Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Jill Greenberg

Jim Lewis has an article in Slate this week about Jill Greenberg's photo project where she made some toddlers cry (by, for instance, giving them candy and then taking it away) and then took big glossy photos of them. Like this one.

I'm not completely outraged by this the way some people are - I agree that as long as it doesn't happen often, it's probably fairly harmless to make a little kid cry, given how often they cry on their own over the slightest thing (like, er, having candy taken away). It's hard to really call it child abuse. I don't think I'd let my own kid participate in a project like that, though.

At the same time, I can't imagine wanting to have one of these photos on my wall, and not just because that cartoon-like lighting is ugly to me. The idea of making a kid cry for my enjoyment makes me feel dirty.

I know there are great photos that document suffering, though, being a total ignoramus, I can't tell you which ones I'm thinking of. But those photos are documenting something that happened on its own; they're journalistic and tell us about a moment in time. And it's not like I'd want a famous photo of some atrocity on my wall either.

I tend to think that most of our use of children for entertainment is basically exploitative. But I'm not sure it's worth never portraying kids in movies, TV shows, etc., just to stop it. But I wish I could watch the Olympics, for instance, without wondering what kind of abuses the little girl gymnasts endure as part of their training.


sally said...

What a stupid and annoying set of photographs! I couldn't decide which was worse: the awful lighting or the names she gave the photos. I mean, an utterly artificial looking photo of a crying child entitled "Nucular (sic)"? (Surely there was also one called "Bush-Hitler" and another called "Holocaust" that simply didn't make it into that particular slide show.) This stuff is more of an aesthetic and artistic outrage than it is morally questionable exploitation.

The idea put forth in the article that people are more upset with her making the kids cry because it was for photos rather than to inspire poetry (which was a kind of bizarre suggestion, I thought, but maybe my poems were never any good because I wasn't approaching this whole enterprise correctly! though one wonders how those poor mugs like Shakespeare got by in the pre-photography era) or simply for personal recreation struck me as bogus. Given the photographer's history as a commercial photographer and the fact that she certainly is hoping to make money off this thing, couldn't part of the outrage be against her making little kids cry for her own monetary gain?

Tam's momm said...

These are truly hideous pictures.

Tam said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks they're really ugly. If you're going to torture kids for art, it should at least be good art...

Mosch said...

I want art to move me. These photos fill me with emotion. I could imagine spending hours sitting on an ottoman in the middle of a room in a gallery or museum surrounded by them, running the many feelings that come up, including my feelings in response to knowing how they were produced. The titles don't do anything for me, so I'd ignore them, though I can guess at their appeal for others.

Is it right? Is it wrong? Ugh. It makes me sick to think about it. So do these photos make me sick even as I sit mesmerized on that ottoman.