In the Family Way

Most parents photograph their children. Or at least those of us fortunate enough to live at least reasonably comfortably and with our families do. Almost certainly now the great majority of those pictures will be taken on mobile phones, and many will be shared through social media. Some parents will share them privately, while others, either by accident or design will make them visible to the world. I’ve occasionally come across some which I would rather not have seen – usually on aesthetic grounds – on my Facebook feed, but usually I just hit the space bar to scroll down to the next post.

Occasionally I’ve told Facebook I don’t want to see any more posts like this (usually of cats or food) but it seems to have no real effect. A few people who only seem to post that kind of content I’ve blocked or unfriended, and some posts I’ve reported as spam.  If I saw anything that was clearly illegal I’d certainly report it to Facebook, but so far I haven’t had to do so.

Today on Facebook I read two different posts about people who have received an avalanche of negative comments after making photographic projects photographing their own children and publishing these images, prompting me to write this post, and I’ll mention both later.

Firstly I was reminded that the first web site that used my own pictures was a small site with the title ‘Family Pictures‘, with images of my own two boys and some of their friends. I chose the images carefully as those which I felt would have an appeal outside my own family.  I was also careful to remove a few more revealing images of the children playing with friends in paddling pools and elsewhere on hot summer days that cause amusement in family circles but might have transgressed the ISP’s guidance on nudity.

By the time when these black and white images went live on the web in 1995, those two boys were in their late teens, and they helped me hand code the html for a rather basic web site and upload it to an ISP that was offering small amounts of free web space.

I updated the images a few months later to reduce image size, as some of the originals were around 100Kb and very slow to load on a dial-up connection, and got the whole site showing 16 jpeg images (and thumbnails of them) with 17 pages of html down to under 1Mb.

I transferred it to my own web space a few years later, and made a few changes to the code, removing the pre-loading of images we had thought up, which had appeared to speed up the site when going though the images in order. A full stop on each page of the site was actually the next image in the sequence resized down to a 1 or 2 pixel square. As modems got faster, such tricks became redundant, and just complicated matters. But visually the site is as it was almost 20 years ago – still the same scans, rather poor by modern standards and worsened by jpeg artifacts. You can still see all 16 images online.

Personally I find the pictures taken by photographer Wyatt Neumann during a trip with his 2-year-old daughter a charming record of childhood innocence and the relationship between father and daughter. What I find disturbing is the kind of comments that some have made about them – and also I dislike the way these images are introduced on the Upworthy site, alhtough the video is rather better than you might expect.  You can read the photographer’s own introduction to the work, which he has exhibited and published as I Feel Sorry For Your Children, on his own web site.  Those people who look at this work and see “sexual victimization and violence,” I feel sorry for their children too, and like Neumann would say “I choose life.”

Another photographer whose work has aroused similar controversy is Sally Mann, and in a long article in the New York Times, Sally Mann’s Exposure, she writes in great detail about the problems caused by such controversy, and the actions of some desperately sick people, one in particular that she goes into detail about. I’ve written before about my great admiration for Mann’s work, and a little about the misguided criticism of her for it, but had not realised the full extent of the persecution she and her family have had to suffer. It’s a moving article, and one that only strengthens my regard for her, and for the need to keep up the struggle for freedom of expression and the kind of positive family and societal values that underlie the work of these photographers and others.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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One Response to “In the Family Way”

  1. […] a little about them and the family pictures of some other photographers a few months ago in ‘In the Family Way.’ But most are best kept in the family, along with a few other private events where I share […]

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