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.

FMP Proposal

During my short time as a photographer, if there is one thing I have enjoyed in terms of technicality, it’s developing film and printing my own photographs. It’s a skill I learned in such a short time and a skill I have yet to perfect, but I am eager to do so. I have worked with 35mm and felt comfortable enough to move forward on to 120, medium format. Developing my skills as a photographer has been extremely rewarding, and seeing the difference between 35mm and 120 absolutely astounded me and made me want to progress further. I want my FMP to reflect in what I have learned and the progress I have made. Photography was never my career goal, nor my ambition. However, over the last two years, I have fallen completely in love with it.

For my Final Major Project, I want to implicate something that has affected myself and many people around the world. When I was eight years old, I lost my auntie to cancer. She was diagnosed at the young age of sixteen, and at eighteen, she had to lose one of her legs. She passed away in her sleep, shortly after becoming terminal. Not long after she passed away, I had the heart breaking news that both of my grandparents had also been stricken by this horrible disease. As a young child, I didn’t really know anything about cancer, all I knew is that it killed. As you can imagine, at eight or nine years old it was pretty terrifying. My grandmother fought extremely hard, right up until the day she died in December 2015, she was fighting. My grandfather is still fighting, even after losing his wife. In the summer of 2015, we had the news that my step father had also been struck with the disease. He is still fighting a battle he may not win.

So I want to dedicate my FMP to those who have been affected by cancer. Whether they have lost someone, or are fighting. I want to raise awareness. Although the disease is very well known all over the world, the treatment for that disease isn’t. Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy are the two main treatments for cancer, and it is dreadful. It’s almost as though the patient has to die a little bit to make a recovery. Both treatments significantly lower the patient’s immune system, putting them at risk to the point where the common cold could kill them.

I aim to contact Macmillan, a notorious charity that aids cancer patients and their families. Whether it is medical support, mental health or grieving support, they are always willing to help. I wish to spend some time with three different patients and photograph them. I will use a Hasselblad and shoot on 120 black and white film. I will take three portraits of each of the patients, one before, one during and one after chemo or radiotherapy. I understand that this is a very delicate subject matter, one that needs extreme care and attention. I will put what I have learned about ethics to use and build a relationship with these people. I will be starting with my step father, so that when I approach Macmillan, they can see the kind of work I wish to do. I wish to shoot in a very Man-Ray style photography. His portraits are incredibly special to me due to the eeriness and lighting upon the subject.

Influences: Martin Parr

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Martin Parr took a technology that was seen as a waste of time by critics, and jumped into it with a deep passion for trying something different. As a renowned street photographer, he wasn’t afraid of what anybody else thought and used the technology that was available and new. I think that is something that everyone should take a lesson from. Technology is always moving forward and even if it may seem untraditional or a waste, there is no harm in trying as you may create something beautiful. As did Martin Parr.

Influences: Man Ray

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Since I started doing still image as opposed to moving image, I have been extremely interested in studio portraiture. My biggest inspiration for this genre of work is Man Ray. His lighting skills are second to none. As a modernist photographer, he liked to use light to distort his images. Pre-modern portraits were typically painted to make the subject look powerful. However, Man Ray uses his camera to shoot them looking vulnerable. He wasn’t afraid to show the world something different, which is something I will carry with me throughout my professional career. A journalist once asked Man Ray how he lit his subjects, and he replied with ‘I can’t remember.’ As foolish as this is, it’s also brilliant as it teaches you to experiment. It also makes his photographs unique.

Influences: Sam-Taylor Wood

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When I was studying my pre-degree, I became very interested in performance art. One of the performance artists I became fond of, was Sam-Taylor Wood. Now, Sam-Taylor Johnson. I was completely intrigued by her work and the way that she expressed her femininity and herself. She did this in a series of self-portraits, the portraits have been exhibited in galleries all over the world. One of my favourites is a portrait of her, holding Robert Downy Jnr in the fetal position, during the time of his addiction to Heroine. This photograph is incredibly inspiring because it puts someone who is completely vulnerable and poisoned by a vicious addiction and makes them look human. This has taught me to treat my work with empathy, and to bring out something real to provoke reaction in my work.

Influences: Ansel Adams

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Ansel Adams is one of history’s most influential landscape photographers, his most famous landscape being The Tentons and the Snake River (1942). This photograph was commissioned by the Department of the Interior as part of a National Park brief. The photographs were owned by the US government, but Adams had a specific time to work on. This meant that he could take his own photographs in between his contracted hours. The Tentons and the Snake River (1942) was the photograph that made the most money in this series, however the US Government filed a lawsuit against Adams for selling their property. After the court case, they used the negatives to distinguish when the photograph was taken. It was found that the photographs did in fact belong to Ansel Adams. This is extremely important and I learned to always log my work, digital and analogue.

Influences: Sebastião Salgado

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Genesis, a photographic homage to our planet in its natural state. Sebastião Salgado is one of the most influential photographers in our time and his broad range of photographic projects, have been a foundation in realism photography and photojournalism. In 1970, at the age of twenty six, Salgado placed his eyes over the viewfinder of a camera for the first time and would never see the world the same again. “I looked through a lens and ended up abandoning everything else.” As a young economist, Salgado was infatuated by the natural world and the destructive nature of human beings in their own socio-economic conditions. This highly influenced his future career as a photographer and inspired his first two major photographic projects; ‘Workers’ and ‘Migrations’. Salgado became physically sick due to him photographing too much death and destruction. So much so, that his doctor told him if he didn’t stop, he would die. “He says ‘You are not sick. What happened was you saw much death, you are dying. You must stop. Stop!’” In the early 90’s, Salgado returned to his home in Brazil and decided to try and heal the world by undoing some of the damage. By 2003, his charity single handedly restored almost 50% of the rainforest in Brazil. In 2004 Salgado picked up his camera for the first time in almost a decade and began to photograph the world as though it had been untouched by economic growth. This project became Genesis. His photos are incredible aesthetically and I’ve learned a lot of technical skills from Salgado, but ultimately and most importantly, my lessons from him lie in ethics.