I don’t put my camera down when Hooper or Van cry. For me, it’s just as important to capture their tantrums as it is to capture their cough-cough normal (insert asterisk) behavior. Nothing really captures toddlerhood as well as a toddler crying their eyes out because they can’t have what they want when they want it. That’s why I want to buy Jill Greenberg a beer.
In 2006 she took a handful of portraits of children crying with the intention to express her disgust with the Bush Era. She was upset the future was not being taken into consideration and argued that we were living as if in “apocalyptic times”. She called her project “End Times”.
Instead of making a political point, she received a ton of backlash for “abusing” children for the sake of a photo.
If you consider taking candy from a baby abuse, then aren’t we all guilty? Greenberg states, “The moms would hand them a lollipop in some cases, or they would offer them their cellphone—and then just sort of ask for it back. And basically the child was throwing a tantrum to try to get this candy or toy back, sort of putting on a show in a way”. This very same scenario happens constantly both in my home and when shooting children during family sessions. The only difference is that this reaction was her objective; where many other photographers would stop shooting, she started.
I remember looking at a photo of the beautiful Nirimi and her lovely daughter. Someone commented on the photo asking why she never looks happy in her photos and her response was something along the lines of smiling being unnatural. And she’s entirely right.
The beauty, for me, in photography is capturing authenticity.
Greenburg agrees, stating “Making children cry for a photographer can be considered mean. But I would say that making children laugh and show off their jeans for an apparel ad is just as exploitative and less natural. Toddlers’ natural state, like 30 percent of the time, is crying, and it doesn’t indicate pain or suffering”.
Van doesn’t speak in sentences but I guarantee you that if you were to care for him for any length of time, you’d know his wants and desires. That’s because he communicates through a varying degree of whines, moans, cries, and -oh yes- pointing.
In any event, I think this series is brilliant. What do you think?
You can read more about the series by clicking here. And you can read about the backlash she has received by clicking here.