Thursday, July 13, 2006

What's grosser than gross?

Originally this title was going to head a post about how much I hate yogurt, and how my willingness to let my son cover me in it at lunch time proves my love. But something much worse has crossed my path today.

Hubby reads that Slate website all the time and today came across this article about a fairly controversial artist who has been discussed on the internet a lot lately. So I’m late in addressing this today, but I’m not writing about it because I want to be part of the hype anyway. I need to write about it because I’m disgusted and have to clear my mind so I can go to bed.

Lisa Greenberg takes pictures of sobbing toddlers. She instigates these sobbing tantrums in her studio by doing things like giving the child a lollipop and then taking it away with no explanation. In fact, she does not speak to them at all. Once she has successfully produced a crying child, she takes their picture. I realize there are so many issues here, and I’m not going to cover even close to all of them and when I start clicking around on this subject I find that there are a lot of people who have already said a lot with which I agree and done it much more articulately than I ever could. Supporters are arguing that this is great art because it is getting people talking and has sparked debate. The debate, however, is not about the quality of the photographs but rather the method she is using to get her subjects, babies, to do what she wants them to do. Just because the art achieves a strong emotional reaction from its viewers does not mean that it is good, not when the reaction is attributed to the viewer wondering what the artist did to these kids to make them so unhappy. You know what, blah! It doesn’t even matter if it’s good or not. I wouldn’t feel any better about what she is doing even if the art were amazing and whatever message about Bush she is trying to convey actually came across (yeah, she says the pieces are about Bush and the future of the world for our kids) because its quality still would not rationalize the way in which she takes advantage of these children.

Other Greenberg supporters, including the “artist” herself, are saying that this is not abuse and these kids will forget about it within 10 minutes because children this age cry "all the time for no reason", and it is “normal.” Ok, yes, children this age cry. They cry because they are hurt, sad, angry, frustrated, want attention, scared, and sometimes they cry because they have been totally wronged and have been offered no explanation for why an adult is treating them so unfairly. That they may forget that lollipop in ten minutes may be true. But the lesson they learn about life and the world probably will stick with them a bit longer. They are taken into a room by their parent, who sits by and watches while a woman mistreats them, and then they see that their parent does nothing to make it right. What have they learned from this? We spend so much time when they are babies teaching them to trust us, to depend on us, that we will be there to take care of their needs. What could these kids possibly think when mommy sits by and does not stand up for what is right on their behalf?

These are children. They are not old enough to give consent for this exercise. They have to depend on their parents to make good decisions for them. This could never happen this way if the subjects were adults because adults can make decisions for themselves and can choose whether or not to allow someone to abuse them for the sake of art. These babies didn’t make that choice. They don’t even know what’s going on, and it can’t even be explained to them in a way that makes sense because it is so ludicrous. They get nothing from this experience except that one day they will get to see a huge photograph of themselves with a broken heart, sitting in a room not understanding why the people who are supposed to care for them are giving them absolutely no respect. And that’s all I see when I look at these photos – brokenhearted, confused, miserable, and scared babies who did not choose to be there, have their picture clicked, and certainly not displayed in a gallery. I hesitate to even link to these pictures because I feel like it just perpetuates this violation…so I won’t. You’ll have to use the link in the article I mentioned above and find them for yourself. While there you can also link to her interview where she comes off as completely unsympathetic because she is not causing any "psychological damage." Gross. Grosser than gross. I have to go kiss my baby now.


Blogger ksl said...

That is terrible! This is the first I had heard of this woman and I think someone should take her shirt of and make her cry like that. That is so disrespectul to thoses poor babies.
I found your blog though my sister Kep at holding a mirror up to my soul.I like your blog and will be back to read more about you and Sam.

12:03 AM  
Blogger Adventures In Babywearing said...

Oh I won't even click on the article- I don't want to see it, I think I get the picture from your post! That is sad. Maybe I am speaking too much mumbo jumbo, but I think that even if they forget within 10 minutes or an hour what this "artist" has done to them, I think it is making an impression on their psyche. Like you said- what is this teaching them? And the artist probably isn't even thinking that far- only thinking about the "art" itself and not the innocent subject. Ironically what a perfect example she is setting of our world today and what it is coming to- showing her art, her "work", is more important than tendering the human emotion.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Thanks for visiting my blog earlier.

I agree that's totally wrong. Babies are helpless and innocent. How could anyone be mean to them just to make a buck? Art my ass.

1:45 AM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

OK, I just checked out her photos. Why are all the kids NAKED?

Ugh. She IS grosser than gross.

1:47 AM  
Blogger scraphappymama said...

I hadn't heard anything about this. I read the article, and was disgusted, as were you, but even more so to realize she is a "mother" herself. My heart ached for each of those kids and was sickened by how those pictures were captured. I am rambling. But, I agree with you.

9:08 AM  
Blogger kate said...

well clearly the "artist" doesn't have kids.

why doesn't she go out "on the street" and capture moments that are authentic rather than being mean to babies? kids do cry sometimes. some more than others, so get off your pretty picture-taking ass and go find some. be there when it happens, instead of hurting kids for no reason. lazy!

11:51 AM  
Blogger beth said...

Kate, actually she does have kids and has done this to them.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous mopsy said...


It's cruel.

2:02 PM  
Blogger LynAnne said...

Thank you for this post. I was relieved to see negative reactions like these when I first heard about this. Although I'm not an artist, I have snapped photos of my children crying to capture a mood. However, I never could provoke a child to cry - that's just plain cruel.

Perhaps someone should bring her into a studio and drop her camera right in front of her before snapping a photo. It wouldn't cause her any psychological damage would it?

2:40 PM  
Blogger Nikkie said...

I don't need to read the article to know that I think what she is doing is terrible! It makes it even more sick to me that she does this to her own babies!

I cannot even imagine sitting there and letting her do that to my baby. It makes me sick to my stomach.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Mama D said...

Somehow if this 'experiment' was being performed on unsuspecting adults or what about mentally challenged people there would be an uproar. What would be the difference? Why is it then that there is simply just controversy on this subject?

I must admit the actual photographs themselves are amazing. They have a strange silvery quality to them. Maybe because of their surreal appearance it is easier for people to forget that the subject of the portrait is a real, live, hysterical child.

I, like Lynanne have taken pictures of A crying. Sometimes it is cute or you just want to have photos that capture all of their emotions rather than just the happy times. But I would never provoke it.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Cmommy said...

I think you said that very well--you are a great writer and don't give yourself enough credit.

Wow. I've missed this entire debate; where have I been?

(ps: weeds...I pulled too many under protest as a child, also! Blade by blade is harsh, though! LOL--is your yard a rock garden now? Thinking about 'planting' some rocks myself!) C

5:14 PM  
Blogger kate said...

beth, i'm shocked. truly.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Katie said...

Yuck. I checked out the artcle and the pictures and it makes me sick. Did you see the price of those things? I can't believe that moms would subject their children to this. I completely agree with you on this.

10:01 PM  
Blogger GranolaGirl12 said...

You made some good points as to why it's so wrong. I'll never look at those target ads in the same light again, knowing she's the photographer. Thanks for clueing me in-- I also missed the debate, but I guess I'm glad I did.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Kelli in the Mirror said...

I hadn't heard anything about her either. She's insane. And I think it's very strange to make it a political thing. I wonder if she told people beforehand... "I'm going to take this picture of your baby crying and say it's because of the state of the world he's growing up in."
And if so, even if you really hate Bush, do all these people hate him enough to put their children through this? Why not sign a petition or something instead? It's ridiculous.

10:40 PM  

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