Monday, September 1, 2008

Wrong in Principle--Still Acceptable?

From the UK news publication The Guardian, comes criticism of a photography exhibition involving stylized pictures of children who were provoked to the point of tears intentionally for the sake of getting the shot. The photographer promises that no lasting psychological damage was inflicted on these subjects, and appears to believe that makes this practice justifiable.
"Photographer Jill Greenberg has whipped up a storm of controversy with her new exhibition, End Times. The pictures in the show, for which she deliberately provoked tearful outbursts from children by taking away lollipops she had just given them, have been described by some as tantamount to child abuse."
Taking candy away from children is not child abuse, and I doubt there is any psychological harm coming from this. The real issue is that such a thing as exploiting a child's emotions outside their control or consent for personal gain is tolerated so long as there is no "lasting harm" inflicted. What is the limit before something that is wrong in principle is no longer acceptable, regardless of whether or not it inflicts harm?
"Greenberg herself insists that the children had the sweets returned within 30 seconds, that no lasting harm has been done, and that her concern was to depict what she says reminded her of the "helplessness and anger I feel about our current political and social situation."
What is ironic is that the pictures were taken to protest growing global concerns offset by the traditional appeal to the supposed innocence of children, but what the photographer fails to understand is that the same rationale is often used to justify such global violence, wars, and destruction to begin with, on behalf of protecting that so-called innocence that is being exploited in these photographs.

It certainly seem contradictory to argue for the protection of the innocent while exploiting real live kids for personal monetary and career gain, and stirring up this kind of controversy (abuse issues) only distracts from the very causes she's trying to bring attention to.

I won't post any links to this exhibition or its photographs because it deserves no advertising. It's nice to see controversy and public outcry over this, but controversy often only fuels the fire.

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