How has social media created and affected social stigma against photographing children in public?

Merseyside, 1975. Photographer Paul Trevor was patrolling the streets of Granby and Everton, photographing life and recording the mishaps of the children that resided there. A series of beautiful photographs shot on black and white film where produced and stored away for almost forty years. In 2010, a dusty box was found full of old negatives and prints. Beautiful photographs of Liverpool in the mid-seventies were uncovered, and thus began the campaign to find the children in the photographs.

I feel that this particular project is a fantastic example of how we have de-evolutionised as a society. It’s no secret that photographs age like a fine wine or whiskey, but the photographs themselves aren’t the problem. It’s taking the photographs without feeling like you have made someone a victim. Paedophile, sex offender, scumbag. These are just a few of the derogatory labels innocent photographers have had placed upon them since the social media boom. I aim to find out why, and what it was that caused this. Things have changed for photography and I feel that it is hurting the industry.

I have recently been in contact with Photographer Paul Trevor, we have emailed each other and Paul has kindly agreed to be interviewed for my dissertation research. I wish to find out what he feels has changed in terms of the social stigmas that threaten street photography. I will compile a series of well thought open questions, in order to gain what I need. I will also conduct an experiment to find out if the stigma against photographing children, specifically affects gender roles in the industry. I will also cover these aspects in a series of ‘Vox Pops’ to add to my primary research.

Using my primary research, I shall compile my evidence and arrange it into graphs and charts, where I can properly analyse the information and form a hypothesis, which will then either be proved or disproved, by using secondary research and secondary experiments.

The aim of my dissertation is to find what caused the social stigmas against photographing children. What made it such a sensitive subject? There is proof in Paul Trevor’s work, it proves how children are a beautiful and innocent subject matter to photograph. Capturing life where, as humans, we are at our most peaceful point in our lives. No problems, no stress, just serenity. I feel it is important to capture these moments and I feel that is important to abolish this humiliation that we have created as a society. We are photographers, it is our jobs to capture moments and create memories.

Final Images

These are the final images for Individual Study.

In conclution to this project, I’ve learned quite a bit. I learned that people generally don’t like to have their photo taken, which is pretty sad, because if things carry on the way they are, with social media shaming etc, there won’t be anymore street photography. The world is full of lawsuits and tiny minds. I’ve also learned to respect my code of ethics, no matter how heated a situation gets, always follow someones wish and delete a photograph, no matter how beautiful it may be. I learned a lot about myself as a photographer too. My confidence was torn down by one person, but I managed to build it back up in a matter of days, just because I didn’t give up.

A Small Lack of Confidence

For some reason, I always thought street photography was a special kind of photography, a more relaxed, less demanding type of photography. However, actually going out and doing it was completely different to what I imagined. People notice and they don’t like it. It doesn’t really matter about laws, I know the law states that if I am in a public place, I can take images of whatever and whoever I like. The problem is the guilt, people give me dirty looks when I take images of them and one woman actually confronted me and forced me to delete the photographs of her, while her boyfriend stood over me. I formatted the card to resolve the issue, then went home.

This had me thinking, people know what a camera is, they know that photographs can make their way around the internet and people hate having their photographs taken. During Martin Parr’s prime, there was no internet, there was no facebook and the technology was new, so people were less aware. I may have to go incognito for this project, until I build up my confidence a little bit. There seems to be a stigma against photographers, people are wary are uncomfortable. So, the best way is to make them unaware. If that doesn’t work, it seems I may have to look for a different project, I like a challenge though.

Influential Practice.

Amongst all of my influences, my biggest is Sebastiao Salgado. The contrast in his black and white images, defining shadows and higlights, in portraiture, landscapes and still life. His images are legendary in the world of photography. I’m also inspired by the works of Martin Parr, the daring use of new technology, the aged photographs of passers by, a collection of stories told in chaos. Both of these photographers are masters of the industry, the foundation of which enviromental and stret photography stand on.

In this assignment, we are to take the skills a photographer that isnpires us uses, and impliment them into our own work to produce up to ten images. Unfortunately for me, my list of influences is quite large and it’s quite hard for me to make up my mind. Should I do a series of self portraits in a quirky, fine-art style like Sam Taylor-Wood? Or perhaps a series of portraits using light as my pencil, to create works of art like Man Rey?

I have quite a lot of ideas, but the two main photographers that stand out to me is Sebastiao Salgado and Martin Parr, so with that said, I have decided to put both high contrast black and white and street photography together to forge their skills and create something different. I have a lot of research based around these two photographers, so the next step is to make a start.

I want my images to vary in composition and the way they look in terms of depth of field, so I will book out an 85mm and a 200mm lens. This gives a little bit of diversity in the aesthetics of my images.

Critcal Studies

Art is a trend, like fashion, media, technology etc. Art moves forward in terms of style, movement and culture. In the late nineteenth century, art took a leap forward that was considered quite controversial to critics. It was often criticised for being unnatural and immature. However, modern art snowballed into one of the biggest trends in art history. Artists such as; Piet Mondrian, Salvador Dali and Jackson Pollock ruled the art world in their time. Since modern culture, a lot has changed. The world endured another devastating war that had changed modern culture forever. Europe, the home of modern art was left in ruins after Adolf Hitler’s conquest had ended. Although he failed in his endeavours, he left scars that would take a lot of time and a lot of work to heal. Post WWII, technology had made advanced leaps in terms of productivity. “When antibiotics became industrially produced following World War II, our quality of life and our longevity improved enormously. No one thought bacteria were going to become resistant” – Bonnie Bassier (2002)

 Machines had replaced factory workers, furniture was being made by robots rather than hands, cars were being made by the hundreds and art would soon follow, much like Fritz Lang predicted in his epic sci-fi film Metropolis (1927). In the mid-twentieth century, art and culture moved forward and evolved from modernism. The technological advancements post WWII, opened up opportunities for artists to challenge their predecessors and gave them the ability to create something for the average, working-class person. Art pre WWII was very subjective in terms of target audience. The art created was incredibly unique as only one of those pieces existed. However, the birth of Postmodernism not only challenged these ideologies, but it also changed them. This subculture reformed consumerism and pushed society into an era of trendiness.

As consumerism became a larger part of society, advertising and graphic design worked hand in hand to boost sales of products. Huge prints would be cascaded over skyscrapers, billboards and television advertising became more popular as the technology advanced. Advertising was the inspiration for one of postmodernisms most influential artists. Born in 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andy Warhol would soon make history with his reproducible prints of Campbell’s Soup. Warhol was the fourth child of Slovakian working class immigrants. As a child, Warhol was often bedridden due to him being a severe hypochondriac. His fear developed after being sick from scarlet fever. While bedridden, he would draw and paint which flared his creative interest in art. He described this period of his life being an important part in his personality development. “At the times in my life when I was feeling the most gregarious and looking for bosom friendships, I couldn’t find any takers, so that exactly when I was alone was when I felt the most like not being alone… I became a loner in my own mind… I decided I would rather be alone.” – Andy Warhol. His career took off when he developed ink drawings for a shoe company in the 1950’s. He used blotted ink over rough sketches of stylish shoes, creating tasteful posters for advertising. He exhibited some of his pieces in the Bodley Gallery, NY.

As technology allowed companies to improve the quantity of products made, one industry affected by this advancement was the music industry. Records would be made in huge batches by machines in factories. Consumerism was growing and show were businesses. This made opportunities for artists such as Andy Warhol to be involved in something a little bigger than advertising. Warhol was offered a job by RCA records to create record covers. During this time, Warhol created covers for artists such as; The Rolling Stones, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, John Lennon and most famously, The Velvet Underground.

The banana album cover is one of Warhol’s most famous art pieces. It was designed by Warhol as part of a contract with RCA records.  The simplistic design won him the job of managing the band in the late sixties to early seventies. The album cover quickly became iconic and put Warhol’s career into overdrive as he became the most influential face in pop art. “The Velvets are an important group, and this album has some major work behind that erect banana on the cover.“ – (Goldstein, R 1967.)

In 1962, Andy Warhol had been working on a comic strip project when he stumbled across the work of his predecessor Roy Lichtenstein in Leo Castelli Gallery. Looking for inspiration, Warhol asked a friend if he could use him as a subject to paint. However, his friend refused and suggested something different. He suggested that Warhol painted something everyone recognises, like Campell’s soup. This suggestion changed Warhol’s life as he ran to the supermarket and bought the tins of soup he needed for his work. This was the beginning of one of the most significant and largest projects in Post-Modern Art.

The project spans to thirty-two paintings of each of the flavours Campell’s Soup produces. The paintings are done by trace projecting the cans onto a canvas then lightly painting the outlines to resemble the aesthetics of the unique lithograph labels. This work changed Warhol’s style quite drastically. When he would paint his comic strips and advertisements, he would drip the paint onto the canvas to give it more of an impressionist look. However, in this project Warhol sought the use of mechanical reproduction, which required precision and accuracy in his strokes. The first of his paintings, tomato, was analysed by Irving Blub, who was expecting to see comic strips, however upon looking at the soup painting, Warhol was immediately offered a space in the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. Warhol continued his project and created each of the thirty-two soups and exhibited them on shelves in the gallery.

The exhibition was a huge success, younger members of the art community flocked to the gallery, fascinated by the novelty of the paintings. However, not everyone viewed the paintings with an open mind. Mostly, people treated the paintings with insignificance and disregarded them as art. So much so, that a nearby art dealer mocked the work by stacking soup cans, and advertising the fact viewers could get them cheaper in his gallery. During the time of the exhibition, Blum had sold five of Warhol’s paintings, but soon realised that they are a set and shouldn’t be separated, so he bought them back and the collection has been together since. With the success of the series, Warhol realised the potential of creating work in a series, rather than a single piece.

Another of Warhol’s popular series is his Icon Portrait series. Warhol was pulled in to the glamourous world of Hollywood, fashion and celebrity news. Anything that was published in the papers about the lives of Hollywood celebrities, Warhol was interested. His interest in pop culture manifested in his early childhood, when he would collect signed photographs of celebrities. He bought into and read teen magazines that glamorised the lives of the rich and famous. He was fascinated in staying up to date with the current trends and what was popular at the time. This obsession was carried into his adulthood, where he projected it into his work. Warhol started a long term project creating portraits of celebrities. His portraits spanned across a huge variation or people including; Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minelli, Mick Jagger and most famously Marilyn Monroe.

What makes these portraits special, is the fact that Warhol usually never met any of the celebrities he painted. His work was created by taking photographs from newspapers, magazines or directly from the photographs he had collected as a child and using a technique called photographic silkscreen to print them. This allowed Warhol to mass produce the same image. The most famous of the series are the portraits of Marilyn Monroe. Soon after her death in 1962, Warhol paid tribute to Monroe by creating a series of paintings made with silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas. Warhol centred the painting on a still from the 1953 film Niagara. He painted the background gold before silk-screening the boldly coloured face in the centre of the canvas, adding black to define her facial structure. “The rubber-stamp method I’d been using to repeat images suddenly seemed too homemade; I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly-line effect. With silk-screening you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It all sounds so simple – quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it. My first experiments with screens were heads of Troy Donahue and Warren Beatty, and then Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month (August 1962), I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face. (Andy Warhol, Popism, 1980)

The importance of Warhol’s work wasn’t just the style or aesthetics of his paintings. The mass production eliminated the snobbishness that thrived within the art community. Thanks to the Post-Modern era, art was for everyone, not just the rich and famous. And because of artists like Warhol, and thanks to the industrial boom, it wasn’t just art that was for everyone. Everyone had access to vehicles, electronics, furniture and fashion. The world changed forever, advertising became huge which created jobs for artists and consumerism quickly became part of our culture. As technology improved and changed, it made more room for different disciplines within the art community. Including the growth of photography. Photography was seen as a huge threat to artists during the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries and was often disregarded as art, however, more artists began to use photography as a medium or a foundation from which to build their work. Whether it was collages, silk-screening or as a stand-alone aesthetic, photography was finally accepted into the art world. Many famous photographers such as Man Ray, Sebastião Salgado, Martin Parr etc. Grew as artists and tried many different techniques in terms of photographic technology. However, one particular photographer took it one step further and used moving image to create art as a performance.

Sam Taylor-Wood was born in Croydon, London in 1967. She is the oldest of one sister and grew up with her single mother in South London. Attending Beacon Community College, she became interested in art and eventually photography. She began her career exhibiting small projects around London, one project in particular titled, 26 October 1993, was a collaboration with fellow photographer Henry Bond. The photograph depicts Bond, nude, clutching Wood on a bed in the foetal position, kissing her cheek. The image represents vulnerability and the need of support. It’s also a pastiche of the photograph of John Lennon and Yoko Ono that was taken by Annie Leibovitz just a few hours before Lennon’s assassination. She also directed a film called Nowhere Boy (2008) based on the childhood of John Lennon. “I thought, I’m in too deep and if I mess this up, I’m never going to make a film again, and I went into a panic. I got into the car and said, I just have to call these producers and pull out. I got into the car and I put the key into the ignition and Lennon’s voice came straight out of the radio and it was Starting Over. It was one of those moments where I thought it was a sign: OL I’m gonna do it.” (Sam Taylor-Wood, 2010) The film was nominated for a BAFTA that year, but she lost to Duncan Jones.

Just like Andy Warhol, Sam Taylor-Wood became obsessed with celebrity pop culture, however Warhol and Wood differed in their techniques drastically. Where Warhol painted his subjects in a neutral, almost beautiful manner, Sam photographed her subjects looking very vulnerable, often male subjects. Between 2002 and 2004, Wood created a series of beautiful images titled ‘Crying Men.’ This was a project compiled of portraits of dominant male celebrities in pop culture. People like; Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Sean Penn and Jude Law where all photographed vulnerable and crying. A various range of techniques were used to photograph these men. They were all shot digitally using a various selection of lenses. Predominantly 50mm and 85mm, though some are shot with a wide angle 20mm lens to add variety to her shots. Each photograph depicting a celebrity in tears.

Vulnerability became the centre point of a lot of Sam Taylor-Wood’s work. Although she did try different things, her work on vulnerable men stood out more than the others. Wood took a chance with her discipline and made a shift to moving image where she directed many successful independent films and video performances. In 1994, Wood exhibited a multi-screen video piece titled Killing Time, which depicted four people miming an opera score. She created many video art pieces and was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1998, but lost to painter and sculptor Chris Offili. In 2001 she went back to her roots and made a short video piece on a vulnerable celebrity. Pieta (2001) Is a video art installation about Robert Downy Jnr, his addiction to heroine and overcoming it with the help of a strong female figure. The video depicts a naked Downy Jnr being cradled by Wood, centre screened on a set of dark stairs. This moving piece is one of her most prestigious installations.

Although Andy Warhol and Sam Taylor-Wood are vastly different artists, they both share a common interest in pop culture. Warhol, one of the founders and cornerstones of modern consumerism created beautiful portraits of celebrities using different techniques that were available, enabling him to change the way that art is produced and manufactured. Sam Taylor-Wood took a chance with her career to explore different methods in creating art, from herself portraits to her award winning multi-screen art installations, she always pushes the boundaries. Their interest in pop culture is also vastly different from one another, Warhol’s beautiful portraits of strong celebrities, making them look proud was a way for him to pay homage to his subjects as fans, but from a distance. Wood executed her method very differently, she was very up close and personal with her subjects, photographing them in a way that makes them look human, rather than just photographs of the rich. These differences may separate Warhol and Wood, but their overall goal was the same and they are both strong figures within the Post-Modern art culture.