that says otherwise, I will be quite interested to read it. Without such evidence, however, you’re just making baseless accusations.

  15. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Not based in reality… Well, call me kooky, but I’d rather have an unrealistic paranoia and take every precaution. I’m not making any accusations. I haven’t researched it and don’t really care to. I’m merely saying why would you even risk it? If it was someone other than the dad taking those harmless fun pictures would the dad still be okay with it? Being the child’s father makes it all okay?

    • avatar
      mav
      August 26, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      Miguel: I don’t think it’s that simple. Mostly because of what Jeff is saying. Yes, I do think a parent has a right to make those decisions for their kid. Just as I was saying with Vic. That said, Jeff is right with the “logic” of protecting towards nudity and that was what I was getting at with the overalls story.

      The problem with protecting children by hampering their nudity is that it is based on the logic that a parent is “trying to think like a pedophile.” Without being gross, you’re basically saying “I, as a man, am excited by the sight of vagina. I don’t want pedophiles lusting after my daughter so I must cover her vagina at all times.” But the way sexual fetishes work, including “deviant” ones like pedophilia is that it DOESN’T follow the standard logic that most people use. Most pedophiles aren’t excited by vagina, at least not primarily. They’re excited by youth. That’s why we bar convicted pedophiles from hanging out around schools. They can’t see genitalia, but they are excited merely by being in the presence of young children. So, the daughter in the fairy dress, or in a snow suit, is just as enticing as the naked pics.

      That doesn’t mean you can’t protect from it as a parent. There certainly might be some people who only fetishize child genitalia. So protecting against that makes sense. It’s just that it only makes as much sense as protecting against those who fetishize children wearing the color blue. Its a specific subset.

      Also, going into what I was talking about with Vic earlier, there’s the chance that psychology is wrong and one day we’ll discover that little girl vagina is the most tempting thing ever to pedophiles, and if that’s a risk you’re unwilling to take, you’re certainly in your rights as a father to protect against it. Similarly, I’m not Jewish… but it’s entirely possible that Jews have been right these last few thousand years and by eating bacon I’ve doomed myself to damnation in the eyes of God. If a Jew is unwilling to take that risk and wants to keep their kids pork free, who am I to say they are wrong?

      As for the other issue, yes, it being her father does make it ok. For exactly the reasons I just detailed. I’m ok with a father deciding to spank their child. I’m ok with a father deciding that a child can see R-rated movies. I’m ok with a father deciding he can take naked pictures of his child. I’m ok with a father giving his child pork. I am not ok with a stranger doing any of those things.

  16. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Chris, I agree with most of what you have said here (I say most because I didn’t read ALL of what you wrote) but as a mother and photographer I feel that taking nudie pics of your kids for their baby books is fine but posting them on the internet for anyone to access is absolutely not.
    Parents! Learn this one simple thing and you will have an absolutely awesome relationship with your children as they grow up.
    They are human beings first!! Before they are your children. Before anything else, they are their own person, not yours to own and do with what you will. They may not have all the rights of adults, but they are human beings first. Their feelings, thoughts, values and morals are, most likely, not going to match yours, no matter what you say or what you try to teach them. They will form their own sets of morals and values.
    By posting your child’s nudie pics on the internet for the world to view, you are devaluing them as a human being and showing them that they have no rights as a human being in your eyes.
    What kind of parent treats their child as an object that they own the exclusive rights to. IMHO, not a very good one.

    • avatar
      mav
      August 26, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      Tia, yeah, that goes towards the earlier conversations of what is “legal” and what is “moral.” I personally would strive to not do things that might cause a child future embarrassment, but I respect a parent’s right to disagree.

  17. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Plenty of people will think I’m raising my kids wrong because I’m raising them with the wrong religion. Hell, I’ve even been told I’m abusing my boys by enrolling them in dance classes, which will turn them gay. So I have experience with people spouting off nonsense about raising kids.

    To put it bluntly, I don’t believe at all that nudity would be a factor if someone decided to abduct that child. They are either going to do it or not, the state of dress won’t matter. In fact, I think it’s completely ludicrous to believe otherwise, and I will continue to believe that unless I see evidence otherwise. Without real, empirical evidence to believe that to be the case, suggesting that someone should act on that belief is equally ludicrous.

    The number of child abductions by strangers in the US per year numbers in the hundreds. It’s very rare. Making decisions based on such a rare occurrence, with no rational reason to believe that you’re even making a difference in the chance that it will happen, is not rational.

  18. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Absolutely!

  19. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    I think I am ok with all of the things you mentioned Chris, right up until he decided to post it on the internet.

  20. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    It is a violation of an agreed upon core human right, privacy.

  21. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Vic, right! If I take a pic of one of my kids and they ask me not to post it or tag them in it, I don’t!

  22. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    I understand that concept would be much harder to deal with if my children were younger (youngest is now 14) but still as a parent we protect our children first and that means making some good moral decisions for them.

  23. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Suppose his daughter finds Jeebus, or the Spaghetti Monster later in life, and their new found faith prohibits this type of expression, well too bad for them, that decision was made long ago because of her dads artistic vision… Sucks to be her.

    That is the ONLY thing that bugs me about this type of thing. Knowing how our personal data is used and abused, how we are quickly becoming a collection of posts and images, knowing how I may approach my online presence differently if I had a do over, I don’t know, if I were a parent I would probably limit my childs exposure until they were ready to navigate those waters on their own.

  24. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    On the subject of paradigm shifts… I have seen the way that children interact with technology. I know 10-year-olds that cannot fathom life before the internet fit into the palm of their hand (let alone without internet or cell phones at all). It is entirely possible that, in twenty years, the norm will be for everyone to have already completely exposed their lives, and those whose childhood experiences remain unavailable on the internet are viewed with suspicion. Hell, we are seeing this already in the contemporary job market. “Don’t have a Facebook profile for us to check up on you? Seems suspicious. Next candidate, please.” It’s a strange thought, but he may be doing exactly the right thing in regards to his child’s social health. We simply will not know until the time comes…

  25. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Trust me, putting more data out there is not the “right” thing, no matter what direction society is headed.

  26. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Morality is subjective. People have said the same thing about countless social issues… Racial equality, gay rights, and even the right for women to vote!

  27. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    The number of child abductions by strangers in the US per year numbers in the hundreds. Meaning hundreds more than none. How can you be so dismissive about that?! That’s pure ignorance right there. And what the child is or isn’t wearing at the time may not be a factor at the moment, but that’s because what triggered the abduction may have happened weeks ago in the gallery. I did see a documentary where a pedophile was talking about just taking a drive and seeing a little girl playing with her friends. She had a flower in her hair or something that distinguished her from the other girls and at that moment he was triggered. He said he parked, watched her, stalked her for a few days to and from school, knew the exact moment he could make his move, and acted upon it. The girl was kidnapped, assaulted in every way and killed. The killer showed no remorse and knew if he was released he’d do it again. To think it won’t happen to my daughter is exactly the kind of naivety predators count on. And to put your naked daughter on display for the world to see not only increases risk tenfold but also invites it. There is simply too much evil in the world to be so passive about things such as this.
    I hope nothing terrible happens and he profits handsomely from his work and this controversy. To me, it’s insane. But that’s just my two cents.

  28. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    To clarify, I was suggesting that no matter how strongly one generation feels about “right” and “wrong,” it will always be up to the current generation to determine its own boundaries. What we view as absurd, destructive, dangerous, unhealthy, or otherwise bad might eventually become the standard of generations that follow. Look at the history of popular music (jazz–rock–punk) for a clear example. Every outgoing generation always bemoans the new art of the incoming generation as signaling the end of good taste.

  29. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    All the more reason to not make these kinds of decisions for children. Honestly, is there ANY good reason to post stuff like this to the public?

  30. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Yes. They are beautiful photographs.

    (My favorite is the blue-tinted one of her squatting in the middle of the long desert road.)

  31. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Now the argument could be made that were he a painter, and painted the exact same pictures, no one would even bat and eye. And they wouldn’t be any less beautiful if he kept them for his family or waited until she was older to present them publicly. Would they?

  32. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Consider that if she were not naked in any of the pics, they would still be wonderful photographs, same pics just not naked. Still awesome. Right?

    The interesting thing about that scenario? The privacy issue would still remain.

  33. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Miguel, it’s incredibly easy for me to be dismissive of something that happens a couple hundred times a year in a country of 300 million people. It’s literally a 1 in a million chance. Besides, your anecdote, to me, disproves your point, since the trigger was a completely random, innocent occurrence completely unrelated to nudity. Also, you’re expecting me to trust the word of a child molester that he was triggered, instead of stalking.

  34. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    I’m confused… Neumann is not a painter. He’s also not a sculptor, musician, or sushi chef (so far as I know). What is the point in hypothesizing that question? As for the idea of keeping the photos private until a certain point in the future, that was clearly not the intention (even as he took the pictures). From an objective viewpoint, I suppose that “no, they would not technically be less beautiful.” But at the same time, we would have never seen them, and so from that perspective, their subjective beauty would be zero.

    And I disagree strongly with your second post. From a composition viewpoint they might still be “good,” but the nudity is key to the aesthetic in most of the photographs. In the picture I reference above, for ex. (1’14” in the video), the image of a defenseless naked body against the vast harshness of nature is very powerful, particularly when one considers the symbolism of the open road (is she preparing for a journey forward? or has she just returned?). Yes, the mysterious facial expression and coolly toned color scheme also help, but without the vulnerability, all you have is “good.” Not “great.”

  35. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Wow.

  36. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Correct he is not a painter, my point was simply, if he were, and his work was therefore more abstract would anyone have questioned to subject or the circumstance, all other things being equal. “Hey I painted these of my daughter and I on our road trip, as a two year old she has a tendency to get naked, I captured the moments…” I think it would have garnered less attention, but that is just me.

    Your second point is purely subjective, I probably would have enjoyed the photos more without the nudity and the creepy bathtub shot. Again, that is just me.

    I believe this is a violation of her future privacy. But I also think that about the iPhone shots my friends post daily of their kids.

  37. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Looking back, I will concede the bathtub picture is a poor choice for public display. As for the choice of medium, there are certainly enough controversies to go around:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4694272.stm
    http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-28740348

  38. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Wow…. lots of catching up for me to do. I just spent the last couple hours in a class, discussing, of all things, media representations of gender and sexuality among minors… so I’m going to catch up now, and maybe I’ll have stuff to say.

  39. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Jeff says:

    “The number of child abductions by strangers in the US per year numbers in the hundreds. It’s very rare. Making decisions based on such a rare occurrence, with no rational reason to believe that you’re even making a difference in the chance that it will happen, is not rational”

    Exactly. But I have no problem with people using things other than rationality to raise their children. For instance my comment about jews and pork. I don’t have a problem with Miguel NOT putting naked pics of his kids online. I just don’t think that makes them substantially safer than putting them up there. (Hiding their existence and their faces from public view Michael Jackson style would, though) However, if it adds .0001% to their safety level and that eases his mind, then it’s a good decision.

  40. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Vic says: “Trust me, putting more data out there is not the “right” thing, no matter what direction society is headed.”

    Well, says who? I mean, that’s a gut reaction. But it goes to the comment I just made about Michael Jackson masking his kids. Certainly you can make your kids safer by not allowing their photos to be taken at all. But that has nothing to do with their genitalia. That’s them appearing at all.

    I’m betting if you have two 3 year old boys, and one has only ever appeared on the internet as pics of his face and the other has only ever appeared by pictures of his penis, the penis boy is probably somewhat safer from risk of abduction.

    But that’s a thought experiment in a bubble. In reality, as Vic sort of hinted, the world is simply moving away from a point where you can expect to have a 0 digital footprint. Those are the breaks. So adapting to exist in said world is important. Does that mean you have to appear naked. Not at all. But it means that any conversation that hinges on “protecting children by keeping them off the internet” is unrealistically flawed.

  41. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Patrick says: “Hell, we are seeing this already in the contemporary job market. “Don’t have a Facebook profile for us to check up on you? Seems suspicious. Next candidate, please.” It’s a strange thought, but he may be doing exactly the right thing in regards to his child’s social health. We simply will not know until the time comes…”

    Yes, exactly. You can’t really know with paradigm shifts. Hence the “do what you think is best” and let the cards fall where they may.

  42. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Vic says: “Consider that if she were not naked in any of the pics, they would still be wonderful photographs, same pics just not naked. Still awesome. Right?”

    No. That’s what I was getting at before. They’d simply be beautiful photographs yes, but they would not make the same artistic statement. The initial photographs make a clear statement about childhood innocence in the face of nature. The fact that she chooses when to be naked and when not to be is interesting and part of the art. it is a collaboration of sorts between Wyatt and Stella in the same way that any of my work is a collaboration between the model and me. (Tia will definitely back me up on that… also, photos may include makeup, wardrobe, hair, set design…. art is often very collaborative)

    But, the exhibit as it stands now, also includes the reactions of the social network people and has become a statement on adult expectations of childhood sexuality and parental responsibility. The nudity is ESSENTIAL to that statement. Now the art might not be for everyone, but it is certainly an essential part of equation.

    Vic continues: “The interesting thing about that scenario? The privacy issue would still remain.”

    Yes. And that is the crux of it. By all accounts, Stella seems to be ok with what is happening right now. Of course, she’s three, and how much agency does a three year old actually have, especially independent of her parents. But that is the crux of the question. If her parents had decided to toss her out as a child actor and put her in a bunch of movies, she could just as easily regret that later in life, and many former child stars have.

    The fact that one art is nudity and the other is “acting” (and not really, because babies don’t really act, generally… they’re more props) is immaterial to the adult Stella later. The only thing that matters is whether or not she agrees with the choices her parents made for her. As a society we only notice because that choice happens to be about nudity, which as Jeff said, people unfairly equate with sexuality. And that is what Neumann’s exhibit is about in the first place. Hence the nudity being essential.

  43. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    Miguel: your documentary proves my point. The pedophile was triggered by the flower in the girls hair. The assumption that he’d be triggered by a vagina instead is based on an incomplete understanding of deviant sexuality. The pedophile doesn’t think like we do.

    Therefore, Jeff is correct to point out that, you might as well also protect your daughter from ever being photographed with flowers. Or any other thing. Hence the nudity doesn’t substantially raise her incidence of kidnapping.

  44. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Patrick’s analysis of the composition of that photo is perfect. I agree wholeheartedly.

  45. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Vic says: “I believe this is a violation of her future privacy. But I also think that about the iPhone shots my friends post daily of their kids.”

    Which is the real issue I was pointing to in the first place. The nudity is a red herring. It only makes it notable because of our society’s views on nudity, which is the point of the exhibit. That said, despite the fact that Neumann is clearly on the opposite side of the debate from Vic, the fact that he used nudity in his work calls the debate into question in the first place. Otherwise we’d never be having it. Vic would say something like “what the hell is wrong with all you people violating your kids’ future privacy with these photos of them in ridiculous christmas sweaters” and everyone would ignore him. By Neumann doing this, he has called attention to both his and Vic’s views and therefore helped the discourse progress.

    This is why art is important.

    There… I’m caught up now… but also going out to dinner. I’m sure there will be more to answer when I get back.

  46. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    If she had clothes on it wouldn’t make the picture any less beautiful. I’d say it would make them more beautiful. The nudity completely detracts from the quality of the shot. Put clothes on her and the pictures have just as much innocence and playfulness etc. But instead of the pics, we’re talking about the nudity of a 2 year old girl on display. Which still bodes the question I asked earlier: had anyone other than the parent of this girl taken these shots would they still be okay? If it’s the exact same picture, but taken by a stranger or even an uncle, would it be considered art?

    Do you think it was a coincidence that pedophile was by a school in the afternoon? He’s a predator. He wasn’t on an afternoon drive at the park hoping to bird watch. The flower being the trigger is what made him hone in on her. Now, knowing there is going to be nude shots of a two year old girl on display, there WILL be weirdos going into that gallery. Not just mothers with their daughters. All it takes is for said weirdo to see one thing, be it her vagina, or funny dress she couldn’t sit in her car seat in (weird that dad didn’t have a back up outfit for just the cross country drive occasion), to feel he has a connection to the girl and feel he has to see her in real life. The mind of a predator is a crafty monster. Just look at Jerry Sandusky.

    This “it’ll never happen to me” mentality astonishes me.

  47. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Miguel, there’s a very popular creation story in western culture that correlates nudity with innocence. Clothing, on the other hand, is equated with shame, sin, evil, and knowledge of evil. I think the lack of clothing in the pictures *reinforces* innocence and playfulness. Something that many adults seem to lose, or have trained out of them. The pictures would not be nearly as expressive if the contrast between the innocence shown in the subject and the lack of innocence in the viewer was less.

  48. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    This is a story retold a number of times. Have you heard of Sally Mann? She took a number of nudes of her adolescent children. I saw an exhibit of hers back in the early 90’s I think at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She shot large format exclusively I think. Amazing prints. Amazing composition. Very controversial. I thought I owned her book “Immediate Family” published in ’94 but I can’t find it at the moment. I have a few of her controversial images in a collection called “The Body: Photographs of the Human Form.” I also own a book, “The Last Day of Summer”, by Jock Sturges, an even more controversial photographer who became famous for his nudes, many of them adoloscents, which were taken mostly on nude beaches in France and Northern California. He was a “member” of the naturist communities from which most of his photographs came. He eventually married one of his regular subjects, who was much younger than himself, whom he first photographed at age 11. Even more controversial.

  49. avatar
    August 26, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    Miguel: You’re missing the point on the art thing. It’s not about whether the little girl is beautiful. Art is often not beautiful at all. It’s about the power of the piece. Mark explained it very well in layman terms. The message sent by a naked body is different than the message sent by a clothed one specifically because of the sociological values we attribute to it. Millions of photos of little girls are posted to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Instagram every day. Her being naked is what makes it different and that controversy is the art. Not every nude model I take a photo of about sexuality. Sometimes, nudity can specifically be about the absence of sexuality. Eric pointed to some good examples.

    Could it be art if taken by a stranger? Sure! But the legality of the situation comes into play then. If the father allows his daughter to be photographed nude, then the same rules apply. This is different from a stranger using a telephoto lens to take nude shots through a bathroom window. That is illegal regardless of the age of the subject.

    Again, her age doesn’t really come into play. Or it shouldn’t. The fact that it does, is what makes it interesting. Her nudity is what makes it interesting. Otherwise it’s just a very nice portrait.

    As for the second point. No, I don’t think it’s coincidence. That’s my point (and Jeff’s). Predators stalk their prey. Pedophiles prey on children. It’s not that any of us have a “it’ll never happen to me” mentality. Quite the opposite. We think “it could happen to us” even if we don’t have nude pics of our children on the web. The part that you’re not getting is that we’re saying nude photos don’t necessarily trigger pedophiles. They could, but so could anything else. Pedophiles are not deriving sexual enticement from primary or secondary sexual organs the way normal people do. They are deriving it from the portrayal of childlike innocence.

    Look at some other fetish. Say you’re really into leather. If a woman is wearing leather, you might get excited. Oh my god, Leatherbabe!!!! So a normal person assumes that “he’s attracted to the leatherbabe, he’ll be super turn one on once she’s naked.” But it doesn’t work like that. Since the leather is fetishized, being naked actually makes leatherbabe LESS attractive to the fetishist.

    Similarly, how would you have felt if the exhibit was the little girl in glamorous makeup and kinky lingerie? That would be clearly sexual! And people tend to think it attracts pedophiles. But it’s actually the reverse. Most pedophiles are attracted to the innocence of childhood. So making a kid look more grown-up turns them off.

    So what we’re saying is that Stella is put at risk because she’s been put in the public eye. On the pic that I used for the article photo, she looks like a fairy princess! Very sweet and innocent. That’s totally baiting a pedophile right there. She’s certainly at risk. But what Jeff, Mark, Eric and I are all saying is that she’s not MORE at risk because she’s naked. That probably has little effect at all, actually. And in fact, it might even be a turn off (in particular, the controversial “masturbating” photo)

  50. avatar
    August 27, 2014 at 1:12 am

    Blech. I’m done with this. The bottom line is that the exploitation of a two-year-old girl is not okay, albeit by her parents or whomever.

    • avatar
      mav
      August 27, 2014 at 1:34 am

      Which, as I said, is a fine opinion to have and one left to the parents to determine what constitutes exploitation or not. Which is what has happened here. The fact that we’re having this discussion shows that it’s not as universal an opinion as one would like to believe.

  51. avatar
    August 27, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Chris Maverick “Well, says who? I mean, that’s a gut reaction. ”

    Um, no. That is an expert opinion. I am in the business of data and I can assure you, having more of your personal information available for consumption is not a good thing. Considering that many of the technologies that use this data to “enhance” your experience have no good reason to link it to an actual person. Considering the commodity we have all become, it is irresponsible to post images and information about your children in a public forum.

    Forget about child predators, you are correct, there are a lot more effective means of protecting kids from them, however, this guy is selling out his daughter. There may be nothing wrong with that, it may be something that causes her problems in the future. Again, that is not the point. The point is that parents need to think long and hard before making that decision for their children, and the reality is that a lot of them haven’t even considered the matter.

  52. avatar
    August 27, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Chris Maverick ” The initial photographs make a clear statement about childhood innocence in the face of nature.”

    Correct, and none of them were intended to be naked pictures, they just happened that way. Had she not decided to run around in the buff, the photos would be no less beautiful.

    “But, the exhibit as it stands now, also includes the reactions of the social network people and has become a statement on adult expectations of childhood sexuality and parental responsibility. The nudity is ESSENTIAL to that statement. Now the art might not be for everyone, but it is certainly an essential part of equation. ”

    His initial intent, as stated was just to document the trip. How he uses the photos after the fact is not relevant to their composition. Unless he was dishonest and the whole thing was staged. He said he just captured the moments, for the sake of capture. No one told him to post those moments, no one told him to include the nude ones, no one told him to turn it into a gallery showing. The nudity is essential to his exploitation, it was not essential to the photographs being taken while returning the care, that just sort of happened.

  53. avatar
    August 27, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Chris Maverick ” If her parents had decided to toss her out as a child actor and put her in a bunch of movies, she could just as easily regret that later in life, and many former child stars have. ”

    Indeed. It is, however, unlikely she would be running around naked on the set of a sitcom. But you are correct, her images and likeness would be everywhere, it would certainly change her future existence. After seeing the video and having this discussion, I really to feel that this guy in this instance is exploiting his child for personal gain in the name of “art”.

    I don’t believe he should have shared her images as her father if his intent was art. She could have just as easily been that anonymous kid in some random, albeit, beautiful photos.

  54. avatar
    August 27, 2014 at 9:34 am

    Chris Maverick “As a society we only notice because that choice happens to be about nudity, which as Jeff said, people unfairly equate with sexuality. And that is what Neumann’s exhibit is about in the first place. Hence the nudity being essential.”

    That is purely an opinion and not relevant to the issue in regards to privacy. Also as stated earlier, he did not take the pictures with the intent to make an exhibit, at least not a stated intent. The reason that is important is because it challenges the notion of the nudity as being essential. It was the catalyst for the backlash, but you seem to be assigning more meaning to the initial photographs than was actually present.

    A dad, taking shots of his daughter. He happens to be a photographer with nice gear. He gets backlash and decided the best way to handle that is to turn it into a gallery show. I get that the backlash was about the nudity, which, seeing as he is not a predator, is honestly a non issue for me.

    It may not be sexual exploitation as is claimed by some, but it exploitation none the less.

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