Sunday, July 02, 2006

Children's Tears for Profit

Editing to add: Just read Aston West's comment below and wanted to link to his blog where he posits "The Jareo Effect" - and yep, I agree that we're talking about it here, too.

Just read Jill Miller Zimon's blog Writes Like She Talks. Today's post hit a nerve. Jill, this started as a comment on your blog, but it got so long and so personal I decided to post it here.

A while back I wrote about my political leanings from a spiritual perspective - the bottom line is that neither the conservatives nor the liberals are attractive to me. I hadn't been thinking too politically lately...then this. Bear with me a bit as I just express myself and struggle towards the point...

To recap, incase you don't want to click through a bunch of links - a photographer has put together a showing of pictures of crying toddlers. I went and took a look. The little ones are wailing as if they'd witnessed their favorite pet gutted in front of them. It's raw, painful emotion. The lighting and close-up work just intensify the reaction you get to the pictures - and it's much more affecting if you're a parent, I'd think.

Ok, next, the "statement" behind the work:

" 'End Times,' is featured on the Web site of the (redacted by this blogger - I agree with Jill, I'm not going to give any help to the publicity machines here) Gallery. A news release on the site says the pictures of distressed children are a commentary on religious fundamentalism and the war in Iraq"

Huh? Why not show Iraqi children then, and their distress? Ah, well, the artist says the children's pain depicted is a precursor of what is to come as a result of our government.

Seems to me, and this is just an opinion, now, it's an egregious attempt, by an 'artist' who wants national coverage, to assault a viewers emotions at the most primal level to get publicity. Commercialism at it's best for someone whose profession is commercial photography. A political statement? Precursor of what's to come? She really didn't think this one through, IMO.

Because, and I bet you can guess what I'm thinking here, this will play right into the hands of the conservatives. I can hear the backlash now - those "artsy" types, the Hollywood liberals, they don't have a clue about what it's like to be a real, honest, heartland of America parent who cherishes their children.

And I'd have to grudgingly agree with that position - right at a time when I was getting so disgusted with what "conservatism" has become, there goes another liberal slapping me in the face with yet another reason to not want to be in her camp either!

Let's tick off a couple reasons there are so many die hard conservatives out there - family values? moral standards? *sigh* She (the 'artist') couldn't have had a clue how folks will feel about this. At least I hope that's the case rather than her not giving a flying...frito.

And I can understand the people who see other, darker potential in the photos as well - not to say those potentials were at all even considered or intended by the photographer - surely the furthest thing from her, IMO, shallow mind, but this lack of thinking through the consequences of the reactions to what these pictures portray - half dressed (although because of the framing one doesn't know if they're dressed at all), vulnerable, very young children (she says they're from two to four years old) in such heart wrenching distress...I'd like to hear an expert in child sexual abuse speak to the imagry here - how do pedophiles feel when they see these kinds of pictures - I can imagine they love it, the sense of power over these children those pictures could evoke. How would someone abused as a child feel when confronted by these images - does it all crash in on them again, the pain, the humiliation, the powerlessness? Yes, here in America we're free to express ourselves this way. But sometimes, taking advantage of that freedom has unintended consequences. There could very well be a whole pile of those coming out of this situation.

If this gets any more media buzz it's going to be a field day for the Right. I should see if any of their pundits have mentioned it yet, they so love this kind of stuff, and it'll really get legs under if they do. It's late and I'm tired so I'm not up to it tonite - might not get up to it at all, but if it hits the headlines I won't have to look far.

Another thing that truly irritates me, is that she may not even see it as bad news if there's a public outcry of outrage - any publicity is good publicity and all that. The cavalier attitude she has in this podcast doesn't contradict that opinion, either. "It's not like I'm causing any permanent kinda psychic damage..." Her own daughter is one of the models.

And to top it off her husband has the nerve to make threats to a blogger for having an opinion? How does a blogger's opinion hurt them? It doesn't. But getting the media involved in your response to that blogger, well...fuel for the publicity machine! "See how we've been smeared! Go look at our pictures, read our blogs - see what libel is being spread about us!"

And maybe, if he yells loud enough and uses his connections, the op eds start, and papers will start reporting on the contraversy and people who would never have heard about this will be curious. Of course some will want to offer the artist their support - we have to keep the rights to freedom of expression strong, maybe they'll make a contribution? Gosh, how about setting up tee shirts for sale in the gallery gift shop with some of the pictures on them? Nah, I'm not a cynic. Really.

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Jill said...

Hi Dawno. I'm so glad you weighed in on this. You know, I WANT to be supportive of art. But, like you, I can't for the life of me understand how what this artist did has any resemblance to the pain resulting from involvement in Iraq. If she'd found kids who were born after their dad died in 9/11 or who didn't know their parent when that parent died in 9/11 and then gets them to cry over their loss, maybe that would pass muster - at least the kids are crying from some real, actual pain and loss.

But over a lollipop?


I can't find an image now, but remember that famous picture from the seventies of the little babies all lined up in a row in different color onesies or something, all different races? It's in every pediatrician's office and I know I had bought a couple of copies for myself as a teenager, I thought it was so cute.

And now, 30 years later, this person's image of kids.

I make myself watch Holocaust films and disturbing imagery that connects to actual events and real life suffering. But what is in this exhibit in question has no relationship to that - in fact, I think it's an insult to people who are actually in pain from loss or terror or abuse.

Thanks for commenting, Dawno. Hope you and yours are well.

AstonWest said...

Sounds like a clear case of the Jareo effect if I ever saw one...

Matt D. said...

I've seen the pictures in question, and my initial response--as someone who works in the photography industry--was Holy Airbrushing, Batman! The emotion is a bit enhanced by the obscene amount of digital editing. Most of the tears themselves are fake.

I really don't think it's a big deal, though I'm not very impressed with the pictures either. What is a big deal is how she pulled a Barbara Bauer on the guy who took umbrage with the pictures.

Tish G. said...

hey Dawn....

it's funny how blogger-bashing's getting to be a regular sport in the outside world! spent several days at a conference last week, and there was *loads* of blogger bashing...

I read the artist's explanations of what she's doing. I get it. But is it necessary? or is she manifesting something that's becoming endemic in our society: relishing the suffering of others for our amusement.