Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/06/26

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Sally Mann (now really offensive)
Date: 26 Jun 2000 16:51:42 -0700

Yes, as a parent of two young children, I am painfully aware of my responsibility of protecting my children.

This issue of photographs of children in the nude completely depends on the context under which the photographs are taken.  If the children are forced, coerced or stripped to make these photographs, and I am fully aware that in some cases, they are, harm was indeed done.  Yet, there are many places in the world, even in the prudish Unites States, where nakedness is an acceptable form of dress in certain contexts, and portraits of children in their own natural settings is anything but harmful.

Distribution of these materials is a separate issue.  If these materials were intentionally distributed in a manner to exploit these images, I would not at all hesitate to speak against them.  However, if they were distributed in a sincere, professional, and dare I say, artistic manner, I see little harm done.  Upon Jim Brick's recommendation, I bought a copy of Jock Sturgis' "Last Day of Summer" and found it to be a beautiful portrayal of young girls emerging into women.  I would not deny that the book was purchased by some individuals for their own sexual pleasure; however, any and all materials, regardless of the content and context can be found to be disturbing to someone.  Also, there is a question of why Jock Sturgis chosed to photograph mostly young girls, and left out young boys (he answers this question in the book.)  Shall we ban all "disturbing" and "harmful" materials?  If we do, there would be nothing left.

Not knowing Sally Mann personally, I cannot pass any judgement on whether she has fulfilled her responsibilities as a parent.  Certainly, I would not see her breastfeeding her child as a harmful activity.  In most parts of the world, children are nursed until they are between 3 and 6, and only in the warped Western societies, would mothers feel the need to deprive the children of the nurture after mere months or even weeks after they are brought into the world.  Nestle and other manufacturers of breast-milk substitute have done much harm not only to our children's physical and psychological health, but to women's self-image, too.  I find that far more disturbing than images of nude children in their own surroundings.

I have come to accept that my children will be exposed to harm, and some of that will be from myself.  However, my only hope is that they will grow to love themselves, and love both their soul and body.

Ken Iisaka

> Martin, Martin....Far too facile a response from someone like
> you.....Attempting to equate a child's being told to wash the dishes, which
> is more a parental attempt to teach responsibility than it is an attempt to
> get free labor, with using ones children as nude models in a series of
> books, is a bit like ....No, I won't go there. Let's just say, with all due
> respect, that it's an inane comparison. One of a parent's primary roles, if
> not THE primary role, after procreating, is to protect the child one has
> created. And I would suggest that, lover her photographs or not, Sally Mann
> has hardly fulfilled that role.
> And, by the way, I am not a "prude," am not in any way opposed to the
> display of naked folks in art, but I think that there are lines and there
> are lines, and, particularly where kids are concerned, one has to be careful
> not to cross them.