Recently, it’s come to my attention that 2 of our BeautifulYouth models (who will remain unnamed) have been also modelling for one of those pay-for-titilation websites- the kind that winds up on Dateline NBC or 60 Minutes. It’s the type of site that has spawned congressional legislation that would outlaw all non-merchandise-related photography of children altogether.
This has raised what feels like millions of questions (probably only 20-30 in reality) in my mind. First off, I detest these sites. I’m a huge fan of first amendment rights, so I’m not opposed to these sites’ right to existence… BUT, I don’t agree with what they do. I also realize that there are some who would question the BeautifulYouth project and lump it into the same category (a lumping with which I would heartily disagree).
These sites, mostly featuring girls- some with boys, center their photography base on photos that are titilating… that is, feature models in some aspect of undress, but always with some clothes… usually clothes that represent overt sexuality or some sort of focus on sexual fetish for the viewer (thongs, t-shirts that say ‘Come and Get It’, and things like that).
So the first question is: what defines what is acceptable sexually with regards to photographs of pubescent children? I feel that many of the photographs in the BeautifulYouth project are sensual, definitely. But are they titilating? Are they created in a way to elicit a purely lustful response from the viewer? Definitely not. Do they show the models’ emergent sexuality? Yes, but that’s part of the model as a person. Are they exclusively focussed on the models’ emergent sexuality? Again, not.
With these ‘other’ sites… it seems that the complete and total focus is on the arousal of a viewer that has sexual predelictions toward pubescent girls (or boys as the case may be). That has never been the case at the BeautifulYouth project, nor will it ever be.
Second, I started comparing the photographs from these sites with the nudes of Jock Sturges, or even with the more sexually suggestive shots from David Hamilton. Why are Hamilton’s nudes (girls- of the same ages as the ones in question) more tasteful than these model sites’ pictures? Again, I think, it is because Hamilton uses the models’ own emergent sexuality than branding it over with a callous, crass, and lustful sexuality (Hamilton also brings more of a romantic bent to his work as well). And with Sturges, the models are just there … they are who you see.
Third, what of the models? If they continue to be a part of the BeautifulYouth project, do we assume guilt- guilt by association? This is a tough one. Talking with different people about the situation, I have received very different answers. Answers that range from disavowing these two models, removing all their pictures, and pretending that they had never been a part of the BeautifulYouth project… to doing nothing (“what they do with their modelling time is none of your business,” I have been told).
I must admit I am curious. I haven’t shot these two models since the discovery of their ‘other’ site, but I do plan on shooting them again. They bring a wonderful quality of work to the BeautifulYouth project- so for now, they will remain a part of the BeautifulYouth project. But the main question I want to – and probably will – be asking them is… why? How do they feel about posing in that ‘other’ way? I’m assuming the reason is money. What I’m curious about is what they think about the finished product.
What do you think?