Today’s post is about a very sensitive subject: photographing nude children. The background story:
I read an article about US-based photographer Wyatt Neumann. He made a road trip with his two-year-old daughter Stella, photographing the country. Stella makes an appearance in several images, sometimes normally clothed, sometimes nude or partially nude as two-year-olds sometimes are. The images are skillfully made reflect situations of the carefree life of a small girl.
He blogged images from the while being on the road and, as the story got some attention, a shitstorm broke loose. The criticism came from the (ultra) conservative/prude wing and all kinds of horrible accusations were thrown at him. People accused him of pornography, creating obscene photos, being a pervert, a bad parent, that his daughter will be traumatized and so on. The language was very aggressive and often contained many nasty words. Follow the link above to the original article, where some images and corresponding comments are displayed.
The angry crowd managed to suspend his Facebook and Instagram accounts by filing complaints. Eventually his project, which started as a portrait of the American country, evolved into another form. Today he exhibits in a New York gallery called “I feel sorry for your children – The sexualization of innocence in America”.
Let’s transit from Mr. Neumann to my personal situation. I am the father of two daughters. The older one is about the same age as Stella. Since I am also a photographer I have been confronted with the topic of nudity and photographing children from the moment of their birth. I produce heaps of images of my children (perhaps too many…) and share the images on a private blog where only family and friends have access to. Of course the girls are sometimes naked. Running naked in the garden, splashing in the pool, allowing the bum to dry after a diaper change… all these moments are totally natural in a small child’s life. They are absolutely carefree and unprejudiced about nudity (I wrote “carefree” because I don’t like the term “innocent” – am I guilty as a grown-up ?). Therefore I have photos of my naked children on the hard drive. But when it comes to selecting the images which should go on the blog one has to define a criterion to decide which image is publishable and which should not be published. I personally decided to post no images where genitalia are visible, Don’t get me wrong, I find absolutely nothing offensive or distasteful about a naked child. It is more the idea that private parts should be kept, well, private. Although my children are too small to grasp the concept of privacy they are nevertheless entitled to some.
Of course this is a decision that I made out of my own ethical understanding. Other people might see it even more relaxed, other people might see it more strict.
Closing statement: I personally can’t see anything wrong with Wyatt Neumann’s work. Nudity is a part of small children and images of them, when decently photographed, convey no other message than exactly that natural feeling. It is more the question of with whom such images are shared that should be the point of intense thought and discussion.
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