Monday, August 30, 2010

The Ethics of Photographing My Sibs... Part Un


In a post several days back, I made a comment about having a free pass to photograph kids in an non-creepy manner seeing as that I'm a lady. My remark prompted my very intelligent and forever critical friend Sara to ask me: "Do you really think women get a get out of jail free card when photographing kids?" We then went on to discuss this article about Larry Rivers who photographed his daughters durning their adolescence. So naturally all of this discussion got me thinking about photographing my own siblings, their right to their own images, and crossing over the boundaries of their privacy.

In response to the article, I wrote Sara this: at the time he made the work he put his children in a situation they did not willingly want to be in. Whether done by a male or female photographer, I think that is an unfair thing to do, leveraging one's role of being an artist over ones obligations to their family. I think thats wrong. I do think art should be subversive and push boundaries but not at the cost of violating ones family's trust. I always ask my siblings if I can photograph them and often I am confronted with a negative response. Occasionally I'll make an effort to persuade them to let me, but a no is a no, and their feelings are something I respect tremendously. Initially I was highly protective of my siblings' image, the first body of work I ever created of them and put on the internet had a password so that only people I wanted to be viewing it could, because I felt it would have been a violation of their privacy. Knowing well what its like to be a teenager, horribly uncomfortable and somewhat terrified of your own skin, I would never put Maggie or Cora in a position that made them feel even more uncomfortable than they already do. This is something I am highly conscientious of.

And yes I do really think women have an easier time photographing children. Pedophilia is, generalization or not, absolutely associated with men, creepy men. Women are thought of as nurturing and protective of children and so women have an easier time. That said, a sexualized image of a child, will always look like a sexualized image of a child. Its something we are all highly attuned to pick up on, and I think would regardless of the sex of the photographer who made the picture. And I don't think its any more right for a woman to create a sexy picture of a child than I do a man. I do think however, that when its a slippery slope, women have an easier time navigating that path. Just imagine for one minute being a mother in a playground with your child and you see a 45 year old man with a camera photographing your child through the fence. And then imagine looking up and seeing an attractive 25 year old female doing the same. What is going to bother you more?

In writing all of this, I realized that ultimately my opinion doesn't really matter; Maggie, Cora, and Josh's feelings matter. So this prompted me to conduct age appropriate/attention span appropriate interviews with Maggie and Josh about their experience being photographed by me... Cora's soon to follow (Cora get ready) . The videos will appear on the blog in installments all week long so check back. And share your own thoughts about the matter...

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