David Hamilton’s photo in the New York Times on November 28th shows him with a kind smile, attractive face and artistically rumpled, yet business-like suit. He looks like a kindly grandfather, a supportive mentor in whatever business he might have run.
That impression is false, an illusion. Now that’s my opinion and I never knew him personally. But I’d heard of him even before I saw his obituary. I knew he was known for photographs of nude or partially nude girls.
The obituary reported that he committed suicide after a former model accused him of raping her when she was 13. What’s there to say about that? He was guilty and left the world because of his guilt? He wasn’t guilty and the girl misunderstood. Ha – I doubt it, but I wasn’t there.
I ‘m pretty accepting of nudity in photos, as works of art, and in films. I saw nothing alarming with Sally Mann’s nude photos of her children in books that have been much discussed over the years. The only concern I felt was wondering if the children might object to such exposure when they were older. There was nothing sexy about them.
Nude photos of children is a subject that’s always on the margins of acceptability. A picture can be seen to be an artistic creation that’s perfectly fine by one person, and at the same time, as something quite different, even abhorrent or illegal, by another. Is a gauzy, blurry photo of a prepubescent girl a work of art? Or is it pornography? So much is in the eye of the one who looks at the photo. The viewer’s attitude is affected by his or her personal experiences as well.
Long ago, I might have thought producing soft focus photos of nude or partially nude little girls was merely another way of creating art, and while I wouldn’t personally have been interested in such a photo, it was an area where I and others could legitimately question its intent.
Many photos like Hamilton’s are on the margins. Men who are inclined to be aroused by young girls, like my former husband, might easily find his pictures a turn-on. I have a different, much more critical eye than most people for this sort of ‘Art’ as a result of my experience with federal officials and the arrest of my then husband.
I believe that anything that has the power to tempt men who are attracted to little girls should be questioned. While I resist censorship, it seems actually unfair to have material so available, pretending to be “just art”, while feeding the addiction of men who are attracted to children.
It’s an area open to interpretation and the result depends on one’s past experience and one’s interest in prepubescent girls. No one can state for certain what the right way is for the public to look at such photos or the photographers who take them. It’s unlikely that, as a society, we’re going to come to any conclusion any time soon, but I know what I think about the publication of such pictures.