Posted by razzbuffnik on June 2nd, 2008
All the recent hullabaloo in the newspapers here in Sydney about child pornography issues and art, got me thinking about the subject. I don’t intend to comment on Henson’s photography myself, as I feel I that I only have a very foggy understanding of what art actually is. I don’t really feel capable of expressing an erudite opinion on the matter of photographing young semi-naked girls in the name of art. What I do have some experience with, and feel I can comment on, is young girls and the way how some of them respond to being photographed.
Back in the early 1990s, I was invited by a modelling school and agency in Dunedin, New Zealand to photograph all their recent graduates for their portfolios. My contact with the modelling school was a professional makeup artist friend, who was a graduate herself. Over a two-week period, I photographed over 40 young girls and women. The age of my subjects ranged from about 14 up to the mid-20s. It was a great job and I felt that the modelling agency had trained the girls very well.
All the girls had been trained how to pose in front of the camera and most of them were very good at it but what I found very disconcerting was some of the expressions that the very young girls just “turned on”. About a quarter of the girls (mainly quite young from about 14 to 16 years old) affected the very overt and sexual “come and get me look” that is worn by many of the models in men’s magazines. I had to explain to quite a few of the girls that when they become professional models they will be mainly used to model clothing to other women. Since the majority of women aren’t gay, such “come hither expressions” won’t be of much use.
Another issue I found unsettling was the eagerness with which the girls would strip off in front of me to change. This happened once while the girl’s mother was with me and she even didn’t bat an eyelid as her child disrobed in front of me.
Somehow they got it into their heads that models will be required to take off their clothing without much privacy. I found myself explaining to a few of the girls (and their mother in one case) that when they go out in the world to make a living at modelling, they should expect proper facilities than insure their privacy as they get changed. It made me shudder to think how such innocence can be pounced upon, and I warned them that if they were ever working anywhere, where there weren’t adequate facilities for them to get changed they should be highly suspicious, and to be on their guard.
It was fairly obvious to me that many of these models had gone through much of their young lives being told how beautiful they were and it gave them a false sense of what attractiveness actually is. I think that when we are young, due to our lack of experience in worldly matters, things tend to be a little more black-and-white. Due to the youth and inexperience of many of the girls, they had no idea about the difference beauty and raw sex.
I think the word glamour is misunderstood by many people. Glamour means a illusory sexual allure and that’s just what it is, it’s an illusion. I think this confusion between beauty and sexual allure leads to a Frankenstein version of what an attractive self image is, in young minds.
I’m pretty sure that when parents and relatives tell children that they think those kids are beautiful, they’re not usually trying to plant overtly sexual stereotypes in those children’s heads. What are children to think of when they see toys like Bratz dolls and the bump and grind of a Britney Spears or Shakira performance? It would seem that kids aren’t really allowed to be kids any more.
I bet the parents of a beautiful young 15-year-old girl, who I had been photographing, would be absolutely horrified to know that their beloved and precocious little moppet followed me into the toilet, and asked me if she could help me get my equipment out (if you know what I mean).
I wonder how, many parents would react, if, when their beautiful child is asked what they wanted to become when they grew up, their child responded with “I want to be an underwear model”? I also have to ask the question, what’s with these people who put their kids in child beauty pageants? Do they really think that is harmless to make their little girls into painted up sex objects and then judge them? What, if anything, is going through their heads?
I think that this accelerated sexual development is not only harming the children when they are young by cutting short their childhoods whilst perverting, and quite often diminishing their sense of self esteem. It’s also harming the society that we all live in as they get older.
As I have become older, I tend to feel that women fall into two groups. There are people with intellects who happen to be women, and then there are another group who are nothing more than painted up life-support systems for their genitalia (I guess the same can be said for men). I remember once meeting a highly made up woman who didn’t want to shake hands when we met and when I asked her why, she said that she thought that I was just trying to make her breasts jiggle.
Most intelligent women that I have ever met don’t wear much, if any, makeup at all and they tend to dress in a comfortable and casual way. I think that many women who spend an inordinate amount of time on their appearance don’t give themselves a chance to be treated with the respect that they crave.
Being attractive enough to create arousal in men is a biological necessity that enables the continuation of our species. Unfortunately due to heavy advertising aimed at eroding women’s self-esteem so that they will buy more beauty and fashion products, striving to be sexually alluring into old age has become something of a quest for many women.
The seeds that we plant in young people’s minds today will shape the society of the future.
From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow.