– life on the streets of a big little city on the Gulf Coast –

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Response To A Mother Who Demanded I Delete A Picture Of Her Breastfeeding Her Child

“I understand that you are upset that I took your picture.  Feelings are not right or wrong, they just are, and I would not argue with them. But I would like to suggest that calling me a “creep” who can’t wait to get home and jerk-off looking at an image of your naked breast is ill-considered and quite a bit off the mark.  And if you will calm down enough to listen for a moment, here’s why…

 

When you decided to sit down on a bench and expose yourself to the entire world to breastfeed your child – which you have every legal right to do in a public place – you were undoubtedly acting from the purest of motives stemming from a mother’s instinct.  A natural life-giving offering of yourself is nothing to be ashamed of.

 

And when I simultaneously clicked the shutter button – which I have every legal right to do in a public place – I, too, was acting from within a time-honored tradition.  Street photography is committed to capturing unique moments that document life in urban environments, at the least, and the larger human condition itself, if we’re lucky.  And luck it so often is, given that we can’t stop the flow of time to manipulate actors and props on a stage.  Out of the corner of an eye we sense a movement about to occur and if instinct and our knowledge of human behavior suggest that it might be significant, we whirl and shoot.

 

In short order you and two no-nonsense-looking guys caught up with me and demanded that I delete your photo.  I politely refused – and not, as you suggest, from any prurient interest.

 

Why, then?  The goal of any artist is to take a “subject” and transform it into a “content.”  That is, to capture a moment and render it timeless.  Given the right mix of elements – line, color, space, texture, composition – a two-dimensional image of a mother and child might transcend itself and become suggestive of Motherhood, Love, Nurturance.  Will my picture of you rise to that level?  Probably not, chances are slim.  But most certainly I won’t know until I download the image to a larger monitor.”

 

breat feeding-1106

[In spite of her insistent demand I made a decision not to delete this image for two reasons: (1) to demonstrate that it is about as far from the sensual as it is possible to be, and (2) because the image itself is “respectfully artistic” (IMO) and there are a combination of elements that I particularly like: the pyramidal composition, interlocking gazes and gestures, the petulant expression on the kid’s face, etc.  Out of deference to the mother I did, however, drastically darken the image to conceal her identity.]

13 responses

  1. Good goin’, oops. I’m proud of you. The provocateur feminists want their cake and eating it and washing it down too.

    It’s inconceivable anyone in their right mind would try that in Brooklyn or Harlem or east LA or downtown Detroit or a midnight subway or SF trolley at 4 am, because it would invite trouble you betcha. But to ask for reaction, then complain at reaction is a form of violence itself. Especially being sure that in a regular neighborhood without abundance of the criminally insane, the nursing mother might have the upper hand and an opportunity to shout down or hope to humiliate whoever dare look! Well, duh, you looked. Good-o. You don’t have to explain yourself. Or if you do she’s too stupid to have children.
    I mean really, it’s enough to sour milk.

    Like

    June 28, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    • By separate email I’m sending you a link to view this image on a private site but am not really sure if I am doing this right. let me know if you can’t access it. Thanks…

      Like

      June 28, 2015 at 5:41 pm

  2. This past week has been tuff on those of us who get by with wry, flippant remarks as commentary on “Street Life.”

    That can’t be done with SCOTUS decisions this week on the ACA, Marriage (Gay or otherwise) and Fair Housing, the Presidential eulogy including “Amazing Grace,” the forgiveness of the families of the victims, the recognition that the CSA Battle Flag has been co-opted by hate groups and flies in the faces of many who see it for what it really is … now.

    And now you drop into my lap a situation that seems to be totally out of proportion to the reality of the situation.

    IMO, you handled it firmly, with grace and protected your artistic freedom on public property. If you had shot the situation peeking thru her window, shame on you, you pervert. But you did not. A bit of a skirmish for freedom took place and you prevailed … good for you.

    Now, lower your battle flag and rejoice that we are probably the only country in the world who has elected a president who can make occasional 3-pointers, and sing a capella without the help of a Karaoke machine. Just sayin’

    Like

    June 28, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    • OMG, I’m reeling from the idea that I have a reader who’s up on current events! Think I should subscribe to the NYTimes?

      Like

      June 28, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      • Nah … It’ll just make your hair hurt. Too much thinkin’ and not enuf drinkin’ goin’ on … Just sayin’

        Like

        June 28, 2015 at 8:58 pm

  3. Love Holycowgirl’s thoughts on this subject…

    Like

    June 28, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    • Thanks, Bruce. Still waiting for your Florida pics…

      Like

      June 28, 2015 at 8:58 pm

  4. Florida pics are starting in a day or two, but except for my friends with their granddaughter, the rest of the pics look like I just reposted the ones from the last 8 years :-).
    Florida is beautiful, but people pics are always different, as your blog attests to…

    Like

    June 28, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    • Your people pics are superb. Always great color, wonderful composition, and very creative editing. And yes, I know well that seagulls and osprey all look the same but bring ’em on anyway! 🙂

      Like

      June 28, 2015 at 9:21 pm

  5. I think that you handled the situation very well! You know that I love this art form and think you have a great eye for it.. I am not as eloquent as the commenters above, but echo what they say and am in your corner on this one.

    Like

    July 9, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    • Thanks… It turned out (I think) to be quite a nice image. It contained no visible nudity but did have other people nearby, nicely composed within the frame, and amounts almost to a “Norman Rockwell” slice of life photo.

      Liked by 1 person

      July 12, 2015 at 10:44 am

  6. Excellent post. Dealing with ignorance and negative assumptions is a critical part of conducting street photography; many other types of art, in fact.

    The mouth-breathers really do make it so hard for legitimate artists. They feed the hysteria people have about anyone doing anything that might be connected to something truly sleazy in the slightest.

    For some, it’s not even hysteria but a perverse thrill.

    I can remember just one instance when I was in my city shooting downtown on a Friday night when all the party people were going in and out of night clubs. I photographed the homeless, the activity of the police, blue collar workers toiling late into the night. When I stepped onto a city bus with my camera in hand; however, I was greeting by a male greaseball driver who had a sardonic grin on his face.

    “Getting good shots of all the hot young chicks running around?” he asked me.

    “No,” I replied. “That’s not what I’m after.”

    “Yeah sure!” he said with his slimeball smirk growing.

    I just took a seat. I didn’t bother arguing with the moron. What would be the point?

    There’s ignorance, and then there’s worse; willful ignorance. Some people you just can’t break through to. Some people’s minds will just not open up. It’s very hard for me to accept that fact but I must regardless.

    Like

    September 6, 2015 at 11:44 am

    • “Some people’s minds will just not open up. It’s very hard for me to accept that fact but I must regardless.”

      My problem – and I recognize it as something I need to deal with – is that I can get very combative when I feel my rights are being infringed upon. Part of my 60s heritage, I suppose. I will get up in someone’s face and argue the law to them when I’m sure I am right, and so far I have never deleted a photo upon request.

      I need to change that attitude sooner rather than later if for no other reason than very soon I will be 72 years old. Commonsense comes slowly to stubborn people like myself. 🙂

      I have since posted that breast-feeding picture above, incidentally.

      Thanks for your comments…

      Like

      September 6, 2015 at 4:26 pm

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