I have a lot of
hobbies, though none I'm actually good enough at to do in front of that
many people. I surf early in the morning before the bikini-clad honeys
show up and laugh at my lack of grace in the water. I lift weights
three times a week, but only when the gym is empty and no one can see
me struggle to bench 95 pounds. If walls could talk, then the ones at
my house would attest to the fact that I'm not a threat to any American Idol contestants. To put it simply, I suck.
While I lack talent
and skill, I've never fallen short on enthusiasm. I love having fun in
my free time and measure my success by how far the smile stretches
across my face. There are no surfing contests in my future or weight
lifting titles on the horizon, but that's fine by me. I've made peace
with sucking. I've confronted it and made friends with it. You could
say I've mastered the art of being below average, which ain't too bad
when you think about it. At least I'm good at something.
Among the hobbies
destined to languish at the novice skill level, art photography tops
the list. I own a camera bag overflowing with gadgets and accessories.
Filters, lenses, cables, film, batteries – I have everything the photo
magazines say I'll need to take great pictures. Don't believe all you
Now I know art is
relative. What I deem "art" another person will call "trash" or even
"pornography." When it comes to the photos I take, trash would be the
most common description were I to have a momentary lapse of reason and
make my work available for public viewing. I'm aware of this and, just
like the fact that I suck, I'm okay with remaining an amateur.
Why can't others settle for this as well?
We've all heard about
artists who've earned fame and fortune by merely throwing paint at a
blank canvass or dipping a chicken's feet in a can of latex and then
letting that animal walk across a piece of paper. I once read somewhere
about one sculptor who sold a piece that was nothing more than a large
white cube with a nearly microscopic fleck of his feces dabbed on one
of the object's sides. There's usually some political or social
statement tied to these works that's so far from what the public sees
that you can't help but stand in the gallery with your mouth hanging
open. Unfortunately, this is mistaken for amazement and awe and the
artists think they're on to something and happily run back to their
studios to make more.
Far be it from me to
pass judgment on the talent of these individuals. I don't possess the
technical knowledge to successfully throw paint so that it will make
pretty lines. I'm not very comfortable with live chickens. Don't even
fool yourself into considering poop on a cube. You wouldn't have the
stomach to do that either.
However, when photos
of children with tears streaming down their cheeks start showing up in
galleries, that's when I "draw" a line in the sand. A very clear,
straight line no one can miss.
That's where the story of Jill Greenberg comes into focus. Greenberg is a commercial photographer from
who has recently found her show, End Times, at the forefront of many
Internet blogs criticizing her photos of crying children as evidence of
child abuse. While I'm not willing to throw my two cents that far into
the circle, I do feel Greenberg's photos are in such bad taste they are
the first creative work by an American that I would support being
Greenberg, she snapped these shots at her studio where the parents were
witness to everything and agreed to have their children's emotions
played with for the sake of one woman's artistic dream. In each of the
photos, a child is pictured with red eyes, tear streaked cheeks, frowns
– everything that tugs at a parent's heartstrings. In many cases,
Greenberg got her subjects into the mood by giving them a lollipop and
then taking it away without warning. Okay, not what I'd call abusive,
but certainly not nice.
I don't think we'll need to call any
pollsters to find out how many people find this type of creative
expression troubling. Even if you don't have children, the sight of
little ones with tears in their eyes just doesn't make for good
entertainment. When a kid cries, that usually means something is wrong.
In this case, something definitely is.
These photographs are
a clear example of culture running so far off course it seems to have
all but fallen from the map. Unhappiness isn't pleasing to well
balanced people. More than that, making children cry, photographing
them and then expecting the public to find this interesting are sure
signs of psychological problems. If nothing else, a lack of common
sense is a safe bet.
I hope Greenberg
isn't surprised that people have taken issue with these pictures. As an
artist, she should be prepared to take the heat. Too bad she didn't
take my approach and keep her work to herself.