Use the exercises and activities provided to test your knowledge of the text.

One recurring ethical dilemma in relation to photography is the photographing of children.  Photographing children as part of family photography is generally understood – at least in Euro-American contexts – as ok, providing that children are photographed by members of their own family, and the audiences for those photos are also mainly members of their own family.  But when those parameters are breached, controversy often erupts.

This exercise asks you to look at a particular example of this breaching: when women who are professional photographers take photographs of their own children, which are then displayed in photography galleries and published in books.

First, choose one of these five photographers:

Sally Mann, whose 1992 book Immediate Family sparked huge controversy

You can see her work here


Here's a review of a retrospective of Mann’s work at the Photographers’ Gallery, London, 2010, here


There's also a film about Mann on YouTube in three parts



Betsy Schneider, whose 2004 exhibition at London’s Spitz Gallery was accused of being pornographic

You can see her work here

http://betsyschneider.net/.  Look at 'Scenes' under the 'bodies of work' tab.

Here’s an article on the Spitz Gallery controversy


Here's an interview with Betsy Schneider in the Phoenix New Times



Tierney Gearon, whose 2001 exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery was disrupted by police threatening to remove three of her pictures

You can see her work here


Here’s an article written by Gearon about the Saatchi Gallery controversy


Here's a YouTube video about some of her more recent work 2006, The Mother Project



Ann Noble, who photographed her daughter Ruby for ten years

Ann Noble's project photographing her daughter is called Ruby's Room. You can see some of it here

http://www.thearts.co.nz/artist_page.php&aid=1 (click on Image Galleries)

Here's a video about the project on YouTube, from the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa


And here's a video of Ann Noble talking at Queensland Art Gallery about a range of her work, including Ruby's Room


Bill Henson, who had twenty photographs of adolescents (not his children) removed by police from the Roslyn Oxley 9 Gallery in Sydney, Australia, in 2008

You can see some of his photographs here


You can see the controversial Roslyn Oxley 9 Gallery exhibition here


YouTube has a news report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation with interviews from those both pro- and anti- the Oxley show



Browse through it the listed online resources and note down your initial reactions. All these photographers apart from Ann Noble have been accused of making pornographic images of young people.  Read the three papers referenced below, which talk through the issues.  As you read through the papers, think about the ethics of taking photographs of young people for public display.

Edge, S., and G. Baylis (2004) 'Photographing children: the works of Tierney Gearon and Sally Mann', Visual Culture in Britain, 5: 75‒89.

Higonnet, A. (2009) 'Pretty babies', Index on Censorship, 38: 104‒16.

Hinkson, M. (2009) 'Australia’s Bill Henson scandal: notes on the new cultural attitude to images', Visual Studies, 24: 202‒13.

Think about the ethical issues raised by the work of the photographer you have selected.  Think about:

  • The rights of the individuals involved: the children, the photographer, the parents, the gallery owner, the various audiences who look at the photographs;
  • How ethical issues shift as the site of the image shifts. That is, are the ethics of the photography different at the site of the making of the photograph, at the site of the image itself, and at the sites of its audiencing?
  • How the question of gender plays out. Remember Laura Mulvey's (1989: 19) argument that 'in a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female'.  Is there a sense in which these women photographers are recapturing 'the male gaze'?  Indeed, do they offer a 'maternal gaze'?  What difference, if any, does it make that they are women, and mothers?  Does your answer affect how you see Bill Henson's work?
  • Age as a power relation. Does the power of the experienced and skilled photographer, whether male or female, always dominate the younger person pictured?
  • How would you design a consent form for your chosen photographer's project?