Mom Wants A Diabetes Cure

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Day With The Ladies

How do you feel about this photograph? What does it tell you about the girl? Let me know in the comment section.

Yesterday, I met up with some of my OC friends, Nicole, Kerri, and Julia for a play and an early dinner afterward.

Nicole was thoughtful enough to invite us to see the play about Sally Mann at the playhouse where she works in Rhode Island.

Sally Mann, a famous and controversial photographer of many different subjects, has been more famously criticized for nude photos of her own children with critics citing they push the boundaries of child pornography.

Sally Mann's provocative choice of subject is based upon the everyday life she and her family lived on their expansive and isolated land. Her children lived a more feral life, as she did during her own childhood, with her children often running around nude (as mine have and still often do).

So, to many who are used to living a more structured lifestyle, Sally's subject matter may seem taboo.

What is taboo to certain people in our society isn't necessarily taboo for others. So, essentially, who is to dictate what is acceptable and what isn't.

During the Talk Back after the play, Nicole brought up an excellent point that while the photographer has her own innocent point of view of her subjects, it's the audience who brings their own experience to the photo thereby marking it as innocent or controversial.

I personally love the freedom of her children. There is no pretense in their actions and they aren't harnessed by society's boundaries. Sally Mann's photos are snapshots of her children's natural, innocent tendencies. Children have no preconceived notions of what is acceptable behavior until it is pressed upon them by adults.

So, this is my intellectual take on a really interesting woman.

I so badly wanted to participate in the Talk Back discussion (btw, we were the youngest audience members there amongst very distiguished looking "early bird specialists") and throw the word "taboo" into my comment. I felt like I could've contributed something intellectual if I did that, LOL. Instead, I sat in a murky haze caused by a double dose of cough medicine I took so I wouldn't hack all over the girls and the elderly folk.

Afterward, we walked around the corner to a little pub where, amongst other "provocative" subject matter, we talked about how hairy/hairless our significant others were. The intellectual flow went rolling right along......


  • I read your question at the top and thought - she is way too young to be smoking.

    Then I read the rest of your post and am wondering if it is just something about me! :)

    And what a fun group to hang out with!

    By Anonymous Sara, at 2/24/2008 11:33 AM  

  • killer photo. I'm more concerned about the kid on stilts in the background than the girl posing with an unlit cigarette...

    By Blogger Kassie, at 2/24/2008 11:59 AM  

  • that part of the antismoke campaign in the UK?

    anyway, as for the photos..I agree and disagree. There was a woman I know who posted a nearly naked pic of her child on a public message board. I sort of went nuts. She thought the picture was natural and sweet..all I could do was think of all the pedophiles looking on. Photos like Sally Manns may be innocent to Sally Mann but to a pedophile they are the stuff of fantasy and Sally Mann is serving up her kids. So even if she thinks the photos are innocent and not porn, she is prostituting her kids out like common ho's because she knows what people are doing to pictures of her kids. How could a mother suject her kids to that? EVEN if the pictures are innocent, there are people who will happily those pictures. I'd rather hope no funky guy is jerking off to pics of my kids.

    By Blogger Michelle, at 2/24/2008 12:18 PM  

  • Shannon - What a GREAT day. Thank you so much.

    Regarding that particular photo, I think it speaks to the idea of children (particularly young women) wanting to grow up fast. Too fast. The girl looks a little defiant, a little "in her own space" - which is in very pre-adolescence or adolescence (at least in my mind) a fascinating place... She looks like she's tired of where she is and her pose and the cigarette suggest that she thinks that "growing up" may get her out.

    I'd have to disagree with the sentiments expressed about pedophiles. Pedophiles don't need children to be naked to be "jerking off" to them. Pedophilia, disturbingly, finds no boundaries in clothing. You could just as easily catch the eye of a predator with a second grade photo of your child shown in conversation or on the internet.

    Kassie - LOL re: the stilts.

    By Blogger Nicole P, at 2/24/2008 12:34 PM  

  • What a fun day with some of blogging's finest ladies.

    I love the photo. Like Nicole said, it perfectly depicts that in between state. That age where you think you know, but you don't. And all you want to do is be older, NOW, no matter what price you pay.
    I also kind of see the little girl on the right as looking back towards youth (the boy on stilts), and the girl with the cigarette facing the future full force, like a lot of young girls think they should. (I could totally just be rambling here.)

    I don't think there is anything wrong with nudity. It has it's place just like everything else in the world. It's natural.

    I also have to agree with Nicole on the pedophile front. They are able to turn even the most innocent child photographs (nude or not) into whatever they need.

    By Blogger Jillian, at 2/24/2008 2:04 PM  

  • My very first thought when I glanced at the photo - now there is a woman with confidence. I don't know why I thought that - maybe it was the attitude exhibited via her 'don't f**k with me' body language or maybe it was the blatant display of the cigarette. It was only upon studying the photo that I realized it was just a girl.

    Times change. 40 or 50 years ago - I don't believe people thought twice about pedophiles or girls with cigarettes.

    Are we becoming a more openminded society or less? That is a question that is far too sophisticated for me to answer... I'm more suited towards participating in the discussion about the hairy/hairless significant other.

    Sounds like a great day.

    By Blogger Carmen & Todd, at 2/24/2008 3:04 PM  

  • Do I think naked pictures of children should be on the internet - no, but...

    to echo what Nicole and Jillian have said, researchers have interviewed sex offenders in jail and asked them, who would you be more likely to assault (and show them a picture of a women barely clothed and a woman in sweats). They overwhelmingly pick the woman it sweats because of the challenge. It has really very little to do with clothing.

    By Anonymous Sara, at 2/24/2008 5:25 PM  

  • Re: the photograph, I think this little girl looks smug and arrogant, all of what, seven years old and holding that cigarette like a movie star from the 40's? She looks too young to be holding something so much "older," like a little girl dressed in her mother's heels that gape in the back. Only this moment of adulthood doesn't look innocent. It looks defiant.

    Maybe that's what growing up is all about, though.

    Hmmmm. "Taboo." "Provocative." And "Darn Tootin'." ;)

    Was AWESOME to see you guys on Saturday. I can't want to do it again. :D

    By Blogger Kerri., at 2/25/2008 9:18 AM  

  • I agree that pedophiles don't NEED the nudity, but why put your child out there like that? What could possibly be the reasoning?

    By Blogger Michelle, at 2/25/2008 9:55 AM  

  • Michelle - what I see is that she's an artist. She's doing what artists often do seeing and expressing the art that inhabits her every day. Although I can see how her work would be disturbing to some people, I personally find it beautiful, strange, a little haunting, happy, sad - the way life often is. I also see a life I've known pieces of and a life that I don't know at all.

    By Blogger Nicole P, at 2/25/2008 11:38 AM  

  • When I first looked at the photo, I was a little taken aback. (call me a prude) - until I read your post. I went back and re-looked at it. The child is beautiful. Stunning, actually. I see defiance as well in this photo (even though it's a candy cigarette). She looks like she's trying to push her parents buttons with this shot. You also catch glimpses of her as an adult in this photo.

    As for the nudity thing. I have nothing against taking nude shots of your kids when they're little. I have some myself. BUT, here's the thing - you won't see me plastering them on the internet or in any public place. Despite the fact that pedofiles don't need the nudity aspect to "get off" - I just don't need to add fuel to fire (at least in my own mind). It's a protection thing. They're my children - I must protect them. For me, that's one of the things I would do.

    I'm glad you got together with the "girls" this weekend! Sounds like you all had a great time. Don't get me started on hairy husbands though .... just spend one day cleaning my bathroom and tears will form in your eyes. LOL.

    By Blogger Jamie, at 2/25/2008 12:10 PM  

  • I love that photo.

    I have to agree with Nicole et al, re the nude photos. Some of her nude shots are a bit disturbing. Some of her shots where her children are clothed are also disturbing. It pushes buttons we don't want pushed, makes us examine ourselves and our thoughts on certain subjects when maybe we'd have preferred those thoughts to be left hidden in the dark recesses of our minds.

    When I got home Saturday night, I googled Sally Mann and spent a couple of hours looking at her photographs. Even some of her photos of the deep south are a bit disturbing. But I like that - I don't need to have things be all pretty flowers (and unicorns and rainbows). I like being challenged by art.

    By Blogger Major Bedhead, at 2/25/2008 1:48 PM  

  • Julia,

    You pretty much said EXACTLY what I was thinking about Sally Mann's work.

    By Blogger Shannon, at 2/25/2008 2:14 PM  

  • Oh yeah, I agree, some of the photos of her kids clothed are disturbing too. And I agree, that's the point. But they are kids. And I can't get past that fact. For me it becomes exploitation of people to make a point. For me art shouldn't exploit, it should elevate. I don't buy into Art for art's sake.

    (but hey, this is the best adult conversation I've had in a week!!)

    By Blogger Michelle, at 2/26/2008 9:18 AM  

  • Michelle, I don't buy into art for art's sake either. I don't find the photos exploitative at all. She's not degrading her subjects - that's clear to me. She's capturing things about them that aren't always seen. In my eyes, she IS elevating them (both the people and the situations), and that's what makes what she's doing art. She is showing the beauty in the raw, naturalness of being a child. She's capturing moments that are extraordinary or JUST ordinary. She's directing our eyes toward things that makes us a little uncomfortable (because they're unfamiliar or too familiar to us?) Things that we may prefer to continue not seeing.

    By Blogger Nicole P, at 2/26/2008 10:59 AM  

  • obviously I'm in the minority here, but I still thing there are ways to do that, to get people to think about difficult concepts or to provoke a dialog, that don't involve using children in that manner.

    By Blogger Michelle, at 2/26/2008 4:17 PM  

  • I've heard what you're saying from a lot of people, Michelle. I just disagree. I think Mann's way of expression is the only way to express those particular moments and concepts and contexts that she was capturing.

    I can see where you're coming from, I'm just not there. Does that makes sense?

    By Blogger Nicole P, at 2/26/2008 4:21 PM  

  • oh absolutely makes sense - and I see where you're coming from, I'm just not there either. I certainly don't want it to sound like I'm trying to take a higher moral ground on this - far from it - I totally 'get' that photos can be used to let people talk . for instance, Araron Hobson has some wild photos which are very disturbing, some may call them a form of pornography, but I can see the story the photos are telling and I can get behind the telling of them. I just take exception to using children to tell the story. And yes, I understand the incongruity in that. Does that make any sense?

    By Blogger Michelle, at 2/26/2008 10:16 PM  

  • You should check out Mapplethorpe's work.

    By Blogger Shannon, at 2/27/2008 7:33 AM  

  • and that's another perfect example. Is it porn? Nah. These are beautiful pictures and they're sexy pictures to boot and they make you think about what you're seeing. BUT..even Mapplethorpe has a few pictures of children that aren't disturbing like Sally Manns. It's the tone of her pictures I think.

    By Blogger Michelle, at 2/27/2008 9:16 AM  

  • I didn't know who Mapplethorpe was when someone mentioned him during the Talk Back. Kerri and I looked at each other and were like "Who the hell is Mapplethorpe?" And I found out after I Googled him, LMAO!

    By Blogger Shannon, at 2/27/2008 9:28 AM  

  • It makes sense, Michelle. To me, though, Sally Mann's photographs have a tone that speaks about experiences I've had - and about experiences I don't understand at all. That's one of the things I find so beautiful about them.

    I don't think Mapplethorpe's work is sexy in the least... Which I think is funny. I don't find it disturbing either... It just sort of leaves me feeling pretty neutral. Strange? Maybe. Have you ever seen any of Nan Goldin's work? She's another (lesser known) controversial artist. I find her work a sexy, sad, and strange - in a way that I think some people find Mapplethorpe's work to be.

    Hobson's work is remarkable - I think - mostly because it makes no apologies. He and Goldin remind me of each other a bit, in that way.

    By Blogger Nicole P, at 2/27/2008 10:06 AM  

  • I had never heard of Nan Goldin by name that I had remembered but once I googled her I do recall seeing her pics and yep, she's also got a famous (or imfamous) picture of kids. But mostly her other photos are raw, like Hobson but different. With Hobson I feel like we're sucked into the scene that's unfolding. With most other photographs I feel like we're watching, not actively involved. Maybe that's what I find disturbing about Sally Mann...I feel sucked into the picture and I want to put some clothes on the kids. ROFL.

    By Blogger Michelle, at 2/27/2008 4:28 PM  

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