Thursday, May 19, 2011

Standing in the shower thinking

If you like that self righteous, angry feeling that comes from learning about acts of misguided social conservatism, Lynn Powell's Framing Innocence is a pretty good read. I've been plugging away at it for the past few nights, growing more pissed and incredulous with every chapter.

The basic true story is that a mother in Ohio photographed her naked 8-year old daughter privately at home, then sent the negatives to be developed at a processing facility (near here) where they were flagged as suspicious. She was arrested and charged with child pornography, suspended from her job, racked up thousands in legal bills trying to defend herself, and nearly lost her child to protective custody. Scary!

It may be too easy to dismiss this situation at first by saying it could only happen in some smallminded Midwestern backwater, but the truth is in today's social climate this could happen anywhere in America to any parent. And indeed, Powell notes several similar cases in various parts of the country.

For me the most entertaining parts are the court dissections of the suspicious photos, in which lawyers conduct a legal art critique. What does this photo mean? What is depicted? What was the artist's intent? What if someone interprets it differently? Does the intended audience change the photo's meaning? What qualifies a photo as pornographic? They're the sort of questions that might pop up in an MFA seminar, but approached from a strictly legal perspective. I'm afraid lawyers are no more likely than artists to settle these issues, but they try.

Framing Innocence isn't just a primer on pornography law. It's a well written pageturner. If you're a photographer and you've ever taken nude photographs of your children at any age, I'd recommend it. I warn you though, do not read if you have high blood pressure, because this book will likely send it through the roof.


Anonymous said...

I'm not a technology buff, but a place to discuss the poll of the week (or whatever) would be cool. Or not.

Because the thought of Friedlander shooting my wedding is giving me the heeby jeebies. His predatory shadow looming heavy on my bride? No thanks.

Microcord said...

It could be worse, Anonymous. What if your wedding were photographed by Joel-Peter Witkin?

As for this item with its nutty Christians, they say that they'll be removed from this Earth at 6 p.m. today. I hope this does indeed come true. (Me, I'm with Mickey Rat.)

Anonymous said...

I think I'll heed your blood pressure warning and avoid this book. As a middle-aged male, the paranoia has changed the way I shoot on the street. If there are children in my field of view, I don't even raise the camera.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think there should be some kind of forum around here so we can discuss things not specifically mentioned in your blog posts.

Blake Andrews said...

It's May 21st and the world is still here. Yay.

Blogger doesn't seem to have any way to add an independent comment field to the sidebar, but as with these comments, you're free to discuss whatever in the comment section of any post.

As for this week's poll, I thought of it as a contest between two ways of thinking. It's sort of asking which method of documenting is more meaningful, portraits or poetry (Arbus or Winogrand)? Friedlander is just in there as a red herring to match the poll with the MOMA show.

chuckp said...

But Friedlander took GREAT party pictures back in the 70's. I figure I could've just given him an early start